This knot You Need to Learn. It will save time and frustration.
Introduction: There is a wonderful knot to tie the weights to the threads. It’s easy to undo, which is necessary every time you need to let down the weights for more thread. This is the same knot I tie for weighting supplementary warps, described in my second book, Warping Your Loom & Tying On New Warps, on page 156. Here it is again along with the steps to tie it. The steps sound more complicated than they are, but if you learn it well, you’ll save yourself a lot of time and aggravation in your future weaving life because the knot comes undone quickly.
Step 1 Hold the selvedge supply taut by gripping the warp with the finger of the left hand. In this manner, the warp will be taut throughout the procedure.
Step 2 With the right hand, pull a big loop of warp through the loop of the weight using your finger and thumb. The left hand continues holding the warp taut, but now just uses the 2 fingers shown in the illustration.
Step 3 With your left hand, adjust your thumb and first two fingers to pinch the warp to the loop of the weight—the right hand still holds the loop of warp.
Step 4 With the right hand, take the loop in front of the left hand’s pinch and then behind the selvedge threads.
Step 5 Readjust your left thumb and index finger so that they will be able to receive some thread (Step 6). (You are letting go of the weight now, but the fingers of the left hand still hold the threads taut.)
Step 6 Open the pinch in the left hand slightly and accept a small amount from the big loop in the right hand.
Step 7 Pull on the small loop and enlarge it somewhat. Be sure to hold the loop in the right hand, and do not let it be pulled through by the left hand.
Step 8 With both hands pull down (towards the floor) and cinch the knot tight.
Step 9 To undo the knot, simply pull on the loop that was held in the right hand, drop the weight down, and retie.
Regular selvedge threads often get tight. The problem is solved by winding separate selvedge threads. More than anything, you want to keep the selvedge warp threads from tightening up. By weighting them separately from the main warp they can weave and take up without getting tight. It isn’t hard to do, and it ensures good-looking selvedges that weave without problems. It is more efficient to start with them as separate warps, rather than to find out mid-warp that your selvedge threads are breaking because they are too tight, or that they are becoming so close together that the shed can’t open, or that the wefts at edges are beating down too much as seen in the photo. When to weight selvedge threads separately I use separate selvedges for warps that are over 3-5 yards long. I also use them when I begin to weave if I find that the normal warp’s selvedge threads aren’t supporting the wefts as they turn at the edges.
For separate selvedges, I make 2 tiny warps—one for each selvedge—often, with 4 threads for each. I determine the number of threads to use by the number of shafts in use. That is, if there are 4 shafts, I use 4 threads, if there are 8 shafts, I use 8 threads. For more shafts, see my book Weaving & Drafting Your Own Cloth in the chapter on selvedges. They will not be beamed onto the warp beam with the main warp but will hang over the back beam behind the loom with weights providing the tension on them. These threads are made separately from the warp threads, may be different from the warp threads, and are sleyed closer in the reed. (More follows.) How to measure the threads Because they will take up more than the main warp, measure out the selvedge threads longer, say, 10% longer than the regular warp threads. Measure out 4 threads making only one cross—a thread-by-thread cross at one end. Be sure you separatelymake two of these tiny warps. Tie the crosses as usual and make ties at the beginning and end of the warps and at several places in the middle. It will be hard to make real choke ties because the warps are so tiny. You can wind your little selvedge threads like a little kitestick, on a pencil, bobbin, or small tube, or make a chain. Or use a little piece of cardboard as in the previous post. Put each little selvedge warp in a plastic bag to keep it from twisting and tangling during weaving. What threads to use I double the sett (epi) for the 4 selvedge threads in the outside dents of the reed. However, if the warp threads are too thick to double up, use thinner threads for the selvedge threads. With thinner threads, you can get them closer, and the selvedges look almost machine made. Be sure your threads are plied, smooth, and strong. Threading the selvedges Thread the selvedge threads one per heddle, one on each shaft: 4,3,2,1. Putting the selvedges in the reed You will put in more threads per dent for the selvedge threads. Since the warp will naturally draw in a bit, it is a good idea not to fight it, and to sley the selvedge threads more densely than the body of the warp to keep the threads from breaking. I double the sett (epi) for the 4 selvedge thread in the outside dents of the reed.
If the selvedges build up faster than the rest of the fabric, the threads may be too close together. Threads sleyed too closely may keep the weft from packing in. Also, the selvedges may build up faster than the rest of the cloth if they aren’t weighted enough.
How to weight the threads I have found the “plastic bag and pencil” way to be satisfactory, and the cardboard, too. I use clothes pins to hold the bag and the warp at the knot together, which helps to prevent twisting. The weights I like to use nuts, washers or fishing weights for my selvedges. These “weights” are small enough that I can add or subtract them in small increments to adjust the tension. You can also use plastic bottles filled with the amount of water needed for the weight. As the selvedge threads get woven, the weights and their supply of thread rise up. When they reach the back beam, they need to be let down to just above the floor. A small bag of weights is more convenient than a bottle because it doesn’t have to be let down so often during weaving since it is smaller. How much weight? Six to fourteen ounces of weight are needed. I start with 6 ounces and add or subtract, as necessary. The way to know if you need more or less weight is simple. The fell of the cloth will be straight if the weight is correct as in the photo.
If the fell of the cloth curves up at the edges towards the shafts (making a “smile”,) it means there isn’t enough weight. Sometimes, one selvedge takes more weight than the other does. Do whatever is needed so the fell is straight. It’s better to have the selvedge threads a little too loose than too tight. If too tight, the body of the fabric may pucker into the selvedges. It might not be noticeable until the cloth is washed.
If the fell of the cloth curves down at the edges towards the breast beam (making a “frown”.), it means there is too much weight as shown. When to attach the weights Weights need a loop of some kind so you can attach the selvedge threads. It can be a loop of string or a metal shower curtain hook. How to attach the weights See the next post.
Adjusting the height – If the floating selvedge isn’t high enough in the shed for the shuttle to go under it easily, raise the threads by tying loops of string around them and attaching the loops to the castle of your loom. Raise the loops so the floating selvedge threads float in the middle of the open sheds as in the photo.
Adjusting the tension – Since they don’t interlace with the wefts like the main weave, they are likely to get looser as you weave along. You can hook a weight on each one and let it slide along as the warp is advanced as in the photo. Because they don’t get tighter as a rule, they can be beamed on with the regular warp ends.
If you used separate threads for the floating selvedges, they must be anchored at the back of the loom in some way so there is tension on them for weaving. The next post will talk about how to know how much weight to add.
I love this idea for winding a selvedge thread. I learned it from the participants in a workshop I taught years ago.
Introduction: Every new weaver learns about floating selvedges. In case of any doubts, here’s where the shuttle goes and why it works. Upcoming posts will have more in-depth selvedge “talk”.
What: There will be one extra thread on each side of the warp for the floating selvedges. I sometimes add these two extra threads, and other times I just use the outside threads on the existing warp. (I make new threads if using the two already in the warp will spoil the design at the edge.) Floating selvedges are commonly used when the outside warp thread doesn’t weave into the cloth, or when it isn’t caught often enough because of the structure of the weave. Why: These floating selvedges give a warp thread for the weft to go around on every shed, so there is never a thread left dangling out of the cloth at the edge.
Where: These floating threads move neither up nor down when the sheds are made but stay in the middle of the sheds. If you are using threads from your existing warp and the warp has already been threaded, remove the two outside warp threads from their heddles and replace them in the reed. If you are using separately made threads, take them through the castle but not through any heddles and put them in the outside dents of the reed as shown in the previous photo. Tie them on to the cloth apron rod as usual. (How to tension threads made separately follows in the next post.) When: I never use floating selvedges unless they are needed because it slows down the weaving a bit. Twills that only weave in one direction do not need them. Only twills that change directions need them, such as herringbone. Use a floating selvedge when two shuttles are used so you don’t have to worry about the rotation of the shuttles to catch the outside thread.
How to enter the shed: There is a certain way for the shuttle to enter and exit the sheds to make the wefts always catch the outside warp threads. Here is what I do. Enter the shuttle into the shed over the floating thread and exit the shuttle under it. It’s easy to push the warp end down with the nose of the shuttle when entering the shed.
How to exit the shed: The shuttle naturally leaves the shed at the opposite side going under the floating selvedge. There are many ways you can enter and exit the sheds to make the floaters do their job; you just need to do it the same way all the time. I prefer the method here because it’s easy and works naturally with the way the shuttle enters and exits the sheds. Next: Adjusting and tensioning floating selvedges.
I love getting comments from my Post readers. And I love learning new things. A comment from Jon gave this threading to catch the outside warp thread. With it you don’t have to think and you don’t need a floating selvedge. I might not use it if I thought I would weave other structures besides twills in a piece, but it beats a floating selvedge if you plan a big twill project. Try to figure out how it works just from the threading.
Here is the regular 4-shaft twill tie-up. Can you see how a thread is always caught on each edge with every weft shot? Notice the circles in the tie-up. That’s because it’s showing shafts lifted. Remember that bubbles rise.
Now add the treadling. Can you figure out what the edges will look like from this information?
Here is the complete draft. The edges make a sort of plain weave. Perhaps you could thread more threads for the edges and make a border. Maybe an idea to ponder and worth trying? This is how my mind works—I’d want to do a sample first to see how the two weaves work. Now I’m thinking again…you could thread the edges: 22, 44 and 11, 33 to get a real basket weave on the edges and I think that should surely work with the twill. When I want bands of both twill and plain weave in a cloth, I often use basket weave instead of real plain weave because they both draw in the same. (If you use plain weave bands, they will turn out to be wider than the twill areas.)
If the trick is not observed: This photo shows how the outside thread is skipped if the trick is not observed when weaving twill.
Here is the trick: Always start the twill weaving sequence by entering the shuttle on the even side of the warp. The “even side” refers to the side where the outside thread is threaded in a heddle on an even shaft. For a 4-shaft twill, that would be shaft #4 or shaft #2.
If you didn’t follow the trick: If you are weaving along, and you notice the problem, you won’t want to interrupt the sequence of the twill weave. In this situation, you can cut the weft thread and enter the shuttle on the other side of the warp. In other words, if the shuttle was on the right edge of the warp and normally would be entered from that side, cut the weft and enter it from the left side. This procedure might need to be done a couple of times to get the right sequence and side of the warp to work out.
Of course, you can take the shuttle around the outside warp by hand as you enter the shed. To do this, you’ll take the shuttle around the outside warp thread and place it into the new shed. You can do it every few wefts—just to keep the outside thread woven into the cloth. Another option is to use a floating selvedge. This is the solution I would recommend if the twill changes direction (zig zags).
If your outside selvedge threads begin to splay out as shown, there is too much angle in the diagonal of the weft. You must stop this or the warps will just continue to splay out more and more.
To correct this problem, throw the next weft, and while it is still loose in the shed, tug the previous weft at the selvedge, pulling out the tiny bit of excess weft.
Then, Take up that extra weft in the new shed and beat it in as usual. The tiny bit of slack that is taken out will straighten the warps. When the selvedges are back in place, decrease the angle of the diagonal in your wefts. You should need to make this adjustment only a few times to get the selvedges back in place. If you are throwing the shuttle on the shuttle race as I recommend, the way to decrease the angle is to move the fell of the cloth a little closer to the reed.
One common selvedge flaw is a characteristic ridge or ripple caused by a combination of too much weft in one shot, and too little weft in the following shot. The ridge is produced by changing the shed before the weft is beaten into place. With each shot the problem becomes worse.
This post was also inspired by Linda Doggett who said how important it is to her to beat on an open shed to make good selvedges. I enjoy the connections with other weavers. If you have an absolute favorite tip or process, let me know and perhaps it can go out into the weaving world in a blog post.
I’ve been pretty proud of my selvedges over time using the process Jim Ahrens taught that is the same that industry uses. If industry uses it, it must be pretty good, I thought. This is meant for most weave structures and yarns, but not for weft faced weaving. (eg. Tapestry or Collingwood’s rugs). Jim also said that often for right handers, the left selvedge is better. I think it is because that’s the one where the right hand is catching the shuttle. I never thought to ask him why. Mine are slightly better but both are good. The other thing he said was “the best selvedges come when you don’t pay attention to them.” (that is if you use this technique.) The photo is one of a series of color studies I wove with good line linen. Step One: Throw the shuttle on the shuttle race or close to the reed. The shuttle race is a big help and the shed is larger, close to the reed. A diagonal should form naturally from the edge of the woven cloth to the shuttle race. The edge of the cloth is close enough so that the diagonal from it to the reed should be enough. This diagonal prevents the cloth from drawing in. (Remember that it’s important to advance the warp often, about every 2-3”.)
Snug up the weft against the outside warp thread, neither pulling that thread in, nor leaving a loop on the outside of it. I like to snug the weft up until it barely moves that outside thread—just grazes it. I don’t touch the selvedges but I press the weft thread onto the shuttle or bobbin and pull on the shuttle to snug the weft into place. Step Two: Beat while the shed is still open. The illustration shows receiving the shuttle and a hand on the reed, ready to beat. This is crucial since this is where the warp is held out to its full width so that you are getting enough weft into the shed. This keeps the cloth from drawing in too much. (Expect a little bit of draw-in that is natural.) Step Three: Change the shed as soon as you have beaten in the weft. The illustration shows the weft beaten in and the beater back near the heddles and the shuttle going into the new shed. This is especially important, too, because it is trapping the weft out at that widest point so the cloth cannot draw in. That’s it: “Throw, beat, change your feet”. With practice, it will become automatic but at first, I’ve seen students struggle to change the shed quickly after beating. Often, they want to change the shed after the beater is back at the heddles.
Here are all the places we plan to visit together. I am going again with my friend Cathy Cerny. She has done all the planning just like in many previous trips. I counted 9 hotels in 21 days so we’ll be moving right along. I hope I can do a post every day! – Click photos to enlarge –
Our first trip is a flight to Amami Island to the town of Oshima. (it is way south and off my map.) We want to see a particular type of ikat called orijimi. The resist is done on a loom forming a mat with the ikat warps or wefts to be woven in. Then the mat is unwoven to reveal the resisted places (dots) where the warps on the original weaving resisted the dye. The dye is also a special mud dye from the area. Oshima fabrics are expensive and have been imitated. We will look at the selvedges to see the tiny white dots to be sure we are getting the true orijimi technique. A friend and expert sent me this precious fragment so we would know what to look for.
I weight my selvedge threads separately almost always. I learned from Jim Ahrens that you could use stronger threads for the selvedges when you want to weave with fragile warp threads. I’ve shown the knot I use to hold the weights in many workshops and in two of my books, but it is wonderful to have a video so you can see the motions of my hands. You might still need the diagrams in the books, but I think this is a big help. The books are: Weaving for Beginners and Weaving & Drafting Your Own Cloth. Both have a whole chapter devoted just to selvedges.
Things to know before you throw a shuttle:
Important Information About How to throw the shuttle
Beginning weavers learn about the diagonal of the weft but they think they should have the weft loose at the selvedges. In my book, Weaving for Beginners, I tell how to snug up the weft for good selvedges and no draw-in problems.
Throw the shuttle into the correct open shed. Take out the shuttle so the weft is in the shed on a diagonal as shown in Figure 245. Holding onto the shuttle, snug up the weft to the outside warp thread—the side where the shuttle entered the shed—just so it touches and barely moves that outside thread. Then, swing the beater and gently place the weft next to the previously woven weft. You do not want to actually beat it as the name implies. You are simply placing the weft against the one woven before it. Now, while the beater is toward you after placing the weft, change the shed. Then, swing the beater back toward the heddles and begin the process again. The steps
are: throw the shuttle, beat in the weft, and change the shed. I like the rhythm of saying: “Throw, beat, change the shed.” That’s 4 counts, with “the shed” as one beat. (On the fourth beat you’re pushing the beater back toward the shafts.)
Here is my new warp–sewing thread–for some art pieces. More ruffles, probably. You can see the 10 spools that I used on my warping reel with a heck block. Otherwise, for 10 spools you would definitely need to use a paddle (which is a good idea). See my book, Winding a Warp & Using a Paddle). The warp is on its kitestick, ready to load the raddle.
I’m using sewing thread and hoping for sheer again. I increased the sett a bit from the yellow warp so I won’t have to beat so gently to get the wefts not to pack in too much.
I’m making separate selvedges out of white rayon and using a supplementary warp (egg plant color) for the punch. The technique for the supplementary warp I’ll use is split broche. The threads will not be in the heddles as they are threaded amongst the warp threads which on are 4 shafts. More on this when I get started. For now, you can see those threads on their own small kitestick.
I think I’ll put in some horse hair–I love the color of it.
The principles of how warps and wefts bend are valuable to understanding a lot about weaving–especially why cloth draws in and causes selvedge threads to break.
The principles apply for so many aspects–for example, for weaving balanced or near balanced fabric, the warp tension must not be too tight. That would prevent the warps from bending. If the tension is too tight, the warps will be straight and that will force the wefts to do all the bending. Besides draw-in problems, the cloth will be more weft face with the wefts beaten down more than for a balanced look.
The warp tension should be just enough to get a shed for fabric that has a balanced look. So many students I see have the tension much too tight. Tight tension is only desirable for weft faced textiles. (Then you must bubble the weft or the draw-in will be too much.)
Here’s how the bending works in different sett (epi) situations,
and how it affects your cloth’s draw-in. Balanced plain weave is shown in Figure 518a.
“Balanced” means there are the same number of warps per inch (epi) as wefts per inch. You can see that both the warps and the wefts bend or curve. The diagonal of the wefts in the sheds
provides the slack needed to allow for the wefts to bend. The warps bend after the cloth is taken off the loom when there is no longer any tension on them. Remember, you allowed for this occurrence in planning the length of the warp by adding in an allowance for “take-up.” See page 290. In weft-faced weaving, the warps are straight and the wefts do all the bending. See Figure 518b. Notice that the warps are farther apart than for balanced plain weave. Fewer ends per inch (epi) force the wefts to bend so much that there needs to be much more weft in the shed than for balanced weaves. To allow for the yarn to bend over and under the warp threads, more diagonal, or
even bubbling of the weft is needed. Read about bubbling on page 128.
In Figure 518c, the warps are very close together (more ends per inch), and they are bending, but the wefts are straight. This is warp-faced plain weave. Warps that close force the wefts to be straight. These warps take up much more than those in balanced weaving do, because they have to curve so much over and under the wefts. Less slack or weft diagonal is needed because the wefts are straight and do not bend.
A student came today with an exquisitely gorgeous fabric which frustrated her so much while weaving that she cut it off the loom and threw away the remainder of the warp! When I showed her this illustration from my new book, Weaving for Beginners, she could see that the selvedge threads were being abraded by the reed. The following is found on page 302 in the chapter on selvedges. Beautiful selvedges aren’t the end in itself, but the result of techniques that solve ugly selvedge problems and broken threads. I’ll be posting more on selvedges, I’ll bet.
A common selvedge problem: Too much draw-in In my teaching experience, the problem that showed up almost as soon as the weaving began was that the cloth narrowed in too much. If the problem wasn’t noticed and dealt with soon, the selvedge threads would begin to break by the abrasion of the reed. Look at the edges of the warp at the fell. Is the reed stretching out the warps way beyond the width of the cloth? If so, can you see why the reed is abrading and breaking the selvedges? Too much draw-in at the selvedges is shown in Figure 517.
If you have a big draw-in problem, you can use a temple or stretcher cords such as croc clips. See page 312. To understand more why the cloth draws in and how to control it so the selvedge threads don’t break, read the sidebar, “How warps and wefts bend,” on the next page.
Three common causes of this problem (in order of commonness)
1. The warp tension is too tight.
2. There is not enough slack in the weft. (No diagonal of the weft is put into
the shed.) See above.
3. The wefts are pulled too tightly at the selvedges. Rules to follow to avoid too much draw-in 1. The warp tension should not be tight, certainly not tight like a violin string.
Basically, it just needs to be tight enough to get the sheds to open. It should
feel firm when you pat it to test the amount of tension, maybe even fairly
firm, but definitely not tight. If your selvedges are narrowing in, check the
warp tension first. 2. There must be enough slack in the weft that it can bend as it goes over and
under the warps. Figure 513 shows the diagonal needed to allow for this
slack. You will know you have too much diagonal when loops appear in the
weft in the cloth. If the warp only draws in a tiny amount, say ¼” or so on
each side, you have put in enough slack. Read about the diagonal, above. 3. Do not pull the weft tight as you put it into the shed. If you do, two things
will happen—first, you won’t get in the slack you need (see above) and
second, the selvedges will draw in too much.
Beginners sometimes try to solve this problem with another
problem—putting loops of wefts at the selvedges. This effort
does not do anything to widen the warp at the edges. It just
leaves unsightly loopy selvedges. The slack in the weft is
needed clear across the warp—not just at the edges. Read how the weft
should turn at the selvedges, above. Read more about good selvedges on
Devices that deal with too much draw-in
If everything about your cloth is just as you want it, but the draw-in is causing the selvedges to break. You can stretch out the warp near the reed so the reed can’t abrade the threads while weaving.
A temple is a stretcher that holds the cloth out at the selvedges.
See Figure 529. It allows you to snug the wefts up to the selvedges without breaking the threads during weaving. It may be made of wood or metal. Any temple needs to be
strong. They are available in many widths for weaving wide rugs or narrow placemats.
Cord and clip stretchers
This stretcher is a variation of a temple that you can make yourself. See Figure 530. The clips are “Crocodile clips” (also called “croc clips”) and are available at hardware stores. They are made to clip tarps and are very inexpensive.
I’m weaving a lovely warp I bought as a kit at Convergence in Albuquerque last summer. It was made by Neal Howard. She dyed three warps and told how to thread them in the heddles to integrate them. Each one is different, so it is great fun to weave along and see the color changes–in one or all of the stripes.
I’m not following her idea–so I’ll report later if my idea for the cloth works out. Dyeing is Neal’s speciality– I bought one of her jackets at the previous Convergence. She offers yarns and woven pieces.