Tuesday, September 2, 2008


Posted by Peg in South Carolina

When I was a beginning weaver, I was told over and over again not to touch the selvedges when I was weaving. Just keep throwing the shuttle and beating. This was very hard to do, for my selvedges were quite awful. I continued bravely on in weft caught by warp ends2 this manner, and my selvedges did improve. Obtaining an end feed shuttle further improved the selvedges. And the occasional use of a temple also helped.

Weaving these art pieces, I have started touching the selvedges. Horror! Actually, I really only started with this fifth piece. I was already having to put in my hands on occasional to clear sheds. And my selvedges were really pretty good. Then I found that the solution to the occasional little loops at the selvedges was to give a little pull on the yarn I had just passed through, after I had changed sheds.

Then I started to notice the the weft yarn was not always quite hugging the selvedge close to the previous shot of weft yarn. Sometime this was due to the weft yarn getting caught on warp yarns near the selvedge that had not quite cleared completely. The first image shows what happened to a shot of seft when it got caught by some loose warp ends. Instead of angling at a relative narrow angle from the left selvedge, it scoops up and over. This generally happens on only one particular shed where the threads in one threading block loosen up (I've still not figured that one out).

I can avoid this situation if I make sure that shed is clear, clearing it with my hand, if necessary. But when I haven't noticed this, I end up having to stick my finger in the open shed and clear it before I beat. And that is what the second photo shows me doing.

inserting finger to clear warp ends2 After I have cleared the shed I can pull on the weft yarn again and it willl angle correctly from the selvedge.

Sometimes there are no loose warp ends grabbing at the weft yarns, but the weft still doesn't quite snuggle into the selvedge the way it should. For no apparent reason. Again, a finger into the open shed to nudge that weft end down before I beat as you can see in the third photo.

If I were production weaver, I would never weave this way. If I found that I had to do these things to get good selvedges, I would try to find ways that would correct the issue. I would try a temple. This would stretch the warp threads out their full width, including the ends close to the selvedge which always get closer to each other than the rest of the ends do. I would try opening up the sett so that the ends would not be so likely to stick to each other.

snuggling the weft end to the selvedge2 But I am not doing production weaving. I am trying to create one-of-a-kind pieces and the weaving is slow. I do not want to use a temple because it obscures my vision a bit, even though I use the Scandinavian metal temples. I do not want to open up the sett because I like how it looks at this sett.

It is, however, good advice not to touch the selvedges when you are weaving. It is good for a weaver to learn that, with practice, she can just throw shuttles and get decent selvedges. But the key is practice. Constant, or even intermittent, touching of the selvedges is going to get in the way of the learning curve.

Related Posts:
Slow Weaving
Preparing for Weaving

"Never Touch the Selvedges" was written by Margaret Carpenter for Talking about Weaving and was originally posted on September 2 , 2008. © 2008 Margaret Carpenter aka Peg in South Carolina


Holly said...

I'm a beginner and I try not to touch the selvedges -- but I've never really seen a good explanation of why not to touch them. So why not?

Peg in South Carolina said...

Holly, two reasons come quickly to mind. One, touching the selvedges slows down your weaving. Even I, who am into SLOW weaving (grin!), do not want to weave and more slowly than I need to! Second, if, as a beginner you start touching your selvedges you will never learn how to control your shuttle so that your selvedges are perfect just from good shuttle throwing technique. There used to be teachers, I have heard, who would put on a 100 yard white warp and make you weave it off. You sure would have good control if you survived the experience! Even end-feed shuttles, by the way, require learning how to adjust the tension on the weft yarn so that it is right, but even so, you have to use proper technique in throwing it, which includes where you hold the shuttle when you pick it up and pull the beater closed. Hint, you do NOT move your hand back to the front of the loom as you close the beater---thanks to Laura Fry's CD for that tip! Don't expect perfection to come unearned, but have fun learning.

Leigh said...

Peg, I can really relate to this post. I especially struggled with selvedges with my recent waffle weave. I still don't have it all figured out, but I do find that getting good selvedges slows my weaving down. I sometimes wonder if I can ever do both!

P.S. At the "written by" bit at the end of your posts, the post title link brings up a "not found" page.

Peg in South Carolina said...

Leigh, I've never woven waffle weave but I understand from what I've read is that good selvedges are very difficult with that structure.
I just checked some of those end links and found, strangely, that some work and some don't. I assume I am making a tiny mistake somewhere in writing the url, maybe forgetting a hyphen. Thank you for calling this to my attention.

Leigh said...

Peg, I have come to the same conclusion about waffle weave. There's just something about the threading that makes those selvedges really fussy. It makes weaving WW very slow.