From Four Shafts to Eight Shafts

Marcy Petrini

November, 2019

This month I gave a program on “From Four Shafts to Eight-Shafts” to my guild, the Chimneyville Weavers and Spinners Guild. I have presented seminars and workshops in the past, I wrote a monograph on the topic, and I wrote briefly about one aspect of it in my May 2016 blog. But whenever I am to present a topic, I like to rethink of it because difference circumstances require different presentations and, for a short program, it’s best to address the big picture with some examples to clarify.

I like to think of the transition from four shafts to eight – or more – as falling into four broad categories: 1) structures that can be simply extended – both the threading and the treadling; 2) structures that generally require some adjustment of the extension, to avoid too long floats; 3) structures that are only possible with more shafts; 4) combinations of structures, sometimes called hybrid.


Extending the Threading and Treadling from Four to More

Structures that fall in this category are many of the grouped weaves, which form blocks, with one warp and one weft (the “lacey weaves”), and the tied-unit weaves which form blocks with one warp, a background weft and a pattern weft; summer and winter is the only one on four shafts (discussed in the 3rd section).


Example: Spot Bronson

On four shafts, there are three blocks, each made up of shaft 1 plus a pattern shaft. Blocks can be as long as we wish, limited by the float length, which, in turn depends on sett. Blocks cannot be combined as the float would just be extended. On eight shafts, there are seven blocks, and they can be arranged to form motifs as long as adjacent blocks are not combined.

From the drawdowns we see that the structure has been simply extended to 8 shafts with no changes. Plain weave across the fabric is treadled 1 vs. all other shafts; each block is treadled by covering with weft the warp ends on shaft 1 and plus the pattern shaft; on a sinking shed loom, we lower shaft 1 and the pattern shaft; on a rising shed loom, we lift all the pattern shafts except the one to be covered; that is, to weave block A threaded on shaft 2, we lower shafts 1 & 2 or we raise 3 & 4 on 4 shafts or 3 & 4 & 5 & 6 & 7 & 8 on 8-shafts.



  Spot Bronson on 4 shafts 

  Click here for the full-sized draft (a PDF will open a new window)



Spot Bronson on 8 Shafts

  Click here for the full-sized draft (a PDF will open a new window)


This simple extending allows for more design options.


Extending the Structure from Four to More with Some Adjustments

Structures that fall into this category are the twills and the supplementary weft weaves derived from twills, for example overshot (see May 2016 blog).


Example: Straight Twill

Twills are structures with one warp and one weft that forms staggered floats. A balanced straight twill, shown below, is the simplest on four shafts, balanced meaning that with every pick, two shafts are up and two shafts down, also called a 2/2 twill. Because every pick follows the same rules, the 2/2 twill is called regular and forms the characteristic slanted motif.



Straight Twill on 4 shafts 

  Click here for the full-sized draft (a PDF will open a new window)


With 8 shafts, we can simply extend the threading and treadling as shown below, but this results in 6-thread floats, weft-floats on one side, warp-floats on the other. Whether a 6-thread float is acceptable depends on the sett, but there are more options that result in more visually pleasing twills.


Straight Twill Threading on 8 shafts 

  Click here for the full-sized draft (a PDF will open a new window)


There are three options to adjust this twill: 1) change the tie-up to anchor the floats, maintaining the balanced twill; 2) change the tie-up to anchor the floats, but produce an unbalanced twill (similar to the 3/1 twill on 4-shafts); 3) change the tie-up to anchor the floats, so that the picks do not follow the same rule; this is an irregular twill, sometimes called fancy.

Below is a 2/1/2/3 straight twill, which is balanced: with every pick, 4 shafts are up (2 and 2) and 4 shafts stay down (1 and 3).


2/1/2/3 Straight Twill

  Click here for the full-sized draft (a PDF will open a new window)


Below is a 3/1/2/2 straight twill which is unbalanced: 5 shafts are up (3 and 2) and 3 shafts are down (1 and 2).


3/1/2/2 Straight Twill

  Click here for the full-sized draft (a PDF will open a new window)


 Below is an irregular or fancy twill, which cannot be described by any sequence of up and down shafts, since each pick is different.


Irregular Straight Twill 

  Click here for the full-sized draft (a PDF will open a new window)


In each of these cases, the floats are never more than 3-threads long, making for a stable fabric.


Structures Requiring More than Four

There are three common groups of structures that generally require more than for shafts: satins, most tied-unit weaves, and most turned drafts from supplementary weft weaves. We will discuss these.


Example: 5-Shaft Satin

Satins require at least 5 shafts to be woven; they are unbalanced fabrics, one side predominantly weft-dominant, called sateen, the other warp-dominant, called satin. On four shafts, a 3/1 broken twill is sometimes called a false-satin because it resembles it, but in a true satin the floats are stitched or anchored intermittently with less pattern, especially with more shafts, which is why four can’t produce a true satin. (My May 2017 and June 2017 blogs are on this topic). With 8 shafts, we can have 7- and 8-shaft satins, in addition to 5.



  Click here for the full-sized draft (a PDF will open a new window)


The first half of the drawdown above shows the sateen side, which is the way the fabric is usually woven, only one shaft at a time to lift; the bottom of this fabric will be the satin side. The second half of the drawdown shows the satin side up, facing the weaver as the fabric is woven; the bottom of this fabric will be the sateen side.

Satins can showcase special yarns, making for an almost solid surface; care must be taken, however, because they can be heavy, packing nearly twice as much yarn as plain weave for the same size fabric. Using thin threads and light weight fibers solves the problem.


Unit Tied-Weaves: Tied Lithuanian

We have already mentioned that summer and winter is a unit tied weave that can be woven on four shafts. But this group really profits from more shafts; in fact, there are so many options, that some don’t even have names, but they are called by their classification described below, made popular by Donna Sullivan in her book Summer and Winter A Weave for All Seasons. First we apply it summer and winter on 4 shafts.


Summer and Winter Example



# of pattern shafts per block


# of shafts used for ties


Paired = ties next to each other
Unpaired = separated by pattern

1: 1 ratio

Ratio of
ties threads to pattern threads
in each block


By this nomenclature, summer and winter is called single because each block uses one pattern shaft, 3 in block A, 4 in block B, see drawdown below; two-tie since shafts 1 and 2 are the ties; unpaired because the ties alternate with the pattern shaft in each block; a 1:1 ratio since each block has two ties and two pattern shafts, even though each block uses the same pattern shaft twice.


Summer and Winter on 4 shafts

  Click here for the full-sized draft (a PDF will open a new window)


From the drawdown we see that, in treadling, each block is woven with two pattern picks; the weft covers the threads on the pattern shaft and on one of the ties, then the other. In a sinking shed loom, the pattern shaft is lowered, in a raising shed loom, all other shafts are raised. The drawdown above is for a raising shed loom; to weave block A, threaded on shaft 3, the picks raised one of the tabbies, plus shaft 4, so 3 stays lowered to be covered.

In treadling, each pattern pick is followed by a tabby pick, treadled ties vs. pattern shafts; on 4-shafts that is 1 & 2 vs. 3 & 4; the tabby picks are not shown in the drawdown above, so the pattern is more obvious. This treadling is called “singles”, but there are more treadling options. (See RFTS in Shuttle Spindle & Dyepot #198 & #199, summer and winter 2019, respectively).

When summer and winter is woven on 8 shafts, it is still a single, two-tie, unpaired structure with a 1:1 ratio as shown in the drawdown below. As with 4 shafts, the tabbies are 1 & 2 vs. all pattern shafts; each block is woven with two picks, each tie-down shaft plus the pattern shaft, as in four shafts. Adjacent blocks can be combined on 4 and 8 shafts, but there are more options on 8 shafts.


Summer and Winter on 8 shafts

  Click here for the full-sized draft (a PDF will open a new window)


With more than four shafts, each of the parameters in the classification can be changed and increased; for example, we can have more shafts per block, or more ties.

Below is the drawdown of an example: Tied-Lithuanian, which is described by this classification.

Double: two pattern shafts per block (3 & 4; 5 & 6; 7 & 8).

Two-tie: two shafts for the ties, 1 and 2.

Paired: the ties, 1 and 2, are next to each other.

1:2 ratio: each block has the two ties and four pattern shafts, two repeated for each block.

In treadling, a tabby shot follows each pattern pick, not shown in the drawdown. The tabbies are all odd shafts vs. all even shafts.

The drawdown shown below is for a raising shed loom, thus alternate shafts are raised in order to cover the block with weft. When treadling the blocks, the odd tie-down shaft, 1, is raised with the odd pattern shafts not in the block threading. That, is, to treadle block A which uses pattern shafts 3 & 4, the odd pattern pick lifts 1 & 5 & 7. The other pattern pick for block A lifts the even tie-down shaft, 2, plus the even pattern shafts, 6 & 8, not found in the threading of block A.



  Click here for the full-sized draft (a PDF will open a new window)


The treadling shown forms plain weave in the blocks not being woven, but blocks can be combined because the tie-down threads limit the floats.


Turned Drafts: Summer and Winter

We turn drafts by literally exchanging the threading with the tie-up/treadling, usually to avoid weaving with two shuttles. The supplementary weft becomes the supplementary warp. A drawdown that requires 6 treadles is turned into a structure requiring 6 shafts. Thus, most 4-shaft structures with a supplementary weft need more than four to be turned (an exception is Monk’s Belts).

Below is the drawdown of summer and winter on 4-shafts; it’s the same structure shown in the previous section, but this time the alternating tabbies are shown in the light green. There are six treadles needed to weave it, two tabbies (1 & 2 vs. 3 &4) and two treadle each for each block.


Summer and Winter
on 4 Shafts with Tabby

  Click here for the full-sized draft (a PDF will open a new window)


Below is the drawdown of the turned draft; the block motifs are also turned. Six shafts are needed, two for the tied down threads, two each for the two blocks.

On 8 shafts, a 3-block turned summer and winter could be woven, by adding shafts 7 and 8 to form the additional block, alternating with shafts 1 and 2.


Summer and Winter Turned

  Click here for the full-sized draft (a PDF will open a new window)


Combining Structures

We can think of our 8-shaft loom as being two looms: the front four shafts are one loom, the back four shafts another. Thus we can weave two structures together; the simplest way is to thread one structure on the front loom and another in the back loom in stripes, or the threading can alternate the two looms. Then we combine the treadling sequences.

While in principle this is easy to do, there can be some complications; in some cases, combining the two treadlings results in a sequence that requires more treadles that the loom has; in some instances, a skeleton tie-up may work, in others weaving the fabric upside down may make the skeleton tie-up more manageable.

Sometimes the combined treadling sequence is so long that weaving it can be daunting. Both of these cases are made much easier with a dobby, generally computerized now.

But a third complication can occur at the joints between one structure and the other, where the resulting floats are too long. Sometimes adjusting the floats results in a hybrid structure that is unique.

I use this method a lot in my work with more than 8-shafts with a computerized dobby. Sometimes the results are really fun, other times……

   Happy Weaving!

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Myggtjäll and “Mosquito Netting”

Marcy Petrini

October, 2019


In a delightful essay in “End Notes” in the November/December 2018 issue of Handwoven, Lynn Tedder describes her affinity for huck and mentions a subset of huck lace, called Myggtjäll, which translates to mosquito netting in Swedish. The original description came from Mary Snider’s Lace and Lacey Weaves.

I had read Mary Snider’s book in 1986 when the new revision was published, but I didn’t make the connection to the 3-thread block of huck that I had woven.

Compare the drawdowns of huck lace on the left and that of Myggtjäll, the latter Lynn’s (note that there is a small error in the article: in the tie-up, treadle 2 & 3 are correct, but placed in the wrong position).



  Click here for the full-sized draft (a PDF will open a new window)


The block threading and treadling are the same, except for the size, and plain weave can be woven across the width of the fabric and down its length in both cases.

I was taught that each block of huck and huck lace can be as wide and as long as we wish, as long as it starts and ends with the same shaft, thus making the block on odd number of threads; this maintains the plain weave treadling.

Thus, at a sett of 15 ends per inch, a block threaded 2, 3, 2, 3, 2 will have a 5-thread float which is ⅓” long; at a sett of 60 epi, a 21-thread block will also have approximately a ⅓’ long float. They are both huck lace.

One day, when making a table runner with fatter yarn, I decided that my huck lace would be better served if I reduced the threading to 3 threads for each block. I wove Myggtjäll and I didn’t even know it!

After reading Lynn Tedder’s article, I thought that it would be nice to include it in the Pictionary, especially since it’s not well known and who wouldn’t want to weave mosquito netting?

But my some thirty-year-old runner was showing its wear and tear, so I decided to weave a sample of Myggtjäll for the Pictionary. To see how the blocks behaved, and what other color interactions there may be, I threaded the selvages and block A in red, and block B in purple. I then wove sections of the sampler with red, purple and blue. Here is the drawdown followed by the fabrics.



   Click here for the full-sized draft (a PDF will open a new window)




As I was weaving, I thought that it may be fun to go back and read what Mary Snider wrote; and here it is, she used a traditional pointed twill threading!


   Click here for the full-sized draft (a PDF will open a new window)


Shaft 1 in the huck threading becomes shaft 3 and shaft 3 becomes 1 and there is our pointed twill!

But think of the options! On the same threading, we can weave the twill’s own treadling, a number of other twills, Myggtjäll, and the entire bumberet series!

An entry for Myggtjäll has been added to the Pictionary.

   Happy Weaving!

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Bumberet Family

Marcy Petrini

August 2019

My friend Gio Chinchar gave me one of her beautiful towels as a present and she said it was woven as a bumberet – bumberet, where did I come across that structure before?

As it turned out, there had been an article by Alice Schlein (Weavers 14: 10-13, 1991) that covered four structures that use the same pointed twill threading, but have different treadlings: bumberet, velveret, thickset, and ducape. It had been flagged in my magazine as something to try. More recently Madelyn Van der Hoogt (Handwoven Jan/Feb 2017, 14-15) described the first three of these structures, all of which originally came from Weaver John Hargrove who published 52 weaves in 1792 in The Weavers Draft Book and Clothiers Assistant (available for download from

I had woven a vest in velveret a long time ago, (before Alice’s article) not really understanding much about the structure and thought that, from the name, it may be related to velvet. No, as a linguist may say, “false friends”, not related.

Since the threading is that of a pointed twill, it makes me think of the structures as treadling methods; interestingly, they are woven in blocks: 2-1-2 and 3-4-3.

Finally, I got to the weaving. Below is the drawdown showing all four possibilities. The first 6 threading repeats (starting from the right) are in four colors, to match the warp of the first three samples; the reason for this choice will become apparent soon. The next 5 threading repeats are in two colors, red and purple.

The treadling colors match the samples below (rising shed loom): the bumberet is treadled in red, thickset in green, the velveret in blue, and the ducape in purple and blue. I have shown the treadling for ducape to be single in the purple section, in parallel to the other structures, but Alice shows it double, which is in blue in the drawdown, only one repeat.

From the drawdown we can see that it is not possible to weave all four structures on a 6-treadle loom, except with a direct tie-up.

The bumberet is the only structure that is balanced, two shafts are up and two down with every pick. The others all have some unbalanced picks which tend to make the weft pack, the fabric weft-dominant on one side and warp-dominant on the other, resulting in a sturdy cloth. Bumberet, thickset and ducape alternate treadling shots of plain weave; velveret uses on opposite treadling (1 & 2; 3 & 4).


Click here for the full-sized draft (a PDF will open a new window)


Below are the photos of the fabrics, the left shows the front, the right the back, rising shed loom.

Bumberet with four color warp and red weft:



Thickset, also with the four color warp, and green weft:



Velveret with the four warp colors and blue weft:



Ducape with red and purple warp, and purple weft, single repeat




Ducape with red and purple warp and blue weft, double repeat:





 While I was studying these structures, I was intrigued by the little boxes that were formed in some cases, and I wondered whether I could make the boxes to be the same on both blocks at the same time. I experimented with the bumberet draft because I thought a balanced weave would be easier to change for boxes. The drawdown is below.

I thought I could use the draft to make a runner to match a bowl for a side table, so I picked the colors from the bowl, shown in the drawdown and fabric below, front on the left, back on the right; you can see that the two sides look the same.



 Click here for the full-sized draft (a PDF will open a new window)






Use a structure from the bumberet family for one of your future projects!

The four structures are in the Pictionary individually.

 Happy weaving!

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Bronson and Barley Corn

Marcy Petrini

September 2019



Do you recognize this fabric? On the left we have blocks with weft floats, on the right we have blocks with warp floats.

The cloth is characteristic of grouped or unit weaves, one-shuttle structures that make lacey fabrics. If we look closely, we can see that a warp thread is shared by adjacent blocks. This is a characteristic of Spot Bronson.




Below is the drawdown for a sinking shed loom; even though I weave on rising shed looms, I find it easier to think of a block being woven when it is covered by weft, which occurs with a sinking shed loom. On and off the loom, weft floats appear on one side of the fabric, warp floats on the other.

The drawdown shows some important characteristics of the structure: there are three blocks; what is generally called A is threaded on shaft 2, B on 3 and C on 4. I like to think of these shafts as pattern shafts; in each block, the respective pattern shaft alternates with a thread on shaft 1 for the width of the block. This is the reason why adjacent blocks share a thread, they share shaft 1.

This means that it is possible to weave plain weave across the fabric by treadling 1 vs. 2 & 3 &4, since every other thread is on shaft 1 and the alternate thread is on a pattern shaft; this is shown in the drawdown but not the fabric. The two alternating plain weave picks are sometimes called tabbies, since Spot Bronson is traditionally woven with the same size warp and weft, so that the plain weave area can be a true tabby.

This characteristic of treadling 1 vs. all pattern shafts, makes me think of a tied-unit weave (for example summer-and-winter), but Spot Bronson is not, for two main reasons.


  Click here for the full-sized draft (a PDF will open a new window)


The most important reason is that the floats are not delimited by a tie-thread, but by the pattern thread of the adjacent block. If we look at block C (1, 4, 1, 4, 1), the first block starting on the right in the drawdown, we see that the weft thread covers the block for its 5 warp threads, (including the warp thread shared on shaft 1), and it stops with shaft 3 of the following block (1, 3, 1, 3, 1). This is similar to what happens with huck.

The other reason that this is not a tied-unit weave is related to the first: the block can be as wide as we wish – for block C, for example, 1, 4, can be repeated many times, ending with 1 – being mindful that the float may be too long. This variable float length, too, is similar to huck.

In treadling a block we alternate the tabby 2 & 3 & 4 with a pick that uses shaft 1 plus the shaft of the block; the treadling for block C, for example, is 2 & 3 & 4 vs. 1 & 4.

What makes Spot Bronson intriguing is that there are 3 blocks on 4 shafts, unusual for unit weaves. This increases the design possibilities as can be seen from the drawdown and fabric.

But the extra block comes with a cost: it is not possible to weave plain weave down the length of the fabric, even though the two blocks not being woven produce plain weave. This emphasizes the design, but even with floating selvages, the floats are one thread away from the edge.

Enter Lace Bronson, also called Bronson Lace: since plain weave is formed on the blocks not being woven, we could use one of them to produce plain weave down the length of the fabric. We would gain another option: placing between blocks the pattern shaft of the block used for plain weave; this allows us to repeat a block without long floats.

Block A of Spot Bronson is traditionally used for the plain weave to turn it into Lace Bronson. Below are both sides of the fabric of Lace Bronson.




The drawdown that follows shows how the 1, 2, threading results in a plain weave border and how the pattern thread on shaft 2 can separate repeats of the same block. Look at the two repeats of block on 1, 3, a thread on shaft 2 prevents the long float, in effect functioning as a tie-down thread. 


   Click here for the full-sized draft (a PDF will open a new window)


Same block threading, two structures with different characteristics resulting from some block re-arrangement and changes in treadling.

But, wait, there is more!

Last year at the Chimneyville Weavers and Spinners Guild meeting, my friend Gio Chinchar was presenting a program on weaving towels when she showed one woven as Barley Corn, which is basically Bronson, she said.

I hadn’t thought about Barley Corn since the 90s and I seemed to remember that there was something unusual about the Bronson of the Barley Corn. So, down the Barley Corn rabbit hole I went.

Barley Corn is Spot Bronson and it is usually – but not always – woven with a fat weft for the pick using the pattern shaft; the warp and the tabby (2 & 3 & 4) weft are the same, the fat weft is of the same proportions that we would use for a supplementary weft, for example in overshot.

Ultimately, I decided to weave “Detail from Flowers of Caanan” from A Handweaver’s Pattern Book by Marguerite Porter Davison, “the green book” where there is an entire chapter devoted to Barley Corn.

Below is the drawdown of the Flowers of Caanan followed by the front and back of the fabric. The threading is that of the Spot Bronson drawdown shown above. The treadling uses two wefts. The tabby weft is the same as the warp as can be seen from the fabric, 10/2 mercerized cotton; in the drawdown it is shown in lighter blue to make the plain weave obvious; it is always 2 & 3 & 4. The pattern shot is woven with Brown Sheep Nature Spun, color Sunburst Gold; the fatter yarn makes the pattern more visible, gold in the drawdown.


   Click here for the full-sized draft (a PDF will open a new window)


Davison says that the motifs of Barley Corn can resemble overshot.


Because the tabby weft is fatter, the fabric is heavier than Spot Bronson, it would make great pillows or other household textiles where overshot may be used.

Barley Corn has been added to the Pictionary. Spot Bronson and Lace Bronson have been part of the original set of Pictionary. Download the pdfs as you wish.

Use some of your favorite Spot Bronson patterns and convert them to Barley Corn! And for me, I can’t wait to see what my friend Gio is going to weave next, because she always seems to dig up interesting weaves.


 Happy weaving!

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How to Adapt the Warp Sett for Your Fabric

Marcy Petrini

July 2019

At the Beginning….

People generally learn to weave with plain weave. To start the project we need to explain the sett. We wrap the yarn around a ruler, count the threads in one inch, and explain that we call the measurement the yarn size or grist or diameter (d) in wraps per inch (wpi) and that we will use half that number for our sett in ends per inch (epi) because our finished product will have half warp and half weft; then we hand the rulers to the students and let them try, admonishing not to overlap the threads and not to leave empty space in between them, as show below.



As the old saying does, “you gotta start somewhere”. We may mention that we will explain for future projects how the sett varies, but first impressions are powerful.

So, there was the time we used a 5/2 cotton sett at 16 epi – and 16 epi became “the sett” – for everything (“you told me to sett it at 16”); or the time that we used 3/2 cotton sett at 12 epi in a 12 dent reed and the conclusion was that the reed determines the sett, and not the other way around.

Those are rare instances, no doubt, but I do think that beginning weavers sometimes are looking for a magic number. “What’s the sett for 10/2 cotton?” asks the e-mail. Ah, if only sett were that simple! But with a bit of thought and understanding, it doesn’t have to be that hard, especially since we have some leeway.


The Determinant of Sett

Let’s look at all the assumptions that the instructors make for that first project:


Structure: plain weave

The sett is diameter (d) divided by two – but only if the following two determinants are true

Weft: same size of the warp

The sett has to be adjusted if the weft is larger or smaller than the warp

Balanced fabric

50% warp and 50% weft on both sides of the fabric; usually, but not necessarily, true with plain weave if the weft grist = warp grist

Yarn and Fiber

Not too slick; we usually don’t start weaving with slick silk

Final use

A tablemat should be sturdy not flimsy, a scarf should be flowing not stiff. A rug can be totally warp-faced or weft-faced

The Weaver!

In starting out, we assume that the weaver will be “average”, but as time goes on, we learn what our personal preferences are. Experience! Experience! Experience!


Let’s look at these individually and see if we can use some principles.



Plain weave has the shortest floats, each weft goes over and under each warp thread, each warp thread over and under each weft thread.

But when we have longer floats the fabric can be unstable, too much wiggle room as shown in the picture below, where the warp ends bunched together.



When we have floats, we adjust by setting the warp more closely.

How much more closely?

For twills, a rule of thumb is that balanced twills should be sett at least 20% closer than plain weave. For that 5/2 yarn that we sett at 16 epi for plain weave, we would use 20 epi for a twill.

Unit weaves form lacey blocks and plain weave. You may read that lacey weaves should be sett more openly, the same or closer than plain weave. All of those are true and the sett varies on the proportions of these. If there is a lot of plain weave, we may want to use a more open sett to accentuate the lacey areas; if there are a lot of lacey blocks, then the sett should be a bit closer because the floats can make the fabric unstable. A huck lace that has all lace and no plain weave (except the selvages) using 10/2 Tencel® usually sett at 24 epi for plain weave, I may sett it at 26 epi.

Supplementary weaves have a ground of tabby, but the supplementary weft is generally larger than the ground weft, which is traditionally the same as the warp. In this case, I open up the tabby sett a bit, to allow room for the supplementary weft. A 10/2 cotton, that may be sett at 24 epi for tabby, I sett at 18 epi for a tabby of a supplementary weave.

There is actually a formula for calculating the sett for different structures, but while I used to really like to use it, with time I found it unreliable for some unbalanced structures, and those that have different size floats with different picks, for example a birds’ eye twill.

Fortunately, we don’t have to do any calculations from the formula to find reasonable setts. While there are lots of sample setts on the web for the various commonly used yarns, there are differences in twist in yarns which effect the sett. The best place to find the sett for a specific yarn is to use the web site of the yarn vendor.

Manufacturers of yarns may provide either a range for setts or ranges for plain weave and twills. For example, for 10/2 cotton, the sett suggested may range from 18 to 36 epi. The 18 is for drapeable plain weave or a lacey structure with lots of plain weave, for example used in a scarf; the 36 is for unbalanced twills. About in the middle is a balanced twill, 24 epi.

Alternatively, the sett suggestions may say: plain weave: 18 - 24; twill 24 - 36; in this case, the 24 is suggested both for a sturdy plain weave, for example to be used in a placemat, or a balanced twill. The suggested setts for a given yarn usually take into consideration the fiber, so they are worth noting, even when wrapping the yarn to determine its grist.


Warp and Weft Size

Often, we use the same size weft as the warp, but sometimes the perfect yarn for the project is larger or smaller.

If the weft is larger than the warp, the sett must be more open to make room for the weft; if the weft is smaller than the warp, the sett must be closer to avoid the weft to pack in and make the cloth too stiff.

For example, for 10/2 cotton woven in plain weave for warp and weft, the average sett is 24 epi. For the runner below, woven with a larger ribbon, the warp was sett more openly at 18 epi.




The scarf below was woven with a multicolor 5/2 bamboo for warp and a purple 10/2 bamboo for weft in a twill. For a balanced twill, the sett of the 5/2 warp would have been 20 epi, but because the weft is smaller, a sett of 24 epi was used. This makes the fabric more stable but also allows the multicolor warp to be the focus of the scarf while still having good drape.




 Balanced and Unbalanced Fabrics

A balanced fabric is one where the same amount of warp and weft shows on each side; both plain weave and 2/2 twills can be balanced, if we use the same size warp and weft.

In an unbalanced fabric, the weft shows more on one side, the warp on the other as shown in the picture below of a  3/1 twill, front and back; 3/1 means that for every shot, 3 threads remain down while 1 thread is lifted.




How do we sett the warp for these fabrics? Closer than for a balanced twill. I already mentioned that when vendors give a range for twills, the upper value is for unbalanced fabrics. Let’s use the example of 5/2; we may sett it at 16 for plain weave, 18 for a balanced twill, and 22 epi for the 3/1 twill.


Yarn and Fiber

The general sett recommendations for 10/2 unmercerized cotton, 10/2 mercerized cotton and 10/2 Tencel® (which follows the cotton count) are the same. But there are differences. Look at the photo below:




There are 6 wraps for each of the three yarns, which are: 10/2 unmercerized cotton (blue), 10/2 Tencel® (rust) and 10/2 mercerized cotton (yellow), occupying the portion of an inch as labeled. Translated to epi, the setts would be 19, 20 and 23, respectively, with some differences, especially between the unmercerized and mercerized cotton; visually, I can see that the yellow yarn has a higher twist than the others. This is not surprising as I have found differences between mercerized cottons of the same count and Tencel® of the same count. In using the yarn, such differences may not matter, but I still think it is important to consult the yarn vendors for their sett recommendations.

Silk is the one fiber that benefits from a closer sett as it is very slippery. Luckily, all silk yarn vendors have helpful tables for their yarns.


Final Use

I wouldn’t use 3/2 cotton to make a scarf, the fabric wouldn’t drape as well as I’d like, but 3/2 makes great mats; for a scarf, I would use 10/2 cotton, which I wouldn’t use for a table mat, I think the sturdier 3/2 works better.

In between is 5/2; it could be used for a scarf and for a matt – but not with the same sett. For a scarf I may use an open 18 epi, for a matt a tighter 20 epi.

The ranges given to us by manufacturers are rather close, but we have a lot more leeway. To weave a tapestry or a weft-faced rug, we sett the yarn 5 or 8 epi, depending on the size of the weft, so we can cover the warp totally, on both sides of the fabric, as shown in the photo below, front and back.




At the other end of the spectrum, we can weave a rug with rep weave, warp-faced plain weave; we sett rep close to 4 times the yarn wraps per inch, to make sure that the top and bottom of the fabric are both solid warp, as show in the photo below, front and back.





Think carefully about the final use for a perfect project!


The Weaver!

As we weave, we find our preferences; some weavers like their warp tension high, some low; some like to beat hard, others softly.

Which combinations you prefer may impact your fabric; if you like to beat hard, you make great rugs – what if you want to weave a scarf? You can adjust the sett.

I know that I like to beat rather hard – not as hard as beating a rug, but certainly to weave lacey weaves, I have to fight my tendency. I also like to keep my warp pretty tight, which minimizes possible threads getting caught in the middle of the shed, especially with a sticky warp.

Rather than fighting my tendencies, I adjust the sett. By using a slightly larger ends per inch than recommended, my warp will provide some resistance to the beating; and since a tight warp also promotes heavy beating, the closer sett helps with this tendency as well.

Pay attention to what you like and learn over time to adjust accordingly.


Where Do I Go from Here?

You see why I couldn’t answer that email “What’s the sett for 10/2 cotton?” with a single number, but here is a plan to get started. And, no, I won’t use the dirty 6-letter word (sample), although sometimes that’s the best way to get the answer.

Let’s say you have chosen the yarn and the structure, and you know what you want to make.

  1. If you have to buy the yarn, use the high end of the sett for your calculations for the yarn purchase, so you won’t run out of yarn.
  2. If you have the yarn, or when the yarn arrives, do the following:
    1. Wrap the yarn around an inch, as described above, no overlap, no empty spaces, divide by half; this is your starting epi.
    2. Think about adjustments for the pattern, the weft size if different than the warp and what your finished product is going to be; adjust the starting epi accordingly; sometimes your adjustment may be a calculation (20% increase for twills), sometimes it’s “a little bit” higher or lower – 18 or 14 instead of 16, don’t use odd setts; if your calculations give you 21 epi, use 20 or 22, depending on what you are making.
    3. Compare the adjusted epi you have just calculated with the values recommended by the yarn vendor:
      1. If you agree, you are good to go! Go wind that warp!
      2. If you don’t agree, figure out why:
        1. Are you making a very sturdy piece that requires a higher sett than recommended?
        2. Are you using a slick yarn, like silk, so the vendor is recommending a closer sett than you had calculated?
        3. Make your final decision and proceed with warping.
      3. If when you start weaving you find that your sett is not quite right, you can re-sley, remembering that there can be two potential issues:
        1. The width won’t be the same; if you need to re-sley with a closer sett, the width will be less; more open, the width will be more.
        2. Depending on the adjustment, there could be a potential tension problem because the threads no longer will travel a straight line from the back of the loom to the front, they will either fan out or squeeze in, depending on the direction of the new sett.
        3. An alternative to re-sleying is to change weft size, which is a cleaner solution:
          1. If the sett is too open, use a larger weft.
          2. If the sett is too close, use a smaller weft.
        4. Once you are done, keep notes. This is the most important part for future use. Keep a spreadsheet if you are comfortable with them, or a table of some sort. List the following:
          1. Warp yarn used, be specific – not “cotton”, but 8/2 unmercerized cotton.
          2. Weft yarn used, say at least “same as warp”, if that’s the case.
          3. The structure.
          4. Final use of the piece.
          5. The sett in epi.
          6. Your impressions: note whether you are totally happy with this sett, or whether you are relatively happy but next time you may sett this yarn more closely or further apart. And, yes, do this even if the project turned out not to be to your liking. That may be the best lesson.
          7. Any other thing you may want to remember.
        5. When reading a published project, note the same information as above, even if you don’t plan on using it. Add it to your table or make a parallel table of use by other weavers. You can compare your setts with those of others and make conclusions about similarities and differences.

Soon you will have a table – your table – which will give you a feel for how you like to sett various yarns. Experience comes from paying attention to what we do right – and what we do not so right.

 Happy weaving!

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