A Fear of Fraying

Hi Madelyn!

I usually double the sleying of the warp threads for the last two or three dents on each side of the warp for the selvedges.  I am now planning a 5/2 cotton twill piece sett at 20 epi using a 10-dent reed, so the threads will be doubled already in every dent.  Should I sley the last two or three dents with 3 or 4 ends in each one?  I’m afraid 4 threads together in a dent might fray. Your advice is appreciated!


Hi Victoria!

At first I thought that you meant you were doubling the last several ends on each side in order to make the edge threads stronger (creating a few working warp threads on each side that are essentially twice as thick as the rest of the warp threads). Some weavers do this, but I have never liked the visual effect of doubling selvedge threads. I think a cloth should have a consistent density all the way to the edge, and doubling selvedge threads makes the selvedge thicker and more prominent. There is always a slight unavoidable crowding of selvedge threads because of the tendency for the weft to draw in at the edge, but I try to make that as minimal as possible. A sufficient weft angle (weft slack in the shed) should keep selvedge threads from fraying or breaking instead of doubling them for strength.

However, in rereading your question, I see that you meant that you were simply sleying the reed so that the threads were a bit more dense on each selvedge. I’m thinking that idea evolved from recognizing that the threads on the edge tend to crowd there naturally, due to normal draw-in. Supposedly, then, sleying them closer on the edges would prevent the reed from trying to spread them apart (and thereby maybe fraying or breaking them) as the normal draw-in occurs. I think a better goal is to work toward minimizing weft draw-in.

I have watched many weavers weave very successfully using many different methods to throw the shuttle and place the weft so that draw-in (and therefore frayed or broken selvedge threads) does not occur. Some of their methods would be hard to describe, and it’s sometimes not easy to determine why they work. So I recommend a fairly fail-proof method: As long as warp and weft are not sticky (I.e., like mohair) or fragile, to achieve a smooth edge without draw-in, throw the shuttle so that the unwinding bobbin jerks the weft firmly around the edge thread without pulling it in, bring the shuttle out of the shed on the other side so that a 30 degree angle (approximately) of weft is placed in the shed, close the shed, and beat. If you beat on an open shed, you may pull the weft toward the fell as you beat (keeping the beater from hitting your hand holding the shuttle), eliminating the necessary weft slack. If the yarn requires you to beat on an open shed, bring the shuttle up above the level of the beater before beating so you don’t disturb the weft angle by moving your hand toward you as the beater comes forward.


If you have a weaving question we would love to hear from you! Please email Madelyn! Pictured: Summer Lace Placemats and Mug Rugs by Suzie Liles Handwoven May/June 2017.

Posted April 29, 2015. Updated May 8, 2017

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