Adapting Reeds to Different Warp Setts

I have a logistical question. I don’t really have a math brain so this is challenging. I want to use one of my handspun yarns that wraps at about 18-19 wpi. I only have a 10-dent reed and want to do a point-twill pattern. How can I possibly make a 10-dent reed work?


Hi Shari!

First of all, wrapping a yarn around a ruler allows you to determine the right sett for a balanced plain weave using that yarn. The sett for a balanced plain weave will be half the number of wraps, since the weft threads, going over and under the warp threads, will separate the warp threads by the weft’s thickness. So if your yarn wrapped at 18 or 19 wraps per inch, the plain-weave sett would be 9 (or 9-1/2) ends per inch. Another consideration, however, is the desired hand of the cloth and the fiber/yarn itself. If you are using a handspun wool, you are likely to want the sett to be somewhat more open (fewer warp and weft threads per inch) to allow fulling and produce a soft hand.

The interlacement matters, too. In twills, the actual interlacement of warp and weft occurs less often than for plain weave. The weft floats over warp threads, therefore not taking up as much space. The desired sett for a twill depends on how long the floats are in the particular draft. Longer floats are possible with an 8-shaft twill than a 4-shaft twill, for example. For your yarn on four shafts, you might find that a sett of 10 epi will work, in which case you can happily sley 1 end per dent in your 10-dent reed.

Unfortunately, the desired sett doesn’t always spread in the reed with an equal number of ends in each dent. The warp threads need to be spread as evenly as possible or else the places where warp threads are sleyed more or less closely can show as streaks down the final cloth.

If you did decide that 9 ends per inch is the right sett for your fabric, with your 10-dent reed, you would place 1 end each in 9 successive dents and then leave one dent open, and repeat. (When the sleying order is irregular, project instructions are written as the ratio of ends per dent that you repeat across the warp. For yours, it would be: 1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-1-0. If you are sleying 2 ends, then 2 again, and then 3, the instructions are written 2-2-3.) If you decided your twill needed a sett of 12 ends per inch, you could sley your 10-dent reed 1-1-1-1-2. For these sleying orders (9 or 12 ends per inch in a 10-dent reed), however, streaks are likely to show in the final cloth, even after finishing, so I’d start by trying 10 ends per inch, 1 end per dent.

Eventually, you will want an assortment of reeds. I usually recommend acquiring them in this order: 12, 10, 8, 15.

Two wonderful aids for determining sett and sleying orders are the Master Yarn Chart and The Weaver’s Companion. The Master Yarn Chart gives the sett for a balanced plain weave for every yarn that has ever been used in Handwoven. The Weaver’s Companion, in addition to many other helpful tips and resources, has a handy Reed Chart that gives the sleying orders to use for all conceivable warp setts with all available reeds.


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