Ask Madelyn: Selvedge Denting

Dear Madelyn,

I am starting to weaving “Simple Towels” from A Handwoven Treasury (Jane Patrick, ed., Interweave, 1989), page 60. The sett is 20 epi (2/dent in a 10-dent reed). The instructions say: For the selvedges, thread 3 ends per dent in the last 2 dents on each side. I have done this, but how do I put these sections of 3 ends in the right heddles? Do all 3 go in one heddle?

Thank you,


Hi Joan!

That project is one of my very favorites (“Keep It Simple Towels” by Mary Ann Geers). It was originally a project in Handwoven and also appears the the Best of Handwoven: Top Ten Towels on Four Shafts. Many new weavers are confused by instructions like these and are unsure whether or not a grouping in the reed means also to group the threads together in a heddle.

It is a universal practice with weaving instructions to assume that every warp thread is placed singly in a heddle no matter what the denting unless specifically stated otherwise. Therefore, if for any draft two threads are threaded together in a heddle, the instructions will always say to do that (i.e., sley 3 ends per dent and thread those 3 ends together in the heddle).

Geers towel

“Keep It Simple Towels” by Mary Ann Geers.

In the case of this draft, the idea is just to sley the edge threads a little closer together than the threads in the body of the towel (and to thread them singly). The closer denting of the edge threads is probably suggested in order to add a bit of strength to the selvedges. I actually would not follow that instruction and would sley the threads 2/dent on both edges as well as in the body. Turning the weft firmly on each side will provide a firm enough selvedge. Crowding selvedge threads a little closer can increase the likelihood of the edges drawing in a bit too much. In either case, be sure you place enough weft in the shed (at an angle of about 30 degrees) to accommodate weft take-up and avoid draw-in.


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One Comment

  1. Anne Inga K at 3:05 pm June 12, 2017

    As a new weaver, can you explain what you mean by “turning the weft firmly on each side will provide a firm enough selvedge “.

    I love this pattern as well and just finishing a set of 5. I didn’t thread the ends as instructed, but added a 2 thread floating selvedge.

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