Ask Madelyn: Choosing a Reed for Even Sleying (Or Close)
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I’m buying a 40”-wide loom. It comes with an 8-dent reed, but I’m already planning on choosing a reed with more dents per inch than 8. I can only buy one new reed at the moment, so I’m trying to decide between a 10-dent and 12-dent. I know that I plan on weaving with 8/2 cotton for baby wraps and bath towels, if that helps. Which size reed should I get first?
It is always wonderful to welcome a new loom!
For 8/2 cotton, the most frequently used weave structure is plain weave, which for 8/2 cotton is usually 20 ends per inch. That sett works well for lace weaves and other spot weaves, as well as any weave structure with a plain-weave base. In choosing a reed to try next, a 10-dent reed should therefore be your first choice (sleying 2/dent).
For twills, however, you will probably want a slightly closer sett. One option is to sley your 10 dent reed 2-2-2-3, which would give you an overall sett of 22-1/2 ends per inch. The only issue with that arrangement is that the cloth might show a slight line where the three threads are a bit more crowded together than the others (this would occur about every half inch). 8-shaft twills may have longer floats and therefore require an even closer sett (you could try 2-2-3, for an overall sett of a little more than 26 ends per inch). To get a sett of 24 ends per inch the easy way and one that would distribute the threads evenly, you can sley your 8-dent reed 3/dent or opt for a 12-dent reed when you are ready to splurge for another reed.
An even sleying order is always a first choice, but you can get a remarkable number of sleying orders successfully out whatever reed you have. (The drawback of any irregular sleying order is always the possibility that the washing will not eliminate the warp-wise stripes of threads that are slightly closer together, especially with non-slippery threads like 8/2 cotton. These stripes, however, are not always a negative.) For a chart that shows all the ways to sley every type of reed to get just about every number of ends per inch, see the Reed Chart on page 15 of The Weaver’s Companion.
Remember also that you can use reeds from other looms with your new loom.