Choosing a Temple to Use in Weaving
A friend remarked that I am using the wrong temple for weaving scarves, towels, runners, etc. I prefer the metal temples that allow me to “see” the weft picks while I’m weaving. Is there really a reason that I should use a flat wooden temple? I haven’t had any tears within the edges of my cloth with my current choice.
There are some reasons to choose one temple over the other, but none are really “right” or “wrong.” First of all, there are two types of temples commonly available, one is made of metal, the other wood. (There are other methods/tools for stretching the woven cloth to the width of the warp in the reed, but they aren’t really temples.)
Metal temples are slim with slanted teeth. The purpose of the slanted teeth is to allow the temple to be used with a very thick fabric (the teeth can dig into a thick selvedge), so they are the temple of choice for rug weavers. As you point out, a major advantage of metal temples is that their narrow shape allows you see more of the cloth as you are weaving, making it easier to keep your place in the treadling and/or notice mistakes. Some say that the slanted teeth are harder on the cloth than the straight teeth of wooden temples, but I don’t think that is really the case. What is true is that metal temples are much heavier than wooden ones, so their weight could possibly cause the teeth to weight and therefore pull a bit more on a fabric with open and fragile selvedges.
Wooden temples, with their straight teeth, can’t even be used with a very thick fabric; the space between the teeth and the wood overhang is just too small. One advantage to wooden temples is that changes can be made to the weaving width in smaller increments. The major disadvantage is, of course, that you can’t see as much of the cloth as you weave.
The heavier weight of metal temples can be a problem if they are not used carefully. If you leave the temple in the cloth when you advance the warp and you let the warp advance abruptly, the temple will fall forward and hit the breast beam hard enough to scratch it. For this reason (my looms show the scars that led to this decision), I only use wooden temples at the Weavers’ School. Beginning weavers have too much to think about to remember to remove the temple before advancing the warp. If I say anything multiple times a day, it is: Remove the temple and advance the warp often, often, often. Do both at the same time, and do them after every inch of weaving.