Floating Selvedge Tension

Handwoven Magazine Ask Madelyn


Hi  Madelyn!


When does one choose to hang weights to tension a selvedge? Or beam the selvedge with the project warp? I have seen the selvedge wrapped with the warp on table looms—maybe this is because there is no depth to hang a weight. Then, in a video, I have seen large weights hung separately on a selvedge that is not wrapped/beamed with the warp. Or as a general practice, should all selvedges be weighted separately and not beamed?


—Rob Murphy



Hi Rob!

This is an excellent question. First of all, we are talking here about only the floating selvedge, the thread that is added at the edge of each side of the warp but is not threaded through a heddle. The weft always goes around it on both sides. Because that is the case, it does not actually "weave," as in take the up and down path of the rest of the warp threads. Therefore, it also does not "take up"; in other words, no extra amount of thread is used for that path. This means that if you did not weight it, it would become looser and looser. Floating selvedges should always be weighted.

You can choose to beam the floating selvedge with the rest of the warp, or you can add it as an additional thread suspended from the back beam. I like to beam them just because it looks neater, and then I just hang a 2" or 3" S-hook right on it; the S-hook drops down to hang invisibly from the warp beam. If you don't beam the floating selvedge, the easiest way to weight it is to do a lark's head knot around the S-hook (easy to pull out and reknot as needed). Another advantage to a beamed floating selvedge is that you never think about the S-hook once you've hung it. The single advantage to an unbeamed floating selvedge is that if the floating selvedge breaks, you can just pull the broken end up to the woven cloth, wrap it around a straight pin, and keep going. However, you should never have so much draw-in that the floating selvedge breaks.


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