How to Fix Your Selvedges and Achieve an Even Beat

I’ve taught a fair amount of beginning weaving on rigid-heddle and floor looms, and I’ve noticed that many beginners are self-critical about their selvedges and beat. As many times as I try to tell them that they are learning a new skill, and the reason my beat and selvedges are better than theirs is because I’ve been weaving for more than twenty years, they keep looking for solutions that aren’t wrapped up in experience. I can only offer tips but no answers per se.

If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend I Feel Bad about My Neck by Nora Ephron. For me it was laugh-out-loud funny, while at the same time, tender. It made me feel less alone to know that others have the same thoughts as they progress through life. In one chapter, Ephron talks about the many beauty creams she has, each one theoretically intended for different parts of her body, and all purchased with high hopes. She suspects that in fact they are all basically the same but then admits she is sure she will never, ever use the foot cream on her face.

Selvedges

Cosmetics. Pixabay

Maybe this is a stretch, but to me there is a correlation. Just as Ephron was looking for the magic bullet that would somehow stop the aging process, new weavers are looking for a way to circumvent the necessary hours of practice that are needed to achieve good selvedges and an even beat. Although nothing replaces practice, here are a few tips and observations I have about the two.

Beat:

  • Let it flow—relaxing a bit will help you beat more regularly.
  • Think “kiss” not beat unless you are weaving rep weave, a rug, or something else that requires a hard beat.
  • If you are struggling to get a balanced cloth, consider that it might be a sett issue rather than a beat issue.
  • Advance your warp every 2 inches.
selvedges

Years of practice combined with thin threads helped Suzie Liles achieve these smooth selvedges on her Sunny Swedish Towels from Handwoven March/April 2017. Photo Credit: George Boe

Selvedges:

  • Thin and soft wefts are easier to manipulate around the edge thread than thick or stiff wefts.
  • Snug your weft up close to the edge thread but give it room to move in a generous bubble or angle and keep that bubble or angle consistent.
  • Advance your warp every 2 inches.
  • If one of your selvedges is better than the other, scoot over an inch or so toward your “bad” side.
  • Use a temple.

You can’t magically fix your selvedges or beat any more than beauty creams can miraculously fix signs of aging, but experience and good practices can help. So can remembering that you are learning to do something new and that in itself is wonderful.

Weave well,
Susan

Featured Image: Achieving an even beat takes practice. Photo Credit: Susan E. Horton


Practice your weaving using these great resources!

 

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