How to Use a Temple

Hi Madelyn!

I know you recommend using a temple (stretcher) when you weave. I have had terrible luck doing that. I rip my selvedges and have to abandon the temple about halfway through a project. What am I doing wrong? Are some weave structures not suitable for temples?
Hi Sandra!
I do recommend and usually use a temple, though not with all yarns or all types of cloth (loosely spun/loosely woven wools, for example). 
A temple’s biggest contribution to good weaving is that it prevents draw-in. But this is only if it is used correctly. First, it must be set to the width of the cloth in the reed (I turn it upside down at the reed and check that the edge of the warp on both sides is even with the base of the teeth in the temple). When I start weaving, I usually don’t put in any scrap yarn but just start weaving with the weft I will be using (later I unravel up to where the weaving is even). I put in the temple as soon as I can insert just a couple of teeth on each side. It is important always to insert the teeth right next to the edge thread or two, not several threads in from the edge. If you do that, the threads will split apart there, especially since you are trying to stretch the cloth between the teeth to a wider width than in the reed.
I usually weave with firm tension, advance the warp often, and move the temple OFTEN, every 3/4–1″.  I weave with a wide angle of weft, about 30 degrees. I usually beat on a closed shed so that moving my shuttle out of the way of the reed doesn’t pull the weft angle flat. If you do not have enough ease in the weft you will draw in even if you use the temple. The cloth will get narrower and narrower, and trying to put in the temple will rip the edges.
The advantage to using a temple I most appreciate (other than it produces selvedges that have the same density as the warp threads in the rest of the cloth) is that when the temple is in position, pulling the fabric to the width in the reed, the beater slides without friction through the warp threads. This allows a much stronger beat than otherwise, when that is necessary. It also prevents wear and tear on the edge threads.
Weavers who weave with loose warp tension may never need to use a temple. If the edge threads are loosely tensioned, they can accommodate draw-in without breaking. If you have draw-in under tight tension, however, you will eventually have broken selvedge threads.
Some weavers do just fine never using a temple and you may be one of them. You’ll have to develop just the right amount of ease in the weft to prevent draw-in and just the right amount of tension in the warp.

Posted April 23, 2014. Updated July 26, 2017.

If you have a weaving question we would love to hear from you! Please email Madelyn! Pictured above: Summer Lace Placemats and Mug Rugs by Suzie Liles Handwoven May/June 2017. View related & recent “Ask Madelyn” posts!

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