"Keep It Simple" Towels Explained
Several weavers have written to me (and posted this question on the 4-Shaft Weaving Facebook group) that they were having trouble weaving the "Keep It Simple Towels" from the eBook Best of Handwoven: Top Ten Towels on Four Shafts. (The "Keep It Simple Towels" by Mary Ann Geer are on pages 1 and 2 of the eBook.)
If this had been only one weaver, I would not have taken as much notice, but it was several. What they found was that they could not beat the yarn at the picks per inch recommended in the project instructions (24 picks per inch). The yarn for the project is 8/2 ummercerized cotton, and the warp sett is 20 ends per inch. If the cloth were plain weave, the expected weft sett for 8/2 cotton would be 20 picks per inch. But the weft floats in this variation of Marguerite Davison's "huck-a-back" weave structure subtract from the number of warp/weft intersections, making it possible for the weft sett to be closer than the warp sett.
I ordered the particular 8/2 cotton they were using to see if the yarn itself was a factor. It is not, so I think my observations would be true of any 8/2 cotton. The towel itself is 25" wide, a fairly wide weaving width. Unmercerized cotton is not a slippery yarn; in fact it has a somewhat textured surface. Both of these factors (warp width and yarn texture) mean that more force is required when you are beating in the weft to create a firm fabric. Force is not muscle. It is mass (beater weight) times acceleration. (My few weeks as a physics major taught me that.) So it is important for the beater to be moving fast as it hits the fell. Beater speed requires minimal friction from the warp as the reed moves through it. If the warp is sett with 2 ends per dent in a 10-dent reed, there will not be much friction supplied by the density of the reed's teeth (as there would be if you actually used 1/dent in a 20-dent reed). The main source of friction is likely to be draw-in; that is, if the edge threads are crowded inward, they will rub against the reed as the beater moves, slowing it down.
So, to beat this fabric firmly: use a temple to spread the warp to the width in the reed. If you don't use a temple, weave carefully to be sure there is no draw-in. And then make the beater move quickly. I do this by sort of flicking it with my wrist, making it fly.