The Moment You Realize You Should Have Sampled

Instead of spending the weekend happily weaving the M’s and O’s handwoven towels I want to give as wedding gifts this summer, I spent the bulk of Saturday and some of Sunday adding 96 warp ends, and re-sleying the original 600 warp ends before rolling the whole warp forward so that I could re-beam it. You would think after 20-plus years of weaving that I would know better than to start warping a project assuming I know what the sett should be. What I have learned over the past 20 years is that once I have doubts, they will keep me up at night until I resolve them. In this case, that meant sampling.

I’m working with 16/2 cotton that I originally sett at 30 epi. That might be a great sett for plain weave, or even a scarf, but when I finally sampled my M’s and O’s pattern, I saw immediately that a sett of 36 was a better choice for towels. The pattern showed up better, and as usual, I noticed that if I sett a project correctly, it becomes easier to weave. I believe my beat becomes more natural, and I can weave without even thinking about it. It’s like trying to knit at a different tension than your normal tension. You can do it for a while, but eventually you’ll fall back into your comfort zone.


A sett of 36 for 16/2 cotton made the “Os” of M’s and O’s reveal themselves. Photo credit: Susan E. Horton

The 16/2 cotton that went on the loom easily the first time seemed to get cranky the second time it went through the loom. It played several games with me: throwing out little fibers to create snarls, kinking up when not under tension, and popping without warning. When 2 ends popped in quick succession Saturday night, I decided it was time to quit. Sunday morning, with a fresh cup of coffee and a new attitude on both of our parts, we got along better, although there was a moment when I had to crawl on hands and knees under my warp to undo a large snarl.

Next Saturday I’ll be home again, and I hope to report progress on my towels. The pattern is based on some handwoven towels that I purchased at the now-closed American Textile Museum. They feel like an homage to a museum that I loved, and now at the right sett, they should turn out well.

Weave well,

Featured Image: Coaxing the warp back through the reed. Photo credit: Susan E. Horton

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