The Right Reed

Handwoven Magazine Ask Madelyn

Dear Madelyn,

I just wound a warp for a turned twill block pattern (for the Weaving Today weave-along). I'm using Louet Gems fingering weight merino yarn, which is 1750 yards per pound, and according to the charts I consulted, it should be sett at 12 epi. For my Baby Wolf loom, I have an 8-dent reed, a 10-dent reed, and a 15-dent reed, but no 12-dent. Of the three reeds that I have, which would be the best to use for this project?


––Regina Phalanges

Hi Regina,

The biggest issue with choosing reeds is trying to distribute the threads as evenly as possible in the warp. If they are denser in one area than in another (even within an inch), the result could be visible streaks in the finished cloth. Some yarns are slippery enough that they will move to fill spaces more evenly during wet finishing than others. Merino is less likely to do that than silk, say. Denser areas in a fabric will also show more where there is color contrast between warp and weft as opposed to when warp and weft are the same color. Since your design depends partly on color contrast to show (twill blocks), consistent warp density matters. Even with consistent density, however, if the reed is too open (placing too many threads in a dent), reed marks may show that won’t wash out especially in balanced weaves like twill and plain weave.

With the reeds you have, your choices are: 1-1-2-1-1 in a 10-dent reed, 1-1-1-1-0 in a 15-dent reed, or 1-2 in an 8-dent reed. I’d go for 1-2  in an 8-dent reed as the most regular (although I think the others would probably work). This variation in density is likely to disappear with wet finishing.

And then, since a 12-dent reed might be the one most commonly used in weaving, I’d put it on your gift wish list.


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