Using a Temple

Hi Madelyn!

I have read in various places that you recommend using a temple (stretcher) as a means of getting good selvedges. I have tried that, but the teeth of the temple have ripped threads on the selvedges. Also, you can’t see what you have just woven, so I make mistakes. And not only that, but the weft catches around the temple teeth and I discover little loops. It just hasn’t helped my selvedges much. What am I doing wrong?


Hi Sarah!

I do recommend using a temple for weaving widths of about fifteen inches or more with fabrics that don’t have extremely open warp and weft setts. Several important principles have to be followed, though, in order to benefit from using one. First, the temple has to be set so that if you hold it upside down against the reed, the base of the teeth on each edge lines up with the width of the warp in the reed. The goal of the temple is to keep the warp threads spread to that width. The reed, then, will pass through the threads on the way to the fell without rubbing on them (preventing breakage and making a firm beat possible because there is no friction from their rubbing). Principle 2, though, is that there MUST be ample weft in the shed to accommodate the over-and-under path that the weft needs to take. If the temple gets harder and harder to put in and starts ripping the edge threads, you are not leaving enough weft in the shed. That’s why I recommend beating on a closed shed (with the weft at about a 30-degree angle), so you won’t pull the weft flat as you beat. The temple teeth should be placed right next to the very edge, just inside one or two warp threads. That edge should be firm because you can pull the weft snugly there with the temple in place. Principle 3 is that you must advance the temple often, every three quarters of an inch, say. Otherwise the cloth will start drawing in and the temple teeth will have a greater tendency to tear it. The two disadvantages that can’t be overcome (loops if the weft catches around the teeth and the fact that you can’t see what you’ve just woven) are the trade-off for the smooth selvedges you will gain. You’ll get better and better at living with them both.


Posted September 28, 2011. 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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