Choose The Frame Warping Method That Is Right For You


2 selvedge vs 4 selvedge Warping? The debate is real.


If I am weaving on a frame loom, you can probably assume I am using the 2 selvedge warping method. It is my favorite way to warp a loom and the method I teach the most often. That being said, it’s not perfect and it really depends on what you think is important. In my class at the Visual Arts Center of Richmond – I teach both the 2 selvedge and 4 selvedge methods so that students can experience both and make up their own minds.

So let’s talk about the differences between the two methods and what each one excels at. It is important to note that this only applies to frame looms as all weavings done on a floor loom with be 2 selvedge.

It’s the nature of the beast.

A little reminder for those that are new to the world of weaving – selvedges are the finished sides of your weaving. (View weaving terms HERE)


2 selvedge vs 4 selvedge
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2 Selvedge – For those who prefer to work harder later


A 2 selvedge weaving is set up so the warp goes around the loom in a figure eight formation. The only way to get the weaving off the frame is to cut it off.

Don’t worry, it’s only scary the first time.

When everything is completely finished, you will have 4 selvedges, but while it’s on the loom and before you deal with the warp – only the left and right side of the weaving will be finished. Hence 2 selvedge weaving.

The 2 selvedge method takes advantage of the sturdy frame and allows you to tension your warp to it’s MAX. When weaving tapestry a high tension warp is a lot easier to weave on. The nature of tapestry means that the weft essentially flows around the warp instead of moving it. The less the warp moves, the easier it is to create your tapestry. This can also help you to create straighter selvedges!



High tension = less movement = better for weaving.


Weaving on a high tension warp is a dream, but nothing is perfect. One of the biggest downsides is that it requires you to finish off the warps when it comes off the loom.

Boring, but a good excuse to park yourself in front of the tv…

There are MANY different ways to finish off your weaving – all with varying time and skill requirements.  While this may not be a huge downside for most people, it can be tedious. Also, some might argue that finishing off your warp ends is the least enjoyable part of weaving. Others might like the mindlessness.

Who am I to judge?


2 selvedge vs 4 selvedge
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4 Selvedge – For those who prefer to work harder now


A 4 selvedge weaving is set up around 2 small metal rods that are suspended inside of the frame. Due to the rods being open ended, the weaving can slide off the ends when you’re done – essentially making 4 finished selvedges around the whole weaving. You don’t have to worry about dealing with all of your warp ends after you’re done – this is the reason a lot of people really like this method.

If you don’t like the finishing process – then it might be right for you too.

With this being said it is not without its faults. Most notably, it is much harder to achieve high tension because if you continue to increase your tension then your metal bars will bend. When your warp moves too much it is harder to maintain straight selvedges. You have to figure out tightest you can get your warp without bending your bar.

When you are almost finished it is important to  weave as close to the bar as you can. The closer you weave to the bar, the more weft you will have to fill in the warp. This can be hard to do. The warp has less give towards the end so you will have to switch from your traditional over-under weaving motion to a stabbing motion.

Tip: If you think you have woven enough – weave another 1 or 2 lines.

That being said…when you take your weaving off the bars it should slide of really easy.

It’s nice.

Imagine you have just finished your weaving. You spent a lot of time designing and creating your piece and you love it, but you’re ready to move on. Pull the bars out and….

You’re done.

Ok, so you do still have to deal with your tails, but that takes up way less time than your warp.


2 selvedge vs 4 selvedge
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But wait! There’s more!

3 selvedge weaving – For those who prefer not to choose


Wait what?

Yep, the 3 selvedge weaving is for those who like a happy medium. It is the Frankenstein child of the 2 and 4 selvedge weaving methods. Don’t ask me for the Punnett square because I don’t have one. 

Now to be fair,  this isn’t a warping method I normally teach. I didn’t even know about it until a few years after I started weaving, but when you think about it – the set up makes a lot of sense. The top is set up like a 4 selvedge weaving – with a bar that you will slide out when done. The bottom is set up like a 2 selvedge weaving – you cut it off and finish off your ends.

It can allow for more control over your tension than a 4 selvedge weaving and cuts down on half of the warp finishing you would have to do if you used the 2 selvedge method. Best of both worlds?

Maybe. 

One thing to consider is that you will have different finishing techniques on the top and bottom selvedges of your weaving. This might not be ideal. Working around just one bar also has it’s own challenges at the beginning of the warping process since it’s not stable within the frame.

Nothing is ever perfect.


2 selvedge vs 4 selvedge
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So 2 selvedge vs 4 selvedge vs 3 selvedge? Who wins?


Depends on how hard you want to work and when…

For me, the pros of the 2 selvedge outweigh the cons. Most notably the tension and the simplicity of set-up. I must admit, though, that every time I finish off a 4 selvedge sample for a class, I love how easy it is to finish.

It’s tempting.

Have you tried any of these methods? Do you have a favorite even if you know you should like another method better? Leave a comment to let me know! 


-Nicole
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