Straight selvedges are one of the hardest things to accomplish as a new weaver. In fact, “How do you weave straight selvedges?” is probably one of the questions that I get most from my students.
Selvedges that pull in are on the top of the list of the most common mistakes that new weavers make. I talked about 4 of the other most common mistakes a few weeks ago. If you missed it, you can check it out HERE!
For those new to weaving, selvedges (sometimes spelled selvages) are the edges of your weaving that often pull in during the weaving process.
Unfortunately, no matter how hard you pull, if the sides of your weaving start to pull in – you can’t fix it without this way.
Trust me, I’ve tried…
There are a few different reasons why your selvedges may be pulling in to create the classic trapezoid shape that weavers try to avoid.
First, if you are lost in the process (which is a great feeling!) then it becomes really easy to get caught up in the movement and rhythm of weaving and lose track of keeping those sides straight. If you get distracted by the world or even your own thoughts then your weaving will reflect it.
Another reason why your warp may start to warp is simply because you aren’t giving it enough slack. Unlike warp, you don’t want your weft to be as tight as it can be.
Sometimes uneven selvedges can really add to the weaving, but don’t forget the golden rule of art “Learn the rules first, so you can break them later”.
So how do you create nice smooth selvedges?
It all depends, but let’s go over some scenarios.
Scenario 1: Tapestry
You’ve heard of happy little trees, well we’re going to make happy little hills.
Whatever you want to call them is fine.
Due to the structure of a tapestry a.k.a. a weft-faced weaving, it is really important to use extra weft in each row. The weft has to flow around the warps instead of just moving them in order to get the classic weft-faced weaving that is tapestry.
Think of the weft as creating a tunnel and the warp is going through that tunnel. I also call these warp channels and they’re important for finishing your tapestry.
The amount of hills is relative to both the width of the weaving and your own weaving style.
Everyone weaves differently.
The only right amount of hills is the one that gets you what you want. A.K.A. Straight selvedges.
Try out some different sizes and see what works best for you. Just be careful not to make mountains instead, too much extra weft is a different and totally avoidable issue.
Scenario 2: Pattern or Balanced Weave
Unlike tapestry, a pattern or balanced weave doesn’t need a lot of extra weft because it’s not covering the warp completely. The weft will actually deflect the warp slightly.
That doesn’t mean it doesn’t need any extra weft, though.
Unlike tapestry, we’re not weaving hills or bubbles.
Instead, I recommend placing your warp at a 45 degree angle before beating it down. No need to take out the protractor – just eyeball it.
Again, you don’t want to have too much weft – so experiment a little and find that Goldilocks amount.
On that note:
Too much weft can cause your weaving to be lumpy with loops of yarn on either the front or back.
Also, it can be tempting to try to fix your selvedges that are pulling in by overcompensating with your weft- but this just causes them to be even more uneven. You want to avoid creating loops on your selvedges as much as you want to avoid pulling in your warp.
Whether you are weaving tapestry of balanced weave, one of the best things you can do to create straighter selvedges is to place your weft at the edge of your weaving.
You can do this 2 ways.
1. Pinch it.
In this method you are pretty much just holding the warp in place while you compress the weft. Doing this makes it so the extra slack needed from the weft comes from the needle end and not the previous line of weaving.
2. Weave The First Inch.
What I normally do is weave and compress the first inch of each line before continuing with my hills or angled weft. Doing this keeps your selvedges right where you want them! It’s also easier to work with your weft in small increments at a time. Place your weft and then keep going.
With that being said, you don’t have to choose. You can take all of these tricks and combine them to give your weaving it’s best shot.
No matter what you do, one of the best things you can do is to pay attention to your weaving and not ignore your selvedges.
If your warp does start to warp – then un-weave it and start again. You’ll be happy you fixed it, even if it took a little time. Then try to remember the tricks above to keep it from happening again.
I know that trying to obtain straight selvedges can sometimes feel a little impossible – especially at the beginning. Like most things though, you WILL get better with time. If straight selvedges are what you are after then consistency and a little practice will get you there!
What’s your favorite way to keep your selvedges from pulling in? Let me know!
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