How do you get good selvedges?

When I was first learning to weave, I got a very good piece of advice -- to lay the weft in a smile (I suppose, really, it's a frown, but as I enjoy weaving, I think of it as a smile). That way, when I beat it into place, there's enough spare weft to not pull in the selvedges.

Lately, I've been teaching my 12yo son to weave, on a Schacht Flip Rigid Heddle loom. He decided on a plaid scarf from solid green and multi-color blues superwash Merino. That has been interesting, because now I need to explain to him how to do things, in my best teacher-not-mother voice, and then notice and advise as the weaving progresses.

Nik on the flip(click for bigger)

Of course, I gave him the "smile" advice, and he took it (good kid!) His tight selvedges soon calmed down. We also had to work out how hard to beat for the scarf -- turned out this liked two gentle taps with the reed, rather than one hard one. But then his selvedges started popping out loops like boucle. Not sure what advice to give, I took the shuttle in hand to see if I could come up with some advice.

What I noticed was, before I laid down my "smile", I pulled the weft through just until I saw the far warp thread (the first one I went around coming back across) deflect, and that the deflection disappeared when the smile was in place.

It reminded me of how you push in on the surface of a cake gently to see if it rebounds or stays down, one of the tests for done-ness. So, with that story to cement the lesson, DS was weaving away again, with darn good selvedges if I do say so myself.

He is thrilled with the finished scarf, and plans to gift it to his Montana step-sister ("she's crazy for plaid, Mom!") I couldn't be more pleased :-)


I've been reading tons of material on selvedges, since what I know about selvedges is pretty thin. Lately I've been playing with end-feed bobbins to see if it makes my own weaving a bit easier ... I think it will, as Peg recently pointed out, you don't want to be touching the selvedges, for speedy weaving. What a revelation! If that would speed things up to a speed like the one I saw in this youTube video, I'd be thrilled. Of course, I'm already quite happy to say I weave at least as fast as I knit, if not slightly faster considering my favorite weaving yarns are finer than my favorite knitting yarns.

And I also keep an ear to the ground for articles on spinning to weave. WeaveCast had an interview with Judith MacKenzie McCuin on the topic, and the recent Spin-Off (Winter 2008) had a couple of pieces about it. Which reminds me, I must show DD the woven skirt from weaveZine ... she'll be interested in doing some weaving too, then.


Selvedge tips for a new weaver? let me know if you have some on your own blog, or post them here ... thanks!


Knit - R - Done said...

You must be raising him right if his first thought is to make something for someone else!

Steve said...


Creating even selvedges is easy. Just add an additional warp yarn to each edge. In other words, instead of having just one yarn in a slot or hole, use two. The extra strength "pulls" the yarn in place perfectly along the edges. You won't even notice that extra yarn in your finished piece.

Dana said...

I realize your comment was posted over a year ago, but still wanted to say thanks to sparkykyla for the tip about adding the additional warp yarn on the edges. I look forward to trying this! :)