Sett: What does it have to do with tapestry weaving?

In last week's post I talked about the important relationship between warp and weft sizes when weaving tapestry. These questions are intimately connected to sett.

Sett is most easily understood as the number of warp threads in a unit of measure. In the USA we use inches, in Europe you probably use centimeters. (Don't get me started on why the stubborn United States never switched to metric. Yes, Europe and Canada, your way is better.)

So think about your loom. If you hold a ruler up to your warp and count the number of warp ends that occur in one inch, you will know your sett. Like this.

Counting sett on a Hokett loom. This is 8 epi.

As you can see from the annotated drawing below, this is 8 epi. The warp that is at the 1 inch mark belongs to the next inch. E.p.i. stands for "ends per inch" which refers to how many warp "ends" or strands occur in one inch of warp.

If you use a floor loom, measuring your sett might look something like this. This is my countermarche Harrisville Rug Loom. The warp is tied to the front beam in 1-inch bouts. I have not put in waste yarn yet, so that is why the warp is in bunches. When ready to weave, that warp will be perfectly spaced. The reed (that metal thing with slots) comes in different setts. This one is 8 epi, so before measuring I knew that this was an 8 epi sett.

If you're using a pipe loom that doesn't have a reed, coil, or pegs to space the warp for you, you'll need to be careful warping to get the sett you want. This example is a pipe loom warped at 14 epi.

Measuring sett on a pipe loom warped at 14 epi with 20/6 cotton seine twine.

14 epi sett on a pipe loom. Weft yarn is Weaver's Bazaar 18/2.

The following three weavings were done at three different setts. Notice the very different looks of these three pieces even though the colors and design are almost identical.

I used a yarn wrap to plan the stripes and once I had the sequence I wanted, I followed that as closely as I could for each piece. With the finest yarn, it was easy to get the stripes the width I wanted them to be. With the fattest yarn, each pick covered a large vertical distance on the warp and I had to compromise on the width of some of the stripes. The table below spells out the particulars. The warp was cotton seine twine and the weft used was Harrisville Designs' Koehler singles.

As you can see by the photos below and the chart above, the wider the sett, the larger the weft bundle you need. I'll talk more about why that is in a couple weeks. All three pieces are approximately 3 x 3 inches.

Tapestry sett examples. 4 epi, 8 epi, and 12 epi.

In the piece woven at 4 epi with a very fat weft bundle, the weaving has a lot of texture and the horizontal lines are quite wavy.

Tapestry sett example, 4 epi on 12/15 cotton seine twine warp with 6 strands of Harrisville Designs Koehler singles.

In the piece woven at 8 epi, the weaving has less texture and the horizontal lines are less wavy.

Tapestry sett example, 8 epi on 12/6 cotton seine twine warp with 3 strands of Harrisville Designs Koehler singles.

In the piece woven at 12 epi, the detail is quite fine and the horizontal lines are very straight. I did not use any split weft outlining in any of these examples.

Tapestry sett example, 12 epi on 20/6 cotton seine twine warp with 1 strand of Harrisville Designs Koehler singles.

I did some yarn wraps to plan the stripes for these pieces. It helps with seeing color (hue), but it also helps me make sure I have some interesting values.

Yarn wrap used to plan stripes for three different striped weavings at different setts. Rebecca Mezoff.

Rebecca Mezoff, tapestry examples at different setts.

If you're in a country where they use centimeters, Weaver's Bazaar makes tape you can use on your loom to mark the sett. Alas, if you're in the USA and you use inches, you might not want your loom marked off in centimeters (or you might. Be brave!). It looks like these are not sticky and are used for warping frame looms. I mark inches when warping pipe looms on blue tape or you can buy sticky tape that has inches marked on it.

I spotted this bumper sticker below the row of sheep at one of my favorite yarn shops, Shuttles, Spindles, and Skeins in Boulder yesterday. Though gauge in knitting is not exactly the same thing as sett in weaving, the concepts are similar and both are important!

An important reminder seen at Shuttles, Spindles, and Skeins in Boulder. Remember that like gauge, sett matters.