Sett: Looms and tools

How does sett happen on various looms and what does this have to do with the equipment I choose? This post continues a series of articles about sett and tapestry weaving. The complete list is at the bottom of this post.

Low-warp floor looms and sett

I don't talk about weaving tapestry on floor looms nearly enough. When you're just starting out, finding space for a large loom may not be in the cards. But once you've decided this thing is for you, a floor loom can be a fantastic friend for your work. (Countermarche or counterbalance mechanisms are great. Most jack looms aren't fantastic though there are some that work very well like the larger Macomber looms. More HERE.)

Aubusson tapestry looms are horizontal or low-warp looms without reeds. They do have shedding with treadles underneath the loom but they don't have a castle or reed.

All other horizontal floor looms have this fantastic thing called a reed. They used to actually be made of reeds. Now they're made of steel. The reed is a fantastic help in keeping selvedges even and weft tension good because it is there as a constant reminder. When I pull my beater forward, I can see immediately whether I'm drawing in or pushing out by where the edge warps are in the last dent of the reed. If the warp is distorting as I pull the beater in, I have to address my weft tension right away. This allows me to keep straight selvedges with less angst than when I'm weaving on an upright loom and don't have a reed.

So if you want to be what Susan Iverson calls a "selvedge monster," consider a floor loom. I love mine (Harrisville Rug Loom anyone? They're so very great!).

In terms of sett, that reed is what determines and maintains the sett. An 8-dent reed holds 8 warp ends per inch in perfect alignment. No other weaving tool does it this well.

Pipe looms and sett

Many tapestry weavers use pipe looms of some kind. Simple to use and very versatile, they are a great choice. But they don't have any way to keep the sett even like a reed or pegs. So you have to be a little obsessive about it. The advantage of this is that you can put on whatever sett you want! The blue tape in the photo below is marked in half inches and that allows me to get a pretty even sett at whatever spacing I want.

Copper pipe loom with infinitely adjustable warping options

Smaller looms with pegs or slots

Many small looms have slots or pegs at certain setts. The advantage of this is that they allow you to warp the loom easily and evenly. The disadvantage is that you might not want the sett that the loom is made for.

For example, this is a 6-dent Hokett loom. There are 6 warp ends in every inch if warped with one end per slot as the loom was intended. Since this loom is only sold at this epi and sometimes at 8 epi, if you want a different sett than these two, you have to compromise. I often warp a 6-dent loom double for 12 epi. This works very well and the warps are easily evened out with some twining top and bottom.

12 epi warp on a 6-dent Hokett loom. Notice the twining at the bottom of the loom.

You can warp a 6-dent loom at 9 epi by warping every other peg or dent double and then even the warp sett out with some twining. But I couldn't really do a 10 epi warp on a Hokett loom. The interval doesn't exist in any even way.

So these pre-determined sett looms are a little limiting in that sense. A pipe loom might be harder to get the warp spaced initially, but you could do absolutely any sett you wanted on it if you are compulsive enough to get the initial spacing correct.

Other options

Some looms have other ways to create the sett. Mirrix and Hagen looms have coils or springs that go at the top and sometimes the bottom of the loom. These are devices to set the initial warp sett when warping. They won't hold the warps in place (really nothing will--you manage that with proper weft tension). A Mirrix is a loom that is basically a pipe loom with added features including coils to help you space the warp and a shedding device to help you open the sheds.

Mirrix loom. Warping coil is at the very top of the image. I am putting heddles on the shedding mechanism in this photo.

Tapestry forks or beaters

Many people use tapestry forks for pushing their weft into place. There have been some fantastic forks made out of dog comb teeth in recent years. These beaters come with different tine spacing and because they are often made by people who are not necessarily tapestry weavers, you do have to think about that spacing.

The space between the tines has to be large enough for the warp you're using to slide easily through or the tool will catch on the warp. If you are using 12/6 or smaller cotton seine twine or a very thin wool warp, tines at 10 or 11 epi fit just fine. These forks are great for fine work at tighter setts.

If you're using a fatter warp like 12/12 cotton seine twine or a thick linen, you want to get tines that are wider apart. Many are 7 tines per inch.

Magpie Woodworks tapestry forks with 10-11 tines per inch. Magpie also makes 7 tpi forks.

Tapestry bobbins

Many tapestry weavers use bobbins to hold their yarn and beat it into place. The size of your shed as well as how much yarn you need for each color area will determine the size of bobbins you use. Tapestry bobbins come in sizes from 4-5 inch long that are very slim to quite fat and long bobbins. If you are using small looms that have tiny sheds, you'll probably want thinner bobbins than if you're using a large loom with a wider shed. Big looms have a long length of available warp which means it is easier to distort it with your hands or a shedding mechanism to pass a bobbin through.

Various tapestry bobbins. The one on the right is a bobbin lace bobbin.

In general, your loom is the primary tool that may put limitations on the sett at which you can weave.

What tools have I missed that are sett-dependent? Do you favor certain tapestry setts and has that determined which loom you use? Let us know in the comments!

Here is the whole series of posts at a glance. If the text is colored, it is a link to a post already up. 

Warp and Weft: A cooperative relationship in tapestry weaving
Sett: What does it have to do with tapestry weaving?
Sett: How does sett affect image?
Sett: How does it affect materials for tapestry weaving? 
Sett: Looms. How do you get the sett you want on various looms?
Sett: Recap. Why does it matter again?