Last week we looked at warp repp – setting the warp yarns so close together that the weft cannot be seen – and I talked about warp and weft emphasis, mentioning that not only can warp repp be effective for rugs, but so can the other extreme, where the warp is spaced so widely apart that it is totally covered by the weft when the weft is beaten against the fell.

The most obvious examples of weft-dominance are flat-woven rugs such as kelims, and woven tapestry.  If you are using fairly fine weft yarns then the warp is not as widely spaced as if you are using thick wool yarns, as the resulting fabric has to be firm and the weft needs to cover the warp totally but not loosely. 

Back in the 1990s, I did a little exploration of weft-faced rug weaving as part of the Bradford Diploma in Handloom Weaving – a distance learning course which focussed on using only 4 shafts.  It was a great discipline and, although we were all self-taught (the course was like a Certificate of Achievement where you do your own study and the course gives you the framework for that study), the rules were very tight and forced you to be creative within constraints.  This is always a good thing for inventiveness, at least for me! 

Here is a kelim style of flat-weave rug weaving : 










And this next sample shows that you can mix flat-weave with knotted pile to create surface texture :

Ok, so what if you don’t want to weave rugs? 

Well, you can incorporate different setts into the same piece of fabric, simply by sleying one area closer together than another.  Sleying is the term given for spacing the threads through the reed which beats up the weft into place.  The reed separates the warp yarns, spreading them into the width and closeness that you want.  So you can have areas where there are no warp threads – spaced – and other areas where there are a number of warp threads grouped together – crammed.  With this next sample, I have a balanced fabric (so I can see both warp and weft equally) in most of the sample, but in the pink and brown stripe areas, I didn’t want the delicate colour of the pink to be diluted by the cream silk, so I sleyed them closer together so that the fine weft yarn could not be seen.  I also did the same for the chocolate brown stripe so that it would contrast effectively with the pink. 






You can also see from the detail that I used a textured yarn in the warp – a silk boucle – which gives a lovely textural contrast to the flat silk.  Just be careful when using a highly textured yarn like this in the warp that it will go through your heddles and reed easily, otherwise you will find it snags in the weaving. 

Instead of cramming your warp threads together to create areas of warp-faced weaving in a balanced weave piece, you can also do the exact opposite, and space them out to create areas of transparency.  That’s exactly what I’ve done with this final sample this week.  I was inspired by the Antarctic and wanted to weave a whale, but I’m not a tapestry weaver.  How was I going to do that?  I could only use 4 shafts, but there was no written restriction on what else I could do……

This transparency incorporates tapestry techniques, an inlay technique and spaced warp to depict the whale’s fluke in the Antarctic. 

Well, I hope that’s given you a few ideas to play around with incorporating different setts in your projects.  If you decide to have a go, do let me know how you get on.

Next week, I’m going to look at a simple weave – honeycomb – and how you can change simple grids into curves and cells.

Enjoy your weaving!


© Stacey Harvey-Brown 2010