I have a placemat project on my Macomber 8 shaft loom.

I have the same problem someone else mentioned with the tension where the two edge groups of warp compressed so much they "frowned". I adjusted the tension to make it very tight and even but could not keep it from happening. Apparently the yarn weaves fine across the center but where it turns around and crosses back on the edge it just stacks on itself and collapses down.

The picture francorios posted of a washcloth on a backstrap loom (9/7/09) shows pretty much what my piece looked like, except that on the loom the beater caused the edges to "frown".

I had sleyed the reed at 8 ends per inch. I am using plain weave.

In reading these posts I wonder if doubling the number of warp ends in the heddles at the selvedge edges might help.

I also thought I might just resley the reed to 10 ends per inch and see if that would help.

What do you folks think?

Vicki Allen


Caroline (not verified)

Hi Vicki, sorry its taken so long to answer, but I've only just found your question.

You say the warp threads on the edge have collapsed down - did you use paper, venetian blind slats, or some other spacer inbetween your layers of warp when you wound it onto the back beam? This prevents the warp collapsing in on itself and helps maintain an even tension.

Doubled selvedges can help, but will not make any difference if the warp is not wound on evenly in the first place.

You can even the tension up by hanging weights on the offending warp threads at the back of the loom just before where it goes around the beam. Small containers of nuts and bolts are ideal as you can adjust the weight. I use fishing weights. Anything that you can fiddle with so that the edge warps are the same tension as the middle. As long as they are not tied on tightly, they will stay there as you move the warp forward.

Re-sleying the reed will not work unless the cloth is really very sleazy and loose. Remember that once you take your piece off the loom and wash it, the weave should tighten up a bit.

You don't say what kind of yarn you are using, but did you check whether 8 epi was the correct number of ends for an even weave using your yarn? Wind some of your warp yarn around a ruler, making sure you do not pull it tight, and that each wrap is snug up against its neighbour without overlapping. Do a couple of inches, then count how many wraps you have around 1 inch. Halve that number, and that should give you how many ends per inch you need to sley the yarn for a balanced plain weave.

Are you working from a weaving book? Deborah Chandlers' Learning to Weave is a good place to start and should be in your local library. Its also available on Amazon if you wish to purchase it, and should give you a good start in the craft as she covers the basics thoroughly.

If you can find local classes, or a weaver who can help you, seeing is worth a thousand words, so joining your local Guild is a good move, too.

Hope this helps,


Joanne Hall

Hi Vicki,  It can be very hard to know what the problem is, but photos do help.  I find this will happen if you leave a little loop of weft on the selvage.  Some weavers do this to avoid draw-in when they are not using a temple.   Instead, pull the weft very snug around the selvage warp threads.  Using a temple might also help.  Joanne

Vicki Allen (not verified)

Thanks, all. Your suggestions are appreciated. I have the Deborah Chandler book and it is my mainstay. I have a roll of butcher paper attached to my loom that feeds  in as I wind the warp to keep the threads separated so that wasn't the problem.

I meant to tell you that I am using Sugar and Cream cotton yarn. I really believe that is most of my problem. I did not get the tension tight enough as I wound onto the back beam. I am used to weaving with wool or acrylic yarns.

I did, however, reslay to 10 epi. The cloth is not so sleazy now and the selvedges look neat. I am also beating on a closed shed between treadle changes and that is keeping the edges from drawing in. This is a sample project and I may find the 10 epi is too stiff after washing, but we'll see. If so I will try the 8 epi again but with more care when winding on so the tension is tighter to start with.

I will post a picture soon. Thanks for your ideas.

Vicki Allen

Vicki Allen (not verified)

I wove off one placemat and took it off the loom, keeping the on-loom warp tension using a lease stick capture technique of Peggy Osterkamp.

At the 10 epi sett the mat looks good. It measured 17 x 12 off the loom. I washed and dried it and it is now 15 x 10.5.  So that is the amount of shrinkage.

I found that the sage Sugar and Cream, which was on a ball, is stretchier than the ecru Sugar and Cream that came on a cone. This resulted in part of my tension problems since my warp is sage and ecru striped with 8 ends per stripe.

Since they stretched differently, I have a ripple effect scattered over the placemat where the sage apparently relaxed after I took it off the loom and possibly drew up more in the washing/drying process. This makes what looks like eight pick diagonal ecru dashes in random places.

Is this what is meant by tracking?

I'm going to post a picture as soon as I can.

Meanwhile I'm going to weave off the rest of the warp and enjoy this learning experience. The placemat is soft but stiff enough to use.

This is what makes weaving so much fun: there is always something new to learn! Thanks for your ideas, and comments. It is great to be able to consult this group!

Vicki Allen