In weaving we talk about “beating your yarn” a lot. I try to avoid using this phrase as it send the wrong message. It refers to what most of us think of as “weaving”, using the rigid-heddle to press the weft into place. Perhaps a more accurate instruction is to “place the weft”. Beating too hard means you end up with fabric that feels like cardboard.
Most folks start their weaving journey with a scarf, and their first scarf often has less drape then they would like. Most likely it is because the weaver is not allowing enough room between the yarns. This space is necessary so that when fabric isn’t under tension on the loom and the fabric is washed the yarns have enough room to bloom.
Take the scarf project from my most recent Knitty article. Here is a pic of the fabric on the loom under tension.
There is lots of space between the weft threads and warp ends. There is so much space that you can see right through the cloth!
Here is a pic of the washed fabric. That space has disappeared, but this fabric isn’t stiff and it has beautiful drape.
You will also notice a color shift. The orange weft all but disappears. This is because there are more warp ends per inch then weft picks. Also the size of the yarns is different—the warp is heavier than the weft. And, finally I used a yarn that doesn’t shrink (superwash) in the warp with a yarn that does shrink (wool/silk blend) in the weft. All that great variegated color as you see it in the skein shows up in your scarf.
In a good weaving pattern you will see both the e.p.i (ends per inch) that indicates the number of warp ends per inch and the p.p.i. (picks per inch) that indicates the number of “picks” or weft ends per inch.
When weaving it is a good idea to keep your eye on that p.p.i. number and maintain it by taking a tape measure and checking your spacing in the weft every once in a while. As you wind your cloth onto the beam, you can’t see what your spacing was like at the beginning of your scarf. We have all had the spacing change from one end of our project to the other—big bummer.
These simple concepts are what make the difference between weaving fabric you love and weaving fabric that feels (and looks) like cardboard.