To get the cloth you want, the secret is in the sett. To guesstimate sett, the spacing of the yarn in the rigid-heddle reed, conventional wisdom has the weaver wrapping yarn around a ruler for an inch, allowing the yarns to sit next to each other, not invade each other’s space, and be in a semi-relaxed state. This is a combination nuanced things to try to do, particularly for a beginner.
Then you count the yarn wraps, divide that number in half, and use this result to guesstimate the yarn’s balanced plain weave sett. From here, you decide which rigid-heddle size available to you, will get you the the results you want.
Say your wraps per inch (w.p.i) is 18, then your balanced plain weave sett guesstimate is 9. The most common setts to choose from are 8, 10, and 12 and their metric equivalents. You have a choice to go down to an 8 or up to a 10 for a balanced plain weave.
This whole process is fraught with issues. For one, how closely or far apart you space the yarns on the ruler can skew your results. Instructions usually read, “with little to no tension, wrap the yarns so they are barely touching,” or something like that. That can mean different things to different people. If you are a knitter, we all know that one person’s “light tension” is different from another’s. And no matter how hard you try, you will not wrap the yarn in its relaxed state as it would be off the loom—just the fact that there are yarns on either side of it will skew your results.
Then there are those other setts. You have to have some experience to extrapolate how that yarn will look in a closer sett as there is a world beyond balanced plain weave. Also, the character of the yarn often dictates how the yarn reaches for its neighbor. None of these things can I visually see very easily. There had to be a better way to guesstimate sett.
Angela at Purl & Loop and I collaborated to create a new tool that gives the weaver more information about her yarn before she starts to weave. It shows you exactly what a yarn will look like in a sett of 8, 10, and 12 ends per inch (e.p.i). It allows you to quickly compare one sett with another. It allows you to see the yarn’s character when it has room to breathe.
By design, you can allow the yarn wrap by the logo in its utterly relaxed state and compare it to the other wraps that are under tension.
Not only does this tool allow me to guesstimate a balanced sett, it can also help me find a “close” or twill sett and an “open” or lace sett. In the example above, the middle wrap in a sett of 10 is approximately balanced. You see the same about of positive (yarn) and negative (wood) space. The wrap on the right in a sett of 8 is more open and the wrap on the left in a sett of 12 is more close.
To use the sett checker, grab a yarn from your stash. Hook the tail of the yarn source in the lower curved notch and allow the tail to drape over the top of the checker.
Wrap your yarn around the checker, filling in all the sett spacing as you go.
Finish by securing the yarn in the upper notch. Cut the yarn from the source. Either let the tails hang free or you can secure the yarn on the back with a short piece of tape. I prefer painter’s tape, because it won’t leave any residue behind. Be sure to allow that first yarn wrap to stay in its natural relaxed state so you can compare it to the yarn wraps which are under more tension.
You will find this tool invaluable for making smart sett decisions. It is isn’t a complete replacement for sampling, but it gets you much closer to making a good sett choice than a single yarn wrap.