In A Weaver’s Guide to Yarn I start with sett. Understanding warp density’s effect on cloth is where the rubber meets the road, or in our case, the yarn meets the loom.
Sett is the number of warp ends within an inch of the rigid heddle reed. Because rigid-heddle weavers often double up our ends in slots and holes, we think of sett in two ways; the actual sett, the number of total warp ends threaded in an inch of reed, and the effective sett, the number of working ends. For instance, if you double a yarn in an 8-dent reed, you have a sett of 16 and an effective sett of 8.
Most sett choices are based on first determining a yarn’s balanced plain weave sett (b.p.i.), where there are same number of warp ends and weft picks, and then deciding which way you want to go from there: Do you want a more open sett because you are weaving lace or weaving with a thicker weft? This combination will result in the weft being more pronounced. Do you want to sett it closer and weave with a finer weft? This combination will result in the warp being more pronounced. (Color also has an effect on what is going to be seen first.) Are you weaving floats and therefore need to think about the size of the floats so they don’t get too long and snag?
During the latest weave-along, I shared a sett study. These are various fabrics from the Yarnworker world that demonstrate sett’s effect on the cloth. Starting from the bottom to the top, the fabric is woven and sett as follows:
1) Worsted craft cotton warp woven with itself in a sett of 8—this, almost-balanced sett shows off color-and-weave patterns best.
2) Worsted warp woven with a finer 8/2 cotton in a sett of 8—this combination allows the warp colors to shine.
3) 3/2 organic cotton warp woven with itself in a sett of 10—a finer sett gives you shorter floats in pick-up.
4) 8/2 doubled in the warp and weft in a sett of 10 (effective sett of 20)—another balanced sett that shows off color-and-weave patterns in a finer fabric.
5) 8/2 doubled in the warp and woven with a single end in a sett of 20 (effective sett of 10)—reducing the size of the weft allows for more drape and cleaner warp colors.
6) 16/2 linen woven with itself in a sett of 20 using two 10-dent heddles—the ultimate fine fabric in fine linen.
This visual gives you a quick insight into the ways sett affects cloth. Playing with the trifecta of yarn selection, sett, and structure is what makes weaving endlessly fascinating.