By the Numbers

Thirteen yards of napkins and place mats came off the 32" Macomber this week. (See the Instagram feed at the bottom of the page for a video of the unrolling!)

Before I loaded a fresh warp, I implemented a new routine. As soon as I empty a loom, I clean it by dusting and wiping it down with Howard's Feed & Wax before dressing it for the next project.

It requires very little time or effort, and the looms shine with the attention. This is a much better approach than trying to remember to apply the Feed & Wax once or twice a year. It also gives me a chance to sweep up the dust bunnies created by the threads shedding.

Once that was done, I loaded twelve spools with enough 8/4 cotton warp to span the entire 32" weaving width of the little loom.

My plan for this project is a combination of baby blankets and cotton chenille towels. The blankies are an absolute go, but I am a little concerned about the towels, as I think they would do better with 8/2 warp and a sett of 10. Thus, I may end up with a slew of baby blankets, but that is okay, too.

Here is the inspiration:

Anthropologie offered this some time ago, and someone captured the image to upload to Pinterest.

I found a 4-shaft pattern for this, as well as an 8-shaft one.

I decided to go with the 8-shaft pattern (also from Pinterest):

I think this is the pattern, but closer inspection of the blanket above makes me think it was made as overshot with tabby thrown with the background thread after every colored pattern thread...

I do not relish the thought of weaving fifteen baby blankets (30" x 36") with two shuttles.

However, the backup plan is to weave them plain with different colors:

However, I think the pattern will work well because, for the first time in my weaving career, the numbers lined up perfectly!

The loom is 32" wide. With a sett of 12, I need 384 ends (12 threads per inch x 32 inches = 384). 

The pattern is comprised of a 16 thread repeat. 384 divided by 16 equals 24.


What usually happens is I end up with something like 14.3666 repeats for that number of ends and I have to center the pattern.

This time?


All I needed to do was add floating selvages. Instead of beaming the floating selvages, I prefer to use warp weights. This meant I needed 386 slots, 384 for the pattern and 2 for the floating selvages.

The next issue was how many slots my 12 dent, 32" reed had. 

At the very least, it should have had 384 slots (again, 12 slots per inch x 32 inches = 384).

This reed has 390 slots. I counted them twice.


There were exactly two slots left over on each side.

Now, the question became whether I had enough thread for the warp.

My cone of 8/4 cotton was 4 pounds, 4 ounces including the weight of the cone.

One pound of 8/4 cotton is 1,600 yards.  My sett is 12. The weaving width is 32 inches.

Originally, I wanted to make a 20-yard warp, but that required 7,680 yards (12 threads per inch x 32 inches x 20 yards = 7,680). Four pounds is 6,400 yards (1,600 yards per pound x 4 pounds). So, I erred on the side of caution and prepped for 16 yards, which required 6,144 yards (12 threads per inch x 32 inches x 16 yards = 6,144).

Sectional warping is truly a dream. The thread beamed beautifully.

In no time, I was able to turn the loom around for threading of the heddles; however, I needed to review the pattern to determine how many heddles I would need.

As I mentioned, each pattern repeat is comprised of 16 threads. Looking at a single pattern repeat, I could see each of the eight shafts required two threads per repeat. With 24 repeats for the whole design, I needed 48 heddles from each of the eight shafts. To check my numbers I multiplied 48 (the number of heddles per shaft) times 8 (the number of shafts I was using) to get 384!

To divide the heddles evenly between the right and left sides of the loom, I needed 24 heddles on each shaft on either side of the loom.

When I replaced the heddles on this loom, I tried to anticipate how many I would actually need. I did not want to have too many or two few.

The tightest sett I have woven thus far is 24.

The loosest sett I have woven is 8.

I weave 4-shaft patterns, as well as 8-shaft patterns.

If I wanted to weave the entire span (32") of this loom using a 4-shaft pattern with a sett of 24, I would require approximately 768 heddles (24 ends per inch x 32 inches = 768). If those heddles were divided evenly over all four shafts (which is not often the case), each shaft would require 192 heddles.

Likewise, if I were to weave the entire 32" width using an 8-shaft pattern with a sett of 24, I would still need approximately 768 heddles (24 ends per inch x 32 inches = 768), but dividing the heddles evenly over eight shafts, gives us 96 heddles per shaft.

That's a lot of math.

I bought 1,000 new heddles for this loom. Instead of dividing the 1,000 heddles over all 8 shafts evenly and putting 125 on each one, I decided to put more on shafts 1-4 to accommodate those 4 shaft patterns, thinking I am more likely to use those shafts independent of shafts 5-8. Likewise, there is no instance in which I am likely to use just shafts 5-8. I could, of course, but why?

Thus, shafts 5-8 only have 110 heddles on them each.

I exceeded the magic number of 96 for shafts 5-8, but am short the magic number of 192 on shafts 1-4.

The reason behind this: 1) I bought the 32" Macomber primarily for tea towels up to 24" in width while weaving, and 2) heddles are expensive, usually $16 to $18 per 100 or $160 to $180 for the 1,000 I already had. I balanced my need to be able to weave a sett of 24 over 32" with cost and likelihood I would actually need them.

If I need to weave something 32" long, I can change the sett to 20 and have plenty of heddles.

With the current project and its sett of 12, despite weaving the entire width of the loom, I had far too many heddles on each of the shafts.

In another first, I had to remove most of the heddles from each of the shafts before I could begin threading heddles.

Usually, I allow the extra heddles to hang out, but because I need the entire width of the loom and the harnesses, the heddles not in use would get in the way and create extra friction with the outside threads.

So, I had to devote half an hour to removing them.

Fortunately, when I added the new heddles originally, I painted the top of each 25th heddle with nail polish to make it easier to count. I used zip ties to bundle each group from each harness and labeled them with the shaft number.


It was a breeze.

Whoever designed this Macomber was an intuitive weaver. The break down allows one to sit inside the loom with full view of the heddles to thread them.

Threading the heddles went quickly. I also took advantage of the absence of the beater and breast beam to do my tie ups.

By the time I began sleying the reed, I told myself I could relax because this was the easy part, and I was almost done. It was also close to eleven last night, well past my bed time.

On a roll, I lashed onto the front apron before I noticed I had skipped a reed slot in the dead center of the warp!!

I laughed and went to bed. I had done enough.

The sleying issue has now been corrected, a sample has been woven, and I am ecstatic!

The black thread was just a bobbin left over from another project.

I think the pattern works well without the need for a tabby weft. Thank goodness!

The cotton chenille was not impressing me with the plain weave; however, I am delighted with it in pattern.

The twill chevron in the middle was me playing with the treadles. I think it has serious potential.

I have a half a dozen colors in 8/4 to play with more due to arrive tomorrow. I am so excited!

Does anyone else get lost in the math weeds when weaving?


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