What is a balanced beat and how do I know if I have it?
Achieving a balanced beat (also known as balanced weave) means that the number of weft picks per inch are the same as the number of warp ends per inch, and thus the warp and weft are equally visible. Many of our patterns call for a balanced beat, or very close to it.
However, when looked at on the loom under tension, a balanced beat can look a little loose, often prompting the weaver to wonder, am I doing this correctly?
In this photo, the weaving was done with a 12 dent reed. At the bottom (between 4 and 5”), you can count the weft threads between the T-pins and see exactly 12 picks, where the dashes of yellow weft appear to be about the same size as the blue warp lengths--a truly balanced beat. Looking closely you may see little squares of space between the threads, but those spaces will close up during wet finishing (a subject for another day), so not to worry.
Moving up one inch, we count 9-10 weft picks between the T-pins. This lighter beat makes the long blue lengths of the warp more dominant than the short dashes of the yellow weft. The spaces between the threads would not close up as tightly as in the previous example, and result in a looser, gauzier cloth.
Lastly, in the top example we count 14 weft picks between inches 2 and 3—a slightly denser beat where the yellow weft is more dominant, and which would result in a slightly stiffer cloth.
Your project, materials and personal preferences should determine your beat. A very dense beat creates a stiff cloth, which would work well for a runner or placemat, but wouldn’t be great as a scarf. A very loose weave may make a wonderful casual window screen, but not a great shawl.
So experiment, measure and practice—you’ll find your beat in no time!
In addition to being GIST's Operations Manager and Wholesale Director, Christine is a weaver and exhibiting fiber artist. She scampered down the rabbit hole of rigid heddle weaving several years ago as a way to use up her knitting stash and never looked back. In addition to very practical cloth woven to adorn home and body (tea towels are her favorite home linen projects to weave), Christine also weaves conceptual works that explore themes of mood and memory, strength and fragility, and often reflect on the current political and ecological landscape. Her work is held in private collections across the country and is shown regionally in New England galleries. To see more of Christine's work, check out her Instagram.
This article is the second of a two-part series on how to buy used weaving looms. To get a few different perspectives on this, three friends are sharing what they look for in a loom and some of the helpful things they’ve learned along the way.