Anyone who’s ever chatted, emailed, or phoned me with the question, “this pattern calls for an x-dent reed, but I only have a y-dent reed—can I weave it anyway?” knows my answer is often, "probably, but you’ll want to sample to be sure." I get it, warping, sleying, weaving and re-sleying can be tedious when we really just want to dive in to our project. But let me introduce you to the variable-dent reed, a nifty rigid heddle loom tool that makes sampling a breeze.
Variable-dent reeds consist of a frame and small reed sections of different dent sizes that allow you to see how a yarn behaves when sett at different ends per inch and woven at different picks per inch. Depending on the project, I’ve generally been inclined to weave Beam, Duet, and Mallo at 12 ends per inch, but a variable-dent reed made it easy to test them all at looser setts.
Sample with Beam at 8, 10, and 12 EPI
For this exercise, I wound one 36” warp for each yarn and sleyed 4” sections of 8, 10, and 12 EPI, with each group separated by a contrast color. These short and narrow warps threaded up quickly, so sampling did not feel like a chore. Then I wove at 8, 10, and 12 picks per inch, also separated by contrast colors, which gave me a tic-tac-toe grid, or a gamp, in weaving parlance. This is effectively 9 samples per cloth. It is so efficient!
Sample with Mallo at 8, 10, and 12 EPI
In each case you can see the density of the fabrics change from bottom left (8 EPI and 8 PPI) to top right (12 EPI and 12 PPI). This is an invaluable resource for evaluating how a yarn will look and feel when woven. Depending on how much drape you would like, you can see how to sett and beat for a very gauzy cloth or a very dense cloth and everything in between.
Sample with Duet at 8, 10, and 12 EPI
Final sample on the loom
But, in addition to being a great sample tool, you can use a variable-dent reed to warp different fibers together at their appropriate setts in a single project. For my final test cloth, I warped all three yarns in the EPI I liked best from my samples: Beam at 8 EPI at the outside edges, Mallo at 10 EPI, Duet at 12 EPI in the center. I wove in the yarn order it was warped, beating at a firmness that looked good to me – about 10 PPI. I love how the Duet on Duet square in the middle is almost translucent, bordered with blocks of Mallo texture and the smooth columns of Beam at each side. This humble little sett gamp will make it easier for me to design projects going forward and may become a project in its own right!