Ask Madelyn: Twill Setts

How do you know what sett to use for twill if your yarn isn't quite the same as the yarn used in the pattern you are following?

Madelyn van der Hoogt Feb 17, 2021 - 4 min read

Ask Madelyn: Twill Setts Primary Image

Photo Credit: George Boe

Dear Madelyn, I have been weaving for several years, mostly from patterns shown in Handwoven magazines. I want to weave a pattern called “David’s Towels” that appeared in the magazine’s Sept/Oct. 2017 issue, pages 20–22. The author states that she lowered the epi to 21 instead of her usual 24 for 8/2 unmercerized cotton in twill because the organic cotton she used felt too stiff with a sett of 24. The unmercerized cotton I plan to use is not particularly stiff (8/2-B unmercerized cotton from the Yarn Barn). Should I weave this pattern at the 21 epi given or will that sett be too loose for the twill pattern shown? If 21 epi isn’t appropriate, how do I figure out what epi to use?

Thank you,



David's Towels by Tracy Kaestner, *Handwoven* September/October 2017 Photo credit: George Boe

Hi Sandra!

Twill setts are always variable depending on the specific yarn (not just its size), the specific twill (how long the floats are), and the desired hand of the finished fabric. Some yarns full and/or shrink more than others, so you would want the sett to be more open for them than for yarns that don’t shrink/full. The number 24, given as the sett for twill in 8/2 cotton in the Master Yarn Chart, is just a guess, just a way of letting you know that setts for twill are closer than for plain weave.

The best way to be sure is, of course, to sample. The towels are woven in a 1/3 vs 3/1 twill, so the floats are longer than for a 2/2 twill, and the sett for 8/2 cotton in plain weave is 20. I think I’d try her 21 epi first, following her instructions exactly. (Except I would put on a longer warp, which I ALWAYS do because you never know what is going to happen. A longer warp will produce more pieces and allow you to sample and make mistakes AND to try out other ideas and yarn colors on the same warp.)

Weave your sample on this warp. Weave about ten inches, I would say, maybe even one complete towel. Be very careful to weave exactly as many picks per inch as ends per inch (measure!). Then, take the sample off the loom and wash it. You’ll be able to tell by the results whether or not you need to change the sett.

For this project, I think I would start with her recommended sett since 8/2 cotton does full and shrink a bit (you might see right away, as you start weaving, that this is too open; you can then take it out, resley, and start over for the sample). Or you can do the reverse, start out and sample at 24 epi. Or, you could also compromise and start with 22 epi (2-2-2-2-2-1 in a 12-dent reed).

I’d love to know how it turns out!


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