Notes from the Fell: All About Temples

What they are, how they work, and the ways they improve your weaving.

Tom Knisely Jun 5, 2024 - 8 min read

Notes from the Fell: All About Temples Primary Image

Temples reduce draw-in—and they help you avoid broken warp ends. Photos courtesy of Tom Knisely

In my early days of weaving, my instructors told me to be sure to angle my weft thread as I threw the shuttle in the open shed. This would help prevent draw-in—the dreaded “weaver‘s smile,” where selvedge edges curl up at the fell line to make a slight curve that resembles a smile. They assured me that if I practiced my throwing techniques I would see an improvement in my selvedges and less draw-in.

They were correct. With time and practice, my edges improved—but I still had the occasional broken warp end, and it always seemed to be at the selvedge. I noticed that if I brought the shafts to a neutral position and moved the beater gently up against the fell, the reed struck the fell line perfectly in the middle of the piece, but it was bending and stretching the warp threads at the edges. This rubbing of the reed’s teeth caused them to fray and eventually break.

I also realized that no matter how careful I was to angle my weft yarn, I still had some degree of draw-in, and that some weave structures drew in more than others. I found the whole process of weaving fascinating and was eager to learn more about the physics of these threads interlacing together. While the warp threads were raising and lowering, the weft threads were traveling in and out and between the warps. All that interlacement of threads caused both take-up in the warp and draw-in in the weft.

When I asked how a temple worked, my teachers discouraged me from using one and told me to keep practicing my shuttle-throwing techniques.


I then had the opportunity to take a rug-weaving class with the late, great Peter Collingwood. Peter insisted that we use a metal temple while weaving our samples, and he showed us how to adjust it. Within a few minutes of weaving with it, I understood how it prevented unwanted draw-in. And when I brought the beater forward and rested the reed against the fell line, I could see that the reed struck the fell line evenly and did not stretch the selvedge warp threads.

Let’s talk about temples

Temples are also known as stretchers, which is a good name for them because they stretch the edges of your weaving so it is the same width as the warp in the reed. The most common temples are made of wood or metal. Both have very sharp teeth at each end that catch the woven edges and push them out. Those teeth are not really dangerous, but they do demand respect. They have pricked my fingers a time or two when I wasn‘t paying attention to what I was doing.

Traditional temples can be made of metal (top examples) or wood (at the bottom). They are sized for specific weaving widths.

Metal and wooden temples are made to adjust to different warp widths, but in very specific ranges, for example, 8 to 12", 12 to 16", or 16 to 22", and so forth. Depending on the projects you tend to weave, this means you may need multiple temples in your toolkit, and temples are not inexpensive.

Most of my rag rug warps are 24 to 26". I use a metal temple with an adjustable range of 20 to 28" for my rugs. For towels, I like a warp of at least 20" wide in the reed, and so I use a wooden temple with a range of 16 to 22".

What‘s the difference between metal and wooden temples? It has a lot to do with the angle of the teeth and how they are mounted. Look at the photo here.

A closer look at the business end of metal and wood temples—those teeth are sharp!

The wooden temple has teeth that are set at a shallow angle extending from the frame of the temple. These temples work best on thinner fabrics. The metal temple‘s teeth are on a more acute angle, so they bury themselves better into the thickly woven selvedge edge.

Wooden temples work well for thinner fabrics, such as towels.

Weaving with a temple

After tying on the warp to the front apron rod and spreading the warp, I take the preferred temple, place it up against the reed, and adjust its length as needed to match.

To determine a temple‘s length, hold it next to the reed and adjust it to the width of the warp.

I weave a short length of the piece without the temple in place—about ½" to 1". Then I carefully work the temple‘s teeth into the woven selvedge edge on both sides. You can see below that the temple’s frame is raised in the middle as I position it.


The temple is positioned with its teeth in the project edges, ready to be locked in place.

Push down on the temple’s frame to straighten it, and slide the metal sleeve over to lock both legs of the temple into place.

The temple is engaged, and the metal sleeve slips down over both ends to lock the length.

I then start to weave. It doesn’t take long before the selvedge edge starts to draw in. That means it‘s time to detach and reposition the temple. I usually do that after weaving 2" or so—about the width of the temple‘s frame.

WARNING: Always move the temple forward before you advance the warp to avoid dragging those sharp teeth over your loom‘s beautiful front beam and leaving permanent scars.

I continue weaving and repositioning the temple for the entire piece. Watch this in action in this clip from my Beauty of Boundweave video.

Final thoughts

Doesn’t using a temple slow you down, you ask? Yes it does, but I think the finished result is worth the extra time.

Some of you have few problems with draw-in, so you have never found the need for a temple. I applaud you because you have perfected a style of weaving that works best for you.

For the rest of us, temples help keep our weaving even. And many uneven edges are also improved with wet-finishing. If you’re concerned about the pinholes temples may leave along the edges, those close up when you wet-finish as well. (Although I have noticed that when I purchase commercially woven material, there are small holes all along the fabric‘s edge from the industrial loom’s temples.)

I like temples, and will continue using them especially when weaving structures that tend to pull in. On the other hand, if you‘re weaving a piece that is warp-faced (or even slightly more warp-emphasized), there is no need to use a temple because there won’t be any draw-in. Your woven piece may actually measure slightly wider than you planned. Well, how about that?

Happy weaving,