What is a variable dent reed and how do I use it?

Typical reeds for rigid heddle looms have holes and slots evenly spaced for a particular weaving sett. When you want to weave at 10 ends per inch (EPI), you use the 10-dent reed for your loom, or you use a 5-dent reed and double the warp ends in each slot and hole.

A variable dent reed lets you vary the sett in your weaving project for deliberately uneven spacing of the warp ends. You can mix up yarns of different weights, weave the same yarn at different setts in the fabric (cramming or spacing the ends), or warp with textured yarns. (Search for "variable dent reed" on our website to find free projects.)

Each variable dent reed comes with reed sections that you can mix and match. Simply remove the top bar, add the reed sections you want to use, then re-attach the top bar. Warp the rigid heddle loom with the direct or indirect method and start weaving.

variable dent reed with 8, 12, 5, and 10 dent sections

You can purchase additional reed sections for variable dent reeds. This table will help you plan projects for variable dent reeds. The overall weaving width will be slightly narrower than a traditional reed.

table of reed sizes

Here are a few tips to consider when using the variable dent reed:

1. If your warp is narrower than the full width of the reed, inserting segments to fill the space at both edges can help you keep your warp centered. This also provides a surface area other than the top and bottom bar of the reed to support your hands when beating or changing your shed.

2. Be sure to tighten the Phillips head screws on the underside of your reed before use.

Phillips screw on bottom of variable dent reed
3. Each segment has a smooth edge and a cut edge. Be sure that when you are sliding your segments into place, a smooth edge connects with a cut edge. The cut edge will look notched at the top and bottom.

reed sections, notched edges on the right

4. Unless you are looking to create a space in your warp at that location, consider the space between segments a slot. I’ve included two photos that demonstrate the space created when this “slot” is both skipped and used. One shows the warp, and the other shows the space created in the cloth when you skip this slot.

skipping (left) and filling (right) slots between reed sections

skipping (left) and filling (right) slots between reed sections
skipping (left) and filling (right) slots between reed sections


5. You may find that as you wind your cloth onto the cloth beam, thicker sections of fabric will build up more quickly than thinner sections causing a distortion in your fell line (where cloth meets warp). If you are using forgiving yarns, you will likely find that this issue disappears when your fabric is washed and the yarn settles into place. If you are weaving with less forgiving yarns (think linen), I would take this into consideration when planning your project.

6. Wondering what to do with those extra segments when not in use? I sewed a 6" x 9" drawstring pouch to hold the extra pieces. Add a bit of seam allowance at the edges. This would be a quick little weaving project!

drawstring bag for reed sections

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