I’ve been weaving for a year or so, and I’ve learned how to weave with various yarns and weave structures, but one thing still puzzles me. (Yes, there are lots of others, but I won’t go into those now!) It is this: When is the best time to beat? With an open shed? A closed shed? After changing the shed? Are there any “rules?”
It seems to me that perhaps the answer is, “It depends.” Well, if so, on what?
I have answered this question before in a slightly different way, but it might need a little more explanation. I’m afraid the “right” answer is, yes, “it depends.” There are reasons for making certain choices, but usually people develop a habit of doing it one way when they learn how to weave, and then they keep doing it that way.
If you beat with an open shed, there is less stress on both the weft threads and the warp threads as the beater brings the weft to the fell of the cloth. That is a good thing. However, I have noticed that when my students beat on an open shed, they end up pulling the weft thread flat as they beat (eliminating any weft slack), which causes too much draw-in. They do this because the hand with the shuttle is in front of the beater, so they bring the hand and shuttle forward as they bring the beater forward, pulling the weft flat as they go. In class, therefore, I recommend placing the weft in the shed at a 30 degree angle, closing the shed (locking the weft in place at that angle), and then beating.
I also follow that process myself when I’m using smooth, strong yarns. With sticky threads (mohair, for example) or fragile threads or threads that I want to place very exactly, I bring the beater forward on an open shed, very carefully maintaining the weft angle as I use the beater to place the weft. (For weft-faced weaves, I bubble the weft carefully and then beat on the open shed, change the shed, and then beat again.)
Many experienced weavers place the weft, close the shed, make the new shed, and then beat (locking the weft in place with the changed shed). This process does drag the weft through the warp threads similarly to beating on a closed shed, but it is fine for smooth strong yarns. I don’t do this because I keep better track of where I am in the treadling if I think about the new shed after the old one is completely gone. Most of my projects are heavily pattern–oriented and require thinking about what comes next, and any new confusion can throw me off.
One thing is for certain: there are no absolute rules!