Dealing with Extra Heddles

Marcy Petrini



I am going to thread a shawl across the entire width of my loom and I am quite sure that I have enough heddles on all of my shafts. So, I start threading and, sure enough, I do have enough – in fact, I have too many! On one side of my loom, I have lots of extra heddles. What can I do? 

I cannot leave them at the edge of the shafts for two reasons: the first is that, especially if they are metal heddles, the weight on one side will be greater than the other, so the shaft will rise unevenly (in a counterbalance or countermarch loom, the balance will be off). This can cause a shuttle traveling down the race to catch threads and form errant floats because the shed is not open uniformly. 

The second reason not to leave extra heddles on the side of the shafts is that the warp ends at the edge won’t travel the same distance as those in the middle, because the ones in the middle will be straight, the ones at the edge have to curve around the heddles – the more the heddles, the larger the curve. For example, as seen from above, look at the difference in the blue warp which has a straight path and the red warp which travels around the heddles. .

As the weaving progresses, a thread with the path like the red above will be sure to develop tension problems. 

My only solution at this point is to take the extra heddles off the shafts, being careful to tie each bundle at the top and at the bottom before slipping them off the shaft, as shown below. This way, it will be easier to place the heddles back onto the shafts when they will invariably be needed later.

A much better solution is to plan ahead: disperse the extra empty heddles throughout the threading. This requires knowing the total number of heddles on each shaft, which is a very useful piece of information, regardless. Any time I add heddles, or move them, I make sure that I know how many heddles are on each shaft.

Since I know how many heddles my weaving will require, I can figure out how many blank heddles to leave when threading, as shown below. This has the advantage that, should I mis-thread, I have extra heddles if I need them in fixing my error. In this photo, two sets of threaded heddles flank a set of empty ones.

When the width of the weaving is less than that of the loom, extra heddles can be left at the edges, but there should be approximately the same number on each side on each shaft. To do this, I must know not only the total number of heddles on each shaft, but also the center, so I can figure out where I should begin threading by counting half the heddles from the middle; I still like to leave blank heddles as shown above, in case of an error.

 More on Weaving Errors at Convergence®. For now, count those heddles!


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