End-Feed vs Boat Shuttles
A weaving friend told me that several weavers in her guild prefer using end-feed shuttles instead of boat shuttles. I checked them out online and they are pretty expensive. Are they really better?
I also know weavers who prefer end-feed shuttles. Here are some things to consider. A boat shuttle creates a firm and even selvedge if the unwinding bobbin pulls the weft against the edge thread or floating selvedge so that no loop remains and there is enough weft in the shed to accommodate the over-and-under path of the weft when the shed is closed. With most boat shuttles this can be achieved so that no hand manipulation is necessary as you weave. Note that the unwinding bobbin pulls most on the edge threads when it is almost empty, since the bobbin rotates more at that stage, and it pulls least when it is full.
The end-feed shuttle holds a pirn, not a bobbin. The pirn is stationary, so the thread pulls off the end of the pirn (adding a bit of twist to the thread). The pirn has to be wound in stages, filling the base first, and then moving up the pirn as each area (of about an inch) is filled. It must be wound with firm tension. If the thread is loosely wound or if the thread were pulled off of an area below other areas with thread wound on them, clumps of thread will come off the tip of the pirn.
The tension on the weft is controlled by a tensioner at the end of the shuttle. It can be adjusted to place just the right pull against the edge threads as the shuttle is thrown. The only issue with this is that the pull is slightly greater on one side than on the other, since the tensioner is a lot closer to one side than the other as you throw it back and forth.
If you can find a weaving friend who uses one and try it out, you can see whether it works well for you.