Introduction to 8-Shaft Weaving

Handwoven Magazine Ask Madelyn
Madelyn, I am a new weaver with an 8-shaft loom.  I want to use just four shafts to start with.  I was told to leave all eight shafts on the loom, but what about the heddles on shafts 5-8?  Do they stay on?  Won’t they be in the way of the threads?  Your advice is much appreciated.  


Hi Alison!  

If your loom is a jack floor loom, you definitely want to keep the shafts you are not using in place. If it’s a countermarch loom, you can remove the shafts, but you don’t really have to; you can put the locking pins in to stabilize the last four shafts and thread and use only the first four.

Unfortunately, especially if your jack loom has inserted-eye heddles, you’ll probably have to take most (or all) of the heddles off the unused shafts if the width or your piece would cause the unused heddles to rub against the edge warp threads and therefore damage them. If your loom has flat steel heddles, they can usually be pushed to the side so that they don’t rub on the warp (unless your warp is as wide as the full weaving width of your loom).  Texsolv heddles can usually be pushed to the side (or easily removed) on countermarch looms.

Currently and sadly, flat steel heddles are no longer available for most jack floor looms. Most of them now come with inserted-eye heddles, which take up a great deal more space on the shaft. This also means that these heddles are also a problem if you are using fine threads at close setts. The eyes are so wide that they rub against adjacent warp threads and can cause them to fray and break. In this situation, you need to advance the warp often so that the rubbing is not repeated in the same spot. Distributing a 4-shaft threading over eight shafts can also help minimize warp damage with fine setts.


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