Remove or Not to Remove Heddles

Hi Madelyn!

What technique do you use to bury unused heddles in the middle of a warp instead of pushing them to either side? The extra heddles can push on the selvedges and fray them, but I don’t want to remove them.


Hi Victoria!

I sympathize with your question, which brings up several issues.

First of all, before making any decisions about heddles, it is important to figure out how many you will use on each shaft (by checking the draft). If you are threading from either the left or the right (as opposed to from the center out), you should then move half of the number of heddles you won’t be using to that side before you start threading (leaving the other half of the unused heddles on the other side when the threading ends). This way, the weight of the unused heddles will be evenly distributed on both sides of the warp. This can matter with jack looms whose shafts are pushed up by a connection at the center of each shaft. If there is more heddle weight on one side than on the other, the shaft may not stay straight enough in its tracks to move up and down smoothly. When you do move the unused half of the heddles to one side, you will also be able to tell whether or not their bulk will take up more space on each side than warp width allows.

In the latter case, removing heddles is better than trying to intersperse them as you thread. If you intersperse them, it is much harder to keep track of and check your threading as you go. And, if you do have a threading error, it is much more difficult to figure out where you have gone amiss. And, if a warp thread breaks after the weaving starts, it is much harder to figure out where it is supposed to go.

Oops! Not enough heddles on shaft 4!

Oops! Not enough heddles on shaft 4!

As I write this, I realize that it is a bit of a case of “Do as I say, not as I do.” In weaving, I almost always (unadvisedly) choose a later pain rather than an earlier pain. That is, since counting heddles is a pain you do first, I’d rather look at the loom and the heddles and say: I think everything looks like it will be fine if I just go ahead and thread—thereby not experiencing the pain of counting heddles. However, I frequently either have too many heddles, they are not balanced on both sides, or I do not have enough heddles and therefore have to add some (usually on the center shafts that are hardest to access). I therefore end up suffering the later pain. What I neglect to tell myself when I’m making this choice is: The later pain may be a LOT worse than the earlier pain (as in the case of my trying to remove heddles from shaft 4 when the threading was almost complete).

So I would (should) count the heddles first and remove those necessary if the unused heddles take up too much space and constrain warp width. This issue comes up even more now with the current predominantly available inserted-eye heddles. They take up more space than flat steel heddles and can rub on the sides of the warp. Put on some music and as you are removing the heddles (on a string so you keep their order) and remind yourself that this will make the rest of the project more trouble-free.


If you have a weaving question we would love to hear from you! Please email Madelyn! Pictured above: Summer Lace Placemats and Mug Rugs by Suzie Liles Handwoven May/June 2017. View related & recent “Ask Madelyn” posts!

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