Two Shafts vs Second Rigid Heddle

Handwoven MagazineAsk Madelyn

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Hi Madelyn!


I'm not certain if you use a rigid-heddle heddle loom, but as a 4-shaft weaver, something has been nagging at me for quite some time. Many of the weave structures for these looms require a second rigid heddle.  If that's the case, why not use two shafts of a 4-shaft loom? Is this a possibility or is there some reason it won't work?


Thanks! Just wondering…




Hi Olivia!


Two heddles on a rigid-heddle loom are not the equivalent of two shafts on a 4-shaft loom. It takes one heddle on a rigid-heddle loom to produce plain weave;  whereas it takes two shafts on a 4-shaft loom. 


One of the most common reasons to use two rigid heddles is to double the usual possible sett for a plain-weave cloth. With 10-dent rigid heddles, for example, you can use two heddles for a warp sett of 20 ends per inch. Even better, with two rigid heddles you can weave many weave structures that would require three shafts on a shaft loom. That might not seem like much of an advance, but it really is. You can do many 3-shaft twills (point and straight variations),  Bronson lace, summer and winter, and more. With the latter two, which are block weaves, the slot threads provide an advantage for pick up that the shaft loom doesn’t have. A pick-up stick can be placed behind the rigid heddle that creates block patterns that would require many shafts on a shaft loom (or a much more time-consuming pick-up process). For more about what you can do with two heddles, see Jane Patrick’sThe Weaver’s Idea Book: Creative Cloth on a Rigid Heddle Loom


Overall, however,  you should be able to do anything on your 4-shaft loom that two shafts on a rigid-heddle loom can do IF there is no pick-up involved. 



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