How to Handle Unused Shafts

Hi Madelyn,

What do I do if I want to weave a 4-shaft pattern on my new 8-shaft loom (Mighty Wolf)? I thought that I would just ignore four of the shafts. However, some of the weaving websites indicate that there can be an issue (although they did not elaborate what the issue was) if I only used four and recommend spreading the pattern to all eight shafts. Could you elaborate on this? And, if I do need to spread the pattern to use all eight shafts, do I treat the first four shafts as 1-4, then also treat next four shafts (i.e. shafts 5-8) like shafts 1-4 and alternate between the two sets?

—Sue Ann

Hi Sue Ann!

You shouldn’t really have any problem using only four of your eight shafts on the Mighty Wolf (six of the drafts on the 8-shaft Baby Wolfs here in The Weavers’ School use only four). The only real issue might be that the heddles on the other four shafts could take up too much space to allow the intended warp width. You’d be spreading them to the sides since they are not being used. (This is more likely to be a problem with inserted-eye heddles. The narrow steel heddles that are no longer available can be crowded into a much smaller space.)

You can remove the heddles on shafts 5-8 (not a totally fun task, but not THAT hard). Make sure to thread them on strings or strips of spring steel for easier transfer. Some weavers intersperse unused heddles among the warp threads as they thread (sliding an unused heddle or more over after threading each warp thread). I’m not a fan of this method because it makes checking the threading difficult (and can make it hard to determine the right heddle for a broken warp thread).

If you did want to spread the threading to use all of the shafts, there are several ways to do that, depending on the threading itself. Your suggestion would work just fine. Sometimes a more versatile new threading can be worked out that would allow the original 4-shaft draft to be woven plus some other patterns that would make use of all eight shafts.


Posted September 28, 2016. Updated May 8, 2017.

If you have a weaving question we would love to hear from you! Please email Madelyn! Pictured: Summer Lace Placemats and Mug Rugs by Suzie Liles Handwoven May/June 2017.

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