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Doubleweave on a Rigid Heddle Loom: Tips for Achieving a Clean Shed

In my experience, when doing doubleweave on a rigid heddle loom, there is usually a shed (and usually it’s a down-heddle shed) that doesn’t completely clear when the heddle is put into position. Sometimes it’s a tension issue with a warp thread or two, but it can also happen when the warp threads stick to each other in the slots. The worst case scenario is you end up with floats, and floats can be fixed. 

To mitigate this, I check the sheds to make sure they are clear every time I advance my warp. If the sheds are not clear, I identify which threads are problematic and then try the following:

  • Make sure there are no crossed threads between the two heddles. If threads are crossed they can’t move freely. If you find any crossed threads, separate them and push the cross to the back beam. The benefit of this method is that you don’t have to re-thread; the downside is that you will be uncrossing those two threads for the entire weave. You have to decide which is preferable.
  • Adjust the tension. If threads are just clinging to each other but not crossed, sometimes a little more, or a little less tension, will release those threads.
  • Use a pickup stick between the slot and hole threads. Before you begin weaving, put both heddles into the down position, slide a pickup stick under the slot threads (they should all be raised), and place the stick on the back beam or warp beam for the duration of your weaving. That extra little bit of tension can make all the difference, especially with down sheds.
  • Heddle play. If you notice a few threads that aren’t crossed, but just stuck to each other, wiggle the heddles in their pattern position (up or down) to separate the threads. Another approach is to run the heddle along the warp as if you were beating (but without beating and without throwing a pick). This is similar to beating on an open shed in shaft loom weaving.
  • Use a pick up stick in front of the heddle. Sometimes you just get a thread or two that doesn’t want to cooperate. In this case, you can clear the shed by sweeping a spare pick up stick through the shed to encourage any errant warp threads back to their spots. Another option is to place a pickup stick in front of the heddle in the down shed, then throw your pick. One of our weavers contributed this tip and graciously allowed us to share her photo with you:
Doubleweave on a rigid heddle loom


Hopefully these tips for achieving a clean shed will help. Doubleweave can have a bit of a learning curve, but it is well worth the effort. It DOES get easier (and faster) with time and practice. 

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