Weaving Knowledge: the Heddle Tool
If you have the opportunity to watch a rug being woven, you will see many different tools and techniques. This article will help you understand what you are seeing a little bit more. One of the tools that you may see the weaver using is called a heddle tool, or as it is sometimes referred to, a rigid heddle.
So What Is A heddle tool?
A heddle tool, also known as a heddle hook or heddle needle, is a small handheld tool used in the process of setting up and operating a loom for weaving. It is an essential tool for handweaving, especially on harness looms, where it is used to thread the warp yarns through the heddles.
In weaving, the heddles are a set of strings, cords, or wires with an eye or loop at the center. They are attached to the harnesses or frames on a loom and play a crucial role in creating the shed (the opening between the warp threads) during the weaving process. The warp threads are passed through the heddle eyes, and when the harnesses are raised or lowered, the heddles create the shed, allowing the weft threads to be passed through to form the woven fabric.
Here’s how a heddle tool is used:
- Threading the Warp: The warp threads are first wound around the loom’s warp beam and then passed through the heddle eyes. This is where the heddle tool comes in. The weaver uses the heddle tool to guide each individual warp thread through its corresponding heddle eye, one at a time. This process can be time-consuming, especially for looms with a high number of warp threads.
- Raising and Lowering the Heddles: Once all the warp threads are threaded through the heddles, they are attached to the loom’s harnesses or frames. By raising and lowering the harnesses in specific sequences, the weaver can create the shed, which allows for the insertion of the weft threads.
- Weaving: With the shed created, the weaver can pass the weft threads (crosswise threads) through the open shed using a shuttle or other weaving tools. The weft threads are then beaten down to secure them in place, and the process is repeated to create the woven fabric.
Heddle tools are typically made of metal or wood and have a hook or point on one end to easily catch and guide the warp threads through the heddle eyes. They come in various sizes and styles to accommodate different types of looms and heddles.
While heddle tools are commonly used in traditional handweaving, some modern looms, especially those with automatic shedding mechanisms, may not require the use of heddles or heddle tools. However, in many handweaving practices and on certain loom types, the heddle tool remains an essential and indispensable tool for the weaver.
More about the heddle tool
The heddle tool consists of two long, thin pieces of wood. One piece is at the top, and one piece is at the bottom. The top piece is slightly longer than the bottom one. Between these two pieces of wood are flat pieces of either plastic or bone with a hole in the middle. They are spaced evenly across the width of the two boards. The board will extend beyond the flat pieces by some distance.
This tool is used to create the two sheds when weaving a rug. The weaving is created by stringing warp threads vertically on the loom. The weaving is produced by passing a weft thread horizontally through the space between the warp threads. The weft will go over one thread then under the next across the row. In the next row, the threads that were up will now be down and vice versa. The heddle tool makes switching the two rows much easier.
Using the Heddle Tool
Many different ways exist to switch between the two sheds for weaving. Sometimes the warp threads that are initially in the back will be tied to a heddle rod so that one shed can be pulled forward. Sometimes a weaving sword or shed stick is used to separate the two sheds. Using heddle rods or shed sticks takes place after the loom is completely strung. However, if you want to use a heddle tool, it must be integrated into the warping process.
To use the heddle tool, one thread is threaded through the hole in the center of the flat pieces. The next thread is threaded in the space between the two flat pieces. The third piece is then threaded through the next hole, and the fourth one is in the space between the flat pieces. This pattern continues until all of the warp threads have been pulled through their proper place on the heddle tool.
Once the heddle rod is threaded, the alternating sheds are created by raising or lowering the heddle tool. This creates an “up” shed and a “down” shed. When the up shed is being used, the ends of the boards are placed on a notched piece of wood on the side of the loom. When the down shed is being used, the heddle tool dangles below the warp.
A heddle tool is usually used on smaller carpets as they are limited in size. In addition, they can be heavy and may break finer threads on a larger rug. With larger carpets, either heddle rods or a shed stick is typically used.
Ancient heddle tools have been found that are made from bone and ivory. Often the heddle tools were used for weaving smaller items, such as bands or small pieces of cloth. Heddle tools became more prevalent in the 11th century when the horizontal loom began to be used. They were used more frequently in Europe than in the Middle East or Asia. However, occasionally, you will see a tribal carpet being woven with one.
Now, you understand a simple tool that you may see being used by some rug weavers. We hope that you will take the time to look around and see some of the magnificent one-of-a-kind pieces that we have in our online store.