Adding pick-up sticks to double weave

So, in my previous posts on double weave on a rigid heddle loom I’ve talked about having two pick-up sticks in use and that you use one when weaving the lower layer cloth and the other when weaving the upper layer of cloth. What I haven’t detailed is how you get them in position!

It’s pretty simple and is exactly like the first two steps I outlined (with pictures) in setting up string heddles:

  • After you’ve dressed the loom, drop both rigid heddles down so you can clearly see the slot threads
  • Use a pick-up stick to select the slot threads you need – in this case the slot threads for your top layer of cloth

That’s your first stick in place.

Then put both rigid heddles in the up position and pull the first pick-up stick toward the heddles. This will make a lower shed (behind the heddles) and you just pop your second pick-up stick into that shed.

Remember the top stick is used when weaving the top layer and the bottom stick is used when weaving the bottom layer. Both sticks are pushed to the back beam when not in use.

Introducing string heddles

Having decided to give that 4 shaft pattern a go, I had to make string heddles to lift my slot threads. What are string heddles? They are a ‘stick’ onto which you attach loops of ‘string’ so that when you lift the stick, you lift a set of threads. Commonly used with rigid heddle looms, but also for some techniques on multi-shaft looms.

Why do you need them on a rigid heddle loom? Because when you have a 4-shaft pattern one pick-up stick sits on top of the threads of the other pick-up stick and prevents you lifting them. (This doesn’t apply to double weave!)

How do you set up string heddles? Here is my (I’m sure not unique) approach…string heddles step 1

  1. Once your loom is dressed, put both rigid heddles in the down position to get your hole threads out of the way. I slip a bit of paper into the ‘shed’ behind the heddles so I can see my slot threads clearly.
  2. Use a pick-up stick to select the slot threads for that shaft of the pattern.
  3. Pass your ‘string’ (thread, yarn, string…) under the selected threads – here I used some red yarn.

String heddles steps 4 & 5

4. Use a hook to pull loops of your string between each selected slot thread and this will tell you if you’re string is long enough.

string heddle step 6

5. Slip the loops onto your stick (dowel, knitting needle, shuttle, pick-up stick…) and secure each end of the string to the stick with a tight knot – I’ve used a crochet hook as my stick.

6. Use some tape along the top of the stick to stop the string slipping off and you can also remove the pick-up stick at this point.

Repeat steps for second string heddle – here I’ve used a crochet hook and a shuttle as my ‘sticks’ as I was only weaving a narrow sample.

To get the best shed when you lift a string heddle, it’s good to hold the middle of the stick. Also, have the loops of your string heddles as close to the rigid heddle as possible.

Creating sheds with pick up sticks

Last post, I mentioned I was doing a more complicated threading.  This was the “magic step” pattern, which has groups of 2 and 3 consecutive warp threads on one shaft.image of four square gradient pattern called magic step

Because I wanted to focus on the pattern rather than how to get the right epi, I decided to only thread slots and create my sheds with my pick-up sticks!

Despite the fact I over beat it (you can see they’re not exactly squares), it turned out rather well, and the alternating colour pattern made picking up the right threads easy. Also, you use one pick up stick more than the other, so you don’t have to change sticks with each pick.

It was an interesting experiment…

The magic step pattern is a bit big for 8ply yarn (75 ends to get one pattern repeat!) I discovered that the threads bunched a lot due to being paired in slots – I’d probably split the pairs more if I used this method again. It was also difficult not to over beat with this threading.

The thing to keep in mind when working with multiple slot threads is that you need one pick up stick per slot thread. Why? Because each stick lifts one thread.

In fact, I did a fun little yarn-speriment to see what would happen if I used one stick for two slot threads.

So, I warped the reed/heddle with 2 slot threads and 1 hole thread. Then, in a down shed, I put every 2nd slot thread on the stick. I then wove in the usual way, but with an added step; after each down shed I left the reed/heddle where it was, turned the stick on its edge and wove a pick.

This is like weaving with 2.5 shafts (an amusing thought). It isn’t shown to full effect in this picture, but I like the resulting pattern.

image of weaving sample

This is how the slot threads interlace with the weft:

2.5 shaft interlacement

Playing with pick-up sticks

Pick-up sticks, or pattern sticks, are a neat way to do patterns using floats or supplementary weft. On rigid heddle looms they’re a way to introduce a whole range of different patterns and textures, including making “lace” and things like waffle weave.

So, what are pick-up sticks in weaving? A flat stick that is wide enough to give you a useable shed, when inserted between warp threads and turned on its edge. Though my first pick-up stick was a spatula! (I was impatient to try the technique.) And many weavers repurpose stick shuttles for this.

Pick up stick
Pick up stick

Generally you put your reed/heddle into a down-shed and then slip the stick under the desired slot threads behind the reed/heddle (e.g. under every third thread). You then alternate weaving normal tabby picks and pattern picks where you put the pick-up stick on its edge to create a shed. There are plenty of videos online showing how to do this, so I won’t go into it too much, but here are a few pics to give you an idea:

image of a pick up stick inserted between threads
Stick inserted under the desired threads behind the reed.
Image of a pickup stick in use
Stick turned on its edge. This should be hard up against the reed to get a good size shed in front.

It is very easy to miss a thread when using pick-up sticks and I found it helped to put a piece of stiff paper – in a contrasting colour – under my slot threads, so I could see them clearly.

Some people actually pick up in front of the reed/heddle (easier to reach), turn the pick-up stick on edge to create a shed and then insert a second pick-up stick into the shed behind the reed/heddle, finally removing the first pick-up stick.

I must say it makes me nostalgic for the more commonly known kind of pick-up stick!

the game of pick up sticks