There are quite a lot of uses for a thin metal knitting needle when rigid heddle weaving, I think. From clearing a sticky shed to counting picks and even (I know I shouldn’t) poking my fell line, I’m always glad to have one on-hand.
Of course for those uses it doesn’t have to be metal, but I like a metal needle because it has a certain weight to it. Also, I tend to use it to provide lift-assistance to my string heddles and a metal needle never feels like it’ll snap under tension!
As with most such tools though, I probably find more uses for it simply because it is right there to be used!
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…
- 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.
- Use a pick-up stick to select the slot threads for that shaft of the pattern.
- Pass your ‘string’ (thread, yarn, string…) under the selected threads – here I used some red yarn.
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.
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.