All internet communities have their urban legends: bits of information too good not to pass on, which seem plausible enough, but which ultimately turn out to be more interesting than true.
If you go to Snopes.com, you can waste hours reading titillating and shocking stories that have circulated through email: both true and untrue.
Weaving is no exception to urban legends. There’s so much about weaving that seems odd or arcane when you first take up the craft that it can be hard to separate fact from fiction.
A few years ago I heard online that you had to have metal heddles on a Schacht Baby Wolf because the weight of the heddles was needed to pull the shafts back down when you were ready to close the shed.
This seemed odd to me, since I’d been in the habit of shifting heddles around and taking unused heddles off the loom so they couldn’t bounce around and chew on the selvedge threads. If the heddles were needed for their weight, how come the loom seemed to work as well with 25 heddles on each shaft as it did with 150?
It didn’t really matter to me until I had trouble with split-metal heddles breaking fine silk warp threads. The sharpness of the split-metal heddle was just enough to cut the 140/2 silk, so I put some Texsolv heddles into the center of the shaft, dutifully surrounding them with extra metal heddles so the shafts would return. The problem of breaking warp threads was solved. And I didn’t think about it for another year or so.
Until I wanted to weave at night while my husband and son slept. Days are busy around here, and I’m a night owl, so this seemed the perfect opportunity to get a little extra weaving in. Of course, metal heddles jangle when you weave. I wanted to switch to Texsolv to make my loom quieter…but what about the whole weight thing?
I’d taken a workshop with Joanne Tallovaric, author of Rep Weave and Beyond, where high weaving tension and a dense warp sett created a situation where the shafts sometimes tried to stay up when we closed the shed (and this was with plenty of metal heddles on the looms.) One of the other students introduced me to a product sold by Lunatic Fringe, called Jazz Bands. They are a set of short bungee cords that attach to the treadles and help the shafts return during weaving.
I came home and bought a set of those, thinking: “Aha! Now I can switch my loom over to Texsolv!”
But with one thing and another, I never seemed to get around to actually trying it. Until earlier this week. I pulled all the metal heddles (4.2 pounds worth) off my loom and replaced them with Texsolv.
And you know what? The loom wove wonderfully. So I tried the ultimate test, I took off the Jazz bands and let the weight of the shafts themselves close the sheds. Again, the loom worked just fine.
I will confess that I put the Jazz bands back on after the test: I like how they keep the treadles not in use off the floor, I like the snappy feel they give during weaving, and I have wishful thinking that adding resistance bands to my loom makes it a “fitness machine.”
I can’t promise that there isn’t a combination of warp and sett that won’t cause problems with shafts returning on a Baby Wolf. But as I learned in my class with Joann Tallovaric, that can happen no matter what type of heddle you use.
All I can offer is this data point: I’m on my third warp with all-Texsolv heddles on my Baby Wolf and it’s weaving wonderfully well. The loom is lighter and easy to move around. And while it’s not completely silent, it is quieter during weaving without all those metal heddles clashing around.
Got a question about a bit of conventional weaving wisdom? Take it to the loom. That’s the best teacher there is.