Colour your Heddles!

Have you ever started threading a project, and JUUUUST  before you finish, you realise that you don’t have enough heddles on one or more shafts?

This can happen for a few reasons. You might have made a mistake in your threading, or an error in your calculations.

Most likely though, you made an error in your counting. For me, it doesn’t matter if I am counting heddles for half my warp, on the looms that have heddle clips, or if I am counting heddles that I need to move to another shaft.  I tend to get distracted easily, especially when all I can see is a veritable sea of heddles, and it can sometimes be very hard to see which shaft they are on.

Through experience, chatting with other weavers, and seeing posts, photos, and videos online, I have come up with a system that works for me.

I mark and/or colour code my heddles!

On my looms that have wire heddles, there are a few ways that I do it (and other weavers have done some of this as well, on the looms that were previously loved).

On some of them, I tie a yarn at the top of every tenth heddle. I tie it on the front, and clip the ends short so they don’t catch on other heddles.

This is a reasonably easy way to make it easier to quickly count heddles. The downside is that it can be difficult to see these markers on the shafts that are farther away, particularly on looms with more than four shafts, or that have a low castle that can block the view.

A previous owner of one of my looms had marked the top twists of the heddles, likely with a permanent marker.  The weaver also marked every tenth heddle with a different colour.

 This is a little easier to see in terms of location on the heddle, but it can still be a challenge to work with if the lighting isn’t good, or if there is a castle in the way.

I took the time on a different loom to mark the eyes of the tenth heddles with nail polish.

This is quite a bit easier to see, particularly the ones that I used light colours on. I used different colours on different shafts, which works well for me.

This makes counting quite easy, but when I am threading, I still need to be quite careful to ensure that I am threading heddles on the correct shafts. I am considering marking the wire heddles the same way that I mark my texsolv.

I have texsolve on my AVL loom, and when I first got that loom, I found the endless sea of white heddles, that tend to move around and mix together pretty intimidating.

After seeing a post online about colouring texsolv heddles, I decided to try it. I bought a pack of Sharpie markers, took on extra heddle,and tested out the colours to see which ones showed up well, and which ones were easy to differentiate from the others at a glance.

I ended up with orange, blue, pink and green. I have 10 shafts, and mainly use the front 8, so I decided on a “warm cool warm cool” pattern, that I used on the front 4 shafts, then repeated on shafts 5 through 8. It took some time and I recommend doing the colouring in a well ventilated area, but I am very happy with the results.

It is quite easy for me to know which shaft I am threading based on the colour of the heddle.

When I was colouring the heddles, I put them in groups of ten, and added an additional heddle, that I left uncoloured between groups. This is a really easy way to count my heddles quickly, I just need to count the white ones!

If I need to move heddles from shaft to shaft, I put some effort into making sure that I move heddles that are a different colour than the assigned one for that shaft. This means that when I start a new project, if I see pink heddles on a blue shaft, I know that I have more than the usual number of heddles on that shaft, and I can quickly put them back on the shaft that they belong to.

This might not work for everyone, but I have come to really appreciate this system, and every time I sit at my loom, the bright colours make me smile.

Give this a try, and see if it works for you!