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Learning to Inkle Weave





The Loom










The heddles are loops of thread through which every other wrap of the warp is passed. The purpose of the heddles is to keep half of the warp threads stationary while the other half is free to be shifted either up or down in the creation of sheds. You can make your heddles out of just about any thread or string that has no stretch that you have handy. But, if you wish to create some fairly permanent heddles, I recommend using waxed linen. My very first inkle weaving project used heddles made from the same rug warp that I used to weave the strip because I did not, at that time, have waxed linen. It worked just fine for that project. Just make sure that your heddles are made of a fiber that will not stretch. I have used crochet cotton, cotton rug warp, and waxed linen. The waxed linen is my favorite.

Making heddles will depend on the design of your loom. The directions that follow are for the standard-style inkle looms (see the photos and drawings in this site to get an idea of a basic/standard loom design). To make the heddles, you need to measure the distance from the bottom of the heddle bar to the top of the top front warp peg. Divide this length in half and add about one-half to three-quarters of an inch. This is the "heddle loop measurement". Take your piece of stiff cardboard and make it that same length. The next step is to cut lengths of your waxed linen that are twice the length of the heddle loop measurement plus a couple of inches. The number of heddles you cut is determined by your design. Using 4/2 cotton and creating a band about two inches wide will require about 40 heddles. I have 90 waxed linen heddles in my inkle weaving supplies. And, yes, I have actually made an inkle band using that many heddles. Once you have the necessary number of heddle strands cut, one-by-one tie the heddle strands into loops using the piece of cardboard as a guide so that each heddle loop is the exact same size. Tie the strands using a square knot and using the same tension and pressure on each one. Making heddles should be a one-time adventure in weaving. Heddles are meant to be used time and time again. The stronger the material out of which they are made means that they will last longer and you won't have to go through the tedious process again as soon ... or ever.

Another type of heddle that I use frequently is made by taking the measurement from the heddle bar to the top front bar and adding about one to one-and-a-half inches. I then make my cardboard that size and make the heddles as described above. The difference with these heddles is in their use. They drape over the warp threads instead of the warp threads being passed through them. See the image below.


Click on the image to the left to see a larger version of it.

There are other techniques for making heddles as described in various books. The methods above just happen to be the ones I use. Books on inkle weaving will give you detailed instructions for other methods of making heddles.

© 2000-2005Tracy DeGarmo