Ideally, when you are warping your floor loom or table loom you will not make any mistakes.
While mistakes help you learn (the Warped Fibers motto!) avoiding mistakes should still be your goal.
The best way to avoid threading mistakes (or any mistakes) is to take your time and look over what you have done before moving forward.
This is really important in many of the steps of warping and weaving, but especially when you are threading your heddles.
If you are new to using a floor loom or have never used one before here is a little refresher:
On a floor loom (or table loom) your heddles are the metal pieces that are within your harnesses. These heddles will have a hole in the middle of each one that you thread your warp yarn through. The heddles that you choose to thread will depend on the pattern that you are weaving up.
It is really important to pay attention and double-check yourself as you go when you are doing this step of the warping process. If you do not then if you mess up one heddle it may mess up the sequence of the remaining heddles.
Threading mistakes are not fun.
If this is the case then there is no shortcut – you must undo all of your warps to the point of the mistake and start over. If you do make a mistake and it only affects a heddle or few then you can fix your threading mistake by using repair heddles. This is most likely if you have doubled up a harness but otherwise continued correctly.
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How to use repair heddles
Depending on the type of repair heddle that you choose to use, they should be easy to install wherever needed.
Locate the spot and harness that needs your repair heddle and isolate it as best as possible. This usually means pushing the threaded heddles to the side. Since they will all have warp yarns in them this may be harder to do than it sounds, but do your best.
Here is a little tip: Use a comb to keep your warps out of the way!
Installing your heddle will vary a bit depending on the type of repair heddle you are using, but they should all be pretty simple. Each repair heddle should have an opening at each end that will go around the metal part of your harness.
Re-thread your new repair heddle with the correct warp yarn and finish it off as usual!
For example, if you have a straight draw threading pattern: 1,2,3,4,1,2,3,4 … and you accidentally thread 1,2,2,4,1,2,3,4 then you can un-thread the second “2 heddle” and insert a repair heddle on harness 3. This warp yarn will be threaded on the new repair heddle and you can weave as normal!
It is really that simple.
The hardest part about fixing threading mistakes is finding them before you go too far!
Types of repair heddles
No matter the type of heddles you already have on your loom, you can really use any repair heddle you want because they all essentially work the same.
The one that you choose mostly depends on what you can get your hands on and what will fit your loom. Prior to purchasing repair heddles, you will want to measure the height of the metal bars in your harness. Most repair heddles will come in 9.5″, 10.5″, and 12.5″ options.
Wire heddles are thin and usually come in multi-packs.
The multi-packs are really great because you will more than likely want to have more than one on hand at a time just in case. Since they are thin wire, they are generally pretty cost-efficient despite the fact that you buy multiple at once.
These heddles are easy to use because they untwist at the top and bottom which allows you to easily attach them to your harness at any spot that they are needed. Just twist them back together after putting them on your loom!
For reference: my Harrisville 8-harness, 10 treadle loom, uses 9.5″ heddles.
Flat heddles are great if you need something really sturdy or you want something that more closely matches your other heddles (assuming you have flat heddles!)
These heddles do not require any untwisting at the top and the bottom, but instead, they open up and slide into place. This makes them a great option if you have trouble with dexterity or strength in your fingers which could make the wire heddles difficult to use.
These heddles are more expensive and are usually sold individually, but they are sturdier than wire heddles.
String heddles are usually a DIY option that can be great if you need something right now and you do not have other options on hand. The downside of a string heddle is that you have to DIY it…
They are not hard to make, but they take more time than if you had metal ones laying around. We will go over how to make them in the next section.
String heddles work the same way any other heddles do and they take up even less space than the other options when they are not being used.
Even if you have other options ready for when you need them, it is not a bad idea to know how to make string heddles in case you need more and just can not wait for shipping.
How to make a string heddle
String heddles should be made out of strong yarn that is smooth. I like to use the same yarn that I use for tapestry samples: 8/4 cotton rug warp. This yarn is inexpensive and makes a great string heddle option.
You will also want safety pins for your repair heddles to easily install and remove them.
First, measure the height of your harness area that hosts your heddles and double that then add an extra inch. You should have 1 piece of yarn that is just over the same height as your harness (between the bars) when folded in half. This extra yarn will allow for your knots without taking away from the height.
Insert your yarn into the hole at the end of your safety pin. This first safety pin should sit at the fold of your yarn.
Using one of your regular heddles as a guide, create a square knot at the bottom of the warp eye.
Create a second square knot at the top of the eye. This is where your warp yarn will be threaded through.
Using square knots creates an opening that is more easily threaded. You can also use overhand knots, but the opening will not stay open.
Insert your heddle string into the hole of your second safety pin. Tie another knot to close up your heddle. Again, use your regular heddle to get this in the right spot.
Cut off any excess yarn.
Your string heddle is now ready to use!
You will always want to try to keep your mistakes to a minimum, but it is good to be prepared.
No matter how long you have been weaving and how well you think you double-checked your threading, it is inevitable that you will need to fix threading mistakes with repair heddles sooner or later.
Either having them on hand or knowing how to make them, will make sure that a missing thread does not bring your weaving to a halt.