Choosing and using a boat shuttle

For the Table Loom without a race? Yes, for the table loom without a race! The race can be hacked by attaching in a non permanent way (so no damage to your loom!) a lease stick held under the warp by the short helping hands, or some rubber bands; some examples are here and here, and here is my own hack:

The makeshift race skirts the warp from below

Boat shuttles come in many variation:

  1. Bottom. The bottom can be open, closed or have rollers; a closed bottom one glides easier but is heavier, which may be an issue with table loom warps which aren’t as tightly tensioned as floor loom ones. Open bottoms allow the user to control the thread. Something worth bearing in mind is that overfilling the bobbin will make it stick out of the shuttle bottom profile, making it catch the warp threads.
  2. Feeding. The yarn may come out of the shuttle (i.e. “feed”) from the end or from the middle; end feeding shuttles tension the yarn. Also, there are shuttles with two bobbins; these are particularly useful when the weft goes with two ends held together.
  3. Size. The bigger, the heavier. Longer and slimmer will glide more easily, travel longer and are more likely to go straight; obvioulsy though, for a given width, the longer the shuttle, the more it will weigh. Wider shuttles will carry more yarn; wider shuttles it may fall off the makeshift race, and/or catch the warp. Shuttles taller than 1″/2.5cm may be problematic for the Table loom, since the shed is not as tall as for a floor loom.
  4. Shape. A pointier shuttle will travel more easily. A shuttle with an asymmetric “bulge” on one side provides more room to the bobbin/quill to move and feed the yarn (if it is a side-feeding shuttle)
  5. Material. traditional ones are in wood, but I have seen quite a few plastic ones. Material will affect gliding ability as well as weight.
  6. Bobbin or quill? The yarn must be wound around either a bobbin or quill, which must be a couple of cm shorter than the shuttle box (i.e. intterior of the boat shuttle) with the spindle that will host the bobbin/quill; this is because you’ve got to leave room to the quill for moving to the left or to the right, depending on which side it is thrown from, otherwise it will drag the yarn. Quills are quieter, and apparently don’t pull the yarn as much as bobbins (and pulling may create tension issues at the selvedges); they are smaller than bobbins, so will fit smaller shuttles (and smaller sheds). You can make your own paper quills; Bluster Bay Woodwork has a very clear tutorial on how to make paper quills. They have to be winded pretty tightly (must feel firm in the hand when squeezing the wound quill) in cigar shape, leaving both ends clear of any yarn, and here is a video on how to wind a paper quill:

If you do not have a bobbin winder but can locate a drill, then you can fashion it as an electric bobbin winder (if it can get low speeds).

Another video on winding bobbins which I found really useful is here:

All this stuff on quills is as in the end I bought some Toika closed bottom shuttles as my (first?). They are very light (only 86g/3oz) and have a low profile, which will suit the table loom.

My first shuttles!

The results in the videos are all quite polished – my reality was actually rather more rough! I opted for the drill solution, and as paper quill I cut a rectangle out of a discarded letter and rolled it around the smallest drill bit I had.

Tools of the trade!

To wind you have to start the yarn inside the paper fold, then trap it inside:

Then start your drill, guiding the yarn up and down, and making sure you leave about 1cm free on your paper quill at both ends. Then pull out the yarn cigar, and insert into the boat shuttle. I found it easier to use with the bobbin unwinding from below, it made it easier to re-roll, but it may work differently for you.

For posterity, here is my very first wound home made paper quill:

Throwing the shuttle isn’t at all hard – for this pointed ones, grab them from below as you would a paper plane, and throw them through the shed along the race, with your other hand ready to catch it on the other side. It only took me a few tries to not feel awkward anymore: it is much quicker than a stick shuttle!

The content of this post is an imperfect and highly condensed summary of the sources below (in addition to the links already posted):

Bluster Bay Woodwork

Glimakra

Handwoven Magazine 1

Handwoven Magazine 2

Louet

Shacht 1

Shacht 2

The Woolery 1

The Woolery 2 – video

Author: lovestoswatch

I used to knit as a girl, then hanged the needles for two/three decades, and now I’m back, and loving it! The photo is my version of Linda Marveng's Aki, the first proper project after "being born again". After getting back into knitting, weaving has also become my passion (with a little sewing to turn my handweaving into garments).

3 thoughts on “Choosing and using a boat shuttle”

  1. I have used a boat shuttle even on my 10” rigid heddle, because when I was weaving 8/2 cotton I was forever catching the stick shuttles on the threads. I have a pack of quills I bought, I didn’t even know you could make your own.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I never dared on the rigid heddle loom, but now I can at least try! I linked a tutorial, but in the end I just cut something out of a circular, and it worked just fine. Since pirns do not have the ends that bobbins do, I think I’ll keep going with the handmade ones.

      Like

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