Upgrade Your Bandweaving Tools

Looking for new tools to make bandweaving easier on your body or simply more efficient? Here are some tools with ergonomic benefits that bandweavers have used for centuries.

Christina Garton Dec 7, 2022 - 5 min read

Upgrade Your Bandweaving Tools  Primary Image

An inkle loom with string heddles and a knife-edge shuttle. Photo credit: Joe Coca

When you start bandweaving, all you really need is a way to hold your warp in place and under tension and something with which to beat your weft. While an inkle loom and a band shuttle are a great starting point, other tools can help make weaving easier in general—and on your body.

For example, if you look for bandweaving shuttles, you might see some listed as “knife shuttles” or having a “knife edge.” Knife-edge shuttles have one long beveled edge that resembles the edge of a knife (hence the name). No, these shuttles are not for self-protection (although do be careful with them), but rather for beating in the weft. The sharp edge allows you to beat your weft in tighter with less effort, allowing you to weave more efficiently.

The bandweaving rigid heddle shown here features slots, holes, and pattern slots. Photos by Matt Graves unless otherwise noted

If you’re not fond of the shedding options on inkle looms or have difficulty threading string heddles, consider looking into a rigid heddle. Long before the rigid-heddle loom, bandweavers used small handheld rigid heddles as shedding devices in their weaving. These heddles tend to be much narrower than those found on rigid-heddle looms, but they work in the same way: The warp is threaded through slots and holes, and when you lift or lower the heddle, the hole threads are moved up or down with the heddle to create the shed. They can also be threaded using hooks, making it easier for weavers with limited hand mobility or vision.

Some bandweaving rigid heddles even have more than just long slots and holes—they also have pattern slots or two sets of holes or combinations of all 4 for more complex “automated” pattern options. For those who like to do pick-up patterns in their bandweaving, the rigid heddle makes pick up more efficient by spreading out the warp more, making it easier to see and pick up the correct threads. If you have trouble with visually picking out the ends before you pick them up or have physical trouble doing so when the warp ends are so close together, a rigid heddle can help make this job easier.

Used by Sámi weavers for centuries, these curved shuttles known as “gepha” make picking up threads easier and more ergonmic.

Speaking of pick up, if you do a lot of it and find it hard on the hands, some weavers find using a Sámi-style shuttle, also sometimes called a gepha, to be more ergonomic. These shuttles are based on the ones used by the Sámi people of Scandinavia who are world renowned for their beautiful bandweaving. Sámi-style shuttles are curved on one end, which also comes to a point. This curve of the shuttle makes picking up threads easier on the body and in general.

An example of a wooden weaving sword. Weavers use weaving swords for pick up and for beating in weft threads with less physical effort.

Sámi shuttles don’t have knife edges, so if you use them, consider also getting either a weaving knife or sword. These tools are sometimes wood, sometimes metal, and designed to work the same way as a knife-edge shuttle and help you pack weft in more easily. Simply weave a pick using your shuttle of choice and then use the knife or sword to beat in the weft with less effort than with the edge of a normal shuttle. Many weavers also use weaving swords for pick-up as well because the handles make them easier to hold than a traditional pick-up stick.

Whether you’re looking to make weaving more efficient or trying to find tools to help minimize the wear and tear on your body (the most important weaving tool you have!) these bandweaving tools can help you out. They’re available from a variety of retailers in different styles at different price points, so you can find the tool that fits your weaving, your budget, and your body.

Happy Weaving!