Ask Madelyn: Reducing 8-Shaft Drafts

Madelyn explains how to take an 8-shaft draft and reduce it to 4 shafts.

Madelyn van der Hoogt Aug 18, 2021 - 2 min read

Ask Madelyn: Reducing 8-Shaft Drafts Primary Image

Photo Credit: George Boe

Hi Madelyn!

I have two 4-shaft floor looms, one with 6 treadles and the other with 4 (direct tie-up only). I’ve learned to convert the tie-ups for the 6-treadle loom to a direct tie-up, but what I really want (and have neither the room nor the money for) is an 8-shaft loom because of the amazing projects that can be woven with 8 shafts. Is there any way to convert 8-shaft drafts to 4?


Hi, Weisha!

Your question is one that many 4-shaft weavers ask!

First, what you get with more shafts is fancier twills and more blocks. Even with an 8-shaft loom, weavers wish for more shafts—for even fancier twills and even more blocks. Sadly, there are some weave structures that can’t be woven at all on 4 shafts (satins and many block weaves, for example).

Ask Madelyn Figures 1 and 2

There are ways to convert some 8-shaft drafts to 4 shafts, but the results will not be the same as if they were woven on 8. To convert 8-shaft twill drafts to 4 shafts, for example, simply transfer the threading for shafts 5–8 to shafts 1–4; compare Figures 1 and 2. The design will be basically the same, but it’s not possible on 4 shafts to have the variation in float lengths possible with an 8-shaft twill tie-up (on 4 shafts, only 2/2, 1/3, and 3/1 twills can be woven; a 2/2 twill is shown here).

MvdH Figures 3 and 4 (1)

Although 4 blocks of 4-shaft overshot and crackle can provide infinite pattern potential, only a few unit weaves can be woven on 4 shafts (4 shafts provide 2 blocks each of summer and winter and Atwater-Bronson lace, for example). Two blocks, however, can produce some surprisingly intricate designs; see Figure 3 and 4.