Solving the Treadle Shortage Problem

Sometimes a draft will use more treadles than you have available. Here are some solutions!

Susan E. Horton Nov 30, 2022 - 4 min read

Solving the Treadle Shortage Problem Primary Image

Silk Huck Lace Shawl. The huck lace patterning becomes more complex in the middle of the shawl, requiring multiple tie-up changes. Photo by Susan E. Horton

Most 4-shaft floor looms have 6 treadles, and many 8-shaft looms have 10 treadles, although some have 12. From time to time, you’ll come upon a draft that uses more treadles than you have on your loom. So what are your options? To me there are two main solutions for this situation: either retie your treadles during treadling or use a skeleton tie-up. The solution I choose depends on the project. (Other strategies are putting a 4-shaft pattern on an 8-shaft loom simply to have enough treadles or using a table loom with a lift-plan.)

Typically, I retie for something such as a hem that uses a different weave structure at the beginning and the end of the treadling or if the treadling includes long series of repeats that change only a few times. I retie strategically, choosing which treadles to retie based on how they are tied up for the rest of the treadling. For instance, if I have a treadle tied up to shafts 1,2, and 3, and I need a treadle for only shafts 1 and 3, I’ll undo the ties for shaft 2 on that treadle, leaving the tie inactive but very accessible when I need to use it again. Full disclosure, I changed my tie-up 6 times to weave the shawl in the photo at top. At that point in my weaving career, I didn’t have weaving software, and I didn’t know what a skeleton tie-up was!

If retying doesn’t seem like a sensible option, I put the tie-up into Tim’s Treadle Reducer and convert it into a skeleton tie-up that uses multiple treadles per pick. A skeleton tie-up will mean using two feet in some spots of the treadling and can take some time to get used to but tends to become second nature after a short while. Results from a treadle reduction will look like this:

After you have the reduced tie-up, you will need to convert the treadling to match the new treadles. Having both versions to refer to as you do this is helpful. If you are using weaving software, save 2 copies of the draft, one for the new tie-up and the other with old tie-up and treadling. Switch your tie-up mode to multi-pedal treadling and change the tie-up in one of them to the new reduced tie-up. Then switch every instance of the original treadling to the new version. In this example, that means every time you see treadle 1 was used in the original version lifting shafts 1, 3, and 4, it now means you must use treadles 5 and 6 for those picks in the new version.

It will take a bit longer without weaving software. I would use graph paper and follow the same steps as above, filling in the new tie-up above your new treadling and replacing each instance of an original treadle with the new treadles.

I've never seen a skeleton draft that uses more than 2 treadles per pick but it’s not an impossibility. One of my friends used to say she once wove a shawl using two feet and a cane!

Weave well,