Ask Madelyn: How to Choose a Weaving Shuttle

Is there a rule of thumb regarding the choice of shuttle?

Madelyn van der Hoogt Nov 24, 2015 - 3 min read

Ask Madelyn: How to Choose a Weaving Shuttle Primary Image

Palaka-Inspired Canvas Weave runner by Kate Lange Mckibben. Photo by Matt Graves

Hi Madelyn!

Is there a rule of thumb regarding the choice of shuttle? Can you use a small shuttle for a wide project and vice versa? What if you have a narrow project with a fatter yarn? Will it work to use a larger shuttle so you can use a bobbin with greater capacity? Does the weight of the shuttle impact anything other than contributing to physical fatigue in the weaver's hands?


Hi Melody!

Preference for particular shuttles seems very much to depend on the weaver; most weavers like the shuttles they are used to using.  Ideally, the job of the shuttle is to go straight through the shed and come out on the other side to be caught by the other hand. As it is picked up on the other side, the weft thread should pull against the unwinding bobbin just enough to turn the weft smoothly around the edge warp thread.  The factors that most influence the smooth turn of the weft thread are the weight of the shuttle relative to the width of the cloth, the speed and therefore force with which the shuttle travels,  and the behavior of the unwinding bobbin.

It logically takes a heavier shuttle to go a longer distance when it is thrown. For that reason, I really wouldn’t want to use a small shuttle for a wide project. I like a relatively heavy (but standard size) boat shuttle with a smooth, polished bottom (not a hollow one), but this is the shuttle I am used to using. I have learned just how to forcefully to throw it. I also use it on narrow projects, and for them, I just lighten the throw so the weft isn’t pulled too firmly.

There are larger shuttles than the one I use that take longer bobbins that can hold more weft yarn (which sounds very reasonable), but I like the comfortable rhythm I’ve established with my average-sized shuttles. I would revisit that notion if I wove with very thick wefts and had to wind bobbins exceedingly often.

There is, of course, always the option of end-feed shuttles. I admire them and see their advantages, but I love the feel of the boat shuttle and the clacking sound of the unwinding bobbin.