Ask Madelyn: Skeleton Tie-up

What is a skeleton tie-up?

Madelyn van der Hoogt Jan 5, 2016 - 2 min read

Ask Madelyn: Skeleton Tie-up Primary Image

Photo Credit: George Boe

Hello Madelyn,

I have a collection of old Handwoven magazines. In the September/October 1998 issue there is an article about Rib Block Weave for a 4-shaft loom. I have a 22" Harrisville loom with 4 shafts and 6 treadles. The pattern requires 10 treadles or a skeleton tie-up. What is a skeleton tie-up and can I weave this pattern on my loom?


Hi Cathy!

Skeleton tie-ups are one of the handiest tools in a weaver's toolbox. Think of it this way: Using a 4-shaft loom, there are actually fourteen possible combinations of shafts you could raise to form sheds: 1, 2, 3, 4, 1-2, 2-3, 3-4, 1-4, 2-4, 1-3, 1-2-3, 2-3-4, 1-3-4, 1-2-4. Very few 4-shaft looms have 14 treadles. So when a tie-up requires more combinations than you have treadles, you use what is called a skeleton tie-up. With it, you will sometimes have to step on two treadles at the same time.

On four shafts, you can use what is called a "direct" tie-up for the skeleton tie-up. Each of four treadles is tied to one shaft in a direct tie-up. You can use both feet and step on the treadles for whatever shafts you need to raise, even three shafts at the same time.

On an 8-shaft loom, you can't really use a direct tie-up since you don't have enough legs for all the combinations that are possible. But you can figure out ways to get the combinations of raised shafts you need using a skeleton tie-up and stepping on more than one treadle at the same time. If you need to do this but you can't figure out the skeleton tie-up on your own, look at Tim's Treadle Reducer online and he'll do it for you.