Wrangling 5 Shafts From A 4-shaft Loom

Ever wonder about those 5-shaft drafts you see from time to time? Here's an interesting idea about how they were woven.

Linda Ligon Nov 12, 2019 - 2 min read

Wrangling 5 Shafts From A 4-shaft Loom Primary Image

Weaving a 5-shaft Bronson Lace draft on a 4-shaft loom. Photo by Susan E. Horton

I was thinking back to an intriguing conversation I had back in 1979 (yes, my long term memory is holding up okay) and recalled a trick I had forgotten about. The late Carol Thilenius, one of the cleverest weavers I have known, solved an old puzzle originally posed by Mary Meigs Atwater’s Shuttle Craft Book of American Handweaving. It had to do with five-shaft weaves, once employed to execute a Bronson structure.

Five shafts? Why would anyone want to do that? If you have five shafts, you probably also have at least eight. But what if you only have four. Here’s where a ghostly voice from the past spoke to Carol.

Say you have a jack loom with four shafts. Say you employ floating selvedges to keep your twill edges neat. See what those floating selvedges do? They ride either above or below the other warp threads. What if you left every other thread across the warp un-heddled, so that you had a whole floating warp integrated with your threaded warp. Ta-da! A fifth shed!

Here’s a spiffy little draft Carol devised to prove the concept.

Screen Shot 2019-11-12 at 2.38.43 PM

Plain weave would be those floating threads versus the threads on shafts 1,2,3, and 4. See how that would work? Just try it! This really only works on a jack loom with a stick shuttle, because that fifth shed is pretty skinny. Just try it.

–Linda Ligon