I’ve spent the last few days learning how to thread Amazing Grace. It sounds simple – the thread goes through the heddle eye, right? What’s so complicated about that?
Plenty, actually. To begin with, the heddles are 36″ long and secured by long, flexible springs at the bottom; this makes them easy to tangle. Second, they’re fixed at bottom and top: you can’t move them around the way you would on a shaft loom. And third, they’re quite densely populated – 15 per inch in each module, and I’ve got them stacked four modules deep, so 60 heddles per inch. All of which can easily lead to tangles, missed heddles, and other antisocial loom behaviors.
Here’s what the setup looks like:
The heddle eyes are just barely visible (click to enlarge, then look closely) – they are tiny, maybe 3/16″ on a side. I’ve been threading with a 1.75 mm crochet hook (the 2.25 mm was way too large), though I’ve also tried using just my fingers.
Fortunately, there are some tricks you can use to make threading easier. You can use elastics (or bungee cords) to hold the unused heddles out of the way. The heddles are easy to pick out if you look at the bottom of the loom, where they are attached in nice neat rows and columns. And if you are selecting heddles from the bottom, the tangles straighten themselves out easily.
Of course, it takes time to figure all of these things out. So rather than focusing on getting the threading done, I’ve been focusing on improving my process. With every set of threads, I’ve asked myself, “Is there a better way to do this? Is there a way to make selecting the next heddle less confusing?” And then I experiment with a new technique for the next set of threads. This has slowed my threading down for now, but will greatly increase my speed later. And I’m in this for the long haul.
Most people don’t think consciously about the process by which they get things done. That’s a pity, because refining your methods can both improve your work and make it easier to create. I’m passionate about evangelizing this, which is, of course, why I wrote a book on the subject.
Anyway, I have now benchmarked my speed at 1.6 heddles/minute. Still very slow, but with some more improvements to the threading process, I hope to get faster soon.