I’ve recently become fascinated with weaving narrow bands using a special band heddle. This technique uses supplementary warp threads to form the pattern by floating on top of or underneath a base layer of weaving. The pattern threads are picked up or dropped depending on the pattern. Weavers in Scandinavia and the Baltic countries traditionally made beautiful bands this way.

You can also weave these patterns using a regular rigid heddle or an inkle loom but it is more time consuming.

I weave backstrap style which is cheap, easy and portable. No loom is needed. One end of the warp is tied to my waist and the other end tied to something solid like a door handle, chair or tree.

Making the heddles

I made myself heddles of two different styles to play with. One has an extra row of holes on top compared to a regular rigid heddle and the other has extra shorter slots. I also made some Sami style heddles which make picking up pattern threads very easy with its pointed tip. I designed the heddles and shuttles using Adobe Illustrator and cut them out of maple using one of our public library’s laser cutters. This is much quicker and more accurate than cutting all those slots and holes by hand. Then I spent a long time sanding them back at home.

Laser cutting a bandweaving heddle from Judy Kavanagh on Vimeo.

I will be selling both types of heddles in my Etsy shop soon if you would like to try this kind of weaving. Yes, that’s my cat Elfy on the heddle.

Patterns for bandweaving

A bandweaving pattern looks like a pattern for knitting in two colours. The coloured squares represent where the pattern threads float on top of the weaving and the others indicate where the pattern threads float underneath the weaving. To form the pattern you pick up or drop pattern threads.

I designed some of my own patterns and charted them in a spreadsheet pattern by setting columns and rows to the same measurement to make squares and filling in the pattern squares with a background colour.

Heddle with extra holes

With this heddle all the pattern threads are threaded through the top row of holes so they remain on top of the weaving all the time. If the pattern indicates to pick up a pattern thread it’s easy – just put your shuttle underneath that pattern thread and the accompanying background thread. If the pattern says to drop the pattern thread you have to pass the shuttle over that pattern thread while also putting it under the accompanying top thread in the background. With the tip of the shuttle I push down the pattern thread and pick up the background thread.

Bandweaving with a double holed heddle from Judy Kavanagh on Vimeo.

You must make sure that a pattern thread that gets pushed down is always on the same side of the background thread (to the left or to the right). So if your shuttle is passing from the right to the left and you push down the pattern thread and then pick up the background thread the pattern thread will be to the right of the background thread. On the rows when your shuttle is passing from the left to the right you must do the opposite – pick up the background thread and then push down the pattern thread – so the pattern thread is on the right of its background thread.

Note that the heddle is not used to beat the pattern, just to form the sheds. You beat with the shuttle that has a beveled lower edge.

Double holed heddle and Sami style shuttle
Weaving with a double holed heddle
Elfy supervising

Heddle with extra slots

This ingenious heddle allows all the pattern threads to remain in between the top and bottom threads no matter whether the heddle is up or down. Selecting the correct pattern threads is easy. You just have to pass your shuttle between the background threads, selecting the pattern threads as you go. With this kind of heddle it’s important to determine which shed to start your pattern in. The pattern threads should be moving up when the background threads are moving down and vice versa. Otherwise the pattern threads can get covered up by the background threads (ask me how I know). See the video below for how to do this.

The disadvantage of this type of heddle is that it’s wider than the one with double holes.

For this band I used a lovely pattern from Heather Torgenrud’s excellent book Norwegian Pick-up Bandweaving.

Here’s a video of me weaving with a double slot heddle.

Bandweaving from Judy Kavanagh on Vimeo.

Double slotted heddle and shuttle
Weaving backstrap style
Photo of a blue and white band
Another band using the double slot heddle

Learn more


Videos of the double holed heddle

Videos of the double slot heddle

Web sites