Jim Ahrens is the “A” in AVL Looms. He taught production weaving at Pacific Basin Textiles in Berkeley when I had finished a year there learning to weave. We were shocked by the things he taught us and they are the bones of all my books. I apprenticed with him and two others for a year at the new production studio there. Early on, once I offered to thread a loom and he said, “You don’t make mistakes do you?” (I thought everyone made mistakes.) Then he proceeded to teach some of his tricks for threading without mistakes. He liked to thread his looms at 125 epi, etc. He got comfortable, turned on the radio, and happily went to work. After being comfortable, here are his three tricks. You can try them or not, they are not required for threading.
Here is how he arranged the lease sticks for threading so it was easy to see the cross that keeps the threads in order. This was new to us students. But it’s how I taught my students and use myself. 125 epi is nothing to me—it’s easy to see the cross and you just go along.
Trick #1: Put some tension on the warp threads so they are taut when they are in the lease sticks making it easier to see which is the next thread. I use a wrench that lives in my apron pocket at all times. Anything of similar weight would work. My wrench weighs 3 ½ ounces. I almost never use it for any other purpose, but I did need it to escape a locked bathroom stall, once, at a workshop where I was teaching.
Put a loop of string on the weight and add a rubber band onto the loop with a lark’s head knot. Then, separate a bundle of cut warp threads about the thickness of a medium-sized carrot and with another lark’s head, tie the rubber band onto the bundle near the end of the warp. The weight hangs straight down from the lease sticks, behind the shafts. When you select a strand to thread next, you pull It out of the weighted bundle.
Trick #2: Get out the next 4 heddles, place them in the order to be threaded, and reach through the shafts with your hand curved like a claw. Grasp the 4 threads needed between your fingers as shown, and then, inserting your hook into the heddles one-by-one, hook the correct thread and pull it through. I think it helps me thread accurately when I use this technique. First, I concentrate on the heddles and get them out. Then, I concentrate on the cross and put the threads between my fingers. Then, I concentrate just on putting the threads through the heddle eyes.
Trick #3: Watch for consistencies (and inconsistencies). For example, you might notice that when you thread the heddles on shaft four, the warp thread is always on the top of the lower lease stick. If that suddenly isn’t the case, look to see if you made a mistake—either in selecting the correct warp thread or the correct heddle. In the illustration here, the threads on shaft 4 are always over the top lease stick.
Jim always recommended using straight threading hooks.