The very most interesting part of seeing the ikat weavers in Uzbekistan was finding out about the heddle maker. I saw the weavers working and I saw them making the warps, but I kept asking “How do you thread the looms” and I would never get any answer. Only,“it happens.” Finally, after really, really insisting, they understood that I was asking about the man who comes to the loom when needed and makes the heddles for the warps—ON THE LOOM! They had him come to show us how he did it which was fabulous! This is a page in a large picture book for the region and I saw the picture of the heddle man and was overjoyed. (Simple things can make me very happy!) So, I spent $40 and bought the book. I always thought I could cut out the page and save it and make nice calendar pictures out of the rest of the book but none of that has happened.
Weavers know that the warp threads on the loom must be evenly tensioned and lined up. Every warp thread needs to be threaded through a loop, in our case loops of string. The loops are called heddles. You can see they all need to be the same size.
The complete heddle for each thread consists of two loops. This is not unusual in the world but not the way our American heddles are usually made.
The heddle maker brought his jig so that each loop is the same size. I loved the jig and wish I could have bought one. I am very sure I tried.
He found a cross that I’d never seen used before. I think it came from the regular weaver’s cross plus something like what we call the false cross. That way he picked up the threads for 4 sets of heddles. We would say for 4 shafts.
Here he is picking up his heddle string with a needle that is on the jig to make his loops of string. Probably a blunt needle.
All the string heddle loops for one shaft are on the needle, ready for a bar to go through to make the top of the shaft from which the tops of the heddles hang. Remember this is repeated for the bottom heddle loops forming the bottoms of the heddles.
Here he pulls the heddle bar through.
Now, 4 shafts worth of heddles are in place, the registration lines are lined up, and the weaving can start.