Dimity – Dark and Diabolical or Heddle Hell

I have just finished dressing the big Harrisville with a 58″ warp of 30/2 silk noil for some dimity dress fabric.

Black Dimity - threading

I wound the warp months ago, but it languished in plastic salad containers because of a number of reasons. There was a rug warp on the big Harrisville that I couldn’t seem to get to.

Black Dimity - beaming

Also I had to add about 400 heddles to each shaft – a task I dread like the gates of hell. Why are heddles chores so horrible?  It can’t be tedium because weaving is rife with tedious tasks that I don’t mind. I recently read an old Weavers magazine in which Madelyn van der Hoogt writes about how she will do any number of crazy, unweaverly maneuvers to avoid counting heddles. Again, I wonder why.  I keep my looms well maintained and will spend time setting things up so that weaving is smooth and easy . . . but if you look at the heddles on any of my looms you will see a mish mash of varieties, facing in different directions, random and chaotic. I would love some feedback on other people’s heddle habits.

Anyway,  I now have 5 yards of black warp on the loom in my husband’s home office for my (totally gorgeous – in my mind) dress fabric.

Black Dimity - sleying

My obstacles are that I CANNOT see anything unless it is before noon on a sunny day.  The loom is in a room painted chocolate brown with windows on one side – east.  I get great light from about 5:00 am until noon, and things get dinmmer and dimmer after that

.Black Dimity - ready to weave

Electric light?  I hear someone say.  Yes,  but the degree to which the black sucks light is astonishing.  I will start weaving on Monday  – hoping that the weighted beater will make the weaving go fairly easily.  I am going to weave the majority of the warp in simple dimity, but I will weave  about 1/2 yarn in honeycomb for accents and I think I might weave a small section of the warp with some glitz in case I get the impulse to add a sparkly hem or sleeve edge.  All in my imagination at the moment.

  • May 11, 2013

    This will be gorgeous, I just know it :-).

    In my extremely limited experience, I think that dealing with heddles is dreadful because it isn’t part of a normal warping process and it also isn’t something that you psych yourself up for in an unusual project. Also, it takes 10 times longer that anticipated.

    I’ve just emerged from my own heddle horror and I am vowing to keep everything magnificently organised if future (Bahahaha! Yeah right!)

  • May 13, 2013

    Marlene Toerien

    Hi Elisabeth, I am so glad to hear that other weavers have heddle issues, I weave quite a lot on table looms and it is a nightmare if I get to the end of threading and find that I either put to many heddles on the wrong shaft or skipped heddles while threading. I think that is wy I usually put on 10 metres of warp which means I don’t have to change heddles so much!

      • May 17, 2013

        Marlene Toerien

        I must say my warp lengths depends on changing my treadlings, if I weave a summer and winter threading, I usually put shorter warps on, as I run out of ideas to change the patterning, but if I thread twill, it is usually 10m and longer on my floor looms.

  • May 13, 2013


    Wow, when you do get away from color, you really go all the way! Can’t wait to see the finished results.

    I use texsolv heddles. Since they are so light weight, it is possible to just put on the maximum number of heddles you wildl ever need and just leave them there. I use Kati Meek’s method of marking the center heddle and sleying starting from the center out. If more are needed, I just put them on equally on each side of the harness and there they stay. No counting ever. I’m not sure if texsolv will work on all Jack looms, but they do on my Schacht.

    Have you ever tried suspending some cheap muslin in back of / underneath your work to help with the dark room issue?

      • May 15, 2013


        It is harder to slide them over while threading, but once that is done you can just shift whole groups over to match the denting in the reed. On the other hand, since they don’t slide as easily, when you set up a group for threading, you know they won’t shift around on you by accident. It is harder to get in to fix threading mistakes once everything is tied on, but it’s still worth it to me.

  • September 20, 2013

    Judith St.Claire

    My particular “Heddle Hell” is that I cannot stand them to be mixed up, so I am compelled to get them all in order. I have an ancient LeClerc loom and messing with the heddles means that at some point I will get pinched by a clip. I just finished the job and ended up with a blood blister on each hand. But, Wow, those heddles are straight and tidy and all the bad ones are tied in a bundle and hidden away.