some more definitions:
Heddles: wires or strings through which warp threads pass.
Shed: opening through which the weft is passed. created by raising or lowering warp threads.
Shuttle: various types are used to pass the weft through the shed.
Stick shuttle: a flat shuttle used to pass the thread through the shed.
Heddles can be a complicated subject because there are different ones depending on the type of loom. Looms like my loom use heddle bars with string heddles or a continuous string heddle. Other types looms use rigid heddles or wire heddles connected to a harness system. I found descriptions of different types of looms and the kind of heddles that are used in The Art of Weaving by Else Regensteiner.
Each warp thread is passed through a heddle. The heddles are attached to a bar that uses the heddle to lift the warp thread. This is set depending on the pattern of the weft that you are going to create. For example; A plain weave is created by passing the weft over and under alternating warp threads. Using my loom in this example, odd number warp threads would be attached to heddles on bar 1 and even number warp threads would be attached to bar 2. When the first bar is lifted a shed will be created and the weft is passed through this shed. Then, the first bar is lowered and the second bar is lifted creating a different shed. The weft is passed back through this shed. This back and forth creates the plain weave pattern. This information can be found Learning to Weave as listed in a previous post.
My first experience with heddles was totally messed up for a couple of reasons. First, I should have paid attention to the part that said the warp needs to be tight and that certain yarns tend to stretch once on loom. When I tied up the heddles, my warp was loose so I could not create a shed that my stick shuttle would pass through. Second, when I tried to rectify this I did two things at once to correct it. Big NO-NO! When trying to fix things never try more than one thing at a time. I shortened the heddles and tightened the tension. the shortened heddles pulled on the warps even before the bar was raised. That fix did not work! By then I really was thinking of quitting but I persevered.
I used 4 bars for both those tries and realized I was doing more than was necessary, I only needed two. So then I tried the continuous heddle using only two bars. The continuous heddle is a string that runs from one side of the warp to the opposite side. It is wrapped around one warp then the bar and then the next warp. This pattern continues across the width of the piece. This solution was not great but at least it worked for me.
So much for Heddles! The use of heddles in one form or another is used in weaving in order to create the shed for the weft. The weft usually runs from salvage to salvage using a shuttle. This is can be different in Tapestry Weaving. The weft can be discontinuous, not running across the width of the project. There are other ways to work with the weft in tapestry. I will talk more about that in the following projects. Hope this gave you some information and look forward to talking about the weaving process starting in the next post.