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Geeking Out: Slanted Fell Lines

The fell is formed where the last laid weft pick is pressed into place. The fell line advances as the weaving advances. Crooked fell lines are the bane of rigid-heddle weavers. The rigid-heddle reed isn’t fixed in a straight line as the reed is on other loom types. Because of this, we rely on our hands to guide the heddle in a straight path. Here are a couple of things to be mindful of as you place those picks.

Hand Dominance

We tend to have more control over our dominant hand. Our non-dominant hand tends to rush to the fell, while our dominant hand takes a more controlled approach. This isn’t absolute, the opposite could be true, but generally one hand gets to the fell first.

An overhead view of a loom on a stand. The weaver is pulling the rigid-heddle toward the cloth.
Shown here is the reed moving toward the fell line. The left hand is racing ahead of the right. The orange line shows what would be a level approach. You don’t have to be off by much to start laying in a slanted fell line.

Hand Positioning

The best way to create a straight fell line is to place both your hands on the heddle just to the outside of your weaving width. Your hand placement will vary for each project and loom style.

It can be challenging to control the heddle if you have a narrow project on a wide loom. If you feel like you don’t have enough control over the reed in this scenario, you can widen your grip a bit.

New weavers have a tendency to grab the heddle in the center with one hand and hold their shuttle in the other hand. This creates uneven pressure as the heddle is drawn towards the cloth. Setting the shuttle down and grabbing the heddle may feel less efficient, but a two-handed approach works wonders on the fell line, particularly when you are just starting your weaving journey.

An overhead view of a rigid-heddle loom on a stand. The weaver is pulling the heddle toward the cloth with their hands just to the outside of the weaving width.
Here, the hands are placed just on the outside of the weaving width.

When pressing the yarn into place, it can be helpful to tilt the heddle away from you slightly so you can see if one side of the reed is hitting the fell first, then make adjustments accordingly. This can feel pretty awkward at first, but if you do this for a series of picks, you will start to build some muscle memory.

The Weaver’s Gaze

Our hands tend to follow our eyes. Instead of watching your hands, try looking at the center of your heddle. This will keep you from focusing on one side or another.

If you are working with your loom flat on a table, some weavers like to place a gridded mat under their loom to keep the loom in place and to give them something to align the heddle against as they start moving the heddle towards the fell. Once it has started the journey you can move your eyes to the center of the heddle.

Fixing the Fell Line

If your fell line starts to slant, you don’t have to unweave. You can correct it over a couple of picks using the techniques above. Depending on the structure, you can push the lower side up with your fingers, then make a few manual adjustments with a needle or fork to fine tune the alignment a bit. Don’t fret too much about making it perfect. The unevenness will generally right itself after wet finishing.

Beat and selvedge management also come into play. If you are getting a lot of draw-in, it is hard to keep a straight fell line.

It is often the little things that make a big difference in life and in weaving. The challenge is there are a LOT of little things to pay attention to. Try focusing on one or two at a time, and you will build up your muscle memory.

Heddles Up!


12 thoughts on “Geeking Out: Slanted Fell Lines”

  1. Thanks, Liz. Over time it’s easy to forget the basics. I was blaming my loom for the crooked weaving I was doing, but I guess it’s me. I promise to do better. 😉

  2. Very timely for me. I’ve been struggling with this while weaving some dishtowels on my 36″ rigid heddle. I will try your suggestions today.

  3. Despite the fact that I have been weaving for many years, this problem continues to occur to me frequently. Last time, as I didn’t want it to be uneven, I opted to pin a measuring tape on each side of the fabric to better control. 😊

  4. Thanks for compiling all the fell line hints here. I am trying to work on fell line management. Helps to have all the solutions in one place for reference CE.

  5. Thank you for this, i am constantly fighting this on my non Dominant hand , so frustrated

  6. Thank you, Liz (again). I’m following your instructions to the letter. Didn’t get there yet, but getting better little by little.

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