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.
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.
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.
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.
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.