Carol, our Guild president, explains the switch to an end feed shuttle, her new best friend.
What made you rethink using a boat shuttle?
Last fall, I knew I was in trouble when it took me over an hour to weave 5 inches on a commission to make four 36" square shawls for a documentary film. The red and white plaid shawls were in 16/2 cotton and the red yarn had to be carried up the side and woven every sixth pick. The selvedges were a mess, so I tried doubling the outer ends, then added monofilament line, but nothing seemed to help. I was tearing my hair out and worrying about my deadline.
Fellow guild member Terry Henley suggested getting a 12” Schacht end feed shuttle. I looked it up and was skeptical that it would make a difference.
How does an end feed shuttle work?
Schacht’s website explains:
"The end-delivery shuttle uses a pirn that remains stationary, instead of a free-spinning bobbin. The weft yarn unwinds off the pirn’s tip when the shuttle is in motion and stops unwinding when the shuttle stops. The yarn comes off the pirn and goes through a set of tension pads and comes out of the shuttle at a constant tension."
“Stops unwinding.” “Constant tension.” Okay, this sounded promising, but I wasn't sure how the tension pads made a difference to the selvedges and surprisingly, I couldn't find any YouTube videos that showed the shuttle in use.
I also remembered using an end feed shuttle at a round robin class and spending most of my time fighting to get the yarn to stay in the little metal loops that provided tension. However, the Schacht shuttle uses tension pads instead of loops, so I was hopeful this would work better.
But with the deadline approaching, and despite it being over twice the price ($103) of a regular shuttle, I ordered one.
Was it worth it?
The results were amazing! Throw the shuttle and the yarn never tugs at the edges, it just neatly turns in place. At the other end the yarn is waiting there for the return throw, without continuing to unwind on a spinning bobbin.
Looking at the shuttle closely it appears that the real advantage is that the yarn comes straight off the end of the pirn, which means there is no pulling, like there is when the yarn comes off a bobbin side-to-side through the boat shuttle’s narrow side slot.
Are there any differences in how you use it?
The first thing I noticed was how the shuttle needs to be caught. I kept catching it with my thumb over the hole, stopping the yarn. I learned quickly that fingers need to on the top and bottom otherwise it won’t work!
The second was how fast the shuttle flies through the shed. I can’t tell you how many times I missed catching it and it ended up on the floor. This isn’t a function of being an end feed, but probably a function of its heavier weight.
Third, it took a little practice to wind the pirn. Unlike a plastic bobbin with ends, there are no guidelines on a pirn to help you know how thick to wind the yarn. My first pirn was so fat it wouldn’t fit in the shuttle!
Fourth, it’s tricky to unwind more than a few picks. I found it easiest to simply remove the pirn from the shuttle, pass it through the shed and keep winding back onto the pirn. This won’t work for a wide piece though.
Fifth, and most important, angle matters. My left selvedge looked better than my right. I finally realized that when I threw from left to right, my thread angle was about 30 degrees. But from right to left, the angle was more like 45 degrees. Just 15 degrees made quite a difference in how snug the selvedge was.
Anything else to be aware of?
Schacht does not include a pirn with the shuttle, so remember to order them with the shuttle.
Also, the pirn does not fit snugly onto either the Schacht bobbin winder or a traditional metal winder, so I added tape to the spindle.
Lastly, the tension pads can be adjusted for thin to thick yarns, but it really doesn’t work for uneven yarns with slubs. I found that I’m using the same setting for everything 5/2 to 16/2, so the pads are pretty adaptable on smooth yarn.
Since this project, I've used the end feed shuttle on many scarves and dish towels, all with beautiful selvedges. Worth every penny!