All About Shuttles

In weaving, a shuttle is what carries yarn back and forth through the warp in order to create cloth. There are many different types of shuttles and it can be hard to know which one is best for various types of weaving. Sometimes it comes down to personal preference but each type of shuttle has different strengths that make it better suited for certain tasks.

Let’s talk about some of the most common types of shuttles and why you might want to try them. This article will be posted on our website with information about some of the less common types of shuttles.

Shuttles you Wind by Hand

Stick Shuttle

These shuttles are basically a slat of wood with a place to wrap yarn on either end. They are commonly used for rigid heddles, small amounts of yarn, thick yarn, or yarn that has a long gradient of color (a stick shuttle holds a large amount of thick yarn, so the entire gradient can stay together without cutting the weft yarn). When using a stick shuttle, it is helpful to use one that is as long as or a little longer than then width of the project you are weaving. This way you don’t have to reach your hand through the shed to try and fish the shuttle through.

Band Shuttle / Belt Shuttle

A band, or belt shuttle is a short shuttle with one tapered edge used for beating the weft into place after each pick.

Ski Shuttle

A ski shuttle can usually hold more yarn than a stick shuttle, and its unique shape let it slide through the shed without dragging on the warp yarns (like you get with a stick shuttle).

Rag Shuttle

Rag shuttles are specially designed to hold fabric strips for making rag rugs. They have a large, flat area so that the cloth can remain flat while it is wrapped around. Rag shuttles usually hold the largest volume of yarn, so they can be a good choice for any project that requires a lot of thick yarn as well.

Rug Shuttle

Rug shuttles are heavier and sturdier than other hand-wound shuttles, making them easier to throw through a wider warp. They are great for using with thick rug wool.

Netting Shuttle

This is another variation on the stick shuttle that allows the yarn to pass through the shed without catching on the warp yarns.

Shuttles with Bobbins, Quills, or Pirns

Boat Shuttle

The boat shuttle is usually shaped a bit like a boat and has a rod for a bobbin or quill full of yarn. The bobbin spins around as the yarn comes off (kind of like a roll of TP and a naughty cat). Boat shuttles come in many different lengths and weights. The larger shuttles are usually for thicker yarns or wider projects. When buying bobbins or quills, make sure you know how long your “box” is so that it will fit! Choosing the “right” boat shuttle usually comes down to personal preference and which one just feels right in your hand.

End Feed Shuttle

The end feed shuttle looks a bit like a boat shuttle at first glance, but it doesn’t take bobbins! The yarn is wound around a pirn and is pulled off the end and through a hole (or slot) on the shuttle. An end feed shuttle can give you more even tension and some claim that they are the ultimate shuttle for perfect edges!

Fly Shuttle

A fly shuttle is a specialized type of end feed shuttle that works as part of a whole fly shuttle system that connects to the loom and automatically throws the shuttle back and forth with the pull of a rope. They are usually much heavier than hand-thrown end feed shuttles and have sharp, metal ends on both sides.