Gather stocks over a dozen models of shuttle so that you can find your shuttle soulmate. Get started on the hunt with this handy shuttle guide.
Boat shuttles are the most common kind of weaving shuttle for multi-shaft table and floor looms. Yarn is loaded onto bobbins, which slide onto the metal rod running across the width of the shuttle. When you throw the shuttle, the bobbin spins, releasing yarn.
The simplest place to start with boat shuttles is to pick up a shuttle from the same manufacturer who made your loom. If you like the clean lines and lightweight designs of a Schacht loom, you will likely also enjoy their shuttles. Schacht shuttles have pointy noses, making them skim quickly over the shuttle race. Most Shacht shuttles are open-bottom, which minimizes weight and lets you stop the bobbin from spinning from either above or below. These shuttles are quick, light, and not at all grippy. Leclerc shuttles have blunter noses, and more solid construction. They usually have closed bottoms, making them heavier and providing a touch of grip. Leclerc fans find them comfortable to hold and easy to throw accurately. Their larger bodies also let you load up more yarn on each bobbin.
Once you’ve tested out the standard model of shuttle from your loom’s manufacturer, you might want to test out a slightly different model. Slim shuttles aren’t as tall as the standard versions, which help them slip through smaller sheds. These are great options for table looms, or even rigid heddle looms. If you have smaller hands, you might want a shuttle that’s only 8 or 9 inches instead of the standard 11. There are also larger shuttles around 13 inches wide. If you love Schacht shuttles but keep accidentally throwing yours across the room, a closed-bottom Schacht shuttle might give you more control. And if you’d like to double your weft threads without having to wind them double on a bobbin, the Double Bobbin Boat Shuttle from Schacht can help you out.
One note for shuttle explorers: check to see what size bobbins a shuttle needs before trying it out. Bobbins range from 4” to 6”. A new shuttle may need new bobbins, depending on what you have at home.
End Delivery Shuttles
These popular shuttles provide more tension control than boat shuttles. Fans of end delivery shuttles (also called ‘end feed shuttles’ swear that the controlled tension improves selvedges and speeds up weaving. End delivery shuttles look a lot like boat shuttles. But instead of a rotating bobbin, the yarn is wound on a pirn that stays still while the yarn winds off of it. After it comes off the pirn, the yarn goes through an adjustable tensioning mechanism before coming out of the end of shuttle.
If you value speed and accuracy in your weaving, an end delivery shuttle will be a fun upgrade!
These simple shuttles are the go-to shuttle for rigid heddle weavers, but can also be used on table and floor looms. Yarn gets wrapped around the full length of the shuttle, with no bobbin required, meaning you can load much, much more yarn onto a stick shuttle than a boat shuttle. As a bonus for rigid heddle weavers, stick shuttles can also act as a pick up stick for more complex patterns! For best results, use a stick shuttle that is a little bit longer than the width of your project.
Belt shuttles are a relative of stick shuttles that are used for inkle and card weaving. They are shaped like stick shuttles, but with one bevelled edge so that they can be used to beat the weft as well.
As the name suggests, these super-sized shuttles are made for weaving with rags or other bulky wefts. They are perfect for rug weaving. You can wrap warp around the wooden posts on either end of the shuttle, or use the rod in the center to hold an extra-large bobbin, since a large slot in the side leaves lots of room for the weft to unwind. These shuttles range from 15” to a whopping 22” in length! That lets them hold a whole lot of weft.
A ski shuttle does not hold as much weft as a rag shuttle, but it still holds plenty! These are useful for the same purposes as rag shuttles (rug weaving and weaving with bulky wefts). The difference is that their slimmer profile lets them slip through a smaller shed more easily. If you know your loom has a smaller shed, you may want to choose a ski shuttle rather than a boat shuttle.
Does size matter?
Many shuttles come in a wide range of sizes. For boat shuttles alone, we stock models ranging from 8 inches to 13 inches long! Sometimes weavers wonder whether bigger is better. Would a bigger shuttle hold more yarn at once, and make weaving more efficient? It depends. Bobbins are what determine how much yarn you can fit on a shuttle at once, and not all larger shuttles carry larger bobbins. Schacht boat shuttles that are 13 inches or larger do carry longer bobbins, which hypothetically would mean fewer bobbins to wind. But nothing is going to speed up your weaving if it’s not comfortable for you. If you have small hands, a giant shuttle is only going to feel awkward and slow you down. The key to happy, efficient weaving is to focus on comfort rather than size.
Speaking of bobbins, what are they and how do I choose the right one of those?
Bobbins are the removable plastic cylinders that hold your yarn until it’s ready to pop into a shuttle. It’s best to go with the bobbin made by the same manufacturer who made your shuttle--Leclerc bobbins in Leclerc shuttles, Schacht in Schacht, Harrisville in Harrisville. They are made to work together and will give you the smoothest experience. We also carry some specialized bobbins, like tapestry bobbins, which are small tapered bobbins meant to hold a single colour of yarn in tapestry weaving. If you’re using a standard shuttle, go with the standard bobbin. If you want to know which one suits your shuttle, or if you have questions about tapestry bobbins or more unusual tools, please feel free to ask us!
Do all materials work on all shuttles?
Most medium-weight wefts will work just fine on any shuttle. Bulky wefts might be easier to use with a stick, rag, or ski shuttle. If you try to wind bobbins of bulky weft to pop into a boat shuttle, you will find that you run through bobbins very quickly. And then there’s End Delivery shuttles, which are made for working with medium-to-fine weft. End Delivery Shuttles use a small adjustable opening to gently pinch the yarn, adding tension for more even weaving. This means that your weft yarn must be fine enough to fit through that opening. Fine cotton, linen, and silk are ideal for End Delivery shuttles.
What’s your favourite shuttle?
The Gather team actually has pretty simple tastes when it comes to shuttles! We are evenly divided between fans of the solid, smooth Leclerc boat shuttles and the lighter Schacht boat shuttles. Most of our studio shuttles are 11” long, a standard length that is comfortable in most hands. You don’t need to break the bank to find a great shuttle!
Having the right tools to work with makes such a big difference in how much you can enjoy weaving, which translates directly into the quality of your finished products. We wish you and your perfect shuttle many years of happy weaving together!