Weavers use shuttles to carry their weft yarn across the warp so it can be beaten in and make the fabric that is the ultimate goal. Shuttles come in various sizes and styles from stick shuttles, boat shuttles, rug shuttles and rag shuttles and ski shuttles to end-feed shuttles. I've always been a boat shuttle kind of gal. I think that's what we used when I first learned how to weave but there were none in the weaving box when I finally came back to weaving 40 years later. They were lost somewhere in the many moves from house to house and state to state. And we never thought weaving was interesting enough to take pictures of back when I was a child so I can't see what we used to use.
Stick shuttles are the cheapest but not very efficient. They have to be wound by hand and unwound by hand. You can make one out of a yard stick like my dad did or pay $7 to $12 for one. Rug, rag and ski shuttles are more expensive and are designed to carry thick yarn or rags for weaving heavy weight things like rugs or table runners or maybe place-mats. They also must be wound and unwound by hand but have a specific purpose. They cost $25 to $50 and can be elegant or simply made.hen there are the boat shuttles.
This is what I have always used. They come in lots of colors and sizes and use a 4", 5" or 6" bobbin which can be wound on a bobbin winder - either hand cranked or electric. They run from $30 to $50 each. You can also find boat shuttles that carry two bobbins or are very flat and narrow for working on the very end of your warp.
The most expensive shuttles are the end feed shuttles. They are designed to carry a pirn instead of a bobbin and are wound differently than the simple back and forth technique used on a bobbin. They have a tensioning device at one end so the yarn is delivered under consistent tension. This tends to make the selvages or outer edges of your weaving more consistent. They generally cost around $90 to $110 each. And the pirns are made of wood so are significantly more expensive than the plastic bobbins.
When I came back to weaving nine or ten years ago, I picked up quite a few boat shuttles. I found several antique Swedish shuttles on eBay and bought several Schacht boat shuttles from Tracy Kaestner at Lone Star Loom Room. I was very pleased with the boat shuttles early on and tried those made by several talented shuttle makers. Jim Hokett makes several different kinds of shuttles as does Ken Ledbetter. I own several shuttles from both men. Recently I have been trying to improve my selvages. It's not that they are terrible, I just want them to be better and more consistent. I decided to take a stab at an end feed shuttle. Schacht makes two sizes so I bought a couple of each. End feed shuttles are particularly wonderful for very fine yarn but work really well for the medium size yarn I use to weave kitchen towels.
There is a particular technique to winding the pirns so I decided to take the advice we often give our new spinners and checked for videos on www.youtube.com. I found several and was surprised by the techniques people were using. Several of the weavers had a winding technique I can only aspire to. Several of them were just doing it wrong. Interesting.
I'm getting better at winding the pirns with ongoing practice and I love weaving with the end feed shuttles. LOVE!!! weaving with them. Did I mention that I LOVE weaving with these shuttles? It's faster and easier to weave if you don't touch the selvages. That means no adjusting the tension on the floating selvage, not pulling on the any of the yarn, not looking at the selvages at all. They seem to do best when completely ignored. Hmmmm.... That's going to be hard to do after spending so much time worrying about my selvages but I will give it a try.