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Weaving Shuttles: A Beginner's Guide to the Different Types of Weaving Shuttles and How to Use Them

  • 5 min read
Largest range of weaving shuttles in Australia
The different types of weaving shuttles. Photo by Thread Collective.

What is a Weaving Shuttle

In a nutshell, weaving shuttles are a weaving loom accessory used to carry the weft back and forth through the warp. There are different types of shuttles; choosing the right one will help make your weaving easier, faster, more efficient, and more enjoyable.

What is a Weaving Shuttle Made of?

Weaving shuttles can be made of various materials, including wood, metal, plastic, and even cardboard. They come in various shapes and sizes, accommodating different types of weaves. In contrast to mass-produced ones, handmade shuttles have an aesthetically pleasing shape and ergonomic design.

How Do You Use a Weaving Shuttle?

Weaving shuttles are used in the production of woven fabrics. This tool allows weavers to weave complex patterns with thread colours and designs. Moreover, the main difference between shuttle types is how they work on different looms.

Stick Weaving Shuttles

A stick shuttle is a flat, narrow piece of wood with notches on each end. It is the most simplistic type of weaving shuttle, inexpensive, and easy to use with small looms, especially on rigid heddle looms and table looms with narrow sheds.

Ashford stick shuttle - Thread Collective Australia
Ashford stick shuttle

How to Use a Stick Shuttle

When using a stick shuttle in loom weaving, you must pass it from one hand to the other and repeat. You cannot simply let it slide from one side to the other. An important thing to note when using a stick shuttle is to ensure its length is appropriate to the width of your warp.

Ashford Australia offers wavy stick shuttles in different sizes to make your weaving even more exciting.

Belt Shuttles

A belt shuttle is often used for weaving on an inkle or band loom. A belt shuttle is a kind of stick shuttle with a different shape and its own purpose.

Ashford belt shuttle for inkle loom weaving - Thread Collective Australia
Ashford belt shuttle for inkle loom weaving

This weaving shuttle features a bevelled edge used to press weft yarns into place and a deep-set centre trough that enables it to carry more weft. Because of this sunken area, it is advisable to wind the weft yarn from front to back and build up the yarn on both sides. A belt shuttle is small, but it can hold a decent amount of weft thread.

Boat Weaving Shuttles

Boat shuttles come in different sizes, may have an open or closed bottom, and are often used with table and floor looms.

Ashford boat weaving shuttles - Thread Collective Australia
Ashford boat weaving shuttles

How to Use a Boat Shuttle

A boat shuttle works by winding yarn onto a bobbin or quill and then inserted into the shuttle. This process allows the yarn to wind off quickly while weaving. Unlike the stick shuttle, which you must pass from one hand to another and back, you can easily throw a boat shuttle across.

Types of Boat Shuttle

Apart from the conventional boat shuttles, there are also mini-boat shuttles and double-bobbin boat shuttles.

Mini-boat shuttles are great to use for smaller looms. It will fit comfortably and will be easier to throw.

If you are frequently winding two weft threads simultaneously, you'll find that double bobbin boat shuttles will come in handy, as you can never get two different threads wound onto the bobbin the same.

The slimmer the shuttle is, the easier it will be to pass it through a narrow shed. Also, while closed-bottom shuttles are heavier than open-bottom shuttles, they reduce the chance of the bobbin getting caught in warp threads.

End-Feed Weaving Shuttles

Designed especially for handweavers, end-delivery shuttles ensure the weft is released under tension. End-feed shuttles are easy to throw and catch and adjustable to different types of yarn.

Schacht end feed shuttles - Thread Collective Australia
Schacht end feed shuttles

How to Use an End-Delivery Shuttle

This weaving shuttle makes managing selvedges easy. The weft yarn is held under tension, allowing it to come off the pirn at a managed pace when weaving, causing less draw-in and resulting in straighter selvedges.

Unlike boat shuttles that use bobbins, end-delivery shuttles use pirns. The weft is released off the pirn’s tip when the shuttle is moving and stops unwinding when the shuttle also stops moving.

Ski Shuttles

Designed to hold medium to heavy yarns, ski shuttles work by wrapping yarn horizontally around the top. This leaves a smooth bottom, allowing the weaver to slide the shuttle effortlessly across the warp.

Schacht ski shuttles - Thread Collective Australia
Schacht ski shuttles

How to Wind a Ski Shuttle

To wind a ski shuttle, hold the yarn in place around the base and anchor the yarn with successive passes. Continue doing this until the ski section is filled up but not overflowing.

Swedish Style Shuttles

The Swedish-style shuttle is a type of boat shuttle, but instead of using bobbins, it is designed to make use of paper quills. This type of weaving shuttle features a low profile, making it ideal for damask and Opphämtaweaving, as well as split-shed and free-form weaving techniques.

Louet Swedish-style boat shuttles - Thread Collective Australia
Louet Swedish-style boat shuttles

Swedish-style shuttles are also great to use on a rigid heddle loom, table loom, or any weaving loom with a small shed.

Rag Shuttles and Rug Shuttles

Often interchanged, rag shuttles and rug shuttles are actually not the same.

A rag shuttle features two flat sides and pointed ends. These broad, sturdy shuttles come in different sizes and have been traditionally used for weaving strips of rags. Additionally, rag shuttles are also great to use in weaving heavy wools and bulky chenilles.

Meanwhile, a rug shuttle is used to weave rugs, hence the name. It is a square-ish shaped piece of wood that features grooves along the sides and notches at the end, which hold the yarn. It's a bit similar to stick shuttles, but bigger.

Watch to learn more about the different kinds of weaving shuttles and what they are used for.

What are the Differences Between Bobbins, Pirns, and Quills?


Bobbins are usually made of wood, plastic or metal. Bobbins are used with the shuttle to make a thread path for weaving. A bobbin spins inside the shuttle and releases yarn through the middle.

Ashford bobbins for boat shuttles - Thread Collective Australia
Ashford bobbins for boat shuttles

Bobbin winding is the process of putting a bobbin on a spindle and winding thread onto it. When learning to wind a bobbin for the first time, you must remember to build up the ends first and then fill in the middle. Wind your yarn evenly across the bobbin.


Pirns are quite similar to bobbins in usage but different in shape. They are usually made of wood, paper, or plastic, and are used in end-feed weaving shuttles. A pirn is attached to one side of the shuttle and releases yarn from the tapered end, through the top of the shuttle.

Schacht pirns to fit end-delivery shuttles - Thread Collective Australia
Schacht pirns to fit end-delivery shuttles

It works by winding the weft yarn onto the pirn using an electric or manual bobbin winder in a precise manner so that when it is inserted into a shuttle, the yarn will be released smoothly into the weaving. Weft yarns can be cotton, wool, silk, and synthetic fibres.

There are different kinds of pirns, including plain tapered, full base, and partly-formed base.


Quills are small tubes made of either paper, cardboard, or wood. These are used in Swedish-style shuttles.

Paper quills for slim boat shuttles - Thread Collective Australia
Paper quills for slim boat shuttles

To wind a quill, firmly push it against the thicker part of the bobbin winder rod. Start winding the yarn around the quill with one hand operating the crank, using your other hand to guide the yarn. Be sure to hold the yarn with a little tension so it is wrapped tightly around the quill.

Where to Buy Weaving Shuttles, Bobbins, Pirns, and Quills

Thread Collective offers a wide collection of weaving tools and supplies, including weaving shuttles, bobbins, pirns, and quills from different brands sourced worldwide!

Feel free to contact us for any questions you may have about our weaving supplies or about weaving in general.

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