Weaving How To: Setting Up Heddle Rods & Leashes

I've had a few questions lately about how to set up a heddle rod. 
When I was first learning how to weave, I searched for a heddle tutorial high and low and couldn't find anything! I had to do some experimenting before I understood exactly what they were. See those two dowels at the top of my loom? Those are heddles... and they will change your weaving life.
Before you can set up a heddle rod, you need two things. First you need to create a number of leashes. These are pieces of string that are tied in a loop so that they all have the same diameter. To make it easy I put two nails into a piece of wood and tied of my string to be sure that each loom has the same measurement. I keep this wood around so that I can make more leashes whenever I need.
Now comes the part to set up your heddle!
1. On your warped loom attach about four leashes to the warp. Using your finger to hold them in place, slide the middle of a leash underneath a warp string and back up so that both ends are together. When you pull up on both ends of your leash the warp string will come up as well. Be sure to skip every other warp string as your are looping the leashes on.
2. Slide the ends of the leashes off of your finger and onto your heddle rod.
3. Using the same technique described in step 1, slide your leashes, one by one, skipping every other one, through the next couple of warp strings. Use your finger to hold them in place.
4. Slide the ends of the leashes off of your finger and onto the same heddle rod.
Continue doing this until you have reached the end of your warp and every other warp string is attached to your heddle with a leash.
Do the same thing with your second heddle. This time be sure to attach the opposite warp strings (the ones that weren't attached to the last set of leashes).
As you can see below, when you lift up one heddle, the first set of warp strings lift up with it. They leave a gap that makes it so much easier to slide your needle through. Likewise, when you lift up the other heddle, the opposite set of warp strings will lift up as well.
The first thing to know about heddles is that they are completely optional. If you work on a small loom they might even be unnecessary. If you prefer to use a shed stick (the brown, wide stick at the top of my loom below) then you only need one heddle. You can see with my first frame loom that I used a knitting needle as my heddle and taped the leashes so they wouldn't slide off. 
It all depends on what works best for you!


  1. I love the holders on the end for up to 4 heddles! I have a (to me) large frame loom that I want to get serious about. How do I support the lifted heddle if I don't have those beautiful holders? I will start with one heddle and a shed stick. I have a recycle crafts class with a girls' club, I want to weave simple mats with plarn.

  2. What beautiful work. What kind/brand of loom is that? Is it new or antique? I love your setup, but it's your eye for color and design that makes everything look effortless.

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  4. Hi! I was wondering if you had sent out replies to the questions above? I'd love to know the answers!

  5. Beautifully written and illustrated tutorial. Thanks!

  6. Is there a difference between using a heddle rod vs. heddle bar?

  7. To the unknown above me. No it doesn't matter what you use when you do basic weaving where you want to lift only every other yarn up from your warp when you weave. For me it looks like the benefit from this kind of system is that you have more options with how you want to use your warp with patterns you weave. It gives you chance to use the heddles more like you would use in full size weaving loom. I have the heddle bar system but I have to say that I'm interested from this with how many other options it gives to you with your weaving patterns.

  8. Hello Hydrangea -- thank you so much for the tutorial. I'm confused about something and hoping you can clarify. In the picture, it looks like the warp is strung THROUGH the leashes rather than the leashes wrapping around the warp. However, since you say to start with a warped loom, I'm thinking this can't be possible. Are you saying to take a closed-ended leash, wrap it around a warp thread and then insert the heddle bar through the two ends of each leash? Thanks for any clarification and love your blog and your instagram.

  9. Thanks for sharing, I'd love to start weaving.

  10. Until recently, I was running a business; and when the dust settled, everything was done but the debt. So it is time to determine a new direction. I know that I can sit and play with yarns and fabrics and paint for huge blocks of time to totally immerse my being and recall my sense of humour. It can be more nurturing that taking a vacation--especially, if one has no money.

    Yesterday I spent the entire day looking at tutorials and it brought some light back into my world. Then at the very end of the day, I found myself looking at tutorials on weaving. So I began to check out the looms. I nearly choked when I realized that even the smallest ones are dearly departed from my budget...

    Thank you for your explanations and your images. I could start but I would remain limited without the input of thoughtful people like you...

  11. Thank-you Thank-you Thank-you!
    I've been trying to figure this out & getting nowhere. I'm ready to go now, or at least start setting up.