Tried and True: Are Retaining Cords Worth the Trouble?

Some things are easier done than said. I said to myself that it’s too much trouble to tie retaining cords on the shafts. I am weaving almost full width on the Glimåkra Julia. I know that heddles can slip off the ends of shafts. Still, I tell myself I can keep an eye on it. It won’t be a problem, right? Wrong.

Juila’s wide warp. So far, so good. I’ll pay attention and everything will be just fine. Famous last words.
Oops. I took this picture after I had fixed most of the mess created by dangling heddles. When heddles slip off shafts they must be put back on thread by thread to maintain correct warp order. These were tangled enough that it took me a few tries to get it right.

Tie Retaining Cords on Shafts

Purpose: Keep Texsolv heddles secure on their shaft bars, especially when weaving a wide warp.


  • Tape measure
  • 12/6 cotton seine twine
  • Scissors
12/6 cotton seine twine (rug warp) to the rescue!

1 Measure shaft bar from hole to hole. (Julia shaft bar is 70 cm)
2 Figure additional length (about 40 cm) for tying two knots. (70 + 40 = 110 cm)
3 Cut seine twine to measured length for each upper and lower shaft bar. (Heddles can slip off lower shaft bars, too.)

Retaining cords are cut.

4 Insert one of the seine twine cords through the hole on one end of a shaft bar. Tie. (I use the half-bow slip knot as described in Learning to Warp Your Loom, by Joanne Hall, p.38.)

Tie retaining cord to one end of the shaft bar. Any knot will do, but I like this half-bow slip knot because I can untie it simply by pulling the end of the cord.

5 Insert the other end of the cord through the hole at other end of the shaft bar. Tie.

Thread the cord through the hole at the end of the bar.
Tie a simple knot and tighten it.
Tie another simple knot, leaving a fold in the end of the cord.
Pull the loop to tighten the knot.

6 Repeat steps 4 and 5 for each remaining upper and lower shaft bar.

All tied up and ready to go! When this project is finished I will wind up these retaining cords on an empty tube and re-use them for the next wide warp on the Julia.

Continue weaving with one less thing to think about.

45 minutes: Time it took to reposition heddles that had slipped off a few shafts and were in a mess because I didn’t notice it immediately.
Less than 10 minutes: Time it took to cut string and tie retaining cords on 4 upper shaft bars and 4 lower shaft bars.

‘Nuff said.

May you take the time to do what needs to be done.

Ever Learning,

15 thoughts on “Tried and True: Are Retaining Cords Worth the Trouble?

  1. Good morning Karen,
    You shared one of those laugh moments so you don’t cry. So instead of lemonade, you made a posting.

    One time. Only one time. I cut a project from the loom and neglected to tie slip knots on the ends of the remaining warp. As I rolled up the finished project the reed pivoted toward the front beam. The warp threads slid out of the reed.

    I came back later, after composing myself.

    Did you have a good laugh?


  2. I prefer this method over having to fiddle with those gigantic “diaper pins” especially when I am only using 4 shafts. Thanks for sharing and I lovr

    1. Hi Allison, These retaining cords don’t obstruct the weaving at all.

      Thanks! And I love having you here.

      Happy weaving,

  3. This is a great tip and easy to understand directions. I am a visual learner so the photos were perfect for me.
    Two weeks ago, my heddles slipped off the end and never expected that. I had no idea how to fix the problem so spent a great deal of time monitoring my heddles while trying to weave. Couldn’t wait to finish the warp!
    I will definitely be using this tip because I ended up cutting off the heddles out of shear frustration when I kept twisting them trying to reposition them on the shaft.
    Thanks, Karen!

    1. Hi Annie, I know the frustration you are talking about. It seems like it would be easy to just put the heddles back on the shafts, but it isn’t. Once they get twisted, it is very difficult to get them back on in the right order.

      Fortunately, we have a simple way to solve that whole issue of heddles wandering off the shafts.

      Here’s to frustration-free weaving,

  4. My countermarche look had little dowels inserted into the top/bottom of each shaft by the maker, probably to prevent exactly this issue. My current loom is a Macomber which has a totally different set up and no risk of losing heddles from what I can see.

  5. What a great idea! I never thought of using this method for the shafts. Thank you for being so generous sharing your knowledge!

    1. Hi Elisabeth, It’s a joy for me to share the bits that I know, especially if it can help someone else! This is a very simple strategy. Simple is my favorite!

      Happy weaving,

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