In celebration of National Spinning and Weaving week, we’re highlighting four different WEBS staff members and their spinning or weaving tool of choice. Here, Heidi tells us how the rigid heddle brought her into the world of weaving.
I first started weaving when I took Leslie Ann’s rigid heddle class. Weaving always intrigued me, but using a rigid heddle as opposed to a floor loom seemed more approachable. Since then I have taken several rigid heddle classes. I love using my rigid heddle loom, and it gave me an insight into and familiarity with weaving that encouraged me to try Beginning Weaving, where a floor loom is used.
WEBS sells the Schacht flip loom or rigid heddle in three sizes: 15,” 20,” and 25.” The 20” and 25” are the most versatile in what you can make with them. I own a 20” rigid heddle. These numbers refer to the width of the loom and determine how big projects can be. Rigid Heddle looms are so named, because the warp yarn is threaded through the heddles, which are rigid and part of the reed. As a point of interest, the heddles on floor looms are mobile and separate from the reed. In the floor loom weaving scenario, the threading of heddles determines the pattern, and the reed allows for consistent tension so your project isn’t wavy gravy in one area and wired tight in another (an extreme for illustration purposes). On rigid heddles, however, the “heddle-reeds” determine pattern and tension since the reed contains the heddles. These “heddle-reeds” eliminate some steps of warping since there are less parts! Warping my rigid heddle, which is putting yarn on the loom in a longitudinal direction, takes me about an hour or so, and the weaving part can be done pretty quickly as well. If I want to make a scarf that wraps around my neck twice, I can warp and weave in about 5-6 hours. This means you could make a scarf for someone for Christmas or Hannukah in one afternoon! I don’t know how fast you knit or crochet, but this beats my time for knitting a scarf with interesting detail.
It is so much fun to pick different yarns for the warp and weft. On the rigid heddle, the reeds come with different dents. The reed that comes with purchase of the rigid heddle is called a 10 dent reed, and this is good for yarns that are of DK or double knitting weight. Since I wanted to experiment first before buying additional reeds, I spent a lot of time selecting from the lovely DK section at WEBS. Some of my choices that worked really well included Elsebeth Lavold Hempathy, Berroco Ultra Alpaca Light, Noro yarns, Madelinetosh Tosh DK, Abstract Fibers Alto, Rowan Felted Tweed, and even Valley Yarns Northampton, which is a worsted weight but fine enough to use. Recently, I bought the 8 dent and 12 dent reeds, which are great for worsted weight yarns and fingering weight yarns, respectively. My options have opened up, and I am very excited to experimenting with more yarns.
Weaving on the rigid heddle can be in plain weave or with a pattern, making use of a pattern stick. One positive aspect of rigid heddle weaving is that plain weave, where there is no “pattern”, is very quick. In contrast with floor looms where you must go through a longer warping process whether or not you have a complicated pattern, warping for and weaving plain weave on a rigid heddle is very efficient! By plain weaving I do not mean your project will be boring. In fact, plain weave can be very exciting, because not only can you pick from many yarns for warp and weft, you can introduce one weft pick (like a row in knitting) of fiber or yarn as well. This means that you could have several weft picks then one of a different texture popping up every so often.
I have done a lot of exploration with scarf-making on my rigid heddle. Scarves are always a good place to start. There are a myriad of lovely projects to weave besides scarves, such as place mats, table runners, pillows, or fabric for clothing like a skirt!