October 3rd, 2012

Weaving on my Rigid Heddle

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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!

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10 Responses to “Weaving on my Rigid Heddle”

  1. Bethanne Elion Says:

    Thank-you. This is a very helpful article.

  2. Teresa Says:

    I purchased this loom (25″) and instruction manual is very confusing to me. Live no where near anyplace to take a class. Can you recommend a video, book or any way to help me get started? I love webs and only get a chance once a year for a day trip. Thanks in advance for your help.

  3. Sara Says:

    Hi Teresa,

    The Weaver’s Idea book (http://www.yarn.com/product/webs-weaving-books-weavers-idea-book/) not only has wonderful weaving patterns but a great section on warping your loom and getting started. There are also lots of great videos on Youtube for warping a rigid heddle loom. Once you get started it’s hard to stop! Have fun.

  4. Janet Walsh Says:

    Having trouble with pick up sticks doing krokgbragd pg 162 , Jane Patrick’s Idea Book. Have them both threaded correctly but can not proceed to weave. The A pick up stick threaded first is on the back of the loom and the pick up stick B is in front of stick A.. I can not use Pick up stick A because it won’ t go forward over pickup stick B.to make the shed. Can not figure out what I am doing wrong. Probably something simple. This is on my Schact 20″ rigid heddle loon . I have done this on my four harness. 36 ” with no trouble. That was in my younger days.

  5. Sara Says:

    Hi Janet,

    There is a note on pg 161 to “…avoid repicking every 3rd row, install string heddles and a heddle rod…” None of our staff have woven this pattern on a rigid heddle so we can’t offer much more than that. If you’re still stuck you can certainly contact Schacht directly for further clarifications at http://schachtspindle.com/contact/

    Good luck and let us know how it goes!

  6. Kathy Rosenheck Says:

    I just bought a 30″ Schacht rigid heddle and love it. Made a mug rug then right on to a scarf. So easy to warp and get right to weaving. Can you tell use what yarn you used for the scarf you are wearing in the last picture in your posting? I love the colors.

  7. Sara Says:

    Hi Kathy,

    So happy you’re loving your Flip! Unfortunately the yarn Heidi used for her scarf has long since been discontinued, but it was a hand dyed sock yarn and those always turn into such beautiful scarves!

  8. dena Says:

    local place is offering a loom class with your 15 inch loom included. but can upgrade size, What IS THE MOST VERSATILE SIZE, that I can make different things on? I presently knit on a weavette 5×7 loom occasionally for years now, and now have enough squares for a blanket !!!

  9. Marykate Says:

    Hi Dena,

    We really like the Schacht 20 inch Flip Rigid Heddle Loom. It’s really versatile. You can make fabric or shawls, wraps, blankets, etc. Personally, I have a 25 inch Flip Loom. Try the 15 inch loom your local store is offering, and then see if you need to size up!

  10. Nancy Oviatt Says:

    Is this loom (flip, rigid heddle) suitable for making rag rugs? I have years worth of old knit shirts and hoped to make 2×4’ and longer rugs using cotton warp. I am never going to be able to afford a floor loom, so….I have not cut shirts into strips yet.
    Thanks, Nancy

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