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Selecting Yarn and Reeds for Your Rigid Heddle Loom

selecting yarn and reeds for rigid heddle loom
Selecting reed and yarn for the rigid heddle loom. (Image source: Ashford Handicrafts Ltd)

Rigid heddle weaving is a good entry point into the wonderful world of weaving for a beginner weaver. Aside from exploring different weaving patterns, choosing yarn and reeds for your rigid heddle loom is important before starting any project. This article will talk about selecting yarn and reed for your rigid heddle loom.

What is a Rigid Heddle Loom?

First, let's discuss the basics. A rigid heddle loom is an ideal loom for someone looking to begin weaving and wants to start with something simple that can also provide plenty of room to grow and learn new techniques. This portable, economical, functional weaving loom features a rigid heddle frame called a rigid heddle reed, which functions as both a heddle and a reed combined. On multi-shaft looms, the heddles and reed are separate.

Schacht Cricket - Rigid Heddle Weaving Loom
Schacht Cricket - Rigid Heddle Weaving Loom

The loom gets its name from the innovative rigid heddle that allows the weaver to effortlessly lift and lower the warp during the weaving process. It has holes and slots that the yarn goes through to create a warp.

Choosing a Reed for Your Rigid Heddle Loom

When purchasing a rigid heddle loom, it will always come with one reed. For example, the Ashford Rigid Heddle Loom comes with a 7.5-dent reed while the Schacht Cricket Loomcomes with an 8-dent reed. This is a good start.

As your weaving journey progresses, you'll likely be keen to experiment with textures and different yarn types on your weaving projects. You would want to acquire more reeds for your rigid heddle loom as you grow your weaving skills. This is where selecting the right weaving reeds for your rigid heddle loom comes in. There are various sizes of reeds that are compatible with different sizes of rigid heddle looms and suitable for different kinds of projects.

What Size Rigid Heddle Reed Should I Get?

Rigid heddle looms have reeds in a range of sizes, from 2.5 dents (10/10cm) to 15 dents (60/10cm). A “dent” pertains to the number of threads per inch of warp yarn. For example, a 12-dent reed would have 6 slots and 6 holes per inch allowing the weaver to thread 12 ends per inch. The 10/10cm is the metric equivalent referring to 10 dents in a 10cm space.

In weaving, "ends per inch" or EPI pertains to the number of threads that are in every inch of your warp. If you are weaving with finer threads, you should have more ends per inch. On the other hand, if you are working with bulkier yarn, you will want fewer ends per inch.

The EPI for a rigid heddle loom is calculated by dividing WPI (wraps per inch) by two. WPI will be discussed further in this article, so please continue reading.

reeds for your rigid heddle loom - thread collective australia
Reeds for the rigid heddle loom.

The image you see above shows different rigid heddle reed sizes. From left to right: 15 DPI, 12.5 DPI, 10 DPI, 7.5 DPI, 5 DPI, and 2.5 DPI.

DPI refers to the number of dents per inch on the reed, which indicates the number of spaces in the reed per linear width. You can choose different reed sizes for your rigid heddle loom, depending on what your weaving project requires.

Having different reeds for your rigid heddle loom gives you a broader diversity of warp yarn thickness to work with. As you can see in the image above, you are able to use thicker yarns with a lower dent size (e.g. 2.5 DPI) and thinner yarns for a higher dent size (e.g. 15 DPI).

Add Texture to Your Weaving: Vari Dent Weaving Reed

If you want to use a variety of yarns and produce beautiful textured patterns in one weaving project, you could use the Ashford Vari Dent Reeds. These will allow you to create interesting effects by using different yarns of different weights in different reed sections.

Ashford Vari Dent Weaving Reeds - Thread Collective Australia
Ashford Vari Dent Weaving Reeds

Vari Dent Weaving Reeds come in a range of widths, from 25cm, to 120cm to suit your Ashford loom. A Vari Dent can be used on all Ashford rigid heddle looms, including the Ashford Knitters Loom and Ashford SampleIt Loom.

Selecting Yarn for Rigid Heddle Weaving

The rigid heddle loom is a loom that allows weavers to use the broadest variety of weaving yarns. You can use about any type of yarn for the weft. However, you would have to make sure that the yarn you use for the warp is strong, durable, and can hold up under the loom's tension.

selecting yarn for rigid heddle weaving - thread collective australia
Using different yarn sizes in rigid heddle weaving.

How to Match Reed Size and Thicknesses of Yarn

There might be times wherein you'll find a bunch of yarn in your yarn stash and you're not sure if it's suitable for your current weaving project. To be able to use this unidentified yarn, you must measure its weight.

The easiest way to do this is by using a yarn gauge. A yarn gauge is a tool used to measure the thickness of your yarn. Simply wrap your yarn in either the 1-inch or 1.5-inch slot and then count the number of wraps per inch. Take note that you should wrap gently in order to get an accurate measurement. Do not stretch the yarn or wrap it tightly, keeping the tension firm and even is the key.

Below is a chart showing what size reed to use for different weaving yarn weights based on WPI or wraps per inch. This method is also applicable for measuring the thickness of knitting yarn.

Yarn and reed compatibility chart for rigid heddle weaving.
Yarn and reed compatibility chart for rigid heddle weaving.

So, is your yarn suitable for rigid heddle weaving?

Here are a couple more things to consider when selecting yarn for the rigid heddle loom:

1. Durability

You have to take note that when weaving on a rigid heddle loom, the warp threads will undertake plenty of friction and tension as you work. So, before you start warping your loom, do a quick durability test. Try to pull the yarn apart with your hands, if it doesn't break easily, then you can go ahead and use it for your warp.

2. What Do You Want to Make?

This is one of the most important questions you need to ask yourself when choosing yarn for your weaving. For example, yarn that measures 9-11 WPI weaves up quickly and is great for making fairly heavy cold-weather scarves. So, figure out what you want to make first before buying yarn, especially if you plan to purchase in bulk.

Recommended Yarns for the Rigid Heddle Loom

As mentioned earlier, you can use just about any yarn on a rigid heddle loom and there are plenty of yarns for rigid heddle weavers in the market. Here are some high-quality yarns that we recommend for rigid heddle weaving.

1. Ada Fibres Cotton Sock Yarn

This locally grown Australian cotton yarn from Ada Fibres is one of our top choices for rigid heddle weaving. It is a sock-weight yarn (similar to Ne 8/4) that is great to use for weaving homewares and clothing. It is extremely strong and dense, making it ideal to use for both warp and weft.

Ada Fibres Sock yarn has a WPI of 20 so a 10 DPI (40/10) reed is recommended.

australian cotton sock yarn - thread collective australia
Ada Fibres Australian Cotton Sock Yarn

2. Ashford Mercerised Cotton Yarn

The 100% mercerised cotton weaving yarn from Ashford is available in Ne 5/2 and Ne 10/2. It is great to use as warp or weft yarn in rigid heddle weaving. This yarn comes in 18 colour options.

The 10/2 mercerised cotton has a WPI of 40 so a 15 DPI (60/10) reed is recommended. The 5/2 mercerised cotton has a WPI of 30 so a 12.5/15 DPI (50/10 or 60/10) reed is recommended, depending on your desired drape.

ashford mercerised cotton yarn - thread collective australia
Ashford Mercerised Cotton Yarn

3. GIST Duet Linen/Cotton Yarn

Duet is a versatile textured yarn made of 55% linen and 45% cotton. This three-ply yarn is strong enough to use as warp thread and is also suitable for weft. It can be used in making garments as well as homewares, like kitchen towels.

Gist Duet has a WPI of 24. The recommended reed size 12.5 DPI (50/10).

GIST Duet linen/cotton yarn - Thread Collective Australia
GIST Duet Linen/Cotton Yarn

4. Venne Organic Egyptian Cotton Yarn

Venne Colcoton is known by weavers around the world to have some of the best organic cotton available. Made of 100% organic Egyptian cotton, this 2-ply with a tight twist yarn has natural lustre and the softness of unmercerised cotton.

Venne’s Egyptian 8/2 cotton has a WPI of 32. A 15 DPI (60/10) reed would be recommended.

venne ne 8/2 egyptian cotton - thread collective australia
Venne Organic Egyptian Cotton Yarn

5. Maurice Brassard Cotton Weaving Yarn

Made of 100% cotton, this weaving yarn from Maurice Brassard is great to use for both warp and weft on a rigid heddle loom. With more than 80 colours available, you are sure to find a colour combination that suits. Available in 8/2, 8/4, 8/8 and 8/16.

The 8/2 has 30 WPI so a reed of 15 DPI (60/10) is recommended. The 8/4 has 20 WPI so a 10 DPI (40/10) is more suitable. The 8/8 had a WPI of 16 so a reed size of 7.5 DPI (30/10) is recommended. The 8/16 has a WPI of 11 so 5 DPI (20/10) would be suitable.

maurice brassard cotton weaving yarn - thread collective australia
Maurice Brassard Cotton Weaving Yarn

6. Ada Fibres Recycled Cotton Yarn

This recycled cotton yarn from Ada Fibres is soft with a tweedy personality. It is made of approximately 50% fabric waste, 25% mill ends, and 25% polyester fibres that give the respun yarn strength and durability, perfect to use for warp.

The Ada Fibres recycled cotton has a WPI of 24 therefore choose between 12.5 DPI (40/10) or 15 DPI (50/10), depending on your desired finish.

ada fibres recycled cotton yarn - thread collective australia
Ada Fibres Recycled Cotton Yarn

Start Your New Rigid Heddle Weaving Project

Now that you know how to select yarn and reed for the rigid heddle loom, it's time to get plan your new exciting weaving project. Feel free to browse our collection of rigid heddle looms, weaving reeds, and weaving yarns at Thread Collective. If you're keen on learning more about rigid heddle weaving techniques, check out the range of rigid heddle weaving books.

2 Responses

Elizabeth Barnett

Elizabeth Barnett

December 09, 2023

I’ve been looking all over for a chart like this – thank you so much!!

Beth Casey Hagood

Beth Casey Hagood

December 09, 2023

Thank you for this valuable information. Six days ago, I discovered an Ashford rh800 RHL at a thrift store for $10. A shuttle was tangled in the unfinished project on the loom; no other tools were with it. I have been on a crash course in the RHL since then, my enthusiasm growing. I have always been interested in weaving. Maybe it’s the old hippie in me. This information explaining clearly the reed and yarn relationship caused me to sigh with satisfaction. I am gathering the tools. The local weaving guild has invited me to attend their September meeting which is on the RHL. I’m rolling in serendipity of life, the universe, and everything. Thank you again for providnig this resource so even 70-year-olds in Florida will learn.

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