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Getting Started with Rigid Heddle Weaving

  • 9 min read
Getting Started with Rigid Heddle Weaving

The rigid heddle loom is one of the most widely used types of weaving looms around. It features a strong, rigid heddle that can be changed to suit the size of yarn you are using for your project. Rigid heddle looms are made from hardwood to ensure more sturdiness and durability.

Rigid heddle weaving is an accessible yet effective way to weave that can be done by beginners. It allows the weaver to produce woven projects with different colours and textures quickly. If you are a beginner weaver, this guide aims to assist you on your weaving journey by laying out the necessary information about what you need, including the must-have tools and materials.

What is the Difference Between the Rigid Heddle Loom, Knitters Loom, and SampleIt Loom?

Basically, the Knitters Loom and SampleIt Loom are types of rigid heddle looms, which means they share the same functionality. However, the Knitters Loom is designed to come in a package and is fully assembled. It also features lighter-weight timber than the regular rigid heddle loom and is foldable, so it's a great loom to take to weaving workshops or anywhere you want.

Meanwhile, the SampleIt Loom is similar to the rigid heddle loom with a shorter weaving area. The SampleIt still has strong handles, rachets, and clicker pawls. Weaving on this loom is fast and easy. Because of its size, it's a great loom choice for kids who want to learn the art of weaving. It is also the most inexpensive.

Weaving on a Rigid Heddle Loom

Fibre artists love to explore and combine different fibres, colours, and weights to create wonderful textures and patterns. You can do your weaving projects by strictly following patterns or letting your creativity take over as you mix and match yarn.

A rigid heddle loom makes a tremendous first loom for weaving newcomers because it's portable, has a small footprint, can usually be folded for storage, and is versatile enough to welcome plenty of creativity in weaving. This type of loom is also quite affordable compared to table and floor looms, so it's a great entry into the weaving world.

Ashford Rigid Heddle Loom - Ashford Australia
Photographer: Ashford Handicrafts Ltd

Basic Parts of a Rigid Heddle Loom

Warp Beams

  • Front Beam - The warp beam wherein the woven fabric is wound onto as you weave.
  • Back Beam - The warp beam wherein the yarn is wound for storage as you weave.

Heddle- A hard straight movable section containing a series of slots and holes through which the warp is threaded. This also serves as a beater that pushes the weft into place. You can raise and lower the heddle to create a shed. The DPI (dents per inch) of the heddle determines the number of warp threads per inch.

Shuttle - (Flat Shuttle) A flat and narrow piece of wood with indents on the ends to hold the yarn. This weaving loom accessory is passed back and forth through the shed of the loom as you weave. This creates the weft.

Brake - Also known as a rachet, the brake is attached to the warp beams and locked to hold the warp in place as you weave. You can adjust the brake to control tension and unlock it to push the warp forward through the loom.

What Sets the Rigid Heddle from Other Looms?

  • First, it's the rigid heddle. The heddles, or simply the spaces in which the threads go through, are set in the frame and are moved as one in an up or down position.
  • Second, with this loom type, you also won't need a warping board as it allows direct warping. You'll find that threading is easy and straightforward, and doesn't waste as much yarn as other looms do.
  • Third, the rigid heddle differs from table looms because this 2-shaft loom focuses mainly on basic patterns and lets the yarn shine through. On the other hand, the table loom often comes with 4 and 8 shafts and is used to create more complex patterns.
  • Fourth, weaving on this loom is quick, cost-effective, and efficient as it offers the best balance between affordability, portability, and versatility when it comes to learning how to weave.
  • Lastly, the skills and techniques you gain by using a rigid heddle loom can also be applied to other looms, such as table looms, and floor looms. With this said, it's a good choice of loom for beginner weavers who plan to move on to more complex projects or looms in the future.

What Can You Make with a Rigid Heddle Loom?

A lot of fibre artists love working with rigid heddle looms because they're versatile tools that can be used to create various woven projects. It's a popular loom for weaving beautiful scarves and shawls, as well as various homewares! In addition, the rigid heddle loom can be used for weaving tapestries like beautiful wall hangings. The Ashford models offer a stand to position the loom in a vertical position.

Weave on the Ashford Rigid Heddle Loom - Thread Collective Australia
Ashford Rigid Heddle Loom

Where to Find Rigid Heddle Weaving Patterns

The Ashford Book of Rigid Heddle Weaving is a collection of loom weaving projects that use rigid heddle looms. Some of the fun projects in this book include but are not limited to textured cushions, handwoven cloaks, cotton towels, and fleece rugs. Learn how to weave these wonderful pieces by following the step-by-step guides for plenty of rigid heddle weaving patterns.

Color and Texture for the Rigid Heddle Loom by Tamara Poff is also a great book for you to get more project ideas. It features lessons and patterns you can learn to make on a rigid heddle loom, as well as ideas to help you customize your own designs.

The Weaver’s Idea Book is a great reference for taking your rigid heddle weaving from basics to more complex patterning using a range of techniques.

Gather Materials for Your First Weaving Project

It's good to have the right weaving tools and supplies at your disposal before you even start on your first project. Surely, you'll need all of them as you work on more weaving projects. This is something that you won't want to do just once. It's a highly addictive (and productive) hobby!

A rigid heddle loom with a stick shuttle
A rigid heddle loom with a stick shuttle

Buy a loom

Looms are not always easy to find or purchase, but they can be found online. Looms come in a variety of sizes and shapes. It's up to you what type of loom they want to purchase. If you are looking for an affordable loom, the Ashford Rigid Heddle Loom might be a good choice. It's perfect for newcomers and experienced weavers alike as it offers a wide variety of options to expand your weaving. Another beginner-level rigid heddle loom is the Schacht Cricket. It is a compact loom that comes in two weaving width options.

Weaving yarn

In order to create a woven piece of fabric, you will need some weaving yarn. You should use yarn made specifically for weaving, but you can use almost any yarn on a rigid heddle loom as long as it's in the correct heddle dent size. Get creative and choose different types of yarns for your first project. By using a variety of colours and textures, you can create an exciting piece that reflects your personality.

For a first weaving project, you will need the following materials:

  • Yarn made specifically for weaving, such as plain cotton yarn of 2 ply or higher.
  • Weft yarns to add colour and texture to your weave.
  • Needle or hook for sewing the ends of the warp and weft together.
  • Warp hook (if using one).
  • Loom to weave your project.

Accessories for the Rigid Heddle Loom

Typically, looms already have accessories included in the package, such as heddles, stick shuttles, table clamps, threading hooks, and weaving loom instructions.

However, there are other weaving loom accessories that you might need as you move further in your weaving journey. These include loom stands and additional heddles, stick shuttle, and warping pegs.

The Vari dent reedavailable for the Ashford looms allows you to warp using a combination of warp yarn weights, creating texture in your project.

Rigid Heddle Loom Weaving Tips

Weaving is a great way to create something beautiful and useful. Here are some helpful tips to help you get started on your weaving journey!

1) Make sure the rigid heddle is in a neutral position before you start weaving. This helps with direct warping and pulling the warp threads through reed.

2) Use the right rigid heddle reed size with the right yarn size. See the guide below.

  • 2.5 dpi (10/10cm) - 14ply art yarns
  • 5 dpi (20/10cm) - 12ply thick yarns
  • 7.5 dpi (30/10cm) - 8ply novelty yarns
  • 10 dpi (40/10cm) - 4ply yarns
  • 12.5 dpi (50/10cm) - 2ply yarns
  • 15 dpi (60/10cm) - 2ply yarns

3) Learn how to warp. To start, put the yarn onto your loom, thread it through the slots and holes on the heddle, and wind it around the back warp beam in tension.

4) Master the direct warping method, typically with a warping peg, to create solid warps. The direct warping method is the fastest way to warp. If you are weaving alternating colours or threading warps with multiple single ends of a colour, use the indirect warping method.

5) The shed of your loom is at its deepest near the heddle. As you throw your pick, be sure to enter the warp close to the rigid heddle. Doing this helps prevent going under the wrong warp thread and snagging. It also gives you more room to angle the weft.

6) Determine if you need a second heddle. Not all rigid heddle looms have the capability for a second heddle. So, if your loom can have a second heddle, you might consider adding one. It allows your rigid heddle loom to imitate a four-shaft loom and can also let you use finer cotton yarns that are more commonly used on table looms and floor looms.

7) Avoid using fuzzy yarns, such as mohair, as these aren’t very good for warping unless they are loosely spaced or combined with other yarns in the warp. Fuzzy yarns tend to stick together, and you might have difficulty in getting a good shed.

8) The only other tools needed would be some sharp scissors and a tapestry needle to thread the yarn through without breaking it off inside the warp during warping time.

Rigid Heddle Loom Weaving Tips for Getting Started include:

  • Using the correct size and type of warp for your project.
  • Preparing a smooth, even surface to lay out your warp threads.
  • Knowing how many yards/meters of warp you need for your project and measuring it accurately.
  • Checking that all the threads are taut, level, and parallel with each other before tying them securely onto the loom frame ends or pegs (if using).
  • Double checking that all knots are secure before starting to weave so there are no gaps in your finished piece due to loose ends coming undone during weaving process.

Ready to Get Started with Weaving Your First Project?

Taking up weaving as a hobby can be a great way to use up stashed yarn, as well as provide an outlet for creative expression. A rigid heddle loom is an affordable option for beginners looking for their first project.

Here are the first few steps you need to do to start a rigid heddle weaving project.

1. Choose a loom: There are many types of looms available, such as a rigid heddle loom, which is the most common type for beginners. You can also choose a floor loom or table loom if you're looking for more space or convenience.

2. Learn the basics: Before you start weaving, it's important to learn about the different parts of your chosen loom and how they work together (e.g., warp threads, heddle rod). There are lots of resources online that can help with this step - check out videos on YouTube or take classes at your local craft store or guild!

3. Setup your workspace: Once you've got an understanding of how weaving works, it's time to set up your workspace accordingly - make sure you have plenty of space around the loom so that you don't bump into anything while working on projects!

4. Load the warp threads onto the heddle rod: The warp threads should be placed vertically across the top beam of your rigid heddle loom in an evenly distributed manner (look for instructions in your loom manual). Then place them horizontally across all four pegs at once using either a clamp or lark

Rigid Heddle Weaving: Why Two Heddles?

The advantage of using a rigid-heddle loom for weaving is that it is a simple, versatile machine that allows for efficient and fast production of fabrics. It can accommodate multiple warp threads and multiple heddles, which allows for complex patterns to be created easily. Additionally, it requires minimal setup time and the ability to warp the loom manually makes it versatile enough to accommodate both small projects and large-scale production runs.

What Can You Make with a Rigid Heddle Loom?

Some simple elegance projects that can be made with a rigid heddle loom include scarves, shawls, blankets, table runners, placemats, dishcloths and more. To make these projects, you will need to warp your loom and then follow the instructions provided in the pattern or online. You can also experiment with different types of weave patterns to add texture or create unique designs for your project. Additionally, you can use different types of yarns for more visual appeal such as wool or cotton yarns which have varying thicknesses.

Get Started Weaving on a Rigid Heddle Loom

Rigid heddle weaving looms have been around for many years and are still considered the most effective way to weave a number of garments and homewares. This entry-level weaving loom is affordable, easy to use, and will serve as the gateway to a fruitful weaving journey.

As with any new endeavour, don't be afraid to start small and work your way up as you learn more about what works best for you. It's up to you if you want to start with the regular Rigid Heddle Loom or go with the smaller options, such as the Knitters Loom and SampleIt Loom. You can also opt to order our Rigid Heddle Loom Beginner Weaving Kit to help you get started conveniently!

With consistency in practising your weaving techniques, you'll find that your weaving journey will go smoothly and become more enjoyable.

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