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Using Novelty Yarns on the Rigid Heddle Loom

  • 6 min read
Using novelty yarns on the rigid heddle loom (Image credit: Ashford)
Using novelty yarns on the rigid heddle loom (Image credit: Ashford)

Novelty yarns are a type of yarn that has gained popularity within the crafting community due to their unique and distinctive features. Unlike traditional smooth and evenly spun yarns, novelty yarns stand out for their irregular thickness, added embellishments, and varied textures. Novelty yarns, such as bouclé, slub, eyelash, ribbon, metallic threads and handspun art yarns, offer weavers an opportunity to create genuinely distinctive textiles.

An exciting avenue in the world of weaving is the incorporation of novelty yarns into rigid heddle loom projects. Novelty yarns, with their unique textures and thicknesses, add a dimension of creativity to weaving that transcends conventional boundaries. This article will discuss the exciting possibilities and techniques of using novelty yarns on the rigid heddle loom, including adaptations to accommodate these distinctive fibres.

Can I Use Novelty Yarns on Rigid Heddle Loom?

The rigid heddle loom is a compact and versatile weaving tool ideally suited for working with novelty yarns. Its unique design features a rigid heddle, which allows for easy and quick weaving of various textures and thicknesses of yarn. A variable dent reed and additional accessories like rubber bands and retainer rings can accommodate the diverse range of novelty yarns, ensuring they are spaced appropriately and securely during the weaving process.

Ussng art yarn on the rigid heddle loom (Video credit: Ashford Wheels and Looms on YouTube)

The Ashford Rigid Heddle Loom is an excellent choice for working with novelty yarns due to its sturdy construction and easy-to-use features. It offers various weaving widths and options for creating unique patterns and designs. Hand-manipulation is a crucial aspect of weaving with a rigid heddle loom, allowing for complete control and creativity in the weaving process.

Choosing the Right Sett and Heddle for Working with Novelty Yarns

When working with novelty yarns, choosing the correct sett is particularly crucial to ensure that the unique textures and fibres of the yarn are showcased in the final woven piece. Different novelty yarns require different levels of space between the warp and weft to create the desired effect. Weavers can successfully bring out the best in these non-traditional fibres by understanding the characteristics of the novelty yarn being used and by selecting the appropriate heddle size. Typically, a reed with 2.5 DPI will accommodate super bulky yarns, 5DPI will accommodate bulky weight yarns and many novelty yarns, and 7.5DPI will accommodate DK and many finer novelty yarns. Of course, exceptions will require more ends per inch and a rigid heddle closer to 12.5DPI. These offer excellent starting points. You should, of course, sample to see if you need fewer ends per inch (EPI) (to add more drape) or greater EPI to add more structure. We will discuss determining sett for your projects, in more detail, in a future article.

Adapting the Rigid Heddle Loom for Novelty Yarns using Vari-Dent Reeds

Certain adaptations may be necessary to accommodate the unique characteristics of novelty yarns, such as warp on a rigid heddle loom. A practical method is to employ a variable-dent weaving reed or a heddle specifically designed for chunky yarns. These specialized heddles have wider gaps between the slots or holes, allowing thicker yarns to pass. Careful threading through appropriate dents based on yarn thickness is essential to prevent abrasion during weaving.

To further facilitate the weaving process, weavers can wrap thick rubber bands around the top bar of the heddle. These rubber bands create additional space, preventing compression and abrasion of the yarns during weaving. Adjusting the rubber bands' placement based on the novelty yarns' thickness helps maintain an even tension, allowing the yarns to pass through the heddle more smoothly.

Incorporating extra retainer rings on the loom serves a similar purpose to the rubber bands. These rings contribute to maintaining space for the novelty yarns, providing an additional option for accommodating various textures and thicknesses. Experimenting with different combinations of retainer rings, rubber bands, and variable dent heddles opens up a range of possibilities for creative exploration.

Step-by-Step Guide on Warping the Rigid Heddle Loom

Warping a rigid heddle loom to accommodate novelty yarns' unique textures and thicknesses requires additional considerations. One option is to use variable dent heddles or heddles specifically designed for chunky yarns. These heddles have wider gaps to accommodate thicker yarns. Additionally, rubber bands and retainer rings can be used to maintain space for the novelty yarns, ensuring they don't become too crowded or cause tension issues.

Simple warping on the Rigid Heddle Loom (Video credit: Ashford Wheels and Looms on Youtube)

When threading the novelty weaving yarns, it's important to carefully adjust the placement of the rubber bands and retainer rings to create the right amount of spacing and tension. This may involve experimenting with different configurations until the desired results are achieved.

The process of warping the rigid heddle loom with novelty yarns involves the following steps:

  1. Set up the loom as per the manufacturer's instructions.
  2. If you are using variable dent heddles or chunky yarn heddles, attach them to the heddle block according to the loom's specific guidelines.
  3. Place rubber bands and retainer rings at appropriate intervals along the loom, considering the novelty yarns' thickness, texture and your warp threading order.
  4. Thread the novelty yarns through the heddles, making sure to adjust the placement of the rubber bands and retainer rings as needed to accommodate the yarns.
  5. Continue the warping process as usual, making any necessary adjustments to ensure the novelty yarns are correctly spaced and tensioned.

By following these steps and using the appropriate tools, it is possible to warp a rigid heddle loom with various novelty yarns successfully.

Tips for Working with Novelty Yarns on a Rigid Heddle Loom

Weavers are encouraged to embrace the opportunity for experimentation and creativity when working with novelty yarns on a rigid heddle loom. They can elevate their woven projects to new heights by exploring unique textures and visual effects. With a bit of trial and error, weavers can discover innovative ways to seamlessly incorporate the enchanting world of novelty yarns into their weaving repertoire, pushing the boundaries of tradition and welcoming a new era of artistic expression.

Using vari dent reeds on the rigid heddle loom (Image credit: Ashford)
Using vari dent reeds on the rigid heddle loom (Image credit: Ashford)

Here are some valuable tips:

  1. Experiment with picks per inch (PPI):Don’t just experiment with sett! Experiment with PPI, even within the same project, to achieve unique characteristics and texture.
  2. Pairing with a Solid Yarn: To highlight the unique characteristics of novelty yarns, consider using a solid, neutral-coloured yarn as the warp. This provides a stable foundation, allowing the novelty yarn to shine as the weft.
  3. Adjusting Tension: Novelty yarns often have varying thicknesses, textures, and elasticity. Adjust the tension on your loom accordingly to accommodate these differences and prevent uneven weaving.
  4. Experimenting with Blending: Combine novelty yarns with traditional fibres to create a visually striking blend. Experiment with different combinations to discover how the fibres interact and enhance each other.
  5. Embracing Texture: Take advantage of the inherent texture in novelty yarns to add depth and interest to your woven fabric. Play with different weave structures, such as leno or lace weaves, to further enhance the texture.
  6. Creating Accents: Use novelty yarns strategically as accent elements within your project. This can be in stripes, patterns, or even fringe at the edges, adding a touch of whimsy and personality.
  7. Weaving Techniques: Explore various weaving techniques, such as clasped weft or Soumak, to enhance the visual impact of novelty yarns. These techniques can highlight the unique qualities of the yarn and create captivating patterns.

Must Read: Rigid Heddle Weaving Basics and Beyond

No exploration of rigid heddle weaving would be complete without delving into the comprehensive guide provided by Deborah Jarchow in her book, "Rigid Heddle Weaving Basics and Beyond." This highly regarded resource covers the fundamentals of rigid heddle weaving and extends into advanced techniques, making it a must-read for beginners and seasoned weavers.

Rigid Heddle Weaving Basics and Beyond by Deborah Jarchow (Image credit: Ashford)
Rigid Heddle Weaving Basics and Beyond by Deborah Jarchow (Image credit: Ashford)

Jarchow's book is a valuable companion on the weaving journey, offering clear explanations of weaving concepts and practical tips for expanding one's skills. The inclusion of advanced techniques opens up new horizons for weavers, providing inspiration and guidance for those eager to push their creative boundaries.

The book's relevance extends to incorporating novelty yarns, aligning with the theme of this article. Jarchow's insights on weaving basics and her guidance on more intricate techniques create a solid foundation for weavers to experiment with and fully embrace the creative potential of novelty yarns on the rigid heddle loom.

In conclusion, "Rigid Heddle Weaving Basics and Beyond" is not just a book; it's a companion that empowers weavers to unlock the full potential of their craft. Whether you're a novice or an experienced weaver, the insights provided by Deborah Jarchow are a valuable asset as you embark on a journey of creative exploration with novelty yarns and rigid heddle weaving.

Weave Your Creativity with Novelty Yarns on the Rigid Heddle Loom

As you delve into the world of rigid heddle weaving, embrace the unfolding journey of artistic exploration with the integration of novelty yarns. Adapt your loom, experiment with diverse textures, and explore the rich possibilities these unique yarns bring to this timeless craft. Your loom is not just a tool; it's a canvas, inviting you to weave stories of tradition and innovation.

Let the tips we've shared, from selecting yarn combinations to embracing unconventional textures, be your guide as you embark on your creative pursuits. Carry these newfound inspirations with you, and with each pass of the shuttle, weave fabric and a unique masterpiece. Leave an indelible mark on the ever-evolving canvas of weaving artistry, where your creativity takes centre stage.

If you want to learn more about the other uses of novelty yarns, read our previous article titled Novelty Yarns for Weaving.

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