Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Why a Rigid Heddle?

I am so full of ideas and inspiration.  And a good dash of stubborn determination.  The "floor loom weavers" keep shaking their heads and wondering why I am bothering figuring out how to make 3 and 4 and more shaft patterns work on the Rigid Heddle.  I have a few answers:

1.  Because I can.  Which is a very good answer, but doesn't quite reduce the crazy factor in their eyes.

2.  Because not everyone has the money and space for a floor loom or even a table loom.  My Ashford RH 32" fully kitted up with pairs of every size heddle and even a stand costs considerably less than even a 15" 4 harness table loom.  It can hang on a wall when not in use, even in use it takes less than a square yard of floor space.

3.  Because my simpler loom has a lot fewer parts to break or need maintenance.

4.  Because my largest RH loom weighs a lot less and is more portable than even a small table loom.  I have friends who can no longer carry a table loom but they can still manage a smaller RH.  I can carry my 32" RH with 2 fingers, my Cricket 10" fits in a shopping bag and I can lift that with 1 finger.

5.  Because the RH is better at some things than floor or table looms.  If I'm careful, I generally have less than 15" of loom waste; I'm a handspinner, remember, I can't stand loom waste.  The RH works at lower tensions, which makes it easier on some yarns.  And I can weave Summer and Winter tapestries which would require more shafts and many more treadles than any floor loom has.  Pick up sticks are a lot easier to use on my loom because it's easier to reach where they need to go.

6.  Because the RH has required that I begin to really understand the interlacement of threads.  The fell line is right under my nose, I really can't miss what's going on.  And I have to handle the heddles and the sticks in such a way that I am aware which threads are up and which are down.  Trying to figure out how to make things happen on my loom means I am learning a lot more about structure a lot faster than I would if I could simply follow a draft.

Yes, a floor loom would be faster for many of the things I'm contemplating.  But I am not trying to clothe my family nor make a living production weaving.  I am weaving because I enjoy the process.  And I am enjoying the challenge of figuring out how to make it work.  Even when it doesn't quite:

Waffle, on the wrong threading, oops 

The warp is white 2/8 cotton that I threaded in 2 10 dent heddles at 200% to get a sett of 20epi.  It's for Judith Rygiel's "Plain Weave Frivolities, Acadian Style!" workshop I'm taking on Saturday.  It occurred to me that this is the same threading I use for Summer and Winter (at half the density), so I could probably experiment a little beforehand.  I had a draft for a 4 shaft Waffle all figured out on iWeaveit that I was pretty sure would work with just the two heddles and 1 pick up stick.  So I tried it.  And wondered why it wasn't quite working out.  Oh.  Waffle needs a point twill threading; this is a straight draw threading (I am still somewhat astonished that I can say that and both understand it and mean it, only weavers talk like that).  Should maybe not get quite so excited quite so late at night...  Still, it looks really nice, with a really neat horizontal rib effect.  I think I'll do a bit more, just to see what happens when it comes off the loom and gets washed.  I'll keep working on it and let you know how it goes.


  1. That looks pretty cool, though yeah, waffle needs point twill. I'm amazed at what is possible with these simpler looms. Like you, I can't bear to waste handspun yarn, so it will never be warped on the floor loom.

    In that vein, I warped my inkle loom last night and took my first stab at it today.

    1. I started warping my inkle to make a bag for my iPad but I got distracted by elephants. And waffle. And... I misplaced my favourite stylus yesterday because it doesn't attach to the iPad in the current case so I really should get back on it.