Resources for the beginner weaver on the rigid heddle loom

The “humble” rigid heddle loom can do so much, as I hope the pictures above show. A beginner is most definitely what I am at the time of writing, as I have been weaving for only over six months on the rigid heddle. Hence there may be a lot missing from the info below.

However, with my bewilderment with terminology still very fresh in my mind, I thought I might save other beginners some grief by collecting what I know below. I dived into three heddle weaving almost straightaway, from my very second project (pictured above), so the list below also includes resources for weaving with three heddles, as well as four shaft drafts.

Which rigid heddle loom?

We’ve got to start from the beginning, right? I got my 16″/40cm SampleIt as part of the “Ashford complete weaving kit“, which was issued around Christmas but seems to be available throughout the year. On the plus side: it is a bargain, and it comes with absolutely everything you need to get going, including two extra reeds, even 200g yarn for your first project, two pickup sticks, Rowena Hart’s “The Ashford Book of Rigid Heddle Weaving” – check the full details in the link. I think it is VERY good value for money. On the downside: it is shorter than other looms, so at the very least you have to advance the warp more frequently, and fitting three heddles is more finnicky than on a full sized loom; although smaller than standard rigid heddle looms, it does not fold, so if you travel you need a full size luggage (dimensions are not compatible with hand luggage if you fly). Unlike several other brands, the bottom does not double as warping board. Still, it is very cheap as a bundle, and works perfectly if you are not sure whether you’ll enjoy weaving, since it sets you up to get the most out of it.

The most common brands and anyhow those I researched are Ashford (SampleIt as entry level, Rigid Heddle Loom as standard, Knitters’ loom folds), Kromski (Presto as entry level, and Harp Forte, which folds, as standard size) and Shacht (Cricket as entry level, Flip as standard. Both fold), all available in the UK.

Interesting fact: Ashford rigid heddle loom heddles fit the Cricket of same width.

All these manufacturers have very clear instructional videos on their webpages.

When researching what loom to buy, I found this blog post very clear and useful. For your first loom you’d be probably shooting in the dark: you won’t know until you start what is that you like, and what catches your fancy – I got into sewing at “granny age” because of my rigid heddle loom!

Things to consider are the obvious: budget, and what you want to do with it, which will determine the weaving width you want. Bear in mind that a larger width requires larger space to the side to manage the stick shuttles (boat shuttles are also used successfully by some, but the lower tension in rigid heddle looms as compared to multi shaft looms, and the lack of a race, mean that unless the yarn is really fine, the boat shuttle will end up on the floor quite often!). Also, larger room may require investment in a dedicated stand, as weaving with the loom on a tabletop may be quite uncomfortable/unwieldy.

What yarn?

In my (admittedly very limited) experience knitting yarn works perfectly well, in fact that is all I’ve been using on my rigid heddle loom. Just be careful with what you use as warp yarn: strong (so that it won’t break with all the abrasion from the reed dents going back and forth) and smooth (so that warp threads don’t stick together and give you a clear shed) is key for warp yarn. For weft you can use absolutely anything you like.

How to weave: learning from books

The following, which I have, seem to crop up again and again when discussing rigid heddle loom resources:

“Inventive weaving on a little loom”, by Syne Mitchell. This one starts from the very beginning, with the first three chapters taking you step by step into weaving and what could go wrong. It is great on three heddle weaving and how to translate drafts for shaftt looms to the rigid heddle loom. I learned about the latter on other sources thoug (see below). Available also as ebook.

“The Weaver’s Idea Book” by Jane Patrick assumes you have a little confidence with your loom already, e.g. you’ve done your first project on it, in the sense that it starts in earnest with weaving. It is one of those books that will really take you to another level if you go through it cover-to-cover (which I haven’t done yet, though). It has absolutely everything, and it will take you from absolute beginner to super expert. It is also full of projects for each technique. Available also as ebook.

“Handwoven Home”, by Liz Gipson aka Yarnworker is project base: with each project you learn a new technique, and there are also knowledge chapters at the beginning that cover the basics of weaving. Since each author has different preferences, having more than one text to teach you the basic is I think no bad thing. Available also as ebook.

“The Handweaver’s Pattern Directory”, by Anne Dixon. A four shaft loom, or a rigid heddle loom with three heddles, has “only” 14 possible sheds. Yet with threading and threading these can be combined to one’s heart’s content, and over 600 patterns are contained in this book. It is a must have, full of illustrations with both draft and the cloth produced. Only available as physical book, but the spiral bound and hardcover make it quite handy to look up.

How to weave four shaft drafts on the rigid heddle loom

A substantial section of chapter 6 in “Inventive weaving on a little loom” is devoted to three heddle weaving: this opens up all four shaft possibilities, including twills, lace, overshot and double weave. There are limitations, in that to avoid cross threads it may be just impossible to weave some patterns using the full width of your loom; and some patterns in overshot patterned double weave will just not be doable because of the way in which warp threads have to alternate in the heddles. However, there is no risk of running out of things to do for a very long while!

My introduction to three heddle weaving however came from this and this blog posts, which opened my eye to the fact that even the short Ashford SampleIt loom I owned could fit three heddles – so I will be forever grateful to

Then I read the free pdf The Xenakis Technique for the Construction of Four-Harness Textiles on a Rigid-Heddle, by David Xenakis. Very entartaining too, as the author has a somewhat meandering language, so if you are trying to get straight to the point this may not be for you.

What is certainly worth the (little!) investment is the excellent and crystal clear Weaving With Three Rigid Heddles, by Reverend David B. Mckinney, available easily as ebook. This covers everything, including converting drafts for three heddles, weaving a sampler, and even doing double weave. With a little patience the Rigid Heddle Loom can be incredibly rewarding!

How to weave: learning from instructional videos

Very extensive and clear resources are to be found among Kelly Casanova’s youtube videos, and on Liz Gipson webpage. She organises free weavealongs, around projects from her book.

I also find Amy McKnight exemplarily clear. She is still growing her webpage, but is also quite present on Facebook.

Finally, another source of knowledge are the webpages of the various manufacturers: they’ve got typically videos and blogs to get you going and exploring. My most frequent go to is Ashford, including their blog, where you will also find projects. Weft Blown, one of my favourite shops, has a blog with concise but extensive information, here.

How to weave: learning from projects

Besides’s Liz Gipson’s book mentioned above, if you sew (and even if you do not) you can also keep going as you are on plain weave but creating with yarn you have to play with texture and try some of Sarah Howard’s patterns (no affiliation, just a very satisfied customer – I think I’ve only not bought four or five of them), which are designed specifically for the rigid heddle loom in mind (I also have a 16” rigid heddle loom, and made this on it – sorry to brag, I still cannot believe I did that! My first ever sewing project was another of Sarah Howard’s pattern, turned into this skirt.)

And then of course the “obvious” sources of projects: magazines! Handwoven magazine in particular always has some Rigid Heddle Loom projects, but once equipped with the knowledge to weave 4 shaft patterns, there are loads of such projects there too!

Learning from the net

If you landed on this page, you were possibly surfing the net – it is where I found all the above! Let me just add a couple of more places you may want to check out, again specific to rigid heddle loom weaving:

Ravelry’s Rigid Heddle Looms group (you must be a Ravelry member)

Facebook Rigid Heddle Loom Weaving group (private group, you must have a Facebook account).

Happy weaving!

My proudest rigid heddle loom moment yet!

The full account of how the fabric came to be is here (sampling and main fabric) and here (fabric for bottom band, sleeves and neckband trim).

I used Sarah Howard‘s excellent dress pattern n5 (no affiliation, just a very satisfied customer), and off I went!

The fabric was thick-ish, soI had to abandon pretty quickly my idea of making bias tape from the plain weave cloth. However I was able to use the selvedges as finished trim, so that I could fix the rough edges in the wrong side, and top stitch the neckband on the right side of the fabric. I used commercial fabric only for the pockets.

The fabric is lovely on the skin, fresh and soft (the yarn, Lana Grossa Landlust Sommerseide, is an equal mix of cotton and silk, with the two fibres twisted together to give the yarn a heathered look).

I shouldn’t brag I know, but honestly I can hardly believe I did this myself!

Year Of Projects #10 – the list!

My very first Year of Projects! I am trying to be realising, and even so, given how slow I am, chances are I won’t get through these plans, nor I will be able to post every week, and even if I do, my progress will be minimal! I am totally bowled over by weaving, so most of my plans are weaving related. Here are my tentative plans for this year – I will refine as I go along and see what actual pace I keep:

weaving

  1. summer jacket for M
  2. summer hoodie for me
  3. summer bias top for me
  4. winter dress in huck lace
  5. double sided double weave
  6. something in Complementary Plain Weave
  7. something in waffle weave
  8. couple of scarves

knitting

  1. (finish) pullover #1 for M
  2. pullover #2 for M
  3. pullover #3 for M
  4. (finish) dress for me

Very important: YOP graphics “nicked” with thanks from Backstageknits!

Tips for the Rigid Heddle weaver “graduating” to a Table Loom

And so it was that after admitting defeat (wanted to do double weave overshot on my rigid heddle loom – sadly, it can’t be pushed to that, or at least I couldn’t figure out how to accommodate it with three heddles without any pickup sticks or additional threaded heddles), I plumped for an Ashford 8 Shaft, 60cm/24″ Table loom – I’ll call her Penelope, hoping I will actually end up not unweaving too much!

Below a collection of scattered tips – coming from the Rigid Heddle Loom I had some pre-conceptions which turned out to be dead wrong. Obvious ex post, nevertheless I thought I’d collect them here in case someone else finds them before making the same mistakes I did!

A table loom typically comes with wood fully finished.

It may need assembly, but it does not need finish. So if you had to wax your rigid heddle loom (as is the case with Ashford), you can save the leftover wax for other items. Assembly of a table loom will require a few hours – worth bearing this in mind when planning during the anxious wait for your loom to arrive. In the case of my Ashford Table Loom, I took a good half an hour to make sure I had all the pieces/screws/bolts all checked and grouped together. It took me the best part of two solid evenings to put it together. You will also need a candle (you will scrape the wood screws over it t ease screwing in), a good quality Pozi screwdriver (I swear by Stanely Fatmax), and a hammer. The assembly enininstructions could not be clearer, just take your time – by the end of it I was quite intimate with my new loom!

A table loom typically sits on four feet and the breast beam sits taller than a rigid heddle loom

The rigid heddle loom frame sits flat on any surface. The frame of the Table loom instead sits on feet. This is something consider if (like me) you are not planning on a stand. So first of all the surface that will host it will have to be deep enough that the feet don’t “fall over”. An Ashford Table Loom is 74cm/29″ deep, regardless of width, while many desks and kitchen tables are not that deep, certainly mine aren’t, so what to do? My solution was to buy two 80cm/32″ lease stick, and use them lengthwise on each side of my loom. So no overhang there. I put some rubber disks underneath the lease sticks so that they won’t slide under pressure when the loom is in use. You will need a chair of adequate height.

Very different setts are obtained with the same reed.

With Rigid Heddle Looms, reed, heddle and beater are one and the same. So for a denser warp you must use a denser rigid heddle, and you have to use different heddles for different size yarns. This is because the heddle also works as a beater, and so it rubs against the tensioned warped thread constantly. With a Table loom instead the heddles (which also can be rigid, e.g. floor loom typically have metal heddles) are separate from the reed. You will pass a single warp thread through the eye of a single heddle; heddles hang from a shaft, and so pulling the shafts up will create the sheds. The sett however depends on how many threads you sley in each of the reeds hole. To know how to obtain a given sett you can refer to a reed substitution chart. There are limits, though, so tipycally a balanced number of ends in each slot won’t leave a “trace” in the weaving, and so you will probably end up with a colleaction of reeds for your table loom too (I know I will!)

The shed of a table loom is humongous compared to the shed of a rigid heddle loom

Seriously, no comparison – so if you can double weave on a rigid heddle loom, I could imagine you can triple weave on a table loom! Testing the claim is firmly on the cards.

Tension problems: check the warp path

This is particularly true for the Ashford – if you look at it form the side, it wraps around the frame making a Z shape around the front beam, and a mirror Z at the back beam, see below for a picture from Ashford’s assembly instructions. If you won’t follow this, the gears will slip and won’t hold tension (ask me how I know…)

You can warp back to front using a reed instead of a raddle

The Ashford Table Loom currently does not come with a raddle, which you have to buy separately. Because you typically have to indirect warp (but you could also hybrid warp warp!) you have to spread it on the beam in the same width as it will be through the reed, so that when you wind the warp you end up with an even, lovely cilinder that will keep tension throughout the weave. To accomplish this you can either buy or make a raddle yourself; or you can use an existing reed. You will position it exactly as you would a raddle, and you “rough sley” it with the ends per inch of your sett – where “rough” stands for the fact that you dont’ have to be as precise as for when you sley the reed. The reed will sit at the back of your chain (you don’t want to upset the cross), as would the raddle. Once the warp is spready through the reed, you start packing the warp on the beam, leaving enough warp to reach the front of the loom. Then you remove the reed, and start sleying the heddles. With a table loom it is easy to remove the reed from the beater (you need to do so to warp back to front anyway) and use it as a warping aid. Nice explanation with clear pictures here and here.

You can make extra heddles on the fly to correct threading mistakes

How? Take a string of piece of pearl cotton and loop it around the bottom shaft bar, keeping the two sides of the loop of equal length. Tie both ends in a knot, leave about 1cm, then tie another knot (now you’ve made a heddle eye), then tie a knot at the upper bar. Not ideal, but better than re-sleying everything!

You can keep extra unused heddles on by interspersing among other heddles

Having extra heddles available might be useful expecially for the novice like me, so that you avoid having to make an extra heddle (or two) when discovering threading mistakes. So you can count how many extre heddles you have per shaft, and stick one or more in at each repetition.

You can weave inkle bands on your table loom.

An inkle look is a 2 shaftt loom, and band weaving may involve a lot of pickup. With a 4-and-above shaft loom you can of course reduce the pickup. Use a straigh threading with the reed off the loom, and beat with a belt shuttle. A free guide to inkle weaving is avaiable from Handwoven Magazine, a 1941 pamphlet by Mary Atwater is available here, a rather clear beginners guide is here, and some wonderful Andean patterns written specifically for the 4S Table loom are here and here. But I digress!

Pencil skirt from handwoven cloth

There are various first for this skirt: it is my very first sewn anything, the very first garment from my own handwoven yardage, woven on a rigid heddle loom, the very first use of my new-to-me sewing machine.

It is quite far from perfect, but I am very very pleased with it – in hindsight, I should have used a silk thread – the cotton thread I used hasn’t any give, and so the bottom hem does show. But hey, we live and learn, and considering that the patter of the two sides more or less matches, that the skirt fits, that the zipper is invisible. Indeed, fitting the zipper must have been be the highpoint of my sewing experience! I managed to fit it quite perfectly, after following this video by Aneka of Made to Sew. It is a bit long, but expecially if you are an absolute beginner like me, I think it is worth every minute!

And here is MY “perfect” invisible zipper:

The pattern I used is SK002 from Sarah Howard’s Etsy shop – really simple, and done for the rigid heddle loom, so there is minimal waste: what you see sitting on the cut pieces in the picture below are are that was left of my yardage!

I will not go into tips on sewing handwoven cloth, as I have already put them together here – however I do want to show off my perfectly opened seams – you really want to press them with a damp towel on top and a Taylor’s ham or substitute underneath. This were thick layers!

And finally, here is my pride and joy! In the meantime the weather has turned warm, but eventually I will update with modelled photos!

Double width weaving

(Jump to summary) The yardage I wove for my summer dress is for the main part of the dress – additional fabric is required for a bottom band, pockets and sleeves. The band in particular calls for wider fabric than my loom can weave – so what better opportunity to give a go to double width weaving?

Double width weaving is a specific instance of double weaving – and double weaving is in itself thoroughly fascinating! In short, it means weaving different layers simultanously on the same loom – each layer needs two shafts, so with a four shaft loom you can weave a maximum of two layers, with 8 shafts you can weave a maximum of four layers, and so on. The more the shafts, the greater the possibilities: for instance with 8 shafts you can weave a three layered fabric with two plain layers and one “patterned” layer with any four shaft pattern – an example is Jennifer Moore’s triplewidth tablecloth, published in the September/October 2015 issue of Handwoven Magazine, where the top layer becomes the centre-panel, in spot-Bronson lace.

I know that the standard way to weave double width cloth on a rigid heddle loom is with two heddles and two pick up stick. However first in my Covid-19 lockdown location I only have one pickup stick (ok, VERY lame excuse). And (ok, the REAL reason), I really enjoy using my three heddles, so three heddles are what I used.

Sources that I’ve found invaluable are  Jennifer Moore doubleweave workshop and her book (revised edition).

I was somewhat constrained in the threading, since I needed to use the full width of my loom – obviously you don’t want threads to cross. In short, the only threading that I thought was possible was:

2 1 4 3

So panic set in: all the sources I could remember of told you to use either odd or even shafts for the same layer, and to alternate threads in shafts – but here I had odd and even “shafts” one after the other!

Well, not a problem – Jennifer Moore, who is a real darling, replied to my panicky question saying that it should be fine, it is a threading used in Finnweave, and why don’t I check Rev McKinney’s “Weaving with Three Rigid Heddles”?

How could I have forgotten to check that out? Yes, it was all there!

I started threading from the right, and to fit all 4 repeats I put the last thread beyond the end of the reed, as a floating selvedge – which you don’t need here, as you are weaving plain weave. So here’s the threading:

Threading three heddles for double weave on the rigid heddle loom – threading keeps repeating all across, used “…” to indicate this

The top layer was on heddles 1 and 2, the bottom layer on heddles 3 and 4 (the latter stands for “slots in each heddle”). In Rev McKinney’s terminology, I have a “paired alternation”, with “warp threads for the two layers of cloth alternate in a xxyyxxyy series, where x is a thread for the first layer, and y is a thread for the second layer” (footnote 1 on page 17)

The order of lifts determines whether you have a tube or a double width cloth, and if you go for double-width, the side from which you enter the first shed determines which side remains open.

For a double width cloth I used the following lifts order:

  1. Raise I
  2. Raise I, II and III
  3. Lower III
  4. Raise II

Picks 2. and 3. work the bottom layer – these were thte trickiest sheds to open clearly, so I chekced each of these two picks by lifting the bottom of the loom -it does slow things down, but it saves the time to fix the floats later.

If you can’t lift the loom, another tip is to use a mirror underneath or to the side of your weaving, to check you have no floats.

It is really worth checking the bottom layer every so often, to make sure there are no floats. This way I did pick up and corrected many of them. I still had to fix two of them, but not too bad.

To manage the fold, I added two threads of a contrasting colour, one to each of the last two threads at the fold of each layer. I then pulled them out after taking the projecct off the loom. Washing and pressing made the fold barely visible, yay!

It is not that visible from the picture, but these two threads in contrasting colour go in the same slot as the last thread of the top layer and first thread of the bottom layer. If you are good with selvedges and/or have a temple, you don’t need this. Another way to address “bunching at the fold” is to use a nylon thread (e.g. fishing line) – no need to roll this one on the back beam, you will have it with a weight hanging at the back, as when you have to fix a tension issue with a warp thread. And here’s the fold after washing and pressing:

All in all I needed 700m of Lana Grossa Landlust Sommerseide, a lovely blend of cotton and silk, in colourway 12/wine red

SUMMARY 
Warp ends: 320 (160 per layer)+2 threads in contrasting colour for the fold 
Sett: 10 epi, 10 ppi 
Width in reed:39cm/15.5”
Width off the loom before wet finishing: 71.5cm/28” 
Width off the loom after wet finishing: 67.1cm/26.4” 
Width off the loom after wet finishing and pressing:68cm/26.7” 
Horizontal shrinkage: 4.9% 
Length of woven fabric off the loom before wet finishing: 89.5cm/35.2’ (excluding thread picks and header) 
Length of woven fabric off the loom after wet finishing: 84.2cm/33” 
Length of woven fabric off the loom after wet finishing and pressing:87cm/34” 
Vertical shrinkage: 2.8% 
Loom waste:43cm/17” (20cm towards the front beam, 23cm towards the back beam)

YOP – Year Of Projects

YOP

YOP stands for “Year of Projects” – it is a Ravelry Group, and an idea – make a plan for the year ahead for all your fibre activities, then update your blog every week. The lovely thing is that it is flexible (post, don’t post, follow your list, change it) – so really it is just an opportunity to get to know of more blogs and activities of those who share a passion for anything fibre crafts!

From the group page:

In 2011 a small group of bloggers embarked on a journey together, to set themselves a year long challenge of projects to knit or crochet (or sew, or any other craft for that matter!). Inspired by The Purple Purl, one of our mod’s favourite yarn stores, who were knitting through a book, we each set ourselves a challenge and tried to stick to it, blogging about our experiences as we went.

Each YOP starts on 1sy July – I am joining YOP year 10, a nice round number, though I am aghast it took me 10 years to find out about this initiative!

Sewing with handwoven cloth

(Note: updated to add point 9 on 5th June 2020)

I really do not expect to be able to teach anything to anyone on this matter – I am an absolute beginner myself! However precisely for that reason I still have those absolute beginner questions very fresh in my mind, so I thought I’d gather here the tips/answers to my own questions (some I know now were pretty out there!) in case it is of use to someone else.

  1. Overall preparation, 1: wash and press your yardage before you do anything else. Same goes for any lining you will use.
  2. Overall preparation, 2: Make a toile/mock up of your pattern. This could also become your lining. Following Sarah Howard‘s advice, I use cotton lawn and cotton (craft) popelin.
  3. Preparing to cut 1: use iron on woven interfacing for your edges (before cutting in my case). You want it woven as it will “flow” with the fabric more than an unwoven one. However do not be tempted to attach it to the whole yardage, it does make it stiffer. You will press this, not iron it. That is, you won’t move the iron, just keep it on the interfacing so that the glue will melt and stick to your yardage. The coarse surface will face the cloth, the smooth surface will face the iron (otherwise you’ll glue the interfacing to the iron!). The strip of cloth along the cut line means that, if it overhangs the cut line, you can actually draw the pattern on it.
  4. Preparing to cut 2: another tip I’ve found: zig-zag on either side of the cut line before cutting. Reporting this, though I haven’t tried.
  5. Cutting, 1: use a dedicated pair of shears for cloth – do not use it to cut the paper pattern, this will dull the blade.
  6. Cutting, 2: cut the cloth in single layer.
  7. Tracing patterns: so far I haven’t managed to draw anything at all on my handwoven cloth, no matter what I try, no sign will stick. So I pin the paper model, that I have pre-cut on tracing paper, onto the yardage, then cut. Iron on woven interfacing does help though. It does help if you have weigths to keep the paper pattern onto the fabric.undefined
  8. Preparing to sew: serge all seams before sewing (no serger needed – just use a stitch of your sewing machine that will go “around” the edges. If your machine does not have it, just use zig-zag stitch). undefined
  9. Sewing, 1: If your sewing machine does not have it, invest in a walking pressser foot. This will make the top layer of your cloth “walk” at the same speed as the bottom layer.
  10. Sewing, 2: If your cloth allows ripping, worth (machine) basting with the longest stitch your machine has to check it all fits well. The toile will not hang the same as the handwoven cloth.
  11. Sewing, 3: use normal thread in your sewing machine – and no, you don’t need to use the same yarn you used to weave your yardage.
  12. Sewing, 4: use 80/90 sewing machine needle.
  13. Sewing, 5: set stitch length to between 2 and 3mm (the cloth is thicker than commercial yardage, so it will show)
  14. Sewing, 6: use silk thread if you can, rather than cotton thread, as it has more give.
  15. Pressing seams: if you have it, use a Tailor’s ham. The reason you want to do this is that the fabric is thick, and if you press a seam flat, you risk getting an indentation showing on the right side of the fabric. By pressing the seam on the Taylor’s ham, the fabric will fall away from the seam, and minimises this risk. If you don’t have one, you can use a rolling pin, and two towels (one around the rolling pin, one between the iron and the cloth. Also, do make this second towel damp, expecially with wool. Indeed, never press wool dry.undefined
  16. Where to find patterns? Sarah Howard and Daryl Lancaster both sell patterns. I haven’t tried the latter, as I don’t have a printer and these are downloadable patterns. Sarah’s come with the full paper pattern. These are specifically designed for narrow looms, and make efficient use of the fabric, with very little waste. I’ve bought a few of them, you’ll see two projects on these pages soon!

Finally, some links to sources I found useful:

Sewing handwoven advice from Sewing.org, which I found super-helpful;

Sarah Howard’s “Cutting without fears” booklet, which my eyes wished was available as electronic download for enlarging!

Finishing wearables, by the New Hampshire Weavers Guild.

Daryl Lancaster, who has some stunning designs, has a five part course, which however I haven’t tried.

Summer waves on three heddles!

I am very much enjoying weaving with three heddles on my SampleIt loom, and although I already suffer from shaft envy and really need an eigh shaft loom, there is so much my 40cm Ashford SampleIt has to offer. So I embarked in another twill weaving – this time straight draft twill, but playing with colour. I wove yardage that will eventually become a summer dress. You can jump straight to the summary, or read on!

Goldilocks samples

I was unsure which pattern I wanted, so I started off with a sample – and did that turn out to be a good idea! Since I was using a sports weight knitting cotton yarn, the very lovely Lana Grossa Landlust Sommerseide, I thought 10dpi would be the right heddle, and since I was going to wave a twilll structure, surely 12.5dpi was the heddle set to use.

Well, the first sample turned out stiff as a board – not sure why, maybe I did not have enough tension, but it came out quite compressed. So I thought I’d go for a second sample with 10dpi heddles. Well this was way too lose, really see-through fabric, so that was out as well. What to do? I tried again 12.5dpi, this time being careful not to beat too hard, and it came out just right – I like how the fabric draped, and the texture is just about close enough to be not see-through.

From left to right: 12.5dpi with hard beat, 10dpi, 12.5dpi with normal beat (or higher tension on the loom?)

The extensive sampling did dent my stash for this project, and so I had to make compromises on the background colour – though I liked it in natural best, I had to warp with the natural but weave with the grey green.

I also had to decide which pattern to use – so I folded the third sample so as to isolate the pattern:

From left to right: waves, bumberet, flowers

I did not quite like the Bumberet, and I feared that the flowers would be too large and visually “heavy”, so I concluded I’d have waves, alternating those with more blue to those with more red – I do like the resulting yardage a lot!

Yardage off the loom!

Warping woes

With a lot of odd ends, I decided to indirect warp. The consequence was that without a lease stick of the right size to attach to my back apron rod, I had to leash at both ends. Chaining was kind of allright:

I was using the rather lovely and soft Lana Grossa Landlust Sommerseide, a knitting yarn which blends in equal parts cotton and silk. It really is lovely, but hans’t got much of a twist so rather springy tension wise, winding on was a challenge, and I considered giving up several times, here is why:

What a tangled mess!

I did eventually manage to tame it, and wind the whole lot:

YAY, success!

I warped 199 ends and two floating selvedges, in the following colour order (where N stands for “natural”, R for “red” and B for “blue”):

  • 24 ends in N
  • 3 repeats of *RRRNBBBNRRRN – block of 16 N – BBBNRRRNBBBN – block of 16 N *
  • 7+1FS natural

Well, then it was just the matter of threading, and weaving. Threading was a straightforward point twill:

Threading the full width – note that the last warp ends have to to be arranged a bit differently

For the weaving I used the following order for each repetition:

  1. I & II up
  2. II & III up
  3. I & II down
  4. II & III down
  5. I & II down
  6. II & III up

And here is the draft:

One word of advice on weaving yardage – I generally hemstitch the ends while on the loom, but I wasn’t quite sure this was the best course of action with yardage. So I followed the advice picked up on the net to weave four picks with sewing thread at both ends, as below:

The picks with sewing thread after weaving a header – this DOES prevent unravelling in the wash

Then I washed and pressed – and the ironing did make a difference, the cloth became much more reflective of the light.

I can’t wait to sew it up – before I do so, though, I must weave the cloth for the bottom band!

SUMMARY 
Warp ends: 199+2 
Sett: 12.5 epi, 12.5 ppi 
Width in reed:
Width off the loom before wet finishing: 34.8cm/13.7” 
Width off the loom after wet finishing: 32.3cm/12.7” 
Width off the loom after wet finishing and pressing:33.2cm/13” 
Horizontal shrinkage: 5% 
Length of woven fabric off the loom before wet finishing: 345.5cm/136” 
Length of woven fabric off the loom after wet finishing:331cm/130.3” 
Length of woven fabric off the loom after wet finishing and pressing:335.5cm/132” 
Vertical shrinkage: 3% 
Loom waste:about 40cm/16”. However variable, because of the tangled mess that indirect warping was with this yarn; with hybrid warping it should be less.

Twill houndstooth check on the rigid heddle loom

Shepherd’s Check, Pied de poule, houndstooth – this is a classic, which I now note is quite trendy this year, and I decided I would weave it exaclty in its classic form, namely alternating groups of 4 warp threads in two contrasting colours, and alternating groups of four picks in each colour. To better manage the carrying of weft along the sides, I started each colour on a different side, and followed Madelyn van der Hoogt advice of treating the inactive weft thread as a floating selvege: weave over it when entering the shed, and under it when exiting the shed.

Is is a simple weave, and pretty straightforward to thread and weave with three heddles, but I found it so effective! This is yardage which will eventually turn into a skirt.

The draft for the Rigid Heddle Loom is below, where as previously I ∧ stands for “raise” and ∨ stands for “lower” the corresponding reed, while in the threading “I” stands for “thread through hole in heddle I, and slots in heddles II and III”, “II” stands for “thread through hole in heddle II, and slots in heddles I and III”, “III” stands for “thread through hole in heddle III, and slots in heddles I and III”, and “S” stands for “thread through slots in all heddles”

So the threading is a straigth twill threading.

To actually thread the three rigid heddles, I used this diagram, where the long rectangles stand for slots, and the small squares represent a hole. The colours are to make it easier to follow the threading, but as in the draft above, I alternated groups of 4 threads each in the two colours.

With 204 ends, I had 51 repeats. In addition there are two floating selvedges, one at each side, separated from the rest of the threading by an empty slot.

The yarn I used is Titus, from Baa Ram Ewe. I had used it as weft in my previous tabby houndstooth project, and I thought that given the Wensleydale content it would also work well as warp – and it did! Almost three metres of warp, and not a single broken warp thread! It is beautiful, and at the sett I used (15 both as epi and ppi) it is a nice firm fabric which is however still soft. Hope not too soft for my ends!

For the actual weaving the repetitions are as follows: 
Each repetition is:

  1. I & II up
  2. II & III up
  3. I & II down
  4. II & III down

I was aiming at 30cm with of fabric, and ended up with 30cm width, art of living dangerously! I really have to improve on that draw in!

SUMMARY 
Yarn: 204 ends +2 floating selvedges, each 3m long; 278.4 m/304.5 yds for each colour
Sett: 15 epi, 15.5 ppi 
Width in reed: 34cm/13.38” 
Weft crimp percentage: 9.8% (3/30.5cm)  
Width off loom before wet finishing: 30.5cm/12″
Width off loom after wet finishing: 30cm/11.75″
Wet finishing take up (horizontal)
3% 
Length of woven fabric off loom before wet finishing:
277cm/109” (approx, fabric shifts around!) 
Length of woven fabric off loom after wet finishing:  269.5cm/106″
Wet finishing shrinkage (vertical):
 3.3% 
Loom waste:
 36cm/14.2”