Four shaft twill on the Rigid Heddle Loom

I cannot remember exactly when is that I decided to try weaving, but I got attracted it progressively more in my quest for hand made skirts – I am not too fond of how knitted skirts look (though there are exceptions), and while I adore knitted dresses, for standalone skirts I wanted something else. True, I could start sewing (which I’ll have to anyway if I want to sew my own cloth), but the temptation to create fabric in the exact same way you like it, with the exact same yarn you love, was to great to resist. And so I took advantage of a very good deal that Ashford has around Christmas time to get myself a “kit”, with a 40cm/16″ Ashford SampleIt loom, which cames together with addititonal heddles, pick up sticks, shuttles, wapr sticks, threading hook, yarn, a canvas carrying bag, Rowena Hart’s “Ashford book of rigid heddle weaving” and even beeswax to treat the parts before assembly.

I knew that, as in everything, once you get to know the details I might end up wanting something else, but you have to start somewhere.

I was travelling a lot, and so while away from my brand new loom, I did a lot of reading, and came across two eyeopeners: The Xenakis Technique for the Construction of Four-Harness Textiles on a Rigid-Heddle, by David Xenakis, which is available for free; and the excellent Weaving With Three Rigid Heddles, by Reverend David B. Mckinney, which is incredibly good value for money. These invaluable resources show you how to replicate drafts for four shaft looms on your humble rigid heddle loom, provided you have three heddles available – and since I had found on this blog and this blog that even the small SampleIt could accommodate three heddles, I quickly became the proud owner of sets of three heddles in all dent sizes that Ashford produces (7.5, 10, 12.5, 15), ‘cos you never know with what yarn inspiration will take you!

With three heddles you can in principle produce all the sheds that you can produce on a four shaft loom (though admittedly some are easier to obtain than others), and so it wast that my weaving project number two was a herringbone scarf (in case you are curious, project number one was a three colour houndstooth scarf).

Herringbone is based on a 2/2 twill structure: each weft thread passes over and under two warp threads, and each pick is offset as compared to the other one. This creates diagonal lines; by changing the order of the threading in the warp, you change the direction of the diagonal lines. The herringbone pattern, or broken twill, is obtained by combining these two directions, here is a draft with four shafts (created with the excellent Pixeloom software)

in the treadling/tie-up (box in the top right corner) each dot means indicates lifting the corresponding harness. Created with Pixeloom

How about a rigid heddle loom? For that I just drew my own draft, where I borrow notational convention from Reverend McKinney and use ∧ to indicate raising the corresponding heddle, and ∨ to indicate lowering that heddle .

In the threading (the horizontal box),“I” means “thread through hole in heddle I, and slots in heddles II and III”, “II” means “thread through hole in heddle II, and slots in heddles I and III”, “III” means “thread through hole in heddle III, and slots in heddles I and III”, and “S” means “thread through slots in all heddles”

Drawing is fun, but then you have to thread the warp. I started from the back heddle (Heddle III), which I threaded as I would normally for direct warping. Then once the warp was packed on the back beam, I started slaying it all. For that purpose the following may be helpful (though do bear in mind that I put it down after finishing the project) – the idea is that in the first heddle, that is the one closest to the front beam, you want to have as many threads as hole and slots for the width of the project: so while you will by necessity have some slots with two threads, then the next slot must be empty, otherwise you risk spreading your warp on a wider surface, and no longer having the epi that your project requires.

So each half of a herringbone consists of 10 warp threads. I used a beautiful yarn, The Fibre Co Cumbria Fingering, in Barrow (154g/461.9 meters) and St. Bees Beach, The Fibre Co. Cumbria Fingering.

Each twill column is 10 ends wide, 2 columns for each herringbone, total of 9 herringbone patterns, so my warp had 180 ends + 2 floating selvedges, each warp thread being 2.5 metres long.

For the floating selvedges (about which I learned from jeen on Ravelry, here), remember to enter OVER the floating selvedge and exit UNDER the (opposite) floating selvedge on the opposite side – or the other way around, but do so consistently at each pick.

For the actual weaving, I began and ended with four picks in pattern in Barrow (dark brown), while all other picks were in St Bees Beach (light brown).

The herringbone pattern is obtained by repeating the following four steps (one pick for each):

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

To finish, I twisted and knotted the fringe, then wet finished. I couldn’t be more pleased with the result, and the delighted smile of the recipient was priceless!

Yarn: 180 ends+2 floating selvedges; 462m/505yds warp, 300m/328yds weft (one broken warp thread) 
Sett: 15 epi, 17 ppi (I was aiming for 15ppi) 
Width in loom: 30cm/12” 
Width off loom before wet finishing: 28cm/11” 
Wet finishing take up (horizontal):
Width off loom after wet finishing: 27.5cm/10.8” 
Length of fabric off loom before wet finishing (excluding fringe): 178cm/70” 
Length of fabric off loom after wet finishing: 169.5cm/66.7” 
Wet finishing shrinkage (vertical):
Twisted fringe: 3+3 ends per twisted, knotted fringe (apart from first and last braid, 4+3), 10cm/4in lenght before twisting, 8cm/3.14” after twisting


Author: lovestoswatch

I used to knit as a girl, then hanged the needles for two/three decades, and now I’m back, and loving it! The photo is my version of Linda Marveng's Aki, the first proper project after "being born again". After getting back into knitting, weaving has also become my passion (with a little sewing to turn my handweaving into garments).

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