For the Table Loom without a race? Yes, for the table loom without a race! The race can be hacked by attaching in a non permanent way (so no damage to your loom!) a lease stick held under the warp by the short helping hands, or some rubber bands; some examples are here and here, and here is my own hack:
Boat shuttles come in many variation:
Bottom. The bottom can be open, closed or have rollers; a closed bottom one glides easier but is heavier, which may be an issue with table loom warps which aren’t as tightly tensioned as floor loom ones. Open bottoms allow the user to control the thread. Something worth bearing in mind is that overfilling the bobbin will make it stick out of the shuttle bottom profile, making it catch the warp threads.
Feeding. The yarn may come out of the shuttle (i.e. “feed”) from the end or from the middle; end feeding shuttles tension the yarn. Also, there are shuttles with two bobbins; these are particularly useful when the weft goes with two ends held together.
Size. The bigger, the heavier. Longer and slimmer will glide more easily, travel longer and are more likely to go straight; obvioulsy though, for a given width, the longer the shuttle, the more it will weigh. Wider shuttles will carry more yarn; wider shuttles it may fall off the makeshift race, and/or catch the warp. Shuttles taller than 1″/2.5cm may be problematic for the Table loom, since the shed is not as tall as for a floor loom.
Shape. A pointier shuttle will travel more easily. A shuttle with an asymmetric “bulge” on one side provides more room to the bobbin/quill to move and feed the yarn (if it is a side-feeding shuttle)
Material. traditional ones are in wood, but I have seen quite a few plastic ones. Material will affect gliding ability as well as weight.
Another video on winding bobbins which I found really useful is here:
All this stuff on quills is as in the end I bought some Toika closed bottom shuttles as my (first?). They are very light (only 86g/3oz) and have a low profile, which will suit the table loom.
The results in the videos are all quite polished – my reality was actually rather more rough! I opted for the drill solution, and as paper quill I cut a rectangle out of a discarded letter and rolled it around the smallest drill bit I had.
To wind you have to start the yarn inside the paper fold, then trap it inside:
Then start your drill, guiding the yarn up and down, and making sure you leave about 1cm free on your paper quill at both ends. Then pull out the yarn cigar, and insert into the boat shuttle. I found it easier to use with the bobbin unwinding from below, it made it easier to re-roll, but it may work differently for you.
For posterity, here is my very first wound home made paper quill:
Throwing the shuttle isn’t at all hard – for this pointed ones, grab them from below as you would a paper plane, and throw them through the shed along the race, with your other hand ready to catch it on the other side. It only took me a few tries to not feel awkward anymore: it is much quicker than a stick shuttle!
The content of this post is an imperfect and highly condensed summary of the sources below (in addition to the links already posted):
I’ve been long fascinated with bands, and especially while planning my double faced yardage, I’ve been thinking of ways that a novice sewer like me could use to sew up a reversible garment. A decorative band might be just the thing to make a feature of seams – or at least this is where my thinking is going.
Equipment: on shuttles, beaters and (no?) looms
Equipment is minimal: indeed, you could get going with just a belt shuttle! The latter is much shorter than the smallest weaving stick shuttle, and has a bevelled edge to pack in the weft; the other edge is thicker:
Then you would tension the warp between your waist and anything else you can hook the other end of the warp to, as here (nicked from Shelag Lewins).
The principle is the same as with any weaving: you need to interlace horizontal yarn threads (the weft) with vertical yarn threads (the warp). To do so you separate some warp threads from the others by pulling them up with something (a heddle, strings, cards) to create a gap (the shed) through which the weft will pass (wrapped around a shuttle). Once the shed is closed, the weft thread will lie above some warp threads (those at the bottom of the shed) and below others (those you had pulled up to create the shed). If you now form the shed by pulling up those threads that were laying at the bottom, you create an interlacement (credits of picture below to Backstrapweaving).
Different interlacements create different patterns – to create the sheds you can use cards/tablets (see e.g. here and here), or a reed, or nothing at all, in the sense that, you can just make your own heddles out of strings. By far the funniest video I’ve found which makes the (serious) point that this type of weaving really IS portable and easy to do is this one (using a heddle):
For a long band you need to keep in tension a long warp, so to weave more comfortably you can wrap the warp around something repeatedly: this is what looms do. So you can use a rigid heddle loom, a table loom, a floor loom, or an inkle loom, which you can hack out of carboard, as here, to get this (picture credits to heartsonfibre):
If you have it already, you can of course use a Rigid Heddle Loom – a quick set up is here, while to see weaving in action I found this video very clear:
You can in fact use any loom, indeed one can do pretty amazing things by putting together band and loom weaving, as here:
How to weave and what to weave
For how to weave, I found this blog a great resource for band weaving with heddles, while for tablet weaving, this is I think an excellent compromise between being complete and being compact.
As for what to weave, google is your friend: the free resources out there are staggering!
There is great specialisation: Celtic knots, Andean pebble weaves, letters, animals, you name it, it can be woven on a band!
First however you will want to learn how to read a draft (i.e. a pattern telling you how to form sheds, alternate colours, etc: think of reading a sheet of music). The inkle loom manufacturers guides (e.g. Schacht and Ashford) seem great as jump starts.
Another useful quick start is with Handwoven’s Magazine free guide: all of their guides will ask you for your email, I think it is a fair price to pay. This guide gets you going with the basic principles.
Of course pecil and paper are fine to use to sketch out band patterns. However there are some free software programmes that allow you to play around with colours to get some idea of what patterns you will get.
Here whether you are using a reed or a set of cards does make a difference.
For heddle users, Raktres: web based, it is pretty complete, with clear usage instructions here; ess sophisticated (it does plain weave only) but still easy to use to muck about is the free pattern simulation hosted by the Carolingian dream, again web based.
For cards/tablets users drafts do work differently (e.g. you must note the direction in which you turn the cards), two useful pieces of software to experiment with are the Tablet Draft Designer and Twisted Threads (the latter requires setting up an account, again pretty good price, it seems to me).
Links to further resources
There is a staggering amount of resources on band weaving out there, and this post is very long. So I will finish adding just two more “links of links” to societies dedicated to band weaving:
The advantage of this method is that you do not need any additional equipment other than what comes as standard with your loom, at least in the case of Ashford, where raddles are optional add ons.
The starting point is a chained warp, still uncut on both ends just in case, where the “tail” (i.e. unchained part) of the chain is away from the threading cross.
This is the end that would normally go on the raddle, but that will be rough sleyed through the reed instead. To do so, the reed is temporarily removed from the front beater, and used to space the warp threads while beaming. Once this is done, the reed is taken off the warp (how? keep reading to find out), and used as normal.
As standard warping sequence to be modified I will consider the one in Ashford’s videos:
The sequence below will differ at two points: the rough sleying of the reed and transferring the cross from the front to the back of the reed, so that you can take the reed off the warp and put it back on the front beater, where it belongs.
take the reed off
if your chain is “locked”, unlock it;
starting from the end, pull the loops through the raddle, with roughly the same number of loops per dent as you will have when you will actually establish sett, and slip the lease stick through the loops, securing them. It won’t be possible to replicate any sett requiring an odd number of threads, since now everything is looped. You could cut the threads, but this will mean a bit more more loom waste (the knots, as you will have to tied the ends, rather than exploiting the loops) and risk disaster (you will have to manage those cut ends so that they aren’t pulled back by the chain through the reed dents). So easier to go as close as possible to your actual sett, but keeping loops intact. For instance, if the sett requires three warp threads per dent, you can alternate a dent with 1 loop and a dent with 2 loops. For more on rough sleying, you can check Laura Fry’s blog.
Once all the loop ends have been sleyed, the least stick with the loops on gets installed the lease stick on the back apron rod.
beam as normal (crank and yank method): the reed will “comb” the warp and keep it spaced as a raddle would. Keep going until you get to the cross. The picture below shows the “combing” (the reed is behind the castle – heddles have been moved to the sides, one hand keeps the chain in tension at the front of the loom while the other winds the back beam. The tension and the reed’s weight keep it vertical).
now it is the time to remove the reed without destroying the cross. To transfer the cross behind the reed, you turn the lease stick closest to the reed on edge and slide another stick in the opening on the other side of the reed. You take the stick out that you had on edge and bring the second stick up to the reed, turn it on edge, and slide another stick inside the opening on the other side of the reed. The lease sticks are now in the cross on the side of the reed where you need them for threading.
(here with pictures of the process, scroll to the end). I did not have enough hands to take pictures while transferring the cross, but here is what the back of my loom looked like after transferring the cross:
And that’s it – now the front loops can be cut, and threading through the heddles can begin.
Of course things can go wrong, and did go wrong for me – after beaming I found that my threading cross had somehow been thrown in disarray!
But here having the reed sleyed did come very handy: I pulled all the threads out of the cross, but since they were still in the reed slots, I could (patiently!) take them in the order they came out of the reed (also the order in which they were beamed), and put them through the cross again in the right order.
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.
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
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!
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:
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.
Overall preparation, 1: wash and press your yardage before you do anything else. Same goes for any lining you will use.
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.
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.
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.
Cutting, 1: use a dedicated pair of shears for cloth – do not use it to cut the paper pattern, this will dull the blade.
Cutting, 2: cut the cloth in single layer.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
Sewing, 4: use 80/90 sewing machine needle.
Sewing, 5: set stitch length to between 2 and 3mm (the cloth is thicker than commercial yardage, so it will show)
Sewing, 6: use silk thread if you can, rather than cotton thread, as it has more give.
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.
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!
I am going to mention two techniques to add tidy horizontal buttonholes to a button band, one by Anna Zilboorg and one by Sue Neatby.
These two techniques produce really neat buttonholes. They are for buttonholes in the same direction of the knitted fabric, so work well for e.g. a double stocking stitch button band that is folded over.
Both techniques are based on grafting, and in both the buttonhole opening is obtained by knitting the width of the buttonhole with waste yarn, which is then removed to reveal the opening.
Anna Zilboorg’s technique “melts” the buttonholes into the fabric, so that you can hardly see them. To the contrary, Lucy Neatby’s technique makes quite a statement of them, since buttonholes are framed by yarn, and if in contrasting colour this can be quite decorative. I guess which one is best depends on the project (and your preferences).
I have used Anna Zilboorg’s buttonholes, so I will dwell on those a bit more. For Lucy Neatby’s technique however I have a video further below.
In broad terms, Anna Zilboorg’s “perfect buttonhole” technique consists in knitting the stitches where the buttonhole will be with waste yarn, slipping them back and knitting them over, then picking up stitches above and below and knit them with the facing on the WS of the button band. This is for horizontal buttonholes, assuming that you are working them on a button band. The button band will be worked for twice its width, then folded over, so that half of the right side will become the facing on the wrong side.
It goes as follows:
Setup. Work as many rows as you need for half of the height of the button band (e.g. if the button band is 10 rows wide, work 5 rows). For each buttonhole:
work up to where you want your buttonhole to be (e.g. work 10 Sts before each buttonhole);
work the width of the buttonhole (one, two, three or how many stitches you need) with waste yarn
slip the stitches worked with the waste yarn back onto the left needle and work them with your main yarn.
Repeat the setup for each buttonhole. Next work twice as many rows as those worked before the buttonholes (e.g. if you had worked 5, now work ten) + one (this is for the folding). Next:
work up to where the button hole will be (e.g. work 10 stitches);
work the width of the buttonhole (one, two, three or how many stitches you need) with waste yarn
slip the stitches worked with the waste yarn back onto the left needle and work them with your main yarn.
The above cannot substitute for the twenty minutes video with the creator of this technique, which I bought from Interweave here (a preview is here).
Neatby’s magic buttonhole was first introduce into her Finesse your knitting 1 DVD – there is also a pdf explaining the technique here and an 11 minute video here:
I will try this in my next buttoned project, I am eying a summer top which may just be perfect for it!
I chanced upon this method while preparing to knit Linda Marveng’s Cambridge Cardigan – it is a beautiful oversize cardigan with a plaid motif. The pattern recommends crocheting the vertical strands – as a pretty poor executor of duplicate stitch, however, I knew this wouldn’t work that well for me. True, the duplicate stitch would add a texture that stranded work, whereas horizontal or vertical, does not have, but still I thought this would be a small price to pay considering the alternative (by which read “botched job”).
So I bought Lorilee Beltmann’s DVD and I think it is worth every penny – beside working very well for this kind of pattern, it opens up loads of possibilities to add interesting colour work to any pattern.
What’s the difference? Some sources of info I found interesting are listed below, each is a relatively long read. I understand the Jamieson and Smith’s, but there is only one picture comparison that I really get there, the one with the fair isle motives; I cannot detect much difference (in fact, any difference) in the comparison between the lace samples.
I list the link in the order in which I think they work best (from fibre to yarn).
This is an amazingly useful book if you want to take a dive at customising patterns to fit a body shape. I am no expert, but find it very comprehensive, very clearly written, I could not be happier I’ve bought it. I use it heavily too 🙂