Fixing a broken warp thread with very little yarn

The standard method suggested to fix broken warp is to take a fresh length of yarn as long as the remaining length to be woven, secure it to the cloth already woven, and weave that while discarding the broken warp thread.

Perhaps because I came to weaving from knitting, with a sizeable stash of expensive knitting yarn, I could never really stomach this method. And since I can see no reason why the same method cannot be applied also “in reverse”, this is exactly what I did to fix my very first broken warp thread in my very first project.

So with this method, depending on where the broken warp is, the yarn needed is at most the length between the between the front and the back beam. Should the break occur during winding, just knot the two broken ends, and deal with the knot once it approaches the fell line (the case in the pictures below)

Saving yarn gives me great satisfaction, and thought I am sure I am not the first person who has thought of this, I could not find it online, so I am reporting it here.

The first part is the usual one:

  1. take a length of yarn and thread it in the same heddle as the broken warp thread, along the warp.
  2. Secure a pin (a sewing pin or a T-pin) to the cloth parallel to the fell line, so that the pin head is just to the side of the woven part of the warp thread you have to replace.
  3. Secure the front end of the replacement warp to the pin, e.g. by making several figures of 8 using the two ends of the pin.
  4. tension the replacement warp thread by weighing with something at the back – a possible solution is to stick it between two yarn cones. Just make sure that the weight is not excessive as to break the replacement warp!
  5. if dealing with a knot, cut the old warp thread after the knot, and place both ends out of the way temporarily – the end closest to the cloth beam will be snipped out later, the (long) end going to the back beam will be rejoined.
  6. weave. Depending on how slippery the yarn is, you want to weave a few cm, as the replacement warp thread will be cut.

Now with the usual procedure you would keep weaving until the end, and then discard the old warp thread, whatever its length. To avoid that:

  1. after weaving the desired length, take another pin and secure it parallel to the (new) fell line; attach to it the old warp thread, pulling it hard enought that it is in tensioned as the rest of the warp. This definitely works on a rigid heddle loom and on a table loom. Maybe on a floor loom, where the warp is more tensioned, something thicker than a pin is needed.
  2. cut the replacement warp, and pull it out of the heddles; remove the pin that secured it to the cloth (not a good idea to remove it before cutting, to avoid the tension pulling out the woven relacement thread)
  3. weave as normal. After weaving enough cm that the warp is now securely woven into the cloth, remove the second pin. Done, and you’ll just trim the ends that stick out of the cloth later.

Reading a weaving draft (including adaptation for the rigid heddle loom)

There are many sources to find out about weaving drafts and how to read them – however most of what I’ve found is either for multi shaft looms (e.g. check out joy of weaving, Cally Booker on floor looms and table looms, or Peggy Osterkamp) or for rigid heddle looms (joy of weaving again). I thought I might save you some time if I combined the two in a single place.

So, what is a draft? As a starter on a rigid heddle loom, I came across the term “draft” or “weaving draft” very often, and wondered what it was (though I could weave quite happily without needing to know anything about it).

It may be useful to think first of the basics of a loom.

Most loom types seem a variation of the following: a more or less rectangular frame that keeps a set of threads, which are said to form the warp, in tension. Then another set of threads, called the weft, are interlaced with the warp, by being woven at a right angle across the warp, with each weft thread going over and under the weft threads. The way in which you go over and under determines the pattern.

You could weave with a needle – in fact, tapestry weaving uses exactly that. it is slow, though, and so heddles come quite handy: if each warp thread goes through a heddle, then by lifting heddles you lift a certain group of threads, and so rather than slogging a needle up and down what could be very many and very fine wapr threads, you lift all those threads you should go under, create a shed (i.e. an opening) between the lifted threads and those that stay put, and can pass the weft thread through with a “big needle”, i.e. a shuttle. In some looms (e.g. a rigid heddle loom) you can also lower heddles, in others (e.g. countermarch looms) you lift some heddles and lower the others at the same time. In all cases the objective is to create a shed as tall as possible to put the weft thread comfortably through.

How to do all this lifting (and lowering) of heddles? You need a “shaft”, something that the heddle is secured to which can pull it comfortably up and down. To do any weaving you need at least two shafts, so that you can lift different groups of threads to get warp and weft interlacement. In a rigid heddle loom you would have some threads in a slot and some in the hole: by lifting the heddle you are raising the threads in the holes – call these “shaft 1”. By lowering the heddle, you push down the warp threads in the holes, so that those through the slots are raised relative to those in the holes – call these as “shaft 2”.

A “draft” then is a plan that tells you which warp threads go through which heddle (the draft threading) and which set of heddles, hence which shaft, has to be raised at each pick (the draft treadling). It may be that your draft wants you to manipulate some shafts at the same time, or separately. This is noted in the tie-up section of a draft.

The combination of threading and treading will produce a specific warp and weft interlacement, the drawdown.

For plain weave only two shafts are needed, i.e. shafts 1 and 2, and in the treadling you shafts 1 and 2 are lifted in alternating fashion. In a rigid heddle loom, a single heddle behaves as two shafts, where e.g. call the holes “shaft 1” and the slots “shaft 2”.

Below is a plain weave draft. In the threading each column corresponds to a warp thread and each row refers to a shaft (start counting from the bottom). In the treadling each row corresponds to a weft thread, and each column refers to a shaft. In the box occupying the right top corner, each row corresponds to a shaft. Finally each solid black box indicates a thread/shaft combination.

Example draft for plain weave – note that the drawdown is missing

Start from the tie up: the bottom corner identifies shaft 1, and the top corner identifies shaft 2.

Next, the threading: the bottom row links up with shaft 1 of the tie up, hence it tells you that the odd warp threads go through heddles in shaft 1 (or holes in a rigid heddle); while the top row links up with shaft 2, so it tells you that the even numbered threads go through heddles in shaft 2 (or slots in a rigid heddle).

Finally, the treadling, the first row tells you that at the first pick you should lift shaft 1, since the first solid box corresponds to shaft 1; the second row tells you to lift shaft 2, as the second solix box corresponds to shaft 2. The third row is again a pick with shaft 1 lifted, and so on. With a rigid heddle loom, lifting shaft 1 would mean put the heddle in the up position, and lifting shaft 2 would mean put the heddle in the low position.

No drawdown shows in the pictures above. To think how it should look like: the first bit of the treading says to lift shaft 1 when passing the first weft thread (i.e. weaving the first “pick“). This means that all odd warp threads will be up, and all even threads will be down – hence the weft will go over all even threads, covering them. With a rigid heddle loom, the first pick would mean raising all the threads through a hole, so the even threads in a slot will stay down.

Then with purple weft and white warp, after the first pick the project would look this:

Drawdown (i.e. interlacement of warp and weft) starting to show

The second pick tells you to lift shaft 2/put the rigid heddle in the down position, hence after the second pick you have this:

Drawdown after two picks

and so on:

Plain weave

This is the simplest draft there is! Of course a draft could use more shafts, and the treadling could prescribe lifting multiple shafts at a time – for instance in 2/2 twill shafts are always lifted in pairs, here is an example:

The pictures above are screenshot from weaving software, which makes experimenting very easy, and hours fly by quickly playing around with drafts. Having said that, for me pen and squared paper were what I needed to really understand what any combination of threading, treadling and tie up will do for a drawdown.

Drafts intended for multi shaft looms can be woven on a rigid heddle loom, definitely up to four. True, the structure of a rigid heddle does impose constraints and requires some creativity, but it can be done in various ways. I do find that understanding how a rigid heddle loom can function as a multi shaft loom quite liberating, so some more thoughts on this follow below.

Rigid Heddle Loom as Multishaft loom

As discussed above, a rigid heddle loom setup with a single heddle can be seen as a two shaft loom: the holes are heddle 1, the slots are heddle 2. Now what if you add another rigid heddle? if you do, you will be adding one more shaft.

Hang on, you may ask, did we not just say that a single heddle counts as two shafts? Yes, but that is true for the first heddle only. When you add a second heddle, it is still the case that you will be able to lift the threads that go through the holes of that additional heddle, and we will say that such threads belong to shaft 3. But the threads that go through the slots will still be “passive”, and in order to “lift” them you will have to lower all the other heddles, to lower the hole threads. Hence by adding each furhter heddle, you are only adding one more possibility of manipulating threads through holes.

In short then:

1 rigid heddle = 2 shafts

2 rigid heddles=3 shafts

3 rigid heddles =4 shafts

and so on. I find it more convenient to number the “shafts” starting from the holes, and leaving the slots as (residual) shaft 4.

To learn more about four shaft weaving on the rigid heddle loom, I recommend the excellent Weaving With Three Rigid Heddles, by Reverend David B. Mckinney.  The Xenakis Technique for the Construction of Four-Harness Textiles on a Rigid-Heddle, by David Xenakis, has the advantage of being free, thought the writing style may not appeal to all. I found the section on converting four shaft drafts for the rigid heddle loom in chapter 6 Syne Mitchell’s “Inventive weaving on a little loom” pretty clear.

Happy weaving!

Year Of Projects: week 8

You may recall that last week I was looking for suggestions of which of three drafts to use for a scarf, which is intended to be a sampler for yardage I will weave later (by the way, “yardage” means “fabric for sewing”).

I did try to alternate all three, but it didn’t quite work, at least not with the yarn I am using (Baa Ram Ewe Titus, a fingering weight yarn which is a blend of Wensleydale, Bluefaced Leicester and British Alpaca) – and in fact this probably won’t work as a sampler either, as the yarn I will use for the yardage is much finer, and with a different composition.

Still, I got going with this scarf, and I am quite enjoying the process!

Eventually I decided to have two repeatitions of the base 44 picks followed by two repetitions of the same 44 picks in reverse order, and this is how the draft looks:

My draft

My draft was inspired by the beautiful “A winter Confection” by Sandra Hutton, published in the Jan-Feb 2019 issue of Handwoven Magazine. That is for 8 shafts, and there is no way to obtain something so rich and complex with four shafts, or at least I haven’t been able to, but I am still happy.

I’ll have to see how the scarf looks once it is done: here is a picture of how it looks on the loom, you can’t see all the 174 picks, but you get the idea:

and here a close up of the fabric:

close up of fabric in the loom

I will decide how much I like this once I unroll it all – for instance I could have just kept the single repeat, without generating “waves”, or kept the part vertical bit before it changes direction shorter, or added another colour to the warp (as in the original draft I took inspiration from). It is clear to me that I’ll have to sample with the actual yarn when it comes to the dress, but in the meantime this is giving me plenty of experience (and further ideas) with this draft.

The full “wave” repeat consists of 174 picks: that’s a lot of picks to keep track of! So here technology comes quite handy, and I am very grateful that iWeaveit exists! This is the “baby” version of Weaveit Pro, a fully fledged weaving/drafting software. iWeaveit is an app for iOS and Android that allows you to do three things: play around with weaving drafts, track threading (i.e. keeps track of the heddles as you pass the warps through it) and track treadling (i.e., the picks when you weave). It is not exactly cheap, but nor is yarn, anyhow I find it worth every penny (no affiliations, by the way).

I am going to travel for a week, and decided to leave the loom at home, otherwise the chances of finishing the sweater I am working on are zero!

This is a year of projects (YOP) update. YOP 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 if you manage. The objective is to keep track of progress on any fiber crafts with maximum flexibility: 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.

Year Of Projects: week 7

Again this week was all about weaving, or at least what crafting time I had – I only read up on techniques for three evenings, without any crafting, as I was down south where the heath was relentless!

Before leaving though, I did manage to make some more progress on my eventful doubleweave project: I wove 12 pattern repeats, and the other side is beginning to show:

Both sides showing

I really like how it is coming out, though it will take some time before I get to the end, after all it is two layers of pretty long fabric.

I also wound my very first bobbin for my very first boat shuttle (details here).

Half the space in my case was taken by my rigid heddle loom, so once the heat subsided I was ready to start warping it – it is a project with three heddles as I would like to test the design for the fabric for a dress, that I will weave double width on the table loom.

Measuring the warp and beaming it (i.e. rolling it on the back beam of the loom) took an evening, another one was spent threading the three heddles according to the pattern. This is where I got:

There are 4 pattern repeats, each pattern develops over 44 threads, and 44 picks, so the weaving will be interesting, not sure I’ll manage to listen to any audiobooks, at least in the beginning!

The scarf has a dark grey warp (the yarn coming down vertically) and a pale blue weft (the yarn that will interlace horizontally), the same combination as for my first skirt, but the dress will be green on green, these are the colours:

I am however VERY undecided on how to weave the pattern: just by changing how I raise and lower the heddles I can obtain either of the following:

The first two from the left are the two sides of the same fabric, the first from the right is same fabric (technically, the first two are the two sides of an unbalanced twill weave, 3/1 or 1/3, where you have that each weft/horizontal thread goes over three, then under one warp thread; the last one is a balanced 2/2 twill, where the weft travels over two/under two warp threads). If you have any ideas I’d be grateful. I thought about alternating all three, as in some kind of gradient, but at least on paper it doesn’t look too great. Aargh, what to do???

This is a year of projects (YOP) update. YOP 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 if you manage. The objective is to keep track of progress on any fiber crafts with maximum flexibility: 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.

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!

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

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)

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!

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.

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