I’m becoming a rapid convert to rigid-heddle weaving. Especially in the summer, when my schedule is full and I can’t stand to spend any more time inside than I must, the rigid heddle gives me the flexibility and portability I need to keep weaving!
But if you’re a new weaver like me, it can be difficult to fully understand the range of possibilities available to you. Weaving yards and yards of plain weave can be very fun, relaxing, and even useful, but I need my weaving to stretch my creativity and my ability. That’s why I’m so excited about the brand new technique and pattern eBook Handwoven has just released for rigid heddle. It’s the third part in a trilogy of truly inspiring rigid-heddle loom patterns, and I’m itching to try out the projects included.
Here are some ways you can break out of that plain weave rut and create some creative, spectacular weaving on your rigid heddle.
Experiment with “Risky” Yarn
One of the best things about rigid-heddle looms is the way they let you make use of knitting and novelty yarns. Because the warps are under less tension and experience less stress as you advance your warp, you can get away with a lot.
For example, the “Ombre Silk Shawl” by Susan Horton makes use of silk bouclé yarn in the warp—a yarn typically thought to be far too prone to getting caught in your heddles. With some care and Fray Check, however, she was able to create a really gorgeous shawl, with lovely contrast between the smooth yarn used in the weft and the bouclé in the warp.
Other projects in the eBook are woven with stretchy alpaca knitting yarns and even yarn made from sari silk! Because you’ll have very little loom waste on your rigid heddle, you don’t have to shy away from using those luxurious yarns. Experiment away!
Become a Color and Weave Master
Rigid-heddle weaving is all about color-and-weave effects. From plaids to log cabin, the order of colors you place in your warp and weft is one of the easiest ways to get creative with your designs. The projects in the new rigid-heddle eBook feature stripes, plaids, subtle and bold log cabin, and basketweave, all of which will translate to designing your own rigid-heddle loom patterns in the future.
Make Friends with Pick-Up Sticks
When I was just starting out, pick-up sticks seemed so intimidating to me. And then I realized that they’re a total gift—and much easier than I thought! Pick-up sticks are the key to creating projects that no one will believe were woven on a rigid-heddle loom.
For example, did you know you can do waffle weave on a rigid heddle? That’s right: durable, absorbent, touchable waffle weave just requires one heddle, one pick-up stick, and a few shuttles! Practice the technique on the small runner project outlined in the eBook, then start designing your own rigid-heddle loom patterns full of waffle cells.
Pick-up sticks also put some basic overshot weaving in your grasp. Lisa Rayner’s scarf with freeform patterning is a wonderful way to break out of your shell creatively and really design. To weave a scarf like this one on a shaft loom would have required way too many shafts, but the pick-up stick allows you to design as you weave, using just a sketch for guidance.
Rigid-Heddle Loom Patterns with Creative Shaping
Assembling garments from long, narrow strips of handwoven cloth is a tradition as old as weaving itself. Nancy McRay will show you how to weave a vest from two long strips of cloth, which are then cut into 5 panels and crochet-seamed together. The same basic panel technique will also allow you to weave a snuggly ruana and a breezy top made from soysilk.
The “V-Shaped Scarves” by Judith Shangold also make creative use of shaping. You weave half the scarf, then cut it off the loom with long warp tails. Then you retie your warp threads and weave the other side of the scarf, finally weaving those long warp tails into the scarf at the very end to attach the pieces. It’s no-sew, and everyone will wonder how you did it!
Sometimes the real creativity of weaving comes in after you’ve cut your work off the loom. Fringes, seams, and other details not only make the project really your own, but also stretch your creativity and challenge your resourcefulness.
The “Log Cabin Ruana” is a perfect example. As Interweave founder Linda Ligon, who designed it, so eloquently says, “This ruana is a set of ideas, a blank canvas, a project to suggest another project. You can think of the fabric as a background for fancy finishes or other embellishments. Try a tablet-woven or inkle band instead of a knitted one for the neck binding or the back seam. Plan long twisted fringes or embroidered hems. Whatever you choose, the richly fulled Shetland-wool fabric will show it off.”
In her design, the fringe is trimmed to make tiny balls, and a contrasting tassel is stitched onto the back and neck seams, but she gives you plenty of resources to explore further. I’m currently weaving the back to a vest on my rigid-heddle loom, and I now have tons of ideas for how to make it really special.
Rigid-heddle weaving can sometimes feel limited, but in some ways, those limitations can actually set your creativity loose. The project designers in this new eBook really get that, and I think you’ll be really impressed with how they’re stretching the boundaries by simply refusing to be limited. Download your copy of Rigid Heddle Technique and Pattern eBook #3 and learn a new rigid-heddle loom technique this summer! I know I was inspired to take my rigid-heddle weaving to the next level. I hope you feel the same.
P.S. What are your favorite techniques for spicing up rigid-heddle loom patterns? Let me know in the comments!