I Had to “Get” Rigid-Heddle Looms to Appreciate Them.

I’m not sure why some things that are obvious to others aren’t so obvious to me. Here’s what I learned about weaving on the rigid-heddle loom that surprised me but wasn’t surprising.

Susan E. Horton Jul 7, 2020 - 4 min read

I Had to “Get” Rigid-Heddle Looms to Appreciate Them. Primary Image

Winter Wave Towels by Jodi Ybarra will teach you a bit about pick-up and a bit about design and after the lessons, you'll have two pretty towels to use or gift. Photos by George Boe

Have you ever wondered why it has taken you so long to realize something? I was driving with a friend on College Ave one day and we passed Cal State Fullerton. I probably shouldn’t have said it out loud, but I said something along the lines of “Oh, that’s why it’s called College Ave.” I was joking the other day with another weaver about the day it finally clicked for the two of us that a shuttle goes back and forth across the warp just as a shuttle goes back and forth between a hotel and the airport. As a kid, I couldn’t for the life of me understand why “Ped Xing” meant pedestrian crossing. Maybe it’s just me, but chime in any time. What didn’t you get that was staring you right in the face?

I had the same experience when it came to rigid-heddle looms. In my mind, maybe because of how they were often marketed, I believed they were for weaving scarves with fancy knitting yarns. I was a floor-loom weaver with way more than just one closet full of cones of weaving yarns. Adding another vehicle that would bring yet another type of yarn into my house wasn’t high on my list. I borrowed rigid-heddle looms and taught rigid-heddle weaving, but it wasn’t until I heard someone say they doubled 8/2 cotton on theirs to weave kitchen towels that I started to see rigid-heddle looms as looms I really wanted to get to know.

Being able to weave towels simply by doubling 8/2 cotton, a yarn that occupies a large portion of that closet of cones, put me on the road to fully appreciating the rigid-heddle loom. Why I didn’t think of it, I’ll never know, but I’m glad I learned that trick because today I own my own rigid-heddle loom and use it to weave not only those scarves with fancy knitting yarns but also table runners, placemats, napkins, and kitchen towels. Over time, I’ve learned that there are other yarns that work well at the lower setts of rigid-heddle looms without doubling and that there are techniques that are easy on a rigid-heddle loom that would tie you up in knots on a floor loom.

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My Celebration Napkins use doubled Tencel for a soft hand and pick-up in the stripe intersections to add interest.

Our most recent eBook, Handwoven Presents: Top Ten Rigid-Heddle Table and Kitchen Linens, is a compilation of projects that will improve your weaving skills while you are working on them and improve your kitchen and dining room’s ambiance when they are finished. If you want to shift your rigid-heddle weaving to be more practical, this is a great place to start. There are multiple sets of kitchen towels plus two sets of napkins, and placemats. Weave the linens as they are presented or change the yarn colors to ones that match your own décor. The setts, yardages, and steps have been vetted, allowing you to weave with confidence.

I’m sure there are lots of things that I still don’t get. The problem with life is you don’t know what you don’t get until you do, but I’m glad that now I get rigid-heddle looms.

Weave well,