Recently I have been glued to the weaving groups on ravelry.com looking for ideas and inspiration. In particular, I like reading the conversations that take place in the “Warped Weavers” and “Rigid Heddle Looms” groups. These groups are a great source of information on equipment as well as the warping and weaving process. No question is too basic, and so far, no question seems to have gone unanswered. Plus there are lots of wonderful pictures of the projects your fellow weavers have created, and everyone seems happy to share the details on how they were made.
One conversation that gave me pause was from a new weaver wondering why the rigid heddle loom isn’t seen as a real loom. As many of you know, Jane has long been an advocate of the rigid heddle loom. And after learning to weave on a table loom and then acquiring a Baby Wolf, I too was curious about what she saw in the rigid heddle loom. From my perspective it just seemed so slow. Then I got my Flip.
I love my Flip. My Flip has seen more use in the past two months than all of my floor looms combined. It is the perfect loom to weave quick projects. And while sometimes I’m looking for the weaving speed or weight or pattern complexity that a floor loom offers, sometimes I am also looking to quickly warp up a smaller project or easily travel with my loom. Weaving with a rigid heddle loom makes me feel closer to each pick in my project.
So while I believe that everyone is entitled to their opinions, I would ask the next person who poo-poos rigid heddle weaving if they’ve ever tried it. And if they still turn up their noses, well, there are thousands of weavers who would just as happily embrace you for being a part of the weaving community. Feel the weaving love!
What can you do with your rigid heddle loom? There are so many possibilities. Recently, I have been experimenting with finger-manipulated weaves. I tend to experiment more with color and texture, so this was a good lesson for me. I would encourage you to sit down with your loom and experiment. Not everything you weave has to be a project. Consider warping your loom with an assortment of pearl cotton and playing around. It’s so easy to warp a Flip, and let’s face it, we all have some yarn in our stash that may never see the light of day unless you give it the chance to give itself up to your weaving experiments.
Another piece of advice I have is to test theories. Don’t assume that just because someone with more experience than you says to do something one way that you have to do it that way. You should wonder why and you should experience why. Who knows? You may just come up with the new preferred method.
Here’s an example of testing theories that seems to be a hot topic. Do you warp your rigid heddle loom with the heddle in the neutral position or in the heddle up position? From the get go, I have direct warped my Flip with the heddle in the neutral position. I was careful not to twist threads, and I never had an issue with uneven tension. Then I decided to weave a set of napkins out of hemp. The hemp I was using was fairly rustic and had no elasticity whatsoever. I direct-warped as usual, but by the time I got to the point in my weaving when the apron bar came up over the back beam, all of the threads in the slots were somewhat limp. I couldn’t get a clean shed, and the last few inches of weaving were tedious.
The next time I use a warp material that has little or no elasticity, I will try raising the heddle during the tie on process as recommended by Betty Lynn Davenport. Her logic is that typically threads in the holes are either in the up or down shed position when you are weaving, so they ought to be tied on in this fashion in order to create even tension. I still plan to tie on with the heddle in neutral when using springy yarns simply because I find the heddle to be more stable in this position. Do what works for you, but understand why you are doing it that way.
I was still in a celebratory holiday mood when I created this month’s project. It will give you a nice introduction to hemstitching, one of my favorite ways to add decorative touches to a woven project, and it can easily be woven on a 20” or 25” Flip loom. You could also halve the width of the project, add extra seam allowance widthwise, double the length of weaving, and easily complete it on a 15” Flip or the Cricket.
This bag uses hemstitching to create holes that can then be threaded with ribbon and used to cinch around the neck of a wine bottle. I threw in a bit of sparkle yarn both for fun and to humor Stephanie, Schacht’s super-duper sparkly customer service and sales lady extraordinaire, proving that even non-sparkly girls can step over to the lighter side once in a while. The instructions are for two bags because you may just want to keep one for yourself.
Equipment: 20” or 25” Flip Rigid Heddle Loom, 8-dent rigid heddle reed, stick shuttle, yarn needle. Separator made of sturdy material such as wood or cardboard approximately 1” x 18”. Sewing machine (optional).
– Brown Sheep Company Lamb’s Pride Super Wash 100% wool
color SW53 Finches – 346 yards
– Karabella Yarns Gossamer 30% kid mohair 52% nylon 18% polyester
color 6115 Nude – 65 yards
– Sewing thread
Using your 8-dent rigid heddle, put on a 55” warp using the Lamb’s Pride superwash. Your weaving width will be 16”, and your goal is to weave about 39” in length.
Begin weaving. Weave 5”. Your next step will be to hemstitch across, instructions below. Hemstitching
is an easy way to add detail to your handwovens. I particularly like a book called Finishing Touches for the Handweaver by Virginia West. Initially I balked at the cost, as $21.95 seemed rather expensive for a fairly slim volume, but I use it all the time and consider it an excellent investment.
Create two lines of hemstitching.To hemstitch, throw your final pick ending with the shuttle on the right, and leave a tail of yarn equal to three and a half times the width of your weaving. Cut the yarn from your shuttle, and put your heddle in the neutral position so there is no shed.
Working from right to left, using a yarn needle and working in groups of four threads, bring your yarn needle under four threads and up. Cross your thread left to right back over these first four threads and bring the needle under your weaving and out through the fabric two rows back and four rows in from the edge. Take your yarn needle and thread it under the next four threads in your sequence and repeat the above steps. You can work right to left, mirroring the steps if you prefer.
When you reach the other side, weave the tail in, open your shed, and place your separator. I usually use a spare lease stick, though most anything that will help you create a space between your sections of weaving will do. The exact size of the separation simply needs to be wide enough to accommodate your ribbon. Change your shed, and using the Lamb’s Pride superwash and leaving a tail of yarn about three and a half times the width of your weaving, weave an inch or two past the separator. Remove the separator, and repeat the hemstitching across the width of your fabric so that both edges of your separation are secured.
Continue weaving until you have 4” of fabric after the hemstitched section. Change to the Karabella Gossamer, and weave 4”. Continue weaving as follows:
– Lamb’s Pride superwash for 10”
– Karabella Gossamer for 4”
– Lamb’s Pride superwash for 4”
– Create another hemstitched section ~1”
– Lamb’s Pride superwash 5”
Cut the project from your loom, and zigzag stitch across your two cut edges. From here, you should handwash, air dry, and steam press your fabric gently.
Finshing the bags. Measuring from cut edge to cut edge, find the mid-point of your material and cut across so that you have two mirroring panels, each approximately 15” x 19”. Zigzag stitch across the two new cut edges.
Using a single panel at a time, fold your top edge (the edge closest to your hemstitching) down once and then again over itself to create a double fold, and zigzag stitch this seam in place. Next you will fold the fabric in half lengthwise with the seam you just created facing out. Be sure that your hemstitching lines up against itself. Pin the bottom and side of your bag, and straight stitch along each seam.
Turn the bag right-side out and voila! I opted to hand stitch the seams down at the top of the bag from the hemstitching up to the top edge. This creates a neater look as the top of the bag is the only section likely to be exposed once you thread your ribbon through the hemstitched section and cinch it around the neck of your bottle. Repeat these steps with your second panel of cloth, and you have two gift bags at your disposal.