Twill on the Rigid Heddle Loom

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twill on the flip

Within the year, a weaver called me at Schacht to ask if it was possible to weave twill on the rigid heddle loom. My reply to her was, yes, it is possible, but not practical.

Now, I must retract my statement and hope that whoever she is might stumble across this entry to discover a new answer. You see, more experience has brought new insight. I feel a little bad about my first response. At the time it was an honest reply, but not a good one. But isn’t this the reason we move forward? Isn’t this the way science or medicine or philosophy work? You practice, you repeat, you evolve. You know more today than yesterday. Or hope to anyway.

I’ve been weaving a lot, every day, usually early in the morning before work, sometimes in the evening after dinner, and many hours over the week end. I’m working on a new rigid heddle book and the more I push this clever, yet simple little wonder-of-a-loom, I make new discoveries almost every time I’m at the loom. My mind is full of, What if…”

I started thinking about twills when I was working on the double weave chapter. If it takes two heddles and two pick-up sticks to weave double weave, which is four different sheds, then certainly I could weave a twill which requires the same number of sheds to complete a pattern. That seemed easy enough.

I worked out this problem by lifting the two heddles one at a time, and then I saw that if I picked up every other warp thread (heddle in down position) with my pick-up stick I created the third shed. The fourth shed presented a problem, as I needed to pick up every other raised thread not picked up before. I had two choices; either re-pick this shed every fourth shot (that seemed like a drag), or use string heddles on a heddle rod. I chose the later.

To do this I made reusable string heddles, picked my shed and installed the heddles by looping my string heddle under each desired warp thread and placing it over the heddle rod. To keep the heddles in place and prevent the rod from sliding out, I placed a strip of masking tape over the top of the rod. Not elegant, but a practical solution.

Weaving proceeds like this:
1. Heddle I (front) up
2. Pick-up Stick A (turned on edge, heddles neutral)
3. Heddle II (rear) up
4. Pick-up Stick B (turned on edge, heddles neutral).

A few more things: thread your two heddles as you would for doubling your sett. To insert your second pick-up stick, just lift up on the heddle bar and slide the stick into place. It is important to make your heddles long enough that they don’t interfere with the shed made by pick-up stick A. I used my rigid heddle reed as my template.

This weaving pattern will yield a 3/1 twill. I’m not sure a 2/2 twill is practical. At least, I’m not sure at this point in time. Should I make new discoveries as I weave merrily along, I’ll let you know. Just as it’s never, never, never a good thing to say “never”, in weaving it’s never, never, never prudent to say “can’t”.

Schacht Spindle

Schacht Spindle Company, Inc. was founded during the back-to-earth movement of the late 1960's and its accompanying craft resurgence. Their first loom was a simple tapestry loom, a version which they still make today. Over nearly 50 years, Schacht has developed a broad range of high quality hand weaving and hand spinning tools, including their popular Cricket Loom and Ladybug Spinning wheel. Schacht’s mission is to create beautiful and well-designed products that enhance customers’ weaving and spinning experience through innovative problem solving, creative ideas, skilled woodworking and craftsmanship, and friendly, knowledgeable customer service. Schacht’s family owned business is located in Boulder, Colorado.