Freedom in Simplicity

It’s National Craft Month, a great time to welcome new handweavers into our community. Rigid-heddle looms can provide an affordable and easy-to-learn introduction as we learn to weave, but they can also take us way beyond the basics. In celebration of the friendly and versatile rigid-heddle loom, here’s my friend Betty Davenport, author of Hands on Rigid Heddle Weaving, wonderful teacher, and doyenne of the rigid heddle, to talk about the places a rigid-heddle loom can take you. – Anita


Betty Davenport Spacer 5x5 pixels 

Betty Davenport enjoying

very simple weaving tools

on a recent trip to Peru.


I’m so pleased to learn that the rigid-heddle loom is attracting new weavers and even some experienced weavers. The rigid-heddle loom was my first loom. I was attracted to it for the same reasons that many of you new weavers are. It’s not expensive, it’s easy to use, it’s portable, and it’s versatile in what can be woven on it. 


Spacer 5x5 pixels  Linen Runner, by Betty Davenport
   Betty's Linen Runner from
Hands on Rigid Heddle Weaving 

In my first class I learned how to make several textured patterns on the rigid-heddle loom using a pick-up stick. It was so easy. The unique feature of the rigid heddle is the hole-and-slot format. The warps going through the holes are controlled by the position of the heddle, up or down. The warps in the slots are passive. It’s basically a 2-shaft loom. But if you use a pick-up stick placed behind the heddle to pick-up selected slot warps, the pick-up stick acts as a third shaft, and it doesn’t interfere with the regular action of the rigid heddle.


This so fascinated me that I continued weaving on my rigid-heddle loom even though I was also learning to weave on 4-shaft and then 8- and 16-shaft floor looms. I knew there must be more patterns possible on the rigid-heddle loom than the few I had learned in the class. Investigating this became the subject for my specialized study for the Handweavers Guild of America Certificate of Excellence. I wove more than nine yards of samples, and I’m sure there are more patterns to be discovered with this technique.


Betty Davenport's rigid heddle created lace Spacer 5x5 pixels 
 Betty's rigid-heddle Bronson lace   

At one point, I wondered if I could weave some of my rigid-heddle designs on the floor loom. I had woven a stole in Bronson lace on the rigid-heddle loom, using a design on graph paper as a guide to where to insert the pick-up stick to weave the lace patterns. Out of curiosity, I wrote out the draft for the floor loom. Lo and behold! It would take more than forty shafts to duplicate the design on the floor loom! I was really impressed at what was possible on this simple loom. 


Freedom in designing with texture and plain weave is fun with a rigid-heddle loom. I hope you’ll also explore its other unlimited possibilities.






Editors Note: The time is drawing near! April 12th is the deadline to enter our 2012 Garment Challenge, and there's a prize for the best garment woven with a rigid-heddle loom. So weave away!

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