Try Experiments with Rigid-Heddle Weaving

One of the many fun things about working for Handwoven is the “free box.” The free box is a large bin where employees put their unwanted craft items. As this is Interweave, the bin always contains a lot of yarn and thread. For a weaver who likes to experiment on the rigid-heddle loom, it’s a box full of possibilities.

People often put only a single skein of a yarn in the box, which can be difficult to use for a project. However, not long ago, someone put about 70 skeins of embroidery thread in the bin. As you can imagine, that thread intrigued me. I love randomly colored warps and have actually wondered how it would be to weave with embroidery thread on the rigid-heddle loom. (I wonder about all kinds of things!)


My tiny sample using discarded colors told me what I needed to know. Photo credit: Susan E. Horton

Among the 70 or so skeins were a variety of pinks, yellows, oranges, and light greens, which I picked for my warp while rejecting the blues and neon greens as outliers. Based on a wrapping, I determined that the sett should be 12 epi with the thread doubled in the slots and holes. I wove a very small sample using some of the rejected colors doubled in warp and weft and was very happy with the hand; it was sort of stiff and perfect for the placemats I was envisioning.

It seemed a little crazy to wind all of those 8-yard skeins into balls, but with some binge television watching, I got it done. I put my peg 2½ yards from the back of the loom, so each skein would make it around the peg once and then could be tied off at the peg on the second pass. I warped with two skeins at a time. To get a “balanced random” look, I warped from the middle out. I won’t lie and tell you that warping went quickly, but it was interesting to pick from the variety of colors.

My next step is choosing weft. I know it won’t be more embroidery floss because weaving with such a short length and having all of those ends in my weaving doesn’t seem fun. I believe that one of the things that worked in the sample was based on the construction of embroidery floss, i.e, every warp and every weft was made up of 12 tiny threads, and those tiny threads lie flat when woven. With that in mind, I am planning on using multiple ends of 20/2 cotton.

I’m not advocating this as your next project. Heck, it’s not even done yet, and it might not even work out as I envision it. I would, however, encourage you to find your own free box. Sometimes the unexpected and unwanted spark ideas and solutions. If you need help getting started, check out the Ultimate Rigid Heddle Bundle, it has all of the patterns, tips, and tricks you need to get started on your own experimental rigid-heddle projects.

Weave well,

Featured Image: A randomly striped warp of embroidery thread. Photo credit: Susan E. Horton

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