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Handwoven on a Rigid Heddle Loom

Although I dearly love my handmade 4-harness counterbalance loom, it’s not very portable. My little, old LeClerc rigid heddle loom, on the other hand, moves around with ease. I really like taking the rigid heddle loom to shows and weaving actual pieces on it as much as possible during the show.

In general, two kinds of people stop and watch me weave — people who’ve never seen anyone weave anything, and people who’ve woven themselves, mostly years ago. If I’m anywhere near Buffalo, there are more people in that latter category than you might imagine. LOTS of people went to Buffalo State College and took weaving. Not just fine arts majors took this class; it was apparently quite popular.

Anyway, I was weaving with some of Tammy’s gorgeous hand painted bamboo yarn, in a fairly thick gauge to work in a 12-dent rigid heddle. I wanted to warp the rigid heddle loom for 3 scarves, so I knew that in order to fit it all on the back beam I’d have to wind under tension and use thin cardboard spacers, not the continuous roll paper I prefer. This went pretty smoothly.

For the first scarf, I used the same hand painted yarn for weft as I had used for warp.
handwoven bamboo scarf, north shore
As always on a scarf warp, this creates a somewhat regular plaid effect. People were fascinated to learn how hand painting is done, the reason the pattern repeats, and how different it would look on a wide warp.

For the second scarf I wove with a solid green weft.
handwoven bamboo scarf, north shore & green
Tammy also hand painted the solid color for me, specifically to coordinate with the variegated yarn. I often have her make coordinating solid colors, as I tend to prefer stripes over plaids. Fortunately, she’s really happy to do custom dyeing. I like the green scarf, even though I don’t find it as different visually from the plaid as I had expected.

Once those two scarves were woven, the front beam was about as full as it could get. There was no way it would hold the third scarf, so I had to cut the first two off the loom and re-tie. People were interested to watch that process, too, although it didn’t hold their attention for long. There were all surprised to feel the two scarves I had cut off — really hard and stiff. I explained that they would feel very soft and drape well after they were wet finished; I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t have believed me if I hadn’t had several completed bamboo scarves. (I didn’t bother pointing out to them that the finished scarves were a finer gauge bamboo and would feel different.)

I wove the third scarf with one of Tammy’s coordinating solid blue yarns for the weft.
handwoven bamboo scarf, north shore & blue
Obviously the blue is a very rich, intense color. It really pops the scarf. I think some people thought it was too much, but not me. I really like it.

Over the course of the two days, several people wanted to buy the scarves I was weaving at the show. I explained that they wouldn’t be ready for sale till the next show, and I think some of them will likely show up…not necessarily to buy those scarves, but because that’s also a well attended show.

Whether they saw those scarves being woven or not, I think people will be surprised by how different these three handwoven scarves, all made on the same warp, look with the 3 different wefts.

handwoven bamboo scarves - 3 north shore

Your turn: how do you use color creatively?

4 comments to Handwoven on a Rigid Heddle Loom

  • I have a leclric rigid heddle my problem is the outside threads tend to be slack on both sides of my loom what am I doing wrong? I started out on a rug loom. I tend to weave tight.I am a beginning weaver.Judy

    • Peg Cherre

      Judy –

      i have a LeClerc rigid heddle, too, and haven’t had this problem. I should mention here that I do a small amount of weaving on my rigid heddle – really only when I’m demonstrating at shows. The rest of the time I use my floor loom.

      I do have a few questions….How wide is your warp when you’re having this problem? Do you do direct warping (with a warping peg) or do you first measure the warp using a warping board?

      If you’ve taken care to wind the warp on with even tension across the length of the warp, and for some reason your ends are loosening, you can always hang weights on the loose threads to even the tension. You can see a picture of weaving with weights (happens to be on my Macomber) — depending on the fiber, and my care in beaming the warp, I sometimes have to hang several. I use a variety of weights – washers, spools of wire, etc.

      You may want to join the rigid heddle group at Weavolution.com. I believe those folks use rigid heddle looms regularly (or exclusively), and may have run into this problem and a good solution.

      Good luck, and keep weaving!

  • Is your LeClerc the same one shown on my blog? I’m thinking about buying that one but want to hear from others about it.. the one on my blog is around 15″ weaving width & I’m tossing up between the LeClerc & a Beka (also shown on my blog)

    I don’t see the 15″ for sale anywhere, so maybe this one’s a gem?

    • Peg Cherre

      Jessica – I visited your blog, and my LeClerc doesn’t look like any of yours. I’ll email you a picture of it. Also, if you go to the LeClerc website, you’ll see that mine looks just like the Bergere, although a different size they no longer make, so if yours is a LeClerc it must be really old. I don’t know enough about rigid heddle looms to ID the others on your blog.

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