Monday, February 07, 2011

7 February: Semi-rigid heddle

An e-mail brought some details of a forthcoming Guild workshop that I hope to attend, weaving narrow bands on a backstrap loom with rigid heddle.

I made a backstrap loom from some sticks, bits of string and rubber bands a while ago, but got in a tangle trying to put an organised striped warp onto it, and put it aside in favour of my inkle loom, which is so easy to warp.

The information for the workshop suggests that you can bring your own rigid heddle, or borrow one for the day from the tutor. No specification for the heddle, how many slot and holes, nor the size of those slots and holes, though a band with 5 pattern threads was mentioned.

Now I have rigid heddles for my Kromski Harp loom, but they are 32" long - a bit unwieldy for use with a backstrap set-up. I began to wonder if I could improvise something with card, and went looking for stout card. There was some with my old patchwork stuff, to make templates, but with it were some pieces of plastic template material. One of those lightbulb moments!

I traced slots and holes from one of my large rigid heddles onto a piece of plastic, and a couple of hours with a craft knife and a cutting board, and I had a small heddle; 8" by 5", with 15 slots and 14 holes.

I warped it with some handspun in the same way I do tablets for weaving - involves long threads trailing all over the floor - and knotted the ends of the threads together as for tablet weaving. Here it is, not actually in action, but in a lull in the action -

(Photographed with flash.) The slots and holes are really too widely spaced, and the plastic is too bendy, but as an experiment it seems a success. Now I need a better way to deal with the length of warp behind the heddle, and perhaps somewhere better to hitch it than the door-handle. Oh, and a more rigid heddle.


tea and cake said...

It seems really complicated - but when you know what you're doing, it must seem easy.

stitchwort said...

It's actually not difficult - except I don't seem to be able to do it without making little mistakes!

The heddle separates the threads into 2 layers, which you alternate up and down, passing the weft at each change. Only the warp threads show, so they are different colours according to your design. The pattern is made by taking threads from one layer into the other where you want them to show or hide.

tea and cake said...

erm, yep. I kinda know what you mean, but I also have to tell myself that I Must Not Start Weaving, or I know I shall be hooked!

stitchwort said...

Exactly! I resisted for years, then slipped over to the Dark Side.
If warping wasn't more complicated than casting on a few knitting stitches, I'd probably weave more.

Karen Spray said...

In the same Google that came up with your article was another from someone who made a rigid heddle using shrinky plastic - you could use the same technique but enlarge the initial drawing on a photocopier then shrink it for a rigid result.