Knitty: little purls of wisdom

spacerI've used every style of loom there is, but once I met the rigid-heddle loom I found my muse. She's accessible, portable, versatile, and so easy to set up that she allows me to iterate through my ideas quickly making it more likely that I will remember my head smacks and less likely to repeat them.

This column is for knitters (and other fiberists) who will appreciate the speed at which you can crank out cloth, use up your stash, and teach your yarn to do new things. The gross motor movements of weaving are a nice break from the intimacy of knitting without sacrificing the feeling of handwork.

To the loom, knitters, to the loom!

pink needle
beauty shotblank

by Liz Gipson


spacer photos: Liz Gipson  


approx. 6.75 inches
24.5 inches (including 4-inch fringe)



spacer Worsted-weight yarn that has a wraps-per-inch somewhere between 14–18 and blooms well (not superwash or nylon). Shown in Seeding by Classic Elite (100% organic cotton) in Lei colorway (#4566) for warp; and Creative Linen by Rowan (50% cotton/50% linen) in Tamarind (#3643) for weft.

spacer rigid-heddle Loom with at least an 8" weaving width
spacer 8-dent rigid heddle
spacer 2 stick shuttles
spacer large-eyed yarn needle
spacer small embroidery scissors
spacer smooth scrap yarn

Project specifications
spacer Warp: 75yd in color of your choosing
spacer Weft: 60yd in color of your choosing
spacer Warp Ends: 56
spacer Warp Length: 48"

spacer Width In Reed: 7 inches
spacer Sett: 8
spacer PPI (Picks Per Inch or the number of wefts in an inch): 8


[Knitty's list of standard abbreviations and techniques can be found here.]

If you are unhappy with the drape of your fabric, it is probably because you are packing the weft yarns too tight and not leaving enough space between your yarns. They need room to bloom!

A table runner/scarf is a good first project because you aren't looking for drape so if you overbeat it, it won't affect the final result. It is a perfect, quick gift project that will burn through your stash.

Warp the loom following the project specifications above. (This is the same sized warp shown in the Knitty warping video.) If you need help with understanding basic loom function, warping, and weaving techniques refer to your loom manual or get your hands on a copy of the newly revised Weaving Made Easy.

Center the warp in the rigid heddle for 7 inches. Using the direct warping method, thread 7 inches worth of slots. Wind the warp on the back beam adding packing paper between the layers. Move one thread in each slot to a hole to its left. Tie the warp on the front apron rod and adjust for even tension.

Wind 2 shuttles, one with a smooth scrap yarn, and the other with your weft yarn.

To give yourself a good foundation and to spread the warp, start by weaving a piece about 1.5 inches long with scrap yarn. It doesn't matter if you start in an up or down shed.

Using your project weft, open the next shed and insert your first pick leaving a tail of about 6 inches. Change sheds, tuck the tail in the new shed and then bring it out between two warp ends. Lay in the next pick at about a 60 degree angle and beat (see top photo at right).

Continuing weaving, as you do maintain your weft angle. This will allow the weft enough room to travel over and under the warp ends and keep your fabric from pulling in at the edges. If you have loops at the edges, called selvedges, your weft angle is too steep,

Beat the yarn gently as you weave to maintain a consistent number of wefts per inch. (See middle photo.) Your goal is to get the same number of warp and weft ends in an inch of weaving. Don't over think this, though. The goal is to get a few projects under your belt, not perfection!

Remove Cloth from Loom
While the scarf is still on the loom, cut the weft leaving about a 12-inch tail. Thread this tail through the large-eyed yarn needle. Needleweave it in front of the last pick.

Remove the scarf from the loom by cutting the warp behind the rigid heddle and untying the warp from the front apron rods.

Lattice Fringe
Using small embroidery scissors and working carefully, cut the scrap yarn in half. Remove half of the scrap and tie the warp in bundles of four warp ends using an overhand knot. Note: the first and last bundle will have five yarns in it. Leave the knots fairly loose at first so that you can go back and adjust if necessary.

Work from whichever direction is comfortable for you. In this scenario I'm working from left to right. Like many things yarn, this is easier to do than comprehend.

Split the first three bundles in half.

Starting with the first bundle, lay the right half of this bundle under the right half of the second bundle and over the left half of third bundle

When doing so make sure that third bundle's right half goes over the right half of the second bundle.

Tie a knot at place where the first bundle's left half meets the left half of the second bundle.

Tie the next knot where the left half of the first bundle meets the right half of the third bundle.

Continue working in this manner across the fringe. Tighten and adjust knots to align with one another as necessary.

Using an 1/8 cup of mild detergent or fabric softener -- some yarns don't need to be scoured, but they can do with a touch of softening -- handwash in hot water giving a good hard swish so that the yarns will bloom and fill in the open spaces. Trim the fringe to desired length.

This basic form can be used to create an endless variety of projects -- lengthen the warp and you have a scarf, widen and lengthen the warp and you have a shawl. In this column, we have the first steps in cloth design -- yarn selection and sett. In the next installment, we will talk about color and working with unalanced weaves.

In the meantime, join me on any of the Yarnworker social media sites (see links below) and show off your cloth!


Liz Gipson is a lover of yarn and that from which it comes -- namely the mills and fiber-bearing critters and plants. She is the author of the newly revised Weaving Made Easy and has two DVDs Slots and Holes: Three Ways to Warp a Rigid-Heddle Loom and Life After Warping: Weaving Well on your Rigid-Heddle Loom

She recently lanched Yarnworker, a source for indepentantly published patterns and know-how for the rigid-heddle loom.

Find her on Ravelry as TheCashmereKid (she has goats) or on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.