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 be less likely to repeat them.

This column is for knitters (and other fiberists) who weave or want to; knitters 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!

Weaving with a pick-up stick is not what you think
The words “pick-up stick” either conjures up the game or, if you are thinking weaving, images of using a small stick to literally pick up every pass of a pattern. That's not what I'm here to talk about.

For rigid-heddle weavers, using a pick-up stick is almost the equivalent of adding shafts to their loom. The yarns are picked up behind the heddle and the stick is left in the warp to be used when the weaver wants to use it to create floats, breaking the over/under pattern of plain weave. With a pick-up stick, you can easily pass over more than one warp end to create lace, spot weaves, honeycomb, and other interesting patterns.

This One Skein, One Stick Cowl pattern will help you dip your toe into the wonderful world of pattern weaves. While working on this pattern, I did all the things I've talked about in previous columns.

Hearing the siren's call from a hank of SweetGeorgia Yarn's Aran Merino Silk, a 50/50 Merino/silk blend, I calculated a guesstimate sett, as discussed in First Fall 2015. The plain weave sett of this yarn is 6 so I had the choice to go with a size 5 or size 8 rigid heddle. Size 5 would create an open lace pattern, size 8 a spot pattern. After sampling, I determined a sett of 8 was my best choice for this yarn, as the 5 was just a bit too sleazy (yes, this is a weaving term used to mean thin or flimsy) for my liking. (I am a wee bit smitten with swatching so I decided to sample all available setts: 5, 8, 10, 12. Not completely necessary for this project, but I had to see what if...)


I experimented with different finishes until I found one I liked. These are the steps I follow whenever I'm either using a new-to-me yarn, substituting a yarn, or designing a project for publication.

pink needle
beauty shotblank


A little bit goes a long way in this sweet little cowl. The pick-up stick allows you to easily add texture and opens up a world of possibilities.

This lovely little cowl is modeled by my fiber adventure friend, Liz Good.

spacer model: Liz Good
spacer photos: Liz Gipson
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Width: 8.25 inches
Length: 23 inches
Fringe: 1.25 inch



spacer Warp and weft: aran weight Merino/silk blend, 845 yd/lb (12 wpi); shown in SweetGeorgia Yarns Merino Silk Aran, Sweet Plum colorway (50% Merino/50% silk); 185 yd/3.5 oz skein; step-outs shown in Botanical colorway.

spacer rigid-heddle Loom with at least a 10" weaving width
spacer size 8 rigid heddle
spacer 2 stick shuttles
spacer large-eyed yarn needle
spacer sewing needle
spacer small embroidery scissors
spacer 9 buttons
spacer coordinating sewing thread

Project specifications
spacer Warp: 86yd
spacer Weft: 61yd
spacer Warp Ends: 75
spacer Warp Length: 41"

spacer Width In Reed: 9.75 inches
spacer Sett: 8
spacer PPI (Picks Per Inch or the number of wefts in an inch): 6



Warp the loom following the project specs. Center the warp in the rigid heddle for 9.75 inches. For the direct warping method, thread 9.75 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 right. Be sure that you start and end in a slot for the pattern to work. Tie the warp on the front apron rod and adjust for even tension. (See column on warping for a refresher.)

Place the pick up stick:
When using a pick-up stick you only want to pick up threads that are in the slots. These threads move freely, making them easy to manipulate. The threads in the holes are restricted. If you pick them up you will be unable to get a clean shed.

To make sure you only pick up the slot ends, place the rigid heddle in the down position so that the slot threads are up. For this pattern pick up the slots ends behind the rigid heddle as follows: *2 down, 2 up; repeat from * 8 more times, and end with 2 down.

Slide the stick to the back of the loom until ready for use.

Wind one shuttle with the project weft and one with a smooth scrap yarn.

Start by weaving about 1 inch of scrap yarn to spread the warp evenly. It doesn't matter if you start in an up or down shed, but end on an up shed, so that the project starts on a down shed.

Using your project weft, open a down shed and insert your first pick, leaving a short 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 45-degree angle and press the weft into place with the rigid heddle.

Weave 3 more picks for a total of 4 picks plain weave. Maintain the weft angle as you weave. This allows 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 your weft angle is too steep. Press the yarn gently as you weave to maintain a consistent number of picks per inch.

Weaving warp floats: This pattern is reversible. Whatever is happening on the face of the cloth, the opposite will be happening on the back. I find warp floats easier to weave then weft floats, so whenever possible, I weave warp floats.

There are three placements in the pattern:

Up: weave a pick (one pass of the weft) with the heddle in the up position.

Down: weave a pick in the down position.

Up and pick-up stick: place the heddle in the up position and slide the pick up stick to the back of the heddle.

One pattern repeat is worked over 6 picks as follows:
  1. down
  2. up and pick-up stick
  3. down
  4. up and pick-up stick
  5. down
  6. up

You can leave the pick-up stick pressed at the back of the heddle when weaving the down sheds, but you must push the pick-up stick toward the back beam to get a clean up shed.

Weave this pattern until you run out of warp. End on a down shed, then weave a few picks of scrap yarn to keep the weft in place.

Remove the scarf from the loom by cutting the warp as close to the back apron rod as possible to preserve as much warp as possible. This will make it easier to make your final fringe. Untie the warp from the front apron rods. Be careful not to cut your apron cords! Untie the warp from the front apron rod.

Working on the end of the cowl with the 4 plain weave and using a small sharp pair of embroidery scissors, cut the scrap yarn in half. Gently remove half of the scrap.

Using an embroidery needle, needleweave each end back into the plain weave section. Trim tails to about 2 inches. These tails will be trimmed flush after will after washing. This forms a nice sturdy base for you to sew on the buttons.


The closures for the buttons are worked on the other end of the cowl. They are made by tying together two twisted fringe, each using 4 warp ends for a total of 8 ends worked. To see how to work a basic twisted fringe, review the Winter 2015 Get Warped column.

Work one closure as follows:
The left fringe is worked by twisting 2 groups of 2 ends to the left and then twisting them together to the right. This causes the twist angle to lean to the left. The right leg is worked by twisting 2 groups of two ends to the right and then twisting them together to the left, causing the twist angle to lean to the right. Secure the two fringes together with an overhand knot about half an inch from the end of the cloth.


The last fringe will be worked over 3 ends. Use a single end twisted to the right for the left leg and 2 ends twisted to the left, then right, for the right leg and then tie them together. This extra end will be secured to the last button along with the last fully worked fringe. Alternatively, you could work the last fringe with those extra threads.

Handwash by soaking the fabric in lukewarm water with either a 1/8 cup mild detergent or no-rinse wool wash for 20 minutes. Gently swish the fabric to help facilitate the floats moving into position. I often do this in the bathtub where I can lay the whole project out flat. Rinse gently. Roll the project in a towel and press to remove excess water, don't wring. Dry flat on a clean towel.

Trim the needlewoven ends flush with the fabric and the knotted fringe to half an inch below the knot.

Sew the button on the end with no fringe lining each button up with a row of floats.



designernamespacer 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 videos – 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.