Beginnerland: Rigid Heddle Weaving
Making potholders as a kid, an activity I happily explored on the rare days I was deemed sick enough to stay home from school, was my first attempt at weaving. This time around, as a yarn-loving grown-up, I wanted to do more than just play with cotton loops. Yarn was at hand, and the pandemic and semi-retirement meant the time was at hand too. So I ordered an Ashford 12″ Knitters Loom—the name attracted me, it folded up, and came with a carrying/storage bag. Sold!
What to start with? During lockdown KonMari adventures, I unearthed a big bag of dishcloth cotton. I don’t remember buying it, or why I had it, as I don’t generally knit dishcloths. A class? A huge sale? Early MDK influences? While admiring my new loom, I had a eureka moment. I could learn to weave by making dishcloths! Who doesn’t love a good dishcloth? And if I make mistakes? It’s a dishcloth!
Another win for the dishcloth idea: I could warp up for a few dishcloths, finish them, and warp for another set in a different color. Warping is how you get the yarn on the loom, the equivalent to casting on stitches. I decided that not only was I going to build muscle memory for warping; by golly, I was going to enjoy it.
So. Much. Fun.
I was surprised at what a big hit the dishcloths were. I started getting requests for them from friends and complaints from family. (Why did she get some and I didn’t?) My bodyworker even asked to give me a free session in exchange for a set of dishcloths. WIN WIN!
Bound for glory
Freedom to play excited my creativity. I could make whatever I wanted; I didn’t have to think about how to explain it to a class, write it down, or use yarn currently available. Weaving is a real stash buster, too, and allows me to mix yarn weights and test color combinations that I may use in future design. Plus, basic “color and weave” is shockingly easy. Vertical stripes! Houndstooth with no counting of stitches!
I used Atlas for two scarves I dreamed up on the fly, and dreamy is the right word for Atlas. I love it for knitting, and it was just as wonderful for weaving. For one scarf, I decided to add weft colors in the same order I warped them, as an experiment. That makes plaid—who knew? (Lots of weavers, apparently.)
Atlas in Mallard, Sea Glass, Shale, and Natural
Knitters especially will appreciate the speed at which you can crank out fabric, use up your stash, and still retain the feeling of handwork. (Freeing you to buy more yarn, of course!)
A single-color, plain scarf in knitting is tedious, boring, and slow. In weaving, it’s a great first project! I timed myself with my first scarf; ten ‘rows’ with sock weight yarn took 2.5 minutes, including stopping to sip my tea.
Weaving also has me excited because my stash includes many skeins of lightweight yarns, especially “souvenir” sock yarns. Fine yarns work up quickly on the loom. Here’s a scarf made with Uneek sock on the happy recipient:
Here it is on the loom. The self-striping yarn turns into a magical sort of plaid.
Here’s a closeup glamor shot.
Weaving is not all beer and skittles, problem-free fun and games, of course. For instance, swatching is much slower than in knitting.
Overall, being a knitter and yarn lover made it easier for me to understand some aspects of weaving. Both use specific techniques to turn yarn into fabric. Knitters go through the loops; weavers go over and under. If you want to take the plunge, look for a local weavers guild or ask at your local yarn shop.
- Angela Tong and Deborah Jarchow beginner classes on Craftsy
- Liz Gipson’s Yarnworker School of Weaving
- Amy D. McKnight’s videos