Choosing Yarn for Rigid Heddle Loom Weaving Projects

Add Dyeing Fiber for Weaving to Your Skills

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When learning to weave, the rigid heddle loom is a good choice. It’s easy to work and you will quickly master the basics of weaving. Plus, setting it up isn’t as complicated as it first looks.

First, clear off a large workspace and lay out all the pieces. Rub a quality wood wax onto the rigid heddle loom parts to seal and protect the loom. Allow the wax to dry for 24 hours before assembling the loom. Then, follow the provided instructions.

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What Type of Yarn is Best for the Rigid Heddle Loom?

Choosing yarn for use with a rigid heddle loom allows you to branch into yarns like animal, plant or man-made fibers that you might not choose for knitting or crochet work.

Animal Fiber Yarn

Wool and silk are the protein fiber choices. Wool comes in so many different weights, colors, and softness levels. The finest baby-soft fibers from cashmere, angora, and merino are soft enough for next-to-the-skin garments. There are different price points to consider when shopping for fibers from animals. Many rare sheep breeds yield fiber that is great for weaving and is also perfect for sweaters and other clothing. Silk is known for its luxurious, soft, feel. Raw silk is processed less and is more budget-friendly.

Plant Fiber Yarn

Plant-based yarns include cotton, bamboo, linen, Tencel, and soy fiber. Rayon is sometimes included in this category, with the yarn being created from wood pulp. Many people feel that rayon is comparable to silk. Hemp is another plant fiber used in weaving. It is strong and sturdy, but I wouldn’t want to weave a cloth for garment use from hemp. I think it would be fun to incorporate some sections of hemp in a table runner for an interesting texture.

Man-Made Fiber

Acrylic, polyester, and nylon are man-made fibers included here. Being a fan of natural fiber, I tend to stay away from these yarns. However, they are consistent, colorfast, and won’t shrink when washed. If you don’t mind how acrylic feels, this might be your favorite option as you can find acrylic yarn in many stores.

Specific weaving yarns are sold by the pound or sold on a cone. This doesn’t mean you can’t use skeins of yarn that you love for your weaving project. First, you will wind the skein into a ball, before beginning to warp the loom.

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Dip Dyeing Yarn for Rigid Heddle Loom Warp

Fall weather is a good time to finish custom dyeing for your winter weaving projects. The weather is pretty, normally dry, and it’s a pleasant way to spend some time outdoors. You can design your project using chemical dyes or the wide variety of natural plant or insect dyes available. In the following photographs, I am preparing a warp using a technique called dip dyeing.

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Before dyeing wool yarn, prepare the yarn for the dye by soaking in a mordant solution. I use a 10 percent alum solution based on the weight of the yarn I am preparing. Some dyers use a higher percentage, and some use a little as six percent. I have found 10 percent works well for me.

In this project, I used goldenrod dye, pokeberry dye, and madder root dye.

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Dip Dyeing Process

I use a simple method for dip dyeing — three-quart mason jars, filled halfway with the dye solutions. Set the three jars of dye into a larger pot of water on the stove or hot plate. Begin to heat the dye. Remove the yarn from the mordant bath and squeeze out some of the excess water. Next, arrange the wet, mordanted, yarn in the jars so that portions of the yarn are set into each dye. Keep the dye from boiling. The heat should be just at or under the simmering level for most natural dyes. Some natural dyes will work well as solar dyes, using the sun’s energy for warmth. Caution, when solar dyeing wool, the process will take considerably longer.

The skein will absorb the dye and allow it to travel up the threads and meet the other colors. This variegation adds an interesting appearance to the future woven fabric. When I use a warp with variegation or a pattern, I tend to choose a plain color for the weft.

Planning a Project for the Rigid Heddle Loom

One factor to consider first is the durability of the yarn. When weaving on a rigid heddle loom, the warp fiber will take on a lot of friction and abuse as you weave the weft fibers. I have seen the suggestion to try to pull the yarn apart with your hands. If it breaks, then it might not be a good choice for the warp yarn. The ply of the yarn, the twist, and the yarn weight are important qualities to consider.

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Two items to know when beginning to weave are sett and ends-per-inch or epi. The epi number is the number of threads in one inch of the fabric. The sett is how many epi is used to thread the reed. Basically, epi is found by wrapping the yarn around a ruler for one inch. Count the wraps, divide by two. That brings you to the sett for that particular yarn.

Warping the rigid heddle loom requires a long table. The warping peg is clamped to one end of the table and the loom is clamped to the other end. The entire process can take a couple of hours, so plan accordingly. Once the warp is ready, you will be ready to start weaving!

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Like other crafts, weaving and creating custom warp yarns can be as simple or as involved as you desire. Enjoy the process. I hope you find weaving as relaxing and enjoyable as I have.

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