Rigid Heddle Looms
- Price Range $250 - $550
- 15” to 30” weaving width
- Fast to get set up, slow to weave on
- Can produce simple weave structures
- Best for: weavers who want to make individual pieces quickly and easily; weavers who want to dip their toes in the water; weavers with limited space and//or budget
For some people, their rigid heddle is their forever loom.
For others, it’s a first step down the path to larger and more complex looms. Whatever the case, these little looms can provide hours upon hours of happy weaving.
Rigid heddle looms are small, simple, and satisfying. They combine three different mechanisms from multi-shaft looms (the reed, the beater, and the heddles) into one piece (the rigid heddle reed). This makes weaving on a rigid heddle loom easy to learn. It also means rigid heddle looms are (relatively) fast and simple to put a new warp on. You can measure, wind on, and thread a new warp in a couple of hours, compared to the often multi-day set up of floor looms. Once you’re up and weaving, the pace slows down. Lifting and lowering the rigid heddle reed is slower than pressing a treadle (foot pedal) on a floor loom, and the stick shuttles that rigid heddle weavers commonly use aren’t as speedy to weave with as a boat shuttle. That said, this only means that you get to spend more time on the actual weaving part of weaving, AKA the fun part!
Weavers usually make short warps on rigid heddle looms, setting up to make a single scarf or a couple of tea towels at a time.
Short, simple projects are the sweet spot for these looms. Rigid heddle looms are designed to produce plain weave, which is the simplest weave structure. There are plenty of ways to add interest to your plain weave pieces, from playing with different fibres to adding texture using pick up sticks. But while it is technically possible to branch out into twill and doubleweave on a rigid heddle loom, doing so is cumbersome and extremely time consuming. Many weavers find using the loom for its intended purpose--plain weave with some embellishment--to be more enjoyable.
Rigid heddle looms are sometimes called “Knitters’ Looms” for their popularity with knitting enthusiasts. There’s a good reason for this: rigid heddle looms are great for stash-busting a hoard of knitting yarn. Rigid heddle looms waste very little yarn compared to other looms. With a floor loom, you may end up throwing out 24 inches of warp as loom waste. With a rigid heddle loom, loom waste can be 8 inches, or even less. That frees you up to use fancy fibres in your warp without worrying that you will be throwing too much of it in the garbage.
These are also some of the most easily portable looms around. Some, like the Flip, also fold for easy storage. If you’re dreaming of weaving on your deck, or taking your hobby on a road trip with you, a rigid heddle loom can get you there. If you’re staying closer to home and don’t want to take up too much space in an apartment or in an already-crowded craft room, these looms are easy to stash when you need the space.
If you want to weave with different weights of yarn, you’ll want to pick up an extra rigid heddle reed or two. If you’re a Flip fan, you can pick up a trestle stand to save table space. The Weaver’s Idea Book is a comprehensive and inspiring collection of different techniques to try to give yourself a creative workout.