Freedom in Simplicity: Weaving on a Rigid-Heddle Loom

Author and designer Betty Davenport loves weaving on a rigid-heddle loom. Find out how she uses these simple looms to create incredible cloth!

Betty Davenport Jan 19, 2023 - 3 min read

Freedom in Simplicity: Weaving on a Rigid-Heddle Loom Primary Image

Rigid Heddle Loom. Photo by George Boe

I’m so pleased to learn that the rigid-heddle loom is attracting new weavers and even some experienced weavers. The rigid-heddle loom was my first loom. I was attracted to it for the same reasons that many of you new weavers are. It’s not expensive, it’s easy to use, it’s portable, and it’s versatile in what can be woven on it.

Betty Davenport

Betty Davenport enjoying very simple weaving tools on a recent trip to Peru.

In my first class I learned how to make several textured patterns on the rigid-heddle loom using a pick-up stick. It was so easy. The unique feature of the rigid heddle is the hole-and-slot format. The warps going through the holes are controlled by the position of the heddle, up or down. The warps in the slots are passive. It’s basically a 2-shaft loom. But if you use a pick-up stick placed behind the heddle to pick-up selected slot warps, the pick-up stick acts as a third shaft, and it doesn’t interfere with the regular action of the rigid heddle.

Linen Runner, by Betty Davenport

Betty's Linen Runner from Hands on Rigid Heddle Weaving

This so fascinated me that I continued weaving on my rigid-heddle loom even though I was also learning to weave on 4-shaft and then 8- and 16-shaft floor looms. I knew there must be more patterns possible on the rigid-heddle loom than the few I had learned in the class. Investigating this became the subject for my specialized study for the Handweavers Guild of America Certificate of Excellence. I wove more than nine yards of samples, and I’m sure there are more patterns to be discovered with this technique.

Betty Davenport's rigid heddle created lace

Betty's rigid-heddle Bronson lace

At one point, I wondered if I could weave some of my rigid-heddle designs on the floor loom. I had woven a stole in Bronson lace on the rigid-heddle loom, using a design on graph paper as a guide to where to insert the pick-up stick to weave the lace patterns. Out of curiosity, I wrote out the draft for the floor loom. Lo and behold! It would take more than forty shafts to duplicate the design on the floor loom! I was really impressed at what was possible on this simple loom.

Freedom in designing with texture and plain weave is fun with a rigid-heddle loom. I hope you’ll also explore its other unlimited possibilities.

~ Betty