The First Draft—Learning from a Rigid-Heddle Loom Experiment

Susan recounts her experiences weaving with embroidery floss on a rigid-heddle loom.

Susan E. Horton May 11, 2023 - 3 min read

The First Draft—Learning from a Rigid-Heddle Loom Experiment Primary Image

Embroidery floss is beautiful, but how does it work on a rigid-heddle loom? Photo by Esther Ní Dhonnacha on Unsplash

In March 2018, I wrote about experimenting on the rigid-heddle loom. I had come across a lot of skeins of embroidery floss in the “free box” and used them to wind a warp on my rigid-heddle loom and start a set of 4 placemats. The placemats are now done and while I like them, I consider them a first draft. In weaving, sometimes the first draft works, but many times, it doesn’t fulfill all of my expectations. Here is what I learned and what I might have done differently:

Note how the red placemat is wider than the light green placemat.

  • As you can see in the photo, the red placemats are slightly larger than the green ones. I used mercerized red cotton weft for two placemats, and unmercerized light green cotton weft for the other two. The light green weft shrank but the red didn’t. Neither is wrong per se, but the placemats don’t quite match sizewise.

  • Picking a weft was very hard; I went through about 10 before choosing the ones I used. I believe the mixture of red and green in the warp was the problem. Red and green are opposite each other on the color wheel and when mixed, they vibrate visually and create brown. I had intended to weave with pink, but it was overwhelmed by the green. If I weave another set, I will try a warp with colors that are closer on the color wheel. In addition, for me, the light green placemats come really close to being baby poo green because of the color mixing.

Our placemats woven using embroidery floss and 20/2 cotton. Credit: George Boe

  • A weft tail that is 4 times the width of a project isn’t always long enough for hemstitiching. I was wrapping 2 ends at a time and that required closer to 6 times the width.
  • Hems might be better than hemstitched fringe. I’m not sure about this, but if I weave another set of placemats, I’m going to weave thin hems using sewing thread or one strand of thin cotton.

I sampled for these placemats but only for sett. It was an experiment and an exploration, and in the end a first draft. I’m not sure if I’m going to weave another set with embroidery floss but I am taking some of what I learned here with me, and that’s what a first draft is for.

Weave well,