This weekend I would like to share with you my newest “toy” an Ashford Rigid Heddle Loom (24 inch). I bought this on the internet like most of the stuff I get but this time I did it a bit differently. I usually purchase first and wait till it arrives before telling my wife. I do this so I have time to ruin the packaging or modify the item in a way that it would be difficult for her to make me return the purchase. This time in a daring act of open communication I told her in advanced and bribed her with some extra money I had set aside over the past months. (I was still sneaky since she had no idea I had been saving up that money)
When asking Isabelle for her “pre-approval” I worried that she would remind me that I already have a frame loom and question my need for this one. (Actually she is very patient with all of my random purchases and weird hobbies) She didn’t question my need which was very fortunate since I could not honestly justify it beyond just saying I wanted to try one. This post will show the set up of this new loom along with my initial project. I think my first project proved the value of the purchase to Isabelle and frankly myself… at least I hope it did.
When purchasing the loom I read many reviews… all were glowing with the exception of one thing… it required assembly. The most difficult part about assembly being that the wood was not finished and you needed to apply a finish to the wood. This was a selling point to me since I actually found this really interesting and enjoyed having the power to stain the wood and finish it any way I wanted. I decided to use an all in one stain and sealer product and try to apply it in a way that made the loom look old…. not sure why I wanted it to look old. In the picture above you can see the beginning of the wood finishing.
Here is the loom fully assembled and wood finished per my wishes. Don’t let the assembly comments or the wood finishing make you hesitate or avoid this purchase… It was very simple to put together and you have many simple wood finishing options.
If you are not familiar with this type of loom you will note that you have two roller bars on both ends. This is where the work will roll out and back in allowing you to create weavings much longer than the length of the loom. This means that the loom takes up much less space.(unlike my frame loom) You will also notice the heddle in the middle(white thing). The warp, vertical strings, are fed through this device and it moves every other one up and down when you weave. It is also used to push the weft, horizontal strings, down upon each other. If you have never done this it might sound a bit complicated but it is fairly simple… that is if you exclude the initial setup and you only are using one heddle. (I want to get a second heddle sometime in the near future) I don’t have one of these for my frame loom and it honestly is a huge time saving device.
NOW TIME TO WEAVE…..
I mentioned that I spun flax fibers (linen) for the very first time last week… and well what better thing to use for my first project on this loom. I had purchased bleached flax fibers and decided I wanted a more natural color… so I dyed most of it with walnut hulls.
When Isabelle saw the color she mentioned that it looked like “linen”… hmm maybe I should have just purchased unbleached flax.
Once dry I began to warp the loom. I have never done this before and I know how important this part of the process is so I read the booklet that came with the loom and then augmented my reading with several YouTube videos. (I love the internet… there were 100s of “Ashford Warping/Weaving” videos)
Here is the warping process… you can see that I clamped the loom to one side of the table and a peg to the other side. (Both peg and clamps came with the loom) This takes a lot of patience and basically you are pulling the string in pairs through each slot of the heddle ignoring the holes and looping them on the peg. (Two per slot… one of which will eventually end up going through the hole)
I added some non dyed warp to help make this look like something more than a “gunny sack”. Above you will see that I have added all of the warp I needed.
Because you have wrapped the warp around the peg you have loops and you need single threads… easily fixed by just cutting all of the loops. You need to pull all of the warp threads evenly and tie them together. Don’t let the pink scissors and bow fool you this is manly work!
The next part requires two people… one holding all of the warp threads taut and even while the other rolls up the warp until the ends are even with the second roller. You can see that I have placed paper between the layers of thread on the bar… this helps the thread stay taut when tightening the warp.
The next part is somewhat tedious. You must revisit all of the pairs of thread/yarn in each slot and place the one on the right through the hole. When you are done you will have one in the slot and the next in the hole… and hopefully you have not missed a slot (like I did… which means you have to un-wind add a thread and wind back up… or hack something) PRO TIP… don’t miss a slot. Take your time I promise doing this right will make everything else much easier and faster.
I tied the other side onto the roller bar in groups of eight and used paper as a spacer. I then began weaving back and forth. You place the heddle bar in the top position (Up) and move the weft across then you put the heddle in the bottom position (down) and move the thread back. In between each row you bring the heddle bar down pushing the weft into place. You will note that I didn’t push things two hard and I always placed the thread at an diagonal not strait across before pushing it down. (I am sorry I don’t have a picture of this… ) This is important since you will “weave in” if you don’t. I did this the first time I weaved something and it means that the width gets more and more narrow… like you are trying to weave a triangle. As you can see I started with brown weft first and then went to white. I wished I would have alternated this the entire length instead of just the ends.
When the weaving gets close to the heddle you unlock the back bar and role the work onto the front bar. You then lock the back bar and tighten up the warp. You will note that my threads are very uneven… again first time spinning flax. I will also mention with flax you need to be careful when moving the heddle back and forth. I frayed several threads which ended up breaking. You can tie them… or at least I did when they break. Here is a tip… I don’t know if this is the right way but after several frustrating breaks I noticed if I kept the warp wet it remained strong and didn’t fray which meant no breaks or knots.
After you have finished you cut the warp off the loom and tie the warp up so that it doesn’t come apart. I didn’t take any pictures of this and believe me it can be tedious. There are many options of leaving the warp ends as tassels or weaving them back up hiding them… I kind of just cut them very small. I washed the newly created table runner… yes that is what I was making… and placed it on my table.
Here is the finished product. You will note that the gaps have filled in… and yes it has a very rustic “gunny sack” look… boy am I glad that I added the white. I left it out to see what Isabelle would say and well… she didn’t notice it. When I finally brought her to the table and asked her to look she said wow I can’t believe you are already done. I answered with yes it is fast but what do you think. She told me that she liked it but had wished that I alternated the brown and white more… and that the white stripes were on the edges. She is French… for those who don’t know anyone french all of this meant she liked it.
It is a joy to work on the Ashford loom and it is much easier and faster than my frame loom. In spinning and weaving time this runner was only about 6 to 8 hours… contrast that with the rug in the above picture which took me a year to complete. (I was spinning with a drop whorl and I worked on it off and on again).
Here is a link from the final rug weaving post for those who might be interested;
I hope to share more projects in the future… would love any advice or comments.