Discover the secrets of the Rigid Heddle Loom with these two shawls by ‘El Cabo de Valentina’

Do you know about the rigid heddle loom? Discover the secrets of this fascinating textile technique with Mariajo from El Cabo de Valentina. Warp, shuttles, warping board, heddle… get to know the parts of a rigid heddle loom; and how it works with these two woven shawls made with Katia Fair Cotton and Saint Tropez. A few years ago, on a trip to Argentina “I saw the women weaving and knew I had to do that”, Mariajo recalls. She visited the American country various times with the intention to learn how to weave with a rigid heddle loom. “When you are entrapped by the yarns, you have to let yourself go…” And that is how El Cabo de Valentina was born, with classes and woven artisanal garments made by this master weaver.

Rigid Heddle Loom

Rigid Heddle Loom

The rigid heddle loom is characterised by the weft threads being threaded through the heddle reed. Furthermore, the heddle reed, which is made up of the heddles, is moved up and down with the hands whilst weaving the fabric. After each movement the shuttle (where the yarn has been loaded) is passed through the warp threads from both left to right and right to left. Finally, depending on the thickness of the yarn, you can use different rigid heedles: metal, acrylic plastic or wood.

What’s what?

Warp: Set of longitudinal yarns which are kept in tension on the loom.

Heddle reed: This is used to adjust the weft whilst weaving. In the case of the rigid heddle loom it consists of slots and holes.

Heddles: Vertical wires (attached to reed) with an hole in the middle to pass the warp thread through, and which separate the warp threads with the two up and down movements of the reed.

Weft: This is the transversal yarn that is woven in between the weft threads to form the fabric.

Shuttle: This is used to load up the yarn that passes from one side of the weft to the other, above and below the warp.

Warping board: Board used to make and cut the warp threads so they are the same length and tension.

Rigid Heddle Loom

Step by step

  1. Using the warping board, obtain the quantity of yarns with the correct length for the garment.
  2. Position the yarns in the heddle reed and knot them.
  3. Work the first row by passing the shuttle with the weft yarn through the warp yarns. Then fasten off the ends with thread and a sew needle so the weft thread doesn’t come loose.
  4. When you reach the required length, fasten off the yarns in the same manner as the first row.
  5. Lastly cut the yarns and remove the garment from the loom.

Rigid Heddle Loom

Take note

When the warp yarns pass on top of and below the weft, there is shrinkage of approximately 10%. Therefore, if we want to weave a scarf 68 7/8″ (175cm) long, we need to add 10% for shrinkage, plus 5 7/8″ (15cm) at each side for the fringe: = 68 3/4″ (175cm) + 10% = 6 3/4″(17.50cm) + 11 3/4″ (30cm) fringe. The width will also shrink by 10%, so if we want a width of 13 3/4″ (35cm), we must add an extra 1 3/8″ (3.5cm). With this loom you can work different stitches: plaids, checks, twill…

Rigid Heddle Loom

Repeat the graphs until complete the work. Graphs are composed of:

  • Horizontal line: indicates the warp threads and the number of threads to warp up.
  • Vertical line: indicates the weft threads and how many rows of each colour work.

Shawls made on a Rigid Heddle Loom

weaving shawls

Shawl made with Fair Cotton

Materials: Fair Cotton: 6 balls col.4 and 6 balls col. 6

Both warp and weft yarns are double, two yarns per hole and per slot and two yarns for the weft.

Reed with a total of 3 yarns per 3/8″ (1cm)

Thread 80 holes, with their respective slots = total of 40 double strands in red and 40 double strands in pink = total of 160 strands.

78 3/4″ (2 metres) fabric + 10% extra for shrinkage + 11 3/4″ (30 cm) fringing = 78 3/4″ (200 cm) + 7 7/8″ (20cm) + 11 3/4″ (30cm) = 98 3/8″ (250 cm) Rigid Heddle Loom


Fair Cotton 4 (red)      | 2 |    |

Fair Cotton 6 (pink)    |    | 2 |


Fair Cotton 4 (red)      | 2 |    |

Fair Cotton 6 (pink)    |    | 2 |

Shawl made with Saint Tropez

Materials: Saint Tropez: 8 balls col. 90

Thread 80 holes, with their respective slots = total of 160 strands of yarn.

78 3/4″ (2 metres) fabric + 10% extra for shrinkage + 11 3/4″ (30cm) fringing = 78 3/4″ (200cm) + 7 7/8″ (20cm) + 11 3/4″ (30cm) = 98 3/8″ (250cm)

Reed with a total of 3 yarns per 3/8″ (1 cm)

weaving loom

Weft: Saint Tropez 90     | 1 | 1 |

Weft: Saint Tropez 90 double   | 1 | 1 |

Rigid Heddle Loom

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