I met Sarah Anderson a few years ago at a National NeedleArts trade show, where she as promoting her book The Spinner’s Book of Yarn Designs. As a spinner, I have long admired Sarah’s work in making sculptural, highly functional yarns. She introduced me to the wonders of xanthan gum as a sizing material—a coating that keeps fragile or high twist yarns manageable during the warping and weaving process. I used her recipe (with permission) in the Yarnworker’s Crepe Cowl Workbook.
Sarah recently contacted me to talk looms. She was thinking of getting a rigid heddle and wanted to chat about it. Not only did Sarah get a loom, check out what she made since she got it! I asked if she would answer a few questions about her recent experiences for the blog.
What drew you to the rigid heddle loom?
I had been thinking of getting a rigid heddle loom and found the perfect excuse this winter when my sister decided to visit and attend Madrona Winter Retreat. She signed up for a class with Syne Mitchell and needed a loom for class. I figured I could surely borrow what she needed for the weekend, however, finding a loom with two 8-dent reeds was harder than I thought. Ah shucks, I’d have to BUY one . . .
I settled on a 25″ Flip because I wanted it wide enough to make dishtowels. I’ve always had a bit of a dishtowel fetish (well, any, woven towel fetish) so that was natural. The rigid heddle is also a natural for weaving energized handspun for collapse weave and is much easier to carry around for teaching.
Had you woven on a shaft loom before the rigid heddle?
I’ve done a little weaving on a four shaft table loom, although I’ve never had any formal weaving classes. It was used mostly for weaving energized handspun which is very forgiving. I also spent some time weaving with 8/2 cotton and dishtowels to practice before warping with handspun cotton. After many warps of commercial 8/2 and a whole bunch of towels for gifts, I ended up with “last warp syndrome” and the handspun, shadow weave yardage is still sitting on the loom, which is sitting on the top bunk bed in the office.
This is one of the incredible draws of the rigid heddle for me. My attention span sometimes falls short of the warp length. With the rigid heddle, I can throw on a warp in a few hours and have a few towels done in a couple of days or less. When they come off the loom, I pull out the sewing machine and hem them immediately. Then into the washer they go and I can’t wait for them to come out. It’s like a kid waiting for the favorite blankie to come out of the wash. Pulling those finished towels out of the dryer is a little like a drug. They get fondled, folded, re-folded, and critiqued. They make such a nice hostess gift and aren’t too artsy so people will actually use them.
A weaver after my own heart! What kinds of yarns do you like to use?
One of the best parts of this weaving adventure is what my friend Maureen calls one of my “hare-brained schemes”—only because she got almost as caught up in it as I did. Cotton knitting yarn is expensive and thinking about how much you paid for yarn can make a person more cautious about recklessly throwing on a warp without careful planning, which can cause paralysis. Well, I realized that many of the large, plain men’s cotton sweaters at the thrift shop can be easily unraveled and contain one to two pounds of really nice cotton yarn, sometimes even linen cotton blends. On Mondays, Goodwill sells a certain color tag for $1.79. Long story short, I have a palette of colors and 30 pounds of cotton yarn to draw from and it cost next to nothing!