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What is a Rigid Heddle?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 12 September 2016
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A rigid heddle is a type of weaving heddle, a device that raises and lowers threads in the warp of a weaving to allow people to weave quickly and efficiently. With the assistance of a heddle, people can separate the threads in a weaving to pass a shuttle through in one clean pass. Many handweavers use heddle looms, and the rigid heddle is a very simple and easy design to use, making it popular for people who are just starting to learn how to weave.

This heddle design takes the form of a panel with a series of slots and holes. The warp threads are passed through the rigid heddle and when the device is raised, half the threads move up, separating them from the other half. When the heddle is lowered, the same threads move down. By alternating raising and lowering of the heddle, weavers move the warp thread back and forth as they create the weft, creating a sturdy and consistent final woven product.

Rigid heddles can be used on looms of all sizes. Many companies make small rigid heddle looms designed for beginning weavers, including folding looms for people who want to be able to travel with weaving projects. Replacement heddles are available in the event that a heddle becomes damaged or broken and weavers may also be able to swap out heddle designs as they work on more advanced projects.

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The advantage to using a rigid heddle is that the warp threads rarely become tangled during work and the design is very simple and easy to use. The disadvantage is the simplicity. For some types of projects, more advanced movements need to be made with the warp threads, and a rigid heddle is not an appropriate tool. Other types of configurable heddle designs need to be used instead and in some cases, multiple heddles are necessary to control the warp as desired.

People who are interested in learning to work with a heddle loom can take a weaving class at a textile school, art center, or college with an art program. These classes often offer opportunities to work with different kinds of looms so that while learning to weave, students can also try out different loom models to find one they want to use at home. Some weavers are also willing to loan out or rent their looms to students who are learning to weave to allow their students to practice without having to purchase looms.

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