When we dream of weaving, we imagine soft fabrics with great drape that we can wrap ourselves in. But when we start weaving, our first fabrics are far from our dream ones. They are often so stiff, they are really better suited for upholstery. And they get even stiffer and tighter after washing.
Here are my simple rules to get the drapy fabrics of your dreams on a rigid heddle loom:
1- Pick a reed that is appropriate for your yarn. I like to use a 7.5 dent reed when using a worsted weight yarn, a 10 dent reed when using a sport weight yarn and a 12 dent reed when using a fingering weight yarn.
2- Your goal in getting an even weave is to get as many warp threads as you have weft threads in one square inch. This means you need to leave as much space between your weft threads as there is between your warp threads. Our natural tendency is to want to pack the weft threads space, but we should not. There should be little open squares between your thread crosses. The squares should be too big, and the fabric should not look like the finished fabric you are dreaming of. Taking the fabric of the loom will remove the tension that is keeping the squares open, and so will the washing which will make your yarns bloom and fill the square spaces between the threads. How do you achieve this? As my student, and now friend, Miss P. said, do not beat the c..p out of it, rather "kiss" it with the heddle. Just one little kiss, and move on!
For the sake of comparison, and because a picture is worth a thousand words, here are side by side pictures of the same fabric, before and after finishing. The picture on the left shows the fabric while still on the loom, being woven, and the picture on the right shows the same fabric, after being taken off the loom, washed and allowed to dry flat. As a point of reference, the yarns used in this project were: for the warp Cascade Heritage Sock yarn in 2 colors, and Blue Moon Fiber Arts, Lightweight Socks that Rock for most of the weft, with random inserts of Berroco Remix Light, and spinning fiber.
I hope this little post will help you weave the fabric of your dreams! Happy weaving!