Hello all!

As much as I love the idea of making all of my loom pieces from scratch, I've found it hard to cut/shape a decent sword beater. I'm sure I'll have a go at making one myself in time, once I'm in the same place as my tools and I have enough time to spare! In the meantime does anyone know of a place online from which really nice ones can be bought?

The same goes for a rigid heddle, my very early attempts at weaving were done using a cardboard rigid heddle I made that was surprisingly effective! Needless to say that after a few basic bands it disintegrated and I discovered continuous string heddles, which I've been using ever since. I'd love to try some more advanced stuff with a rigid heddle, but I can't see myself being able to make one of those myself! Any thoughts on makers/sellers? Do they come up on eBay from time to time?

Also, as a side note, would using a rigid heddle improve the chances of a loose, thick yarn NOT sticking together?? I'm only guessing that perhaps the extra distance that the R/H seems to pull the shed open might help with the stickiness issue... This 4-ply cotton I have is fantastic to work with but it's hard to get hold of and expensive here in the UK. I still have to try spinning the loose knitting wools more tightly with my drop spindle, can anyone confirm that this technique is effective in reducing stickiness?

Sorry for the rambling post!

Thanks in advance!!



bolivian warmi

Commercial wool yarns need to be respun more tightly to make them strong enough. Respinning will also swallow up a lot of the stray and loose "hairs" that tend to mesh together and make opening the sheds harder. To be honest, I think that you should just keep working on your shed opening technique. It is harder to work with wool and weavers develop ways to help and coax the shed open accordingly. You could use a rigid heddle and keep it far away from the weaving line so that you can pull the warps together to make a warp faced textile (I am assuming that this is what you are trying to do).

You can get rigid heddle segments here. I think that most rigid heddle loom manufacturers sell the heddles separately. I have Ashford 12" heddles that I use on my backstrap loom when I want to weave a balanced cloth.

When I was at Convergence I saw a Schacht sword (see picture below) that would be nice for backstrap weaving. Navajo weaving suppliers sell swords that would be suitable. My favorite sword is still my own homemade job which is essentially a flat stick that has one bevelled edge and a rounded end despite the fact that I have a dozen or so swords that I have bought from weavers all over the place. Having a sword that another weaver finds "ideal" doesn't necessarily mean that it will suit you and what you are trying to do.

I have a video embedded in this blog post about opening sticky sheds. I am using very fine cotton, not wool, but it may give you some ideas about how to raise the heddle in these situations. BTW the warp pictured above is wool.

ruthmacgregor (not verified)

Good online shopping, Laverne!  I didn't know the RH segments were still available anywhere, and this is very good news.  With sections, you can make your own rigid heddles in any width you like -- all you have to do is find a way to tie them together.  (Wooden channels work.  So does duct tape!)

A while back I was looking for little rigid heddles, hoping to find the segments, and I found these.  They're more expensive than the segments, but have wooden "handles" on the top and bottom -- which is sometimes nice.  The 4-inch heddles are great for weaving warp-faced bands.

Rigid heddles are available from most of the online UK suppliers, sold as "spares" for various rigid heddle looms.  If you're using the rigid heddle with a backstrap (a wonderful combination), that can be a relatively inexpensive way to go.

What Laverne said about practicing opening sheds is good advice, though -- and it's also a good idea to practice with something less fuzzy than wool until you're comfortable.

Do you have access to a sander of any kind?  You can make a decent shed stick from slats of wood from a DIY store -- just bevel one edge and do your best to round off at least one end (that's even within my woodworking skill set!).  If you don't want to hit the DIY store, if you have an old yardstick hanging around the house, that can serve nicely, too....

In any case -- don't give up, because there's a way! :-)



bolivian warmi

Ruth, would you post a picture of your small rigid heddle here for Toby and others to see, please?(home made, if I am not mistaken)

ruthmacgregor (not verified)

Sure, Laverne.  This is a picture of my semi-rigid heddle in action:

I make these myself (and sell them), and though this narrow one is the only width I sell right now (excellent for warp-faced bands, not wide enough to be interesting for anything else), I'm prototyping a wider version with a closer sett -- for use in weaving things other than bands.  It's fiddly to make a heddle using TexSolv for the "business" part, but they're really nice to use.

I have two rigid heddles that I made using rigid heddle sections like the ones you found at Village Spinning & Weaving -- sections joined with wooden channels.  They came into existence a few years ago, when I wanted three matching heddles for my RH loom (which is an odd size and was no longer being manufactured).  Those are actually in use right now -- but I'll take a photo and post it in just a bit.

Photo forthcoming....


ruthmacgregor (not verified)

Okay, here we go -- the heddle being lifted in the photo was made from purchased rigid heddle segments (each about 4 inches wide), glued into place in wooden channels, top and bottom:

You can see some funny spaces between the segments where I didn't quite get things lined up correctly -- but those don't affect the weaving at all.

The wooden "channel" pieces were sticks of wood with a square cross-section and a deep groove running down one side.  To make the heddle, you just put glue in the channel, then slip the heddle segments into place and squish it all together firmly.

If you didn't have any wooden channels, you could just use a stiff(ish), sturdy tape to connect the tops and bottoms of the segments together.  A couple of layers of duct tape would work nicely.  ...It's not as pleasant to touch as wood, but functionally there'd be nothing wrong with it.

I was looking around online for UK suppliers who might sell heddle sections, but without success.  The ready-made rigid heddles are available just about everywhere, though -- and they're a lot less expensive than they used to be, back when I made these heddles.  If you want some supplier names, just send me a message and I'll tell you everything I know. :-)


weave2 (not verified)

 I was reading through some Hamdwoven magazines from the 1990's and in one is a homemade rigid heddle loom instruction.  I was going to let Laverne know about in case she may want to give it a go.  The issue is Jan/Feb 1996.

It looks similar to the 'baby loom' that someone has posted on the site recently.


tobytottle (not verified)

Thanks for all the photos and advice everyone! Ruth and I were able to meet up at The Handweaver's Studio in London yesterday, which was fantastic! I've never been surrounded by such a range of yarns, equipment and good advice/experience before! It was inspiring. I was tempted to buy one or two of the rigid heddle sections they have there, but I think for now I'll perservere with improving my technique for opening string heddle sheds - and using easier, smoother yarns won't hurt!

bolivian warmi

That is so cool that you two met.

Bobbie2 (not verified)

Ruth, whethe re do I find info for buying your heddles? Also, if buying the ones mentioned here from Village, what size would you suggest. As you probably can tell, I am new at this and just learning.  Using the rigid heddles is just another method instead of making your loops, correct?

rose Goldielocks (not verified)

I purchace 12" wooden dowels, or 'square' dowels... (the square dowels are found in the 'woodworking' section of michaels and JoAnn's near the round wooden wheels and popcycle sticks)... If I want a longer segment, Home depot and lowes have them up to 48" long. Generally, the wooden dowels under 1" in diameter or square section are priced under 5$ each. then I take a 'zip tie' or little plastic tie that is used to keep electirical wires together and tie the sections of the Rigid heddle to the dowels. I have had success using normal string to do the tyeing also. I go though the slots on the edges of the heddle segment, and it does not interfere with weaving, and if I want to re-arrange the segements, I simply cut the ties and re-arange away!

ruthmacgregor (not verified)

Yes, rigid heddles take on the job of lifting (or lowering) warp threads -- so in a backstrap setup they perform the same function as the string-loop heddles.  There are many paths leading to the same place, as is so often the case....  It's worth trying everything, though.  That way you gain experience, and you can choose to pursue the path you like the best!

As for choosing the size of the plastic rigid heddle sections -- you're basically choosing the number of threads per inch allowed by the heddle.  When you're weaving a warp-faced textile (as we're mostly doing with the backstrap), those numbers mean less than when you're weaving fabric where the weft will show.  On a practical basis, for warp-faced weaving, a wider spacing (say, 8 or 10 epi) will give your warp threads extra space to move -- useful if you want to weave with fuzzy yarns.  A closer spacing (say, 12 epi) will let you use a larger number of warp threads in a given space -- which gives you more room for patterning.

With regard to my little semi-rigid heddles, you can find them by clicking on my profile and following the link to my website (sorry to be obtuse, but we're non-commercial here in Weavo, and that's a good thing!).

The busy travel season here has come to an end, so I'll be able to catch my breath and actually do some weaving again (yayyy!!).  I haven't had the chance to check in here much since meeting Toby in London.  (Toby, have you had the time to try out those beautiful cottons you found?)


Bobbie2 (not verified)

I didn't even think about that when I asked. :(

ruthmacgregor (not verified)

Oh, heavens, don't worry about it, Bobbie!  Actually, I thought it was lovely that you were interested! :-)  I'm just careful about that stuff, if you know what I mean.

Looking back, I see that I didn't completely answer your question about the plastic rigid heddle sections -- I talked about thread spacing, but not the width of the heddle sections themselves.  If you look at the descriptions from The Village, you'll see that the 10 dpi sections (dpi = dents per inch, in other words the number of threads you can thread per inch) are about 2.5 inches wide.  That means that for each section, you'll be able to thread no more than 25 warp threads.  That's not a whole lot, as you already know!  For that reason, if you decide to weave with the rigid heddle sections, you'll probably want to purchase several of them rather than just one.  ...Sorry I didn't make that clear the first time around!

We're settling in for winter here -- good weaving weather, and I'm looking forward to it!


Claudia Segal (not verified)

Hi Ruth and Bobbie,

It's just fine to talk about and give the link for your shop.  We enjoy seeing the wonderful ways weavers are supporting other weavers and making a little money, too.  The only thing I ask is that when you post a link, please set it to open in a new window by going to the second field in the link window and clicking on "open in new window".  The help topic showing how to do this with diagrams, etc. is HERE.

BTW, Ruth your heddles are very clever and I am very tempted once I get going with my backstrap weaving.  Thanks for sharing.

Claudia, Weavolution co-founder 

ruthmacgregor (not verified)

Thanks for clarifying that, Claudia.  I confess to being hyper-sensitive about posting links to my website (a Yahoo listmeister slapped my hand very hard once for no reason -- and you know, once bitten, twice shy).  I should have realized that things are comfortable and logical here in Weavolution on this subject, too, just as they are on all the others!

When I started weaving, it was with rigid heddles -- and I just love them!  There are so many different kinds, so many different styles and approaches -- and they very much appeal to me as a handspinner, because when you're weaving with them, you're in constant contact with the yarns (I love that!).  You can get more complex structures with pickup techniques, or by using multiple heddles; and I think you could weave for a lifetime without running out of interesting new things to explore.

The backstrap setup with yarn loops on a heddle stick is satisfying in the same way (i.e., having your hands right there in the yarns) -- but in addition to that, you also get to be part of the loom, controlling warp tension with simple shifts of your sitting position.  I find that unexpectedly wonderful!

It's going to be a grand winter. :-)  One of these days I'll have some in-progress photos to share, too.


tobytottle (not verified)

Hi Ruth! I've hardly been able to get online at all in the last few weeks, so I've been without Weavolution all that time! *SHOCK!* I have tried the cottons we discovered in London, they are simply amazing to work with! If anything I find the 3x2/16 cotton a little fiddly to work with - thank goodness I didn't get anything finer/thinner! I will try to get some photos on here ASAP of the practice band I made with a few of those cottons. I'm looking forward to trying out the chunkier 2/3 cotton too!

Again, thanks so much for all your help, the beaters and pick up stick are a real joy to work with! They have been in my hands almost every day since we met up! :)

bolivian warmi

Toby, could you please give me details of the cotton you bought in London as there is another member in the UK who has been asking me. Can you tell me brand, wraps per inch, if possible, whether it is mercerized and where you got it from?

tobytottle (not verified)

Sure thing, Laverne!

The cotton I bought was mercerized, on small 30g spools (great size for testing a yarn!). I bought a few colours of the 3x2/16 weight (34wpi), and one of the 2/3 (thicker, 22wpi) weight. I'm afraid there isn't a brand name printed on the spools so I'm uncertain about that, I only know I bought it from The Handweavers Studio near Finsbury Park in London. Prices are higher than I've seen elsewhere but the range they provide is certainly the greatest I've come across yet.

Their cottons (and linens) can be seen here:


The links to all their yarns are here:


The great thing is that T.H.S. sell in a wide range of spool sizes too. Hope that helps!

bolivian warmi

Thanks Toby,

I will pass this on. I like how they describe the thread in so many systems so that everyone is bound to find a system that they understand. In this case, the wpi is what I am looking for and they have it!

bolivian warmi


Barry sends thanks and has reciprocated with a link for you. Best check that these are mercerized.

catseye03 (not verified)

Where can I purchase a bone sword for weaving.Anyone know?

bolivian warmi

A bone sword? Where have you seen one of those? Got a picture? I am wondering if you mean one of the bone tools used in Peru and here in Bolivia used as a beater.

rose Goldielocks (not verified)

By bone sword, what length do you mean? If you wish something in the 6 inch long length, there are 2 posibilites:

At a lot of United states Civil war re-inactments, the merchents will sell a horn "knife", really a horn spear tip. It typically comes in a dark brown color or a white color.





the other posiblity is to check the "scrapbooking" section of your local craft stores. They sell a tool that looks like a letter opener that is used for creasing folds. Often the tool is wood. The fancer/upscale versions may be in bone?


catseye03 (not verified)



Thats exactly what I am talking about its a bone beater.Where do they sell these in your country, and do they ship internationally.

bolivian warmi

Just wanting to make sure we are talking about the same thing...the five tools on the right are the bone beaters. A sword is inserted in the shed, tipped on its side and forced down towards the weaving line while the bone tool is used to push the weft in the previous shed into place (push is quite a tame word, that is what I do but the weavers here really beat down and whack it into place). One of the signs of a good weaver here is an extremely firm piece of fabric. I don't aim for their amount of firmness.

The tips are also used to pick up warps on narrow bands.

They are sold in the street markets in the highlands in a disgusting state and need to be boiled and cleaned up. They are roughly shaped and they leave it up to each individual weeaver to refine the shaping to suit their needs. That is why I prefer to buy a well used one from a weaver.

catseye03 (not verified)

es Larverne we are talking about the same thing.I love the shape of the bottom peice also.Whats that called?

missbeckyohh43 (not verified)

I am following this thread with most interest. 

Thank you for all the links.  And I too am interested in a bone sword, but I am tryign to think of something I might have on hand.  Would an envelope opener work.

I have a question:  IF I happened to use a rigid heddle while I used a backstrap loom, how would assemple the warp on loom?   I ask "if" only because my mind is wandering.  I like the string heddles, I have no problems with them.  I am just curious.



bolivian warmi

I wind a simple figure-eight warp on my warping board, set it up on my backstrap bars and tension it....actually I have photos on my blog that will explain the rest. Scroll down through this post I wrote featuring the rigid heddle on backstrap looms and you will see them.

missbeckyohh43 (not verified)

I am grateful for your blog and tutorials.

sarahnopp (not verified)

I was able to make a really lovely heavy beater. I found a nice piece of maple trim at a local hardware store. It already had one beveled edge. The shop guy cut it to a bout 2 1/2 feet. Then I just took it to a belt sander and added a bit of a bevel to the other side and took off the ends a bit. After getting the shape right, I used some 400 grit sandpaper to smooth it, by hand. I used a small amount of mineral oil as protection. It is pretty! It was very inexpensive.

missbeckyohh43 (not verified)

Where did you find your 400 grit sandpaper? That sure sounds fine.

sarahnopp (not verified)

You should be able to find 400 grit at art supply shops, or any hardware store that sells finishing quality wood. I would imagine Home Depot has it. I bought mine at a local hardware store. There is finer grit available too- for fine metals, I found it 600 or higher.

My brother makes guitars and he uses extremely fine grit sandpaper. 400 grit is coarse for him. He was telling me about a micro-fiber polisher/burnisher too. So apparently wherever they sell materials for making musical instruments has nice fine grit polishers :)

missbeckyohh43 (not verified)

that helps. I have found fine sand paper and have made my own knitting needles - but I didn't use such fineness as 400 grit. This gives me more ideas that I can find somethign so fine.

I picked up a paint stick at our local hardware store, but I find the wood to week or soft, and sometimes as I am beating quite hard, it bends a little (hasn't broke yet). So, I am wanting some harder materials.

bolivian warmi

The small belt shuttles sold for inkle looms make good beaters. I saw some ideal ones for between $4 and $5 at stores when I was in the US. The advertisers here on Weavolution are bound to have them. I don't know how easy it is to get wooden rulers...here they are easy to find and very inexpensive. Even if they have a metal strip, you can easily pull that out and then just bevel the edge.

ruthmacgregor (not verified)

On the same line as belt shuttles sold for inkle weaving -- I've started sanding a sharp beveled edge on one side of regular stick shuttles, and it works beautifully!  I weave a lot of bands, but lately I've been weaving wider bands -- and a stick shuttle with a beveled edge makes an excellent beater!  After inserting a weft pick, open the next shed, insert the shuttle, and pivot its beveled edge up and down against the fell line to pack in the weft.

Most of my weaving is with rigid heddles of one kind or another, but I never use the heddles themselves to beat the weaving.  It started as a personal taste (it seemed unkind to the heddle!), but it's become something I really like, because it lets you use whatever heddle you have to weave any width you want (even warp-faced bands), and the selvedge threads don't suffer from extra wear.

We all develop our own quirks as we go along -- and one of mine is that all my stick shuttles now have beveled edges. ;-)


bolivian warmi

Nice idea! I love multi-purpose tools.

Karren K. Brito

Leclerc stick shuttles come with a bevel on one edge.