I have two floor looms (a 4H counterbalance and an 8H jack), and a rigid heddle loom.  I use my RH exclusively to demonstrate at shows.  To date, I've had only 1 heddle for my RH.  I've just purchased a second.  I have 2 questions.

1) As I understand it, 2 RHs=3 heddles, 3 possible positions of yarn.  For this example, let's assume yarns 1 & 4 are in holes, yarns 2 & 3 are in slots. If I put a pick up stick under yarn 3, does/can my RH effectively operate as a 4H loom?

2) I have Betty Davenport's RH Weaving book, in which she focuses almost exclusively on a single heddle & plain weave.  Is there another good source book for patterns for 2 heddles and/or other weave patterns for the RH?  I'm looking forward to exploring more possibilities and designing my own fabrics on my expanded RH, but need a bit more info & inspiration to point me in the right direction.




Peg, you and I are at essentially the same point. I have a RH loom with two heddles and want to weave more dimensional structures like huck and waffle weave that seemingly require at least four harnesses. However, I think two RHs give you more than the equivalent of 3 harnesses. If you sketch out the possible sheds available when you do a straight 1-2-3-4 threading, I think you'll see that it gives you the equivalent of four harnesses and six sheds. Assume H1 = harness #1, etc. Number the potential sheds 1-6 thus: 1. H1 hole end up, both H2 ends (hole & slot) neutral 2. H2 hole end up, both H1 ends neutral 3. H1 hole end down, both H2 ends neutral 4. H2 hole end down, both H1 ends neutral 5. H1 & H2 hole ends up, all slot ends neutral 6. H1 & H2 hole ends down, all slot ends neutral To lift the equivalent of 1 & 4 harnesses, or 2 & 3 harnesses (still assuming a straight 1-2-3-4 threading), you will need pickup sticks or string heddles, or some combination. With careful drafting, using these 6 "natural" positions plus two pickup stick positions, I think it should be possible to make any structure you can do on a 4-harness loom. If I'm wrong, please somebody correct me before I get too far down this road!

Claudia Segal (not verified)

Neither of you is wrong but in reality it's very difficult to get that 4th shed with the pick up stick and/or string heddles.  I have tried and it's very difficult.

I found Jane Patrick's book helpful.  Alex Xanakis' book very challenging and requires 3 rh heddles.  When you start trying to get beyond 3 shafts, it becomes very fiddly and I ask myself why?  I have a perfectly good floor loom for this and it's much too difficult and time consuming.

Let's continue to explore and perhaps we can expand this to a class where we explore together online via webcam conference.


ruthmacgregor (not verified)

Kat, your analysis looks correct -- but if I could make a suggestion:  as you and Peg are both used to weaving on "regular" looms, you may find it easier to think in terms of which threads are "up" in any given shed -- in the same way you'd do for your 4- or 8-shaft loom.  (A good reason behind this is that it makes it much easier to "translate" a written threading draft for use on an RH loom if you're thinking in terms of which threads get lifted, rather than what's in a hole or slot, or what's "down" or "neutral".)

Thus, if you have two rigid heddles, and the threading is 1-2-3-4 ...by which I mean:

  1. Thread 1 goes through the hole of heddle 1;
  2. Thread 2 goes through the hole of heddle 2; and
  3. Threads 3 and 4 go together through the slots of both heddles

the six sheds Kat described are:

  1. Thread #1 lifted.
  2. Thread #2 lifted.
  3. Threads #2, 3, and 4 lifted.
  4. Threads #1, 3, and 4 lifted.
  5. Threads #1 and 2 lifted.
  6. Threads #3 and 4 lifted.

As you can see by this, you're almost "there" for weaving a 4-shaft structure with two rigid heddles -- you just need to find a way of lifting Threads #3 and 4 independently.

One way is to place a pick-up under the #3 threads when you want to lift them, and then place a pick-up stick under the #4 threads when you want to lift *them*.  That makes for a lot of extra manipulation....

An easier way (making for less frustrating weaving) is to put "doups" or string heddles on the #3 and #4 threads.  It takes a bit longer to set up, but it makes the weaving go a lot faster.  When I do this, I still use a pickup stick to lift the threads when opening the shed, but the string heddle makes it a real snap to insert the pickup stick.

An alternative:  put a string heddle on the #3 threads and park a pick-up stick under the #4 threads, and slide that pickup stick back against the warp beam when not in use.  In this case, when you want to lift the #3 threads, you lift them with the string heddle, slip in the pickup stick, then slide the pickup stick forward and open the shed.  And when you want to lift the #4 threads, you just slide its pickup stick forward and turn it on its side to open its shed.  (If you've made the string heddles generous enough, they won't interfere with the #4 threads.)

For myself, when I'm weaving a 4-shaft structure with rigid heddles, I go ahead and use three heddles -- plus a pickup stick parked under the #4 threads.  That gives me super-positive control of each "shaft" of threads.

Does that make sense?

Oh, one more thing:  if you thread the two heddles as I described above, not skipping any holes in either heddle, you'll end up with a thread spacing that's twice the normal density of your heddles!  So, if your heddles are 10 dpi, they'll let you weave at 20 epi when threaded this way.

It's fun stuff.  I love weaving with multiple heddles!



Hi, Heddlers--I weave with multiple heddles frequently and find it very satisfying. Yes, I own and use several lovely floor looms, but there's something special about that closer connection with the yarn that I feel when working with a rigid heddle loom, that feeling that my hands and body are playing an even greater part in the weaving when there are no lamms, treadles, pulleys, etc. between me and the fiber. I can imagine many reasons why someone would want to use an RH loom for weaving more than 2- or 3-shaft patterns: they are working with handspun and/ or luxury yarns and want to end up with less loom waste, they are traveling, they live in a small place (or all the goodies from other fiber crafts are taking up too much of their large space), they want to do samples, they are teaching classes, that's what they have . . . and the list goes on. I guess when it comes to multiple heddles--and I work with 4 all the time--I ask myself, "Why not?"


Now that you've been reassured that it can be done, Peg and Kat, might I make a small suggestion? Since you've just made the leap from 1 to 2 heddles, perhaps working with 3-shaft patterns would be a good goal for now. You have everything you need to do it as long as your loom allows you to move the rigid heddles into up, neutral, and down positions. You don't even need a pick-up stick. The threading in what we might call a shortened straight draw (1-2-3) would be: thread #1 through hole in heddle #1; thread #2 through hole in heddle #2; thread #3 through slots in both heddles. If you use Ruth's excellent suggestion of thinking in terms of what threads are up (as you might with a jack loom), the #1 and #2 threads would be "up" when their respective heddles are raised, while the #3 thread would be "up" when heddles #2 and #3 are lowered below neutral. If I recall correctly from your post in the "For sale/trade" forum, Peg, you like to work with 18 epi. With the 2 12-dent rigid heddles you have now, and with a 3-shaft pattern, I think you could do that easily.


All the best--Kate

ruthmacgregor (not verified)

I wanted to add another comment about "straight draw" threadings on multiple heddles (a comment that applies to point twill threadings and others, too):  they're great for weaving a lot of things, but if you're weaving a structure that uses tabby (for example, Overshot, or Summer & Winter, or Crackle), be prepared for a little bit of discomfort with each tabby shot.

The book by David Xenakis ("The Xenakis Technique", still in print) introduces an elegant workaround with a special threading (requiring three heddles) -- and it makes the weaving of structures using tabby a lot more comfortable.  The downside is that it's pretty much completely non-intuitive!   It's perfectly do-able, though.

Anyway, I just wanted to pop in here with a word about tabby.

What Kate said is excellent, too, though:  there are some wonderful structures you can weave with just 3 shafts (two rigid heddles).  With a little experimentation in drafting, you can come up with some great stuff!  When we have 4 or 8 (or more) shafts available to us, we forget that you can do some really neat stuff with fewer.

Erica de Ruiter has written a wonderful book on 3-shaft textiles -- some are so beautiful, it's hard to believe they required only 3 shafts!



I'm really learning a lot in this thread. Oh, and after sleeping on it, I realized my sketched sheds resulted in some very complex and not very useful "tie-ups", involving lots of 3-ends-up results. I think I'll be using pickup sticks and string doupes as well as the 2nd heddle to get a waffle weave on my current project. I'll certainly consider adding a third heddle later on, perhaps using simple blocks to hold it since I don't think the Flip has a slot for a third one. The warp I'm adding now is for 20 epi using 2 10-dent heddles, so I'm planning to get some practicum to add to the theory. I have the Xenakis book, but it's at our Missouri house, and we're in Texas untill October (slightly backwards migration pattern this year), but I definitely will pick it up when we go north. Thanks for the recommendation, Ruth, and thanks for your suggestions, too, Kate.


By the way, I have Jane Patrick's video from Interweave that discusses (and demos) using two rigid heddles. It's been very useful. I did a search for Erica de Ruiter's book, Weaving on 3 Shafts, but it's not available from any of the usual suspects, and according to WorldCat.org, is only know to be held by one library, in The Netherlands. Sounds to me like it's time for a reprint!

ruthmacgregor (not verified)

Kat, I think the surest bet for getting Erica's book would be to contact her directly.  She has another book available, too, which looks like it's easier to find in the States:  "Tejido Huave and Beyond", a book exploring some pretty incredible pickup techniques (she started with traditional pickup techniques from Mexican weaving, then expanded it into refreshing new territory).

Another wonderful thing from Erica is this article on Weavezine.  At first glance, you might think, "Oh great, more colour-and-weave" -- but it's much, much more!  It's, um, a kind of advancing basketweave, with colour.  And you could do it with a single rigid heddle, or with two heddles to double your density, or with two heddles threaded to give three "shafts", which lets you add a supplementary warp accent.

Fun stuff!

(And you know what this conversation is going to force me to do, probably today??  Without fail, I now have to clean up my workroom, tidying the precarious and toppled stacks of books to find my copy of "Weaving on 3 Shafts"!!)