Not So Rigid Weaver

Musings on weaving on a Rigid Heddle Loom and beyond

Books for beginners and beyond

Updated with more books July 2022

This post is a listing of rigid heddle focused weaving books I've read with some description to help you decided if it might be right for you. I've seen a lot of places that have lists of books, but they often don't have much context for when you might choose one over the other.

Books suitable for absolute beginners #

In this list are books which assume you don't know anything about weaving and include full instructions on how to set up your loom and weave your first project.

Inventive Weaving on a Little Loom #

⭐ Highly Recommended
Syne Mitchell Edition reviewed: 2015, purchased.

I ordered this book around the same time I ordered my loom. This book has instructions for absolute beginners, including how to warp your loom, along with how to fix various problems like a broken warp thread that might come up. It's arranged around different types of techniques - color and weave, hand manipulation, pick up work, and multiple heddles. It will go over a few variations of a technique, and have a project that uses some of them. The projects are really varied and this book also gets into weaving with materials other than yarn, like wire and bamboo. After briefly touching on using 2 heddles, there's then a section on 3 heddles which is a fairly advanced topic and not covered in many books. My minor complaints would be that the couple pages talking about specific models of looms are already out of date, and, as a beginner, there's no clear "2nd project". This book is a very comprehensive overview of a range of techniques for the rigid heddle loom, and I'd highly recommend it - if you could only buy one weaving book, this one would be the one.

Weaving Made Easy #

Liz Gipson Edition reviewed: 2008 (orange cover), borrowed from public library.

This book is considerably shorter than Inventive Weaving on a Little Loom so it can't cover nearly as much. This book is very much focused on projects; it will introduce a technique like using a pick up stick in the context of a specific project but not really discuss it in general. There are two editions of this book; I borrowed the older one - so far as I understand, between the editions, a couple of the projects are changed, various things are clarified, and direct warping instructions are added. Most of the projects use a 10 dent heddle, with a few using 12 or 8. One technique I noticed in this book that I hadn't come across elsewhere is a tubular weave for edging on a pillow. I think this would be a good choice for a beginner if you would like to learn by getting a book and weaving through many of the projects, as they don't get too advanced, or, for anyone who likes following or being inspired by pre-set projects.

Hands on Rigid Heddle Weaving #

Betty Linn Davenport Edition reviewed: 1987, borrowed from guild library.

This book from 1987 was the introductory rigid heddle book for decades, but, if choosing one book, I would suggest the newer Inventive Weaving on a Little Loom for most beginners. The main exception is if you're weaving on an older design of loom like a vintage loom or the Beka models with teeth, as it discusses a wider range of loom designs, in particular warping on looms with teeth rather than the apron rods that are found on most recent designs. Like Inventive Weaving on a Little Loom it goes into a lot of fundamentals of design and uses projects to illustrate techniques that are discussed in depth in the chapter. It also has some information on basics of simple woven garment patterns with a couple projects. Curiously there's very little on the subject of pick up sticks given that Davenport's first book is an in depth study in pick up stick weaving. It goes beyond basic plain weave into a variety of techniques like hand manipulated weaves, tapestry techniques, and color and weave effects; and in particular it has several pages devoted to designing both warp and weft faced fabrics, which Inventive Weaving on a Little Loom only mentions in passing. There are black and white illustrations of many techniques, and some color photos of projects. This book is still in print but there are also lots of used copies floating around.

Woven Treasures: one-of-a-kind bags with folk weaving techniques #

Sarah Lamb Edition reviewed: 2009, borrowed from guild library
This is a neat little book that has a bit different focus than some of the others. It's got beginner weaving instructions, and then has a number of technique sections and projects for making various bags and pouches. Given that bags have straps, Woven Treasures devotes a lot of space to warp faced bands (such as what you'd often make on an inkle loom) and card weaving. Lamb also focuses a lot on hand manipulated techniques, like twining, soumak, and cut pile. Many of the projects could probably be done on a frame loom and an inkle loom if you've got those looms but haven't made the jump to rigid heddle yet. The yarn choices could have been described in more detail to help find substitutes. An interesting book with some nice inspiration if you're looking for bags and bands on a rigid heddle loom, and definitely covers some areas in more detail than other books.

Creative Weaving: Beautiful Fabrics with a Simple Loom #

Sarah Howard, Elisabeth Kendrick Edition reviewed: 2008, paperback, borrowed from guild library

This book has about 20 pages on the basics of weaving on a rigid heddle loom, plus some information on peg and cardboard looms which are used in a couple of the samples. It then shows off a variety of close up pictures of interesting fabrics grouped by color, with a bit of information about the yarn choice, sett, etc., but they are not fully developed projects with instructions. Rather than referencing specific yarns by name, it includes close up life sized photos of the yarns used, which is nice for reproducing something years later when the original yarn may no longer be available. For the most part the interest is the color combinations, use of novelty yarns, etc. in mostly plain weave though there are some other techniques used including some pick up and inlay. Some of the samples have a small photo of a complete item at the end of the book. This book has some interesting color combinations for inspiration, but I don't think it's very suitable for absolute beginners, as going from the basic instructions reproducing the samples would be a big jump; I think it would have been a stronger book if the text focused on color theory rather than basics of weaving. Potentially of interest to a more experienced weaver looking for some inspiration for using novelty yarns and bold color choices.

Books that assume you know the basics #

These books assume you have woven a couple projects and don't cover how to get started with weaving, but are still accessible to relatively new weavers.

Weaver's Idea Book #

⭐ Highly Recommended
Jane Patrick Edition reviewed: 2010, spiral bound, borrowed from public library, then purchased.

This book is an excellent reference to all kinds of patterns and techniques you can use to push your rigid heddle loom beyond plain weave. I'd describe it as the visual dictionary of patterns for a rigid heddle loom. Each chapter covers a different kind of technique, with a few pages of photos and instructions for different variations on that technique, going into far more variations than Inventive Weaving on a Little Loom. And if you also weave on multi-shaft looms, or might do so in the future, Jane has also included pattern drafts where applicable. What this book isn't is a book of projects. There are a few, but that's not it's main purpose. I also don't find the color choices of the samples particularly appealing in general. It also has details of 2 heddle weaving and double weave. I borrowed this book from the library about a month into my weaving journey, and then ordered it a few weeks later. This is the book to get for anyone looking to get creative with their weaving and go beyond pre-set projects, without wanting to dive into one specific area.

The Ashford Book of Rigid Heddle Weaving #

Rowena Hart Edition reviewed: 2014 Second Revised edition, borrowed from guild library.

This book has lots of gorgeous full color photos and great project inspiration; like Inventive Weaving on a Little Loom it has some examples using non-yarn materials like a wall hanging made using stalks of lavender. I've included this book in the beyond the basics category as it has instructions for warping your loom, but I don't feel it has a lot of detail on how to do some of the techniques that come up in the projects - I think it would be a challenge to figure out how to do pick up based on this book alone, though of course you could look up many of the techniques on YouTube for a video. A few of the projects are clothing including 2 lovely cloaks with necklines shaped on the loom, and it goes over some of the sewing techniques as well. Like Weaving Made Easy, it mostly discusses techniques in the context of a particular project without trying to generalize, but some of the projects get a little more advanced including some using double weave. Note that the warping instructions are more or less what comes with the instruction manual for Ashford Looms, which are available as a PDF online. Naturally all of the looms pictured in this book are by Ashford and many of the yarns used are Ashford yarns. So far as I can tell there were no Rigid Heddle books published between Hands on Rigid Heddle Weaving in 1987 and the first edition of this book in 2002! If you like the project oriented style of Weaving Made Easy you'll probably like this book too!

Textures and Patterns for the Rigid Heddle Loom #

Betty Linn Davenport Edition reviewed: 2008 revised edition, borrowed from guild library.

The first edition in 1980 was the first English language book to really dive into the possibilities of patterning with pick up sticks. It's based on Davenport's in depth study for her certificate of excellence. I think because of that origin it assumes a certain level of general weaving knowledge, for example, I found the description of how to do Summer & Winter assumes that you know what Summer & Winter is. This is a short book that dives deep into the techniques of using a pick up stick, which is a chapter in some of the other books mentioned; it has some photos of interesting completed items for inspiration but does not have full project instructions. Most of the photos are black and white, with a few pages of color, which is actually nice for focusing on the texture and contrast over the color choices. One thing I was wondering is if it had material that isn't covered in some of the more recent books like The Weaver's Idea Book, and it does, particularly when concerning things like making overall designs out of pick up work rather than just repeating the same pattern. I think this is definitely worth taking a look at if you want to go in depth into pick up work after learning basics through other material. One neat feature in the 2008 edition is it provides an index to a number of rigid heddle projects in magazines; this may be useful if you have access to Handwoven or Prairie Wool Companion back issues from the late 70s through to mid 90s. As of May 2022 I think it is recently out of print but is still available new from some retailers. I'll probably end up borrowing it again someday particularly if I want to tackle Summer & Winter!

Handwoven Home #

Liz Gipson Edition reviewed: 2017, purchased

This book focuses on projects for household items; each chapter focuses on a different room of the house, with projects and some general design tips relating to the projects. It's intended as a step up from Weaving Made Easy in terms of complexity, though should be accessible to anyone with a couple projects under their belt. There's simple projects using color and weave, and more complex projects using pick up, inlay, twill, and double weave. There are instructions for direct and indirect warping, threading double heddles, and a variety of finishing techniques.

Check out Not So Rigid Designer, my online weaving software for rigid heddle loom weavers!