Hi, newbie here. I'd like to build a rigid heddle loom. I would prefer to make the heddles myself, rather than purchasing a commercial part, but haven't yet managed to find any info on dimensions for different gauges (is that the proper term?). Does anyone here have experience with this?
The different gages are called "sett" in weaving and are measured in holes (called "dents") per inch (or in Europe, Asia, and pretty much everywhere outside North America, it's measured in dents per 10 cm just to confuse things). In a rigid heddle reed, a dent is both the slots and the 'eyes'. What sett you want will depend on what kind of yarn and cloth you are making. This will influence what gate of reed you need to make.
One idea is to borrow the rigid heddle loom from a local yarn shop to see how it works before making your own. It gives you a good idea of the necessary and sufficient conditions you need to achieve. The reed/heddle has to be quite strong because it's doing two jobs that are normally done by two different tools on most looms (it's lifting and lowering the warp threads AND it is beating the weft against the fell line - where the warp becomes cloth). For your basic worsted weight knitting yarn, one usually starts at 7.5 to 8 dents per inch.
Another idea is to make a Backstrap loom (see the above link) which is loads of fun, extremely versatile, and easier to weave on than a RH loom.
Thanks for the info. I just started researching. One thing I do when starting something like this is an image search. I found some good ones, I just needed an idea of proper spacing for the holes and slots. I'll start looking at loom designs next.
I'll probably start with heavier woolens for things like bags, belts, throws, etc. (I have quite a few knitting looms and have become very interested in felted knit fabrics, been wondering how those techniques would work with woven fabrics), but I doubt I'll stop there. I'll probably make several reeds. I learned in the last few hours that the general sizes are 5, 8, 10, and 12 dents per inch. Would I be correct in thinking an 8 would be a good place to start?
5, 8, 10, and 12 dents per inch. is common for some makes.
I have more experience with Ashford looms as I switched brands after having worn out TWO Kromski rigid heddles in under 4 months - I do a lot of weaving. Ashford currently has sizes of 2.5, 5, 7.5, 10, 12, and 15 dents per inch. The 7.5 and the 10 are the ones I use most and 7.5 is the one that comes standard with a new loom. I would probably start in the 7 to 8 dent range for woollens like bags.
Felted knit fabrics is actually a technique from weaving. The cloth is* woven looser than the finished goal and then fulled** or felted to shrink it to size and close up the gaps. So yes, this will totally work for making felted bags, just remember to leave gaps between the yarn so it has room to felt together. Also, do a small sample first to make sure the yarn felts (even different dye lots of the same yarn can have different felting qualities) and so you can get a general idea of how much it will shrink (usually between 10 and 60% depending on the fibre).
Because you are fulling so much, there's a lot of room for mistakes in the reed (which is awesome) as imperfections in sett will come out in the wash.
When weaving on a shaft loom (one with separate heddles and reed), we quite often cram and dent the warp; which means some holes in the reed are empty and some have more than one warp. It evens out in the fulling... usually.
* generally. there are exceptions ** "fulling" is the technical term for felting cloth. "felting" is the term for making felt from the raw fibre. It's a useful distinction in technical discussion but it's confusing. To be quite frank about it, I would much rather people not stress about the language and just start playing with yarn. I know many amazing fibre artists and artisans that don't know the technical language.