Rigid Heddle Mandala Scarves and Ruminations

I purchased a 24in secondhand rigid heddle loom a couple years ago, via Craigslist. It was made by Couch's Little Workshop, here in Indiana, and uses Beka rigid heddles. Mine came with 3 heddles - 8, 10, and 12 dents per inch. This summer I saw that Couch's was going to be at a fiber arts fair in central Indiana, so I went up that Saturday and spoke with the owner. I bought a folding loom stand from him and he said when I'm ready to add a second heddle kit, for more complicated patterns and finer weaving, I can take it up to him and he'll add it to my loom. I also described a minor piece that was missing when I purchased the loom - he's not sure how it came out, but said he can fix it when I bring the loom up. I'll likely do that next year. I figured out a temporary fix, so that I can continue using the loom in the meantime.

So far I've made a few plainweave scarves on the loom, using Lion Brand Mandala yarn. Each cake of Mandala is 590 yards of DK acrylic yarn, with long color changes. I really like the coordinated colorways, and it doesn't hurt that the original colors are named after creatures and characters from fantasy - Gnome, Troll, Sprite, and Mermaid are a few of my favorites - I've also used the yarn for crochet projects - the lighter weight makes it great for garments. There are some very enthusiastic FB groups dedicated to Mandala and other cake yarns. At first Mandala was only available at Walmart, and only at some of them, so people were hunting for certain colorways, and sharing when they found new colors or found them on sale.

There are now additional varieties of Mandala: Baby, SparkleThick & Quick, Tweed, Ombré (a worsted weight with a different texture and a stonewashed look). Cupcake is similar in texture to Mandala Baby, both have the same yardage as original Mandala. The cake yarns have become so popular they have caked some of their other yarns - Shawl in a Ball is now available as Shawl in a Cake, and they have also made 2 lines of Wool-Ease as cakes, the original line has colorways named after Greek gods & goddesses with the same yardage and texture as original Mandala. The DK line has 393 yards per cake and the colorways do not have a cohesive theme to their names. There are others that I've seen but haven't tried yet - Crayola, Ferris Wheel, Dotted Line, Just My Stripe, Terryspun, Yarnado, and more. I'm not affiliated in any way with Lion Brand, I'm just a fan.

I've completed scarves using the Wizard (left) and Thunderbird colorways. For the first two scarves, I used one cake for warp, then used a second for weft. I had enough weft leftover from the Thunderbird scarf that I used the leftover as warp and used Simply Soft Ombre as weft, which muted the colors a bit. I used the weft as it came off the cake, so the warp stripes are much narrower than the weft color changes. I currently have another Mandala scarf on my loom, and for this one I cut the weft cake into its component colors, then make stripes of varying sizes as I go. It's a slower process, but I think the finished product will be worth it. Having spent much more time crocheting than weaving, I'm amazed at how the colors interact with each other in woven cloth. I plan to weave some gamps, either with Mandala or more traditional weaving yarns, so I can more easily anticipate the interactions.

The third scarf, which is the shortest of the three, I sent to my aunt, along with a crocheted shawl. I told her she could use it as a table runner - I thought it might be too short for a scarf, but since she lives in California she doesn't need anything super warm. Her vision is nearly gone, but she can feel the difference in the textures of the two pieces. She used to sew beautiful, fantastical, intricate dolls - fairies, mermaids, teddy bears, and such. She always asks what I'm working on when I talk to her on the phone and sent me some of the fabrics and patterns she used to use - I've been thinking of making a patchwork open jacket (haori style) out of some of the fabrics. I twisted the fringe after the photos were taken, but didn't take a final picture before mailing it off. I enjoy hemstitching the edges - you can see the stitching pretty well in the picture of the scarf folded on the couch - the stitching is dark orange where the yellow fringe is, and then it fades to yellow toward the bottom. Hemstitching secures the piece so it doesn't unravel. You can do a basic stitch, as I did, or there are more intricate and decorative variations I haven't tried yet. If you are folding the edge under and hemming it, as people often do for towels, you don't need to hemstitch it first, as it adds a bit of bulk.


The first scarf I warped on the floor, using one of the pegs of my inkle loom in lieu of a standard warping peg. This is the direct warping method, which is faster since you don't have to wind the warp onto a warping board, as you often do for harness looms. Moving back and forth on the floor got old fast, though I think my cats were entertained. So for the next scarves I brought a folding table into the living room. You can see I used a cardboard tube instead of a peg, which had the advantage of reducing the amount of waste - if you use a peg, the path from the edge warps to the peg in the center is longer than the path for the center warp strands, so you end up cutting off that extra. The cardboard tube is a bit more fiddly, I've also thought of getting a horizontal paper towel holder (such as the ones that go under a cabinet), and modifying it to be a bit wider than my 24in loom. Or making one from scrap wood. Then I could clamp it where I needed for different length pieces.


There can be quite a bit of math involved in designing a project, if you want specific results. So far I've estimated rather than calculating, and sometimes that means that my warp isn't centered on the heddle, or I end up with extra yarn (which is a much better problem than running out before you're finished).

Acrylic yarn like Mandala can be tricky on the loom, because it stretches, so it isn't easy to get uniform tension across your warp. I have some cotton and other coned yarns designed for weaving that I'll be trying as well in the next few months. The rigid heddle group on FB has had Mandala and Shawl in a Ball challenges, because those yarns are colorful, inexpensive, and easily accessible. SIAB/SIAC is much more fragile than Mandala, so I plan on waiting awhile before trying to weave with it.