Well, I did it. I went ahead and ordered a rigid heddle loom and a couple of spools of 8/4 cotton with the idea that i’d go ahead and make myself a black/grey scarf using simple weaving patterns for a first project.
One of the biggest problems is the mixed messages out there and some of the gatekeeping to keep out the less serious people (I don’t know that it is intentional, but it sure felt like it at times). The yarn type was the main thing that frustrated me: you are most often told that worsted weight yard is ideal for the density of loom I am starting off with (for the record, a 7.5 dent, which means there are 7.5 slots/holes in the heddle per inch; essentially this is a thread-count measure). You’d think, with 8-dent and 7.5 dent heddles out there as the standard “starter” looms, someone would give more detail about the yarn type — but I saw “worsted”, but yarn is more often sold as N/D formula, where N = yarn “gauge” and D = number of yarn pieces in the twist. This is complicated further by N for cotton is not the same diameter as it is for wool or synthetic fibers or silk. I don’t want to set myself up for failure on the first project, so I wanted someone to more directly tell me which, for different fibers, would be best for my dent type.
Not forthcoming with my google fu.
Plus, there are some disagreements out there as to whether you can use knitting yarn for the warp and the weft. The general agreement is, sure, you are good using it as a weft (the part woven around the warp), but the tension on the warp makes using knitting yarn a bad idea. Until someone else says it is perfectly fine. Even there, however, there is little clarity, because knitting and crocheting use a completely different yarn grading system from the weavers and no one seems to have put out a conversion sheet that tells me which yarn is best from the knitter’s realm if I were to risk using it to warp. What I gathered was that a medium yarn is best for weaving, but probably only as the weft.
I finally found someone who had a project which they said was for 7.5 dent heddles and they recommended beginners use 8/4 cotton (size 8 strands, 4 wound strands in a piece of yarn). I had been barfing at the prices of even budget yarn as I considered the amount I had been seeing I would need for a project, but using this (unless the guesstimate is WAY off, which is possible), I can do the project for two cones of cotton yarn and have some yard to spare (about half on each cone), which seems too good to be true, meaning my scarf will cost something on the order of $10-20 instead of the barf-worthy $40-60. It won’t be as fluffy or fancy, more like a towel I am thinking, but it is supposedly easier to work with for a novice. [Edit: after writing this, I was accepted to a private FB group for RHL and someone wrote about a similar confusion. Almost everyone said that they felt focusing on weaving yarn over other yarns as a “must have” was terribly anal retentive and wrong in their experience. I think I’ll trust the masses over the individual.]
Like I said, the first project is going to be about as basic as they come and, after several scarves, maybe some curtain panels for the bedroom, or a table runner — then I’ll consider making my tartan scarf or a tartan blanket. Until then, I suspect there might be a steep learning curve — less about the techniques and more about the technical aspects.