Bryggen Rigid HeddlesThe 12th century saw an upsurge in the usage of rigid heddles to create tapes or ribbons instead of the usual tablets for tablet woven tapes or ribbons. The technology is fairly simple; a piece of rigid material (wood, bone, or antler) is cut in a flat sheet, several slots and holes are carved into it and threads inserted into these. When the heddle is pulled up, it creates an 'up' shed in the warp. When the heddle is pushed down, it creates a 'down' shed in the warp. The resultant weaving is very much like what we know today as 'inkle' weaving.

In period, various tapes and ribbons were made using these

The warp itself could be either back-strapped (one end tied to a fixed point and the other tied to a belt around the weaver's waist) or the warp could be placed on any number of 'looms' which ranged from simple to complex. I created a 14th century post loom to do my rigid heddle weaving on and prefer that to any other method I've tried.

Finding rigid heddles in the archaeological record, especially prior to the 1600's is difficult. Which is why the rigid heddles pictured are so wonderful. The one on the left, made of elk antler, dates to 1238 - 1332 BCE. The heddle on the right is just a fragment but is made of pine wood and dates to1170 - 1198 BCE. These are both from the archaeological excavations at Bryggen (i.e., 'the warf) in Bergen, Norway.