Weaving is an ancient technology and art that has captivated humanity for countless of generations.
Even at this very moment, many people are probably weaving as a hobby, a way to relax or just to pass some time.
Although the industrial revolution has moved the weaving loom from the living rooms of our grandparent to big factories, hand weaving with a loom is making a real comeback amongst craft-enthusiasts and creatives.
In this article, we will go over the basics of weaving and help you discover the best weaving loom for beginners to start with.
Weaving Basics Everyone Should Know
The weaving process hasn’t changed much over the past few centuries. The basic process involves interlacing one set of yarn at a right angle with the second set of yarn.
When using a loom, long vertical lines of thread are attached to a on both sides and spaced appropriately. This is called the warp and will function as the skeleton for your weaving project.
Next the second piece of yarn, called the weft, is used to interweave it with the warp and make patterns. This might sound a little more difficult then it needs to be since some of the weaving terminology can be quite tricky.
Different effects can be obtained by different weaving patterns. The most basic pattern is the plain weave, were the weft goes over and under alternating warp threads. Different patterns such as the satin weave or the twill weave can be used not only for a decorative function, but they can also change the character of the resulting weave.
Although moving the weft thread up and over every alternating warp thread might be good practice for a beginner, most weavers use shedding, one of the three primary motions of weaving, to make it much easier and faster to pass the weft through the warp.
Primary Motions Of The Loom
If you have warped your loom you can start weaving by using the three primary motions used to weave on a loom. These three steps form the core of weaving and it’s best to master them before you try making anything too difficult.
- Shedding: manually weaving over and under every individual warp thread would be too much work. So most people use a weaving sword, a reed or heddles to help them separate the warp threads.
- Picking: sound pretty difficult but it basically means that you move the weft thread through the opened warp. This can be done by hand and using a shuttle can often be useful if you use very long thread.
- Beating-up/ battering: to get a consistent result you need to push the weft to the end of the cloth. This can be done with the reed or else you can use your fingers, a pick or even a fork.
Different Types of Weaving Looms
There are many different types of weaving looms you can choose from.
However, lap looms and rigid heddle looms are normally the best loom to start with. Since it’s easy to learn how to use either one, they are flexible enough to be used for many different projects, and they are not too expensive.
Lap Looms & Frame Looms
The lap loom, also known as a frame loom, is the easiest loom to work with. It’s normally made out of wood and has a rectangular shape.
It is normally not too heavy or big, so you can hold it in your lap while weaving on it, hence its name.
Since they have such a simple design, they are good weaving looms for beginners or children.
Rigid Heddle Looms
The rigid heddle loom is the second type of loom that we normally recommend to beginners. And many people that outgrow their lap loom upgrade to a rigid heddle loom.
Compared to a lap loom they might look a bit more complicated. But they are a joy to work with once you learn some pick-up stick and hand manipulation techniques.
The main benefit of this type of loom over a lap loom is the option to use a heddle, which allows you to automatically shed the loom. And thus lets you weave much faster.
The tapestry loom is basically a frame loom but than much larger. As a result, it’s too big to be used as a lap loom and normally it comes with a stand to keep it upright.
Considering its large size and the fact that you will be weaving everything by hand, finishing a single weave will take a considerable amount of time.
Of course, it’s possible to work on small projects on a tapestry loom as well. But most beginners prefer to use a lap loom.
An inkle loom looks very different from any of the looms mentioned above. But despite its strange looks, the weaving process on an inkle loom is very similar to other looms.
However, inkle looms can only make very narrow projects such as bands and straps that can be used as a belt, necklace, for bags, etc.
So an inkle loom is great if that’s all you want to do. But if you want to work on a variety of different projects a rigid heddle loom would be better.
Back Strap Loom
A back strap loom is an old form of loom that consists out of two sticks which you use to warp the yarn. One of the sticks will be fixed to a firm object like a tree, while the other end is held in position by a strap around your back.
Since you constantly need to keep your back straight, you can imagine that working with this loom isn’t going to super comfortable. That’s why I wouldn’t recommend it for loom weaving for beginners.
Despite all of that, you can still find this type of loom in some countries around the world.
The floor loom is the biggest home weaving loom you can find. They take about the same amount of space as a piano and are quite heavy.
Depending on how they operate, the floor loom can be further divided into jack, counterbalance and countermarch types. Regardless, all three of them are used for producing complex and large projects.
Considering their high cost, size, and difficulty to work with, only the most experienced and fanatic weaver dare to take up the challenge of weaving on a floor loom.
A table loom is a smaller, less expensive and more portable version of the floor loom. That being said, they are still more complex than any of the other small looms on the list.
They are great for people that want to eventually take on a floor loom.
But make sure there is someone that can teach you or a weaving class available in your area. Because teaching yourself how to weave on a table loom is very difficult.
Things to Consider When Buying a Weaving Loom
Since there are so many different loom types, brands, and models, you don’t want to buy the first weaving loom that you see.
The first thing to keep in mind when looking for a new loom to buy is your own skill level. A table or floor loom is pretty difficult to use and you will probably need a teacher that can guide you. Whereas a frame loom, rigid heddle loom or inkle loom is much more simple to learn and taking an online weaving class or reading a good book on weaving will do.
It also helps if you already have a general idea of what kinds of weaving projects you want to do. If you want to make large tapestries, a tapestry loom would be the obvious choice. Whereas a lap loom or rigid heddle loom would be just fine for smaller wall hangings.
Additionally, not every model within the same type of loom is the same size. For example, the rigid heddle loom by Schacht is smaller than the one by Ashford. It might be common sense but even though you can always weave a small project on a large loom, remember that you can’t weave a big project on a small loom.
Finally, if you are planning on getting a floor or table loom, you should also keep the dimensions of the loom. And whether you actually have enough space in your house to place it somewhere. Fortunately, all the other looms are normally small enough that you can easily store them.
Finding the best loom amongst all the weaving looms for sale is no easy task. After all, there are lots of different brand and models to choose from. Below is a small list of weaving looms that are popular and you might consider when you are new to weaving.
Best Weaving Loom for Absolute Beginners and Children
It is made from hard maple wood and 20” x 23”. Since it is pretty lightweight and comes with a stand you can opt to lay it flat on the table, use it in an upright position or even us it as a lap loom while you are sitting down in a comfortable chair.
Additionally, it comes with a pickup stick, weaving needle and a shuttle. Due to its simple nature and the absence of any moving parts it can also be ideal as a weaving loom for kids.
Best Rigid Heddle Loom For Beginners
This model has indentations on one side which makes it suitable for lap loom weaving as well. Simply put the side with the indentations on the table and the other side and on your lap.
This model also comes with a reed nylon, 2 differently sized shuttles, threading hook, warping peg, and clamp. Additionally, it comes with an instruction booklet.
Best Floor Loom for Beginners
We normally suggest people start with rigid heddle looms. But if you know weaving is perfect for you and you are dreaming big, then you might try handling a floor loom right away.
The Schacht Mighty Wolf loom is a great floor loom regardless if you are a beginner or experienced weaver. They are one of the most popular weaving looms in the United States.
This model has a weaving width of 36”, includes a high castle with storage tray, and comes either with four or eight harnesses. Additionally, it comes with a stainless steel reed (6, 8, 10, 12, 15 or 20 dent), 3 lease sticks, a brass reed hook, stainless steel heddle bars, a maintenance manual and inserted eye heddles.
Floor looms might sound daunting and difficult right now, but it will be highly rewarding if you manage to master it.