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Weaving with a loom is an ancient technology and art that has captivated humanity for countless generations.
Thanks to the industrial revolution we no longer need to weave our own clothing. However, hand weaving on a small loom is making a real comeback amongst craft-enthusiasts and creatives.
Weaving with a loom can be a great way to relax, spend some time, and create beautiful pieces of art at the same time.
In this article, you will discover everything you need to know to choose which loom will be the best for you to start with.
Best weaving looms
Best loom for absolute beginners
The Beka weaving frame is likely they best loom for beginners that have absolutely no experience with weaving due to its simple nature and the absence of any moving parts.
It is made from hard maple wood and 20” x 23” in size. 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 use it as a lap loom while you are sitting down in a comfortable chair.
It also comes with a few weaving tools such as a pickup stick, weaving needle and shuttle.
Best rigid heddle loom for beginners
When it comes to rigid heddle looms there are two great brands to choose from: Ashford and Schacht.
The Ashford weaving rigid heddle loom is a good place to start if you want to do big projects. It comes in two different sizes (32″ and 24″), only weighs around 10 pounds (4.54 kg) and is very versatile.
This model also comes with a nylon reed, 2 differently sized shuttles, threading hook, warping peg, and clamp. Additionally, it comes with an instruction booklet that will help you get started.
For smaller projects the Schacht Cricket loom is great. It comes in 2 different sizes (10″ and 15″), has an 8-dent reed and some additional goodies such as a threading hook, warping peg, shuttle etc.
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.
Things to consider when buying a weaving loom
Since there are many loom types, brands, and models out there, it can be a little difficult to choose one. Here is a list of things to keep in mind:
- Previous experience: a table or floor loom is pretty difficult to use and you will probably need a teacher that can guide you. Whereas weaving on a frame loom or rigid heddle loom can be learned by reading a good book or watching some YouTube videos.
- Future projects: different types of looms are more appropriate for different projects. For example, lap looms are great for making small decorative wall hangings, whereas a table loom is better for big blankets and scarfs.
- Size: the width of the loom will dictate how big your weave can be. So choose a loom with the appropriate size for your projects. You can always make a small weave on a big loom, but vice versa is impossible.
- Space: although floor looms and rigid heddle looms are not that big and easy to store, a table or floor loom can be very big and heavy so you will need enough free space in your house.
Types of weaving looms
Before you can decide on which weaving loom to get, you should become familiar with the different types of looms out there.
The most basic option is the lap loom / frame loom, which is pretty easy to learn and ideal for absolute beginners.
However, if you are more ambitious you can also try your hands on a rigid heddle loom. This type of loom let’s you work much faster than a lap loom.
Additionally, there are some types such as the inkle and the tapestry loom which are great for very specific projects, and a few bigger types such as the floor and table loom which look the most familiar to an industrial loom but are also difficult to operate.
Let’s look at each type in more detail.
Lap looms & frame looms
The lap loom, also known as a frame loom, is the most common hand weaving loom among beginners. Mainly because weaving on a frame loom is easy to learn and they are very cheap.
They are normally made out of wood and have a rectangular shape. It is not too heavy or big, so you can hold it in your lap while weaving on it, hence its name.
Rigid neddle looms
The rigid heddle loom is also a good loom for beginners and many people that outgrow their lap loom will eventually upgrade to a rigid heddle loom.
Compared to a lap looms, a rigid heddle loom 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 lets you weave much faster.
The tapestry loom is basically a frame loom but 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.
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.
That’s why I normally wouldn’t recommend them to beginners. But if you are interested, you can read our article on inkle loom weaving.
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, these types of looms are geared towards the experienced weaver.
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 stepping stone for people that want to transition from lap loom weaving to using 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 can be very difficult.
Weaving on a loom for beginners
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.
(Source: Wikimedia Commons)
Basic weaving process
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.