Different Types Of Weaving Looms: A Clear Explanation

If you want to learn how to weave, the first thing you will have to do is to choose which loom you are going to use.

Weaving on a small frame loom is very different from weaving on a big floor loom. Although for both you will intertwine the weft yarn through the warp yarn, the actual weaving techniques are very different.

In this post we’ll go over every type of weaving loom you can choose from and highlight the pros and cons of each. Once you know the different looms, we’ll also go over the best type of weaving looms to start with.

1 Frame loom / lap loom

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 too big, so you can hold it in your lap while weaving on it, hence its name.

  • Cheap
  • Easiest to learn
  • Small and lightweight
  • Every step done by hand
  • Only allows for small and simple weaves

2 Tapestry loom

On a frame loom the maximum size of your weave is constraint by the size of the frame itself.

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.

  • Similar to a frame loom
  • Often used with a stand
  • Good for big projects

3 Rigid heddle loom

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.

Moreover, rigid heddle looms are pretty small so you can easily store it or travel with it.

  • Good for both beginners and advanced weavers
  • Not as expensive as other advanced looms
  • Easy to learn
  • Portable

4 Inkle 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.

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.

  • Portable
  • Easy to learn
  • Works similar to other looms
  • Good addition to a frame or rigid heddle loom
  • Only for narrow projects

5 Floor loom

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. With a floor loom you will be able to make big weaves for home linens or rugs for example.

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.

  • Expensive
  • Difficult to learn
  • Very heavy and big
  • Good for making big weaves

6 Table loom

A table loom is a smaller, less expensive and more portable version of the floor loom that can fit on top of a table or desk.

Although they are smaller than floor looms, they are almost just as difficult to operate since they normally have between 4 and 8 shafts.

They are great stepping stone for people that want to transition from a rigid heddle loom to 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.

  • Difficult to learn
  • Pretty big and heavy
  • Expensive
  • Good for making big weaves

7 Bead loom

Bead looms are used to make jewelry and accessories like necklaces, bracelets, belts, headbands, etc. They can also be used to make smaller weaves to decorate a bigger pieces.

Note that bead weaving is very different from regular weaving. You need to use a completely different technique to incorporate the beads into your weave. As a result you will see little crossover between these two communities.

Unless you are really into beads, I won’t recommend a bead loom to beginning weavers. I merely included them for completeness.

  • Cheap
  • Easy to learn
  • Used to make jewelry and accessories
  • Requires different weaving technique
  • Skills don’t transfer to other loom types

How do you choose a weaving loom?

Now that you know all the different type of looms that are available, let’s take a look at how to choose a weaving loom.

Your decision will mainly depend on the following factors:

  • Skill level: some looms are easier to work with than other. If you have no prior weaving experience don’t go with a floor or table loom. Beginner-friendly types include the frame loom, rigid heddle loom, inkle loom, tapestry loom, and the bead loom.
  • Projects: certain projects are easier to weave on particular loom types. For example, weaving a belt or bracelet would be easier on an inkle or bead loom, whereas frame or tapestry looms are good for weaving decorative wall hangings. Rigid heddle looms seem to give a decent amount of versatility and can handle many projects.
  • Weave Size: if you are using a frame or tapestry loom the maximum size is determined by the size of the loom. For the other loom types the maximum width is determined by the size of the loom, but the maximum length is limited.
  • Cost: it’s no secret that the bigger the loom the more expensive it will be. Buying a floor or table loom is a hefty investment. However, make sure that the weaving loom you buy has some room for you to grow as a weaver and experiment with different techniques.

Types of looms for beginners

For most beginners I would suggest either a frame loom or a rigid heddle loom.

The good-old frame loom is the most basic and cheapest of all the loom. Even if you have never touched a weaving loom before, I’m pretty sure that you can figure out how to set up the warp and do some simple patterns without any help. This also makes the frame loom great for children.

The rigid heddle loom takes somewhat more time to learn because the warping process isn’t very intuitive. Fortunately, you can find clear instructional videos on Youtube for most rigid heddle looms. So the first few times you might have to follow the video step by step.

However, what’s great about the rigid heddle loom is that you can use it for both simple beginner techniques and for advanced weaving techniques. So you can really learn everything about weaving from this loom.

If you want to know which model to get in particular, you can take a look at our article on the best weaving looms for beginners.

Conclusion

We have looked at the 7 different types of weaving looms that you can choose from.

As a beginner you probably want to start with either a frame loom or a rigid heddle loom, because they are the most flexible. However, more specialized types such as the bead loom, tapestry loom, or inkle loom can also be a good choose.

The bigger and more complex types such as the floor and table loom are to be avoided, unless you have previous experience or someone teaching you directly.

If you are ready to learn more about weaving, I recommend reading my article on starting weaving as a hobby.