CHOOSING YOUR LOOM, AND LEARNING HOW TO START WEAVING
4 or 8 Harness Table looms or Floor Looms, Rigid Heddle Looms, Tapestry Looms and Rug Looms
The first thing to do is determine what you would like to weave, and how wide your maximum project is likely to be "as woven" - these are the most important criteria in selecting the loom. The most basic limiting factor on any loom, whether a table loom or a floor loom, is the weaving width. You basically cannot normally weave anything wider than that. But, if you want to weave scarves or table runners or things like that, most looms are suitable. And fabric yardage can be seamed together for blankets or wider objects, or you can cut even "Vogue" fabric pieces from 22" cloth without a problem.
Your loom will need to be of a type that can weave the projects you think you will be weaving the most. Unless you are prepared to commit to a high dollar loom which can do everything (like a Glimakra), the decision of what loom to buy comes down to either:
1) a loom that will do patterns, like a 4 harness loom, or
2) a very simple loom like a rigid heddle which can only do over/under pattern, or
3) a tapestry loom, where the weaver, rather than the loom, manually manipulates the threads to create geometric, abstract or pictorial weaving, or
4) a loom that can do rugs well, but not much else (used 2 harness rug looms).
Depending on how much you want to spend, most people will choose either a rigid heddle loom or a 4 harness table loom for a first loom. Those who have a bit more money available would buy a 4 harness floor loom, or if looking far ahead, possibly an 8 harness floor loom. Most weavers are content with 4 harness looms for their lifetime. The more harnesses, or shafts, that are in use on a loom, the more intricate the patterning of the woven fabric. But for most, the number of different patterns that can be woven is very sufficient on a 4 harness loom, whether a small table loom, or a floor loom like a Schacht or Harrisville.
The looms that most beginners choose, due to their "possibilities", economics, and space-saving characteristics, are either the Ashford 4 harness folding table loom kit, or the Schacht 4 harness table loom. The Ashford can, at a later date, have a stand and treadle kit added to convert it into a small floor loom, or can be expanded to 8 harnesses. It is available in 16, 24, and 32" weaving widths. For most people, the 16" or 24" size is more suitable than the 32'. The Schacht is more sturdily built, and as a result, does not fold compactly like the Ashford. But, it is more suitable for heavier weft yarns. The Schacht is available in 15", 20" and 25" weaving widths. One thing to note about looms is that a table loom does not always take up less room than a floor loom of the same width. A small floor loom is easy to fold up and wheel into a closet, and its footprint when folded is the same or less than a similar table loom, just taller. And, unless you have a stand, you still have to find a place to put that table loom when you want to weave, whereas a small floor loom on wheels is easy to place anywhere. Most weavers much prefer using floor looms over table looms, since you can establish a rhythm of hand-and-foot while weaving that you can't with a table loom. For a description of floor loom parts and a complete diagram, please visit our Spinning Wheel and Weaving Loom Diagrams Page.
If you would like to stay with a lower priced loom, consider a rigid heddle loom. Rigid heddle looms are the equivalent of a 2 harness loom, although they do not have harnesses. Although rigid heddle looms do not have the potential for more complex patterning as 4 or 8 harness looms, allowing only 'over/under' (plain) weaving for the most part, it is a satisfying way to get into weaving small projects. Warping (setting up/threading) the loom is very simple on a rigid heddle loom, but projects are necessarily simple, since the rigid heddle looms are very simple. The brands we like are Beka, Ashford, Schacht, and Harrisville. These looms are available in a variety of maximum weaving widths, and some are even prewarped for the first project, and contain enough yarn to experience weaving. These are popular looms for teaching children to weave, as well.
If however, rather than loom-manipulated weaving, you are interested in weaving small or large tapestries or Navajo-style rugs (very much slower and more detailed) where you actually create a pictorial or geometric weaving, we recommend one of the Mirrix tapestry looms (frame looms). The Mirrix looms are very high quality, high tech, and strong, and are available in a wide range of sizes, and really the only tapestry looms that we sell that are tough enough for weaving navajo style rugs. If you want to exclusively weave rag or even wool rugs, you will most likely want to find an old loom made specifically for rugs (many have only 2 harnesses), or plan on buying a very expensive loom like a Glimakra which can stand the punishment very tight warps, and of beating rugs tightly enough to hold together. Most looms made today can not repeatedly stand the weaving of rugs, although an occasional rug might not hurt some floor looms.
OTHER SPECIAL PURPOSE (VERY SMALL) LOOMS
Inkles, Weaving Cards, Lap Looms, and the like
Inkle looms are small looms suitable only for long but very narrow (less than 4" wide) projects and the weaver does all the work - the looms just hold the thread. They are suitable for belts, suspenders, and similar items. Usually items woven on inkle looms are made with brightly colored thin cotton yarn or thread.
Card weaving is one of the cheapest ways to weave a narrow inkle-type belt with a pattern. The pattern is made by twisting a series of cardboard cards between each weft shot.
Lap looms are small frame looms that basically can just do a little tapestry, or plain weave, in a small size - just one step up from a pot-holder loom.
TOOLS AND LEARNING AIDS
Books and DVDS
Best DVDs for 4 or more harness weaving are Intro to Weaving and Beginning 4 Harness Weaving along with the book Learning to Weave. Just getting these will get you off to a good start to determine what you want to weave. If you want a very simple loom which can only do plain patterned over and under weaving, consider the Rigid Heddle Weaving video and the book Hands on Rigid Heddle. For Tapestry Weaving, Tapestry Weaving Video level one and the book Tapestry Weaving are our recommendations.
Tools and Accessories
Some of the brands of looms include shuttles and hooks. And for an extra charge, studio packages for 4 and 8 harness looms (as those in Harrisville floor looms) also include warping boards, benches, and yarn as well as other options. Stick shuttles and a threading hook, a book, and a way to measure your warp, would be absolute neccessities.
These are typical lower-end starter packages:
For a 4 harness table loom:
Maple warping board 4-1/2 yd
Brass sleyhook/heddle hook
1 or 2 maple stick shuttles (some table looms include these at no additional charge)
Book, Learning to Weave
Optional: Intro to Weaving and Beginning 4 Harness Weaving DVDs.These are great teachers!
Or, for a rigid heddle loom:
Maple warping board 4-1/2 yd, or warping pegs (some RH looms come with pegs)
1 or 2 maple stick shuttles
Book, Hands on Rigid Heddle
AS A STARTING POINT IN SEARCHING FOR THE RIGHT LOOM FOR YOU, PLEASE USE THESE LINKS:
ALL FLOOR LOOMS
ALL SMALL LOOMS
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This page last updated: 2 June 2013
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