Weaving is an art nearly as old as the human population. It was used in ancient times to weave baskets and shelters. Today, weaving is done on a variety of looms to create fabrics, tapestries, belts, and more.
So, what are the types of weaving looms? The types of weaving looms are floor loom, table loom, backstrap loom, inkle loom, frame loom, tapestry loom, rigid heddle loom, bead loom, pin loom, and jack loom.
While some of these looms share similarities with each other, most have very different construction that allows a weaver to create different forms of woven materials, both big and small. Keep reading below to get the details on each type of loom.
How Do You Choose A Weaving Loom?
Before we get into all the different types of looms below, you may be wondering how you’ll be able to choose the right one.
Don’t get overwhelmed by all the information below. Instead, read it while considering three key things: your skill level, the space you have for your loom, and what projects you plan to make.
We will note in each type of loom whether it’s great for beginners, or best for more advanced and experienced weavers.
Consider the level of skill you have, and whether you’ve already used a basic type of loom before. This can help you determine which loom below may be your best fit.
It’s also important to consider the space. A floor loom is extremely large and takes up a lot of space, while a frame loom or pin loom can fit in your lap or in a small bag.
You also want to think about what projects you want to make. If you plan to make belts or straps for purses or guitars, then an inkle loom is your best bet. It’s the only loom that is specifically designed for woven, braided straps.
If you want to make a wall hanging, try a frame loom or tapestry loom. These are designed to create woven fabrics that fit just the size of the frame of the loom.
There are more projects you can make, and more looms that work great for each one.
Types Of Weaving Looms
There are many types of weaving looms, and each one can help create beautiful pieces of woven art. From fabrics to tapestries, belts to scarves, weaving looms are an incredible and versatile crafting tool.
There are some weaving looms that will be better for beginners, and others that should be reserved for more experienced weavers, as we noted above.
For a great quick introduction to the types of looms we discuss below, watch this video from Craft Atelier SG.
The weaver, who is also the owner and co-founder of Craft Atelier in Singapore, does a great job of explaining each type of loom while giving visual examples.
A floor loom is one of the largest weaving looms. It has a complex construction with multiple shafts, giving it the ability to create more intricate designs.
Because it’s a large and complex loom, it is also one of the most expensive looms. The floor loom is not for beginners, and is instead primarily used by experienced weavers who can handle the intense construction.
Some floor looms are designed to fold up a little, like an accordion, but they will not fold completely and cannot be easily stored.
Instead, they are usually on wheels and have to be rolled into a corner for storage. They stand on legs on the floor and are operated by someone either standing or sitting in front of the loom.
Floor looms are best for creating large, long, intricate pieces of woven work, such as linens or area rugs.
Table looms have a similar design to floor looms, except they are created to be a bit smaller so they can fit on a tabletop or desktop.
Since they’re smaller, they also tend to be less expensive. These looms are still quite difficult to work with for a beginner and should only be used by experienced weavers.
For someone who has been using another type of loom for a while and is ready to try and move their way up to a floor loom, the table loom could be used as a stepping stone between their smaller loom and the floor loom.
A backstrap loom is one of the oldest types of looms that still exists today. Although not as commonly used in North America, these looms are still used by weaving communities around the world, especially in South America.
They work by hooking up one end to a fixed post, like a tree, and then wrapping the other end, the backstrap, around the weaver’s back. The tension of the weaver’s body is what keeps the threads or yarn taut.
These looms can be difficult to work on, not only for the technical level of weaving skill required, but also because of the physical strain it can put on the weaver’s body.
However, when used by a skilled weaver used to the backstrap loom and its physical requirements, it can help create beautiful, intricate fabrics and woven designs.
The inkle loom has one of the most unique looking designs on this list. It doesn’t look like a traditional loom, but that’s because it’s not used for traditional woven fabrics.
An inkle loom is a small loom that is used to create small, thin braided fabric strips for items such as belts, guitar straps, purse straps, animal leashes, lanyards, and other types of strap fabrics.
These braided fabric strips are incredibly strong and durable, which is one of the reasons inkle looms are so popular. Their end result is often stronger than other woven fabrics and materials.
Inkle looms can be fun for beginner weavers, or used by more advanced weavers. They offer a unique project set that other looms can’t do, so weavers of all skill levels would enjoy working with one.
Since they’re small, they’re also good to use for projects on the go or in small spaces.
Frame Loom (Lap Loom)
A frame loom is one of the more traditional types of looms. This is one that even those who haven’t tried their hand at weaving have probably seen before.
Frame looms are a straight, flat, rectangular shape. The warp threads are held vertically across the loom, running up and down the long sides, while the weft threads are woven horizontally across the short sides.
Some frame looms are small enough to use on their laps, in which case they’re referred to as lap looms. These lap looms are great for making smaller woven fabrics like hand towels or dish towels.
This is a simple type of loom that’s great for beginners. It doesn’t have too many different pieces and parts to keep track of. Instead, it’s a straight-forward construction that someone who’s never tried weaving before could learn on easily.
The only potential drawback to the frame loom is that it can only make something as large as the frame of the loom itself. You won’t be able to continue moving the fabric off of the loom as you work.
Instead, a frame loom is a fixed shape, and is only able to be used to create a woven fabric or project that fits the frame.
A tapestry loom is a form of frame loom, but on a much larger scale. These looms, as you may be able to guess from the name, are intended to make tapestries.
Tapestries are large, woven fabrics that typically have an ornate image or design. They’re made to be hung on a wall or cover furniture, so should be big enough to cover that area.
For the purposes of weaving a tapestry, tapestry looms have a vertical construction that usually come with a stand so they can stay upright.
Just as with a smaller frame loom, a tapestry loom can only make a tapestry as large as the loom itself. This is why the tapestry looms are so large, so that they can fit the entirety of the tapestry design in the space.
One thing that can be considered a drawback is that a tapestry loom has a fully manual process, so weaving can take longer. Especially working on a piece as large as a tapestry, the fully manual weaving process will mean the tapestry may take months to complete.
Rigid Heddle Loom
A rigid heddle loom may look more advanced from the construction, but it’s actually easy to use for beginner and a weaving loom that is largely recommended for new weavers to start with.
It’s great to make any type of plain woven projects, like scarves or fabrics for clothing.
Rigid heddle looms are also smaller than other types of looms and portable, so they’re great to use for on the go projects or just working and storing in a smaller space.
They’re great looms for beginners to learn their basic skills on before moving on to other, more elaborate weaving techniques and looms.
It has a fixed warp structure that makes it easy to warp, and can be used for two-shaft weaving.
Bead looms are another unique type of loom made for a specific purpose. While the inkle loom is good for braided fabric straps, the bead loom is good for weaving with beads.
Using a bead loom requires a different technique from regular weaving, so it’s not recommended for a beginner.
Beginner weavers wouldn’t be able to learn the traditional basic weaving skills on this loom, and therefore wouldn’t have a good foundation for other types of weaving.
However, a bead loom can be incredibly useful for someone who already has a basic understanding of weaving.
It can be used to make necklaces, bracelets, belts, headbands, and other woven, beaded items. These are the types of souvenir items you may see in stores, especially around the southwest region of the United States.
A pin loom is a common type of weaving loom used to teach children how to weave. While some of the pins on pin looms can be sharp, they can also be more rounded and safe for use with children.
You can even create your own pin loom with a square frame and some push pins. Pin looms are made with a simple rectangular or square frame and pins that are evenly spaced, but close together, around the entire frame.
The pins hold the warp threads in place while you manually weave the weft thread over and under the warp threads. This is great for kids to learn on because they get to understand how weaving works without the big and complicated construction of a larger loom.
Just like with a frame loom, the pin loom is only good to make things that are the same size as the frame. However, it works great to make things such as dish cloths, doilies, coasters, wash cloths, and trivets.
A jack loom is a type of floor loom, except it has a slightly different construction. It uses foot pedals called treadles to raise the warp thread for weaving the weft thread.
Since the jack loom is a type of floor loom, it is still quite large and can be difficult to use. It’s primarily for more experienced weavers and would not be good for a beginner to start with.
However, if you are a more experienced weaver, you may find it easy to use thanks to the foot pedals and the way the loom is designed.
You can make large pieces of woven fabric using a jack loom, so it could come in handy for creating the same types of projects as a floor loom, such as rugs or linens.
Which Weaving Loom Is Best?
Now that you know the basic types of weaving looms, you may be wondering, which weaving loom is best? There is no “best” weaving loom, since they are all created for specific projects and would work great for those projects.
If you’re a beginner, we highly recommend starting with a simple pin loom, frame loom, or even an inkle loom.
These are all easy looms to learn weaving on, while also being small enough to store and work on just while resting on your couch or at your table.
Table looms, floor looms, bead looms, and even tapestry looms are better for more experienced weavers. Although the tapestry loom is similar to a frame loom in construction and weaving process, the large size makes it more difficult and cumbersome for a beginner weaver.
What Is The Difference Between Weaving And Loom?
For someone just starting out in the world of weaving, it can be confusing to learn all of the terminology.
Weaving the process of interlacing threads to create a type of fabric. The threads are nestled around each other, with some running horizontally and some running vertically.
These threads are also interlaced through each other with the horizontal threads running over and under the vertical threads.
A loom is the device that is used to weave the threads together. You need some sort of device to hold the threads steady while you work, or else there won’t be enough tension to create the fabric.
The loom helps hold the weft threads in place, separate them, and run the weft thread through them to complete the weaving process.
Weaving and looms go hand in hand. You can’t really have one without the other!