What is a Weaving Loom?

Rigid Heddle Loom with two different lengths of slots, showing two sheds

A weaving loom is a tensioning device. I’m writing here about what a loom is, my next posts are about treadle looms and jacquard weaving. Weaving looms come in all shapes and sizes, tapestry frames and looms, inkle and rigid heddle looms, table and floor looms, dobby and jacquard looms. A warp is the set of parallel threads held under tension on the loom. In weaving we raise some threads, leaving some down to form a gap, or horizontal passage in which to pass an interlacing weft thread. This passage is called a shed. The weft travels from ‘weft to wight’! Looms differ in the way the weaver is able to raise warp threads.

 A ‘heddle’ is a loophole or string through which a warp yarn is threaded, it helps a weaver control the thread. 

A tapestry weaver raises threads by hand, sometimes using string heddles or a stick. Inspiring artist and weaver Rebecca Mezoff writes very informatively about tapestry weaving.

A rigid heddle as shown above is a flat piece of material, often wood, with holes and slots through which alternating warp yarns are threaded. Threads passing through the holes can be either raised or lowered relative to the threads in the slots by raising or lowering the rigid heddle. Weaving on a rigid heddle loom we easily make traditional plain weave where a yarn passes over one thread and under the next all at the way across the cloth. Plain weave is the strongest weave structures can be highly textured and with great variety of colour. We can add picking sticks and a second rigid heddle to extend designs on a rigid heddle loom.

Table looms have heddles arranged on frames called shafts, controlled by levers. Shaft looms generally have between four and sixteen shafts. All threads are threaded through a heddle on one shaft or another, and through one heddle only. The weaver uses levers to raise one or more shafts, which in turn raises the set of threads controlled on each shaft. The more shafts available, the more design options available to the weaver.

The distinguishing element between looms is how the weaver raises warp threads to make a shed in which to pass an interlacing weft to weave fabric.

Read about treadle looms and jacquard weaving.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *