Types of weaving/ types of loom : simplicity

Someone on a sewing board recently described her enjoyment of weaving. Though I love sewing, for peaceful relaxation I need a repetitive activity that can be done without much thought. As I’ve had to give up knitting for manual dexterity reasons, I wondered if weaving would be restful and productive.

But when I tried to find out about weaving from the internet, it all seemed very confused. Many different types of weaving, many different types of loom. No clear descriptions anywhere of all the different sorts. Often the only surveys on the internet are in very intellectual language with no pictures and no explanation of technical terms. Even the retailers expect you to know what you want (both looms and yarns) and what the words mean.

Of course there may be books which do what I’m looking for, but I haven’t got easy access to them. There certainly are books which claim to be bibles of the topic but which actually only cover one type of loom. Lots of books and DVDs available (for one specialist list see books and DVDs).

The great internet resource is that weavers are generous on YouTube. Many little videos about different weaving processes.

So here is what I’ve been able to make of it. From my earliest notes, it’s obvious I started out very confused ! so I hope this is not positively misleading. . .

I haven’t included many pictures. I have linked to videos, as it’s much easier to understand when you see the processes in action. Once you know some of the words, and start searching, it’s easy to find out a lot more.

There’s so much to say, I’ve divided this in 3 parts :
– simplest methods.
– weaving on a simple frame.
– speeding up : beyond the Frame Loom.

– – –

Basically a way of interleaving strands to make a surface.

Basket weaving
If the strands are stiff enough to be self supporting, then you can do basket weaving and make mats – not what I’m going to talk about.

If the strands are floppy, then they need to be supported in some way while they’re being interwoven. Hence all the looms, pegs, pins and other weaving tools.

Basically there are two main types of interwoven strands :

Woven – interwoven strands at right angles.

”weaving-wiki” Wikipedia

Knits – interwoven rows of loops.

”knit-wiki” Wikipedia

There’s also bobbin lace, crochet, tatting etc. which I’m not going to go into.

– – –

Finger knitting
Knitting looms – loom knitting

Here are some techniques which do wind yarn under and over, in a weaving sort of way, but you end up making knit loops. Some of the tools are called looms. (Not the same as ‘knitters looms’, which are a type of rigid heddle loom, see last post in this group. . .)

The most basic method is just to use your fingers. Here’s a video about finger knitting.
This is sometimes called finger weaving – though there’s something else called that, see later !

Stands up surprising well to being done very badly 😀 though you do need to do 4 or 5 ‘rows’ before the result makes any sense.

It’s a similar process when you use pegs on a stand instead of your fingers.
As a child I used to do ‘French knitting’ over 4 nails hammered into a wooden cotton reel.

Now you can buy looms for doing this. This is usually what you get if you buy a child’s toy said to be a loom.

Here is a video about the basics, and here a video which shows how to produce a variety of stitch types.

book : Loom Knitting Primer by Isela Phelps

For making wider knit fabric with smaller stitches, you need a knitting machine, which has a row of hooks instead of pegs. This may be called a loom. Basically setting up and finishing off on a knitting machine are a bit fiddley, but making an area of fabric is very quick. Here is a video about basics. Similar price to a mid-range sewing machine. I tried some machine knitting a long time ago, but as I was an enthusiastic and fast hand knitter at the time, it didn’t have much appeal. Perhaps I should get the machine out and try again. But machine knitting is another direction I’m not going to go into here !

– – –

Kumihimo braid

A japanese method of weaving multiple strands into a braid, using a template sometimes called a loom.

photo source

Here’s a clear video of the process.

Using one of the original smooth circular wooden tools needs skill. Using a foam device as in the photo and video, with slits round the edge, it’s much easier to make an even braid. That shape is for solid braid. There are also square discs for flat braids.

Many different braiding patterns, with different numbers of strands. Several books.

This looks like a lovely restful thing to do, but I’m not sure I would find much use for solid braid. Bag handles, belts, jewellery. Originally used for holding samurai armour together. Possibly the flat braids could be used to trim clothes. If you really get into this, you can use quality silken strands or narrow ribbons and include beads, to make braids of great beauty.

– – –

So, now we get to ‘woven’ fabrics.

”weaving-wiki” Wikipedia

There are two key words which keep coming up :


Warp (long sound) – the lengthwise threads.
Weft (short sound) – the thread that winds under and over, to and fro across the warp.

There is a way of weaving without supporting any of these threads.

But really the development of weaving is the story of finding ways of supporting floppy yarns so it’s easy to interweave them to make fabric.
There’s one way (that I’ve found) of supporting the crossways weft threads, while the warp threads lie loose.
Most looms are for supporting the lengthways warp threads while the weft threads are woven to and fro between them.

– – –

Finger weaving

Basically, this is doing the whole weaving process with some strands hanging free or lying loosely on a surface. Warp and weft strands are not clearly different. Here’s a good video.

Ingenious. This is a North American tradition, and there are several books. But with my shaky hands, it’s not a calm and restful thing for me to do. . .

– – –

Weaving sticks
Peg looms

I’ve only found one method of weaving which supports the weft, the strand that’s woven to and fro.

photo source.

Basically, the warp threads are attached to the ends of the sticks.
Then you wind the weft thread in and out of the sticks, and push the windings down onto the warp strands.

Here’s a brief video.

This is fun to do. Basically a way of making flat braid. So the results can be used in the same ways – belts, bag handles, hair bands, bracelets, sewn together into scarves, bags, soft hats. . . I think the result is a bit heavy and bulky to use as trim on clothes, except perhaps for outerwear. Also it doesn’t bend into flat curves well, so can’t be used to trim round a curved neckline for example.

For a wider fabric there’s a peg loom. Used like weaving sticks, but the sticks are held in a stand, so you haven’t got to hold 20 sticks in your hand at the same time.

Here’s a peg loom with the warp yarns set up.

photo source

Here’ some weaving in progress, weaving with fabric strips rather than yarn.

photo source

Several books on peg loom weaving, and on rag rug making by this method. Also good for bags and cushion/ pillow covers.

– – –

The vast majority of weaving methods have the tension on the warp threads.

My second piece is planned on the simplest ‘frame looms’, for rag rugs, tapestry, and knotted rugs. Then what most people think of as looms.

Meanwhile, I’ve got a simple ‘rigid heddle’ loom and am having adventures making a very wobbly scarf 😀 It isn’t anywhere near as easy as it looks – watching an expert doing it is a bit misleading ! definitely a craft skill involved.

But this isn’t suddenly going to turn into a weaving blog 😀 I’m just recording what sense I’ve made of it all, in case anyone else is looking for what I wanted to know. . .

– – –

P.S. If you’re really peeved that I haven’t said anything about sewing or style, have a look at the Palmer-Pletsch newsletters for their ideas on which patterns are best for which body shapes.

– – –

Links available October 2010

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4 Comments on “Types of weaving/ types of loom : simplicity”

  1. Karin Says:

    I tried weaving at University on a jack loom. It was a lot of fun, but a jack loom is a big thing, not good for sitting in front of the tv! We were away this weekend in Derbyshire and we stopped in the Derwent Valley where the industrial revolution started with cotton weaving. We went to an old factory and saw some 200 year old looms working! (sorry a bit, off topic, but very much on my mind!)

  2. it’s too hard to look all the types of weaving
    and it’s not too easy to weave

    • sewingplums Says:

      Thanks for your comment Kim – I think a lot of people agree with you !

      Especially about the sort of harness/ shaft looms I’ll be talking about at the end of my fourth weaving post. Many people find them difficult to understand well enough to warp up and then weave on.

      But there’s no need to use one of those complex looms. Many people produce beautiful and exciting items using much simpler looms.

      Why not start with the simplest type of weaving. Watch the videos and find something you think you will enjoy. Try out some of the types until you find a way of weaving that you’re really happy with doing 😀

  3. Ian Smith Says:

    The peg loom is by far the simplest tool to start weaving on. Great for young and old alike, as well as those with disabilities. Take a look at http://www.thehandweavingcompany.co.uk There is a short video film and an online shop with lots of wonderful ideas.

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