Peggy’s Weaving Tips > What do looms do?


The loom does two things to make weaving happen. One, it holds a set of threads under tension. This speeds up the process greatly. Did you ever try to weave strips of paper? Did anyone show you that if you taped down one end of a set of strips, and “wove” the other strips in, it was easier? Well, the loom’s holding the threads under tension does just that.

The second thing a loom does is to provide a mechanism for you to go over and under the threads. It lifts and/or lowers some of the threads that are held under tension, so the “weaving” thread can go in the space the other threads have made. When the weaving thread goes across all the threads held under tension, it has gone under all those threads that were up and over all those that were below.

The threads held under tension are called warp threads or yarns and the threads that “weave” over and under them are called the weft threads or yarns. Generally if a thread is thick it’s called a yarn and if it’s thin we call it a thread.

Figures 1 and 2 show a generic loom. We can’t tell how the warp threads are lifted and/or lowered. We can see rollers at the back and at the front with ratchet brakes on them. These are what hold the warp threads taut. A supply of warp threads is rolled onto the warp beam at the back of the loom and the supply of woven cloth is rolled up onto the cloth beam at the front.

Some looms have treadles or peddles that are worked with the feet, and some have levers that are worked with the hands. When a treadle or lever is pressed, some of the threads held taut in the loom move up or down to make the opening for the weft. That opening is called a shed. By the way, usually, the weft thread is wound up onto a shuttle so it doesn’t tangle and can be thrown through the open sheds.

Weaving Loom A
Weaving Loom A

The beater swings on pivots and moves the weft threads into place. Unless one is making a hard rug, the beater usually doesn’t beat hard–it’s a gentle placing of the wefts.There are heddles with eyes on frames that are called shafts or harnesses. Please note that though shafts is the more correct term, you may see either term used in other books. Every warp thread is threaded into a heddle eye. When a shaft moves, up or down, it takes with it all the heddles on it and the warp threads as well.

Weaving Loom B
Weaving Loom B

So, the treadles move the shafts which form the warp’s sheds which are what the wefts travel through on a shuttle. That’s how plain weave, twill, and hundreds of different weaves are made. In Figure 2 we don’t know the mechanism that moves the shafts, but we can see the open shed and the warps being held taut on the warp and cloth beams.


This tip is in Weaving for Beginners.




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