Welcome to Warp or Weft! I imagine that you are interested in learning to weave if you are on this page. With the current resurgence in the popularity of weaving, this is a very exciting time to get started. It is often difficult to decide where to start, so I put together the information on this page in case it helps you. At the outset, I want to say that no matter where your weaving journey takes you or which direction you decide on, I hope you have a great time weaving.
Which Loom is Best for Beginning Weavers?
When I was first serious about weaving in 2014, I searched high and low for information about which loom is “best” for beginners and was surprised to learn that there is not one answer. After I read a lot of reviews, most of which used terms that I did not fully understand, and watched the few videos that I could find, it became a process of elimination for me. I started with a 32” Ashford Rigid Heddle and later impulse bought a 12" Ashford Knitters Loom, which is portable. After a few months, I wanted to be able to weave more complex cloth and purchased a lightly used 40" Macomber Ad-A-Harness and shortly thereafter purchased a used 25" Rasmussen table loom so I can take it to classes. At the end of the day, a table loom is a great way to start (and some people only use a table loom), but there are tons of other options. Keep in mind that many weavers have more than one loom and purchasing one loom can lead to more! Below are some considerations.
1. What you want to make with your loom. If you have your heart set on only weaving the big fat chunky yarn tapestries that are popular on Instagram, a basic tapestry loom frame will do. If you want to create more detailed tapestries, look for a loom where you can vary the distance between warp strands and offers more opportunities for creativity as your weaving evolves. If you will be happy weaving plain weave cloth, check out a rigid heddle loom (this is essentially a one shaft loom). If you want to weave more detailed patterns, you will need a 4 or 8 (or more!) shaft loom. If you want to make cloth with a lot of designs or attend workshops, you will likely need 4 harnesses, so consider a table loom. If you are looking to make huge blankets or thick rugs, you will likely need a floor loom (either by itself or as a compliment to a table loom).
2. The amount of space available to you. Whether you live in a studio apartment or a palatial estate, there are plenty of great options available. Weaving loom widths start around 8 inches wide and go all the way to 60+ inches wide. If you aren’t looking to make rugs or large pieces of cloth, small looms are perfect for apartments or those on a tight budget. Table looms are a great apartment friendly choice and a lot are in the 24 inch weaving width range. These looms literally sit on your table (or you can buy a stand) and are great for small to medium size projects (I've made scarves, table runners, fabric for zipper pouches, etc.). Table looms are often portable (mine fits in the back seat of my car) and some offer the chance to use up to 8 harnesses. If you have your own work room, a large space, or are willing to make space in a smaller apartment, you have more options and may want to look at floor looms which can handle bigger projects.
3. The amount of money you are able to spend. Price may be a major consideration when deciding which loom to purchase. Small looms start around $130 and large floor looms can cost over $4,400. Don’t be scared away! You will find something in your price range. It is worth it to contact any local weavers' guilds within driving distance of your house. Sometimes they have recommendations of local places to consult or they may know of someone selling a used loom for cheaper than the retail price. If you are really lucky, someone may be giving away their loom for free. Don't forget to factor in any additional costs of items that you may want to purchase. If you are starting from scratch and buying a floor or table loom, you will need a warp board, shuttles, a sley hook, and lease sticks to begin with. Sometimes if a weaver is no longer interested in weaving, they will give you all of their supplies for reasonably cheap. Figure out which items need to be purchased upfront and what can be put off for the future.
4. Where you want to take your loom. Maybe you don't want to take it out of the house. But, after purchasing my first Rigid Heddle loom, I found out that a lot of workshops and classes require looms with at least 4 and sometimes 8 harnesses. Unfortunately, my sweet and simple Rigid Heddle did not fit within that category so I could not take advantage of a lot of the classroom experiences. If you are new to weaving, you may want to participate in workshops, so a table loom is a great way to start.
5. Individual Physical Attributes. You may prefer different looms based on your height. If you have back problems, shoulder problems, etc., different looms may feel more comfortable. For example, I love my table loom, but the muscles on the top of my shoulder ache if I use it for long projects.
There are plenty of options of stores where you can buy looms, including direct from manufacturers. Yarn Barn Kansas, The Woolery, Harrisville Designs, Schacht, Macomber, Glimakra, and Leclerc are popular options with decent websites.
A used table or floor loom that is in good condition may suit your needs. Contacting a local weavers' guild to see if anyone is looking to sell their loom can be an incredibly affordable option. You could also call local yarn stores to see if they know of local places to purchase looms.
And, craigslist is another great place to find used looms. Please use all caution when attempting to buy something from a stranger on the internet.