Here are simplified explanations of a few common types of personal looms. Please note that the pictures are just for examples and are not necessarily a recommendation for a particular brand or loom.
1. Floor looms
Large looms that sit directly on the floor and use foot pedals called treadles that open and close the sheds (the temporary separations in the warp) by raising and lowering the harness. Frame sizes vary and may be an option even if you have limited space as some floor looms fold and are portable so you can take them to workshops and classes. Other floor looms are too large to take out of the house regularly as they can be 100 inches or more wide. There are three types of floor looms that differ from each other in how they mechanically work (not in the way you weave):
Jack Looms: As pressure is applied to the treadle (foot pedal), the harnesses rise as they are connected by jacks. This is why they are sometimes called "rising shed" looms. Speaking with more experienced weavers, I was informed that many like jack looms because you only have to tie up the part of the warp that goes up, so it can cut your prep time in half when warping the loom.
Counterbalance Looms: Some threads move up and others move down. Requires less weight than Jack Looms. Generally thought to allow for better posture while weaving.
Countermarch Looms: Require twice as many tie ups as the other floor looms. This requires more work in set up. I have been told that these are great looms for weaving intricate rugs.
If you are interested in learning more about the differences in Counterbalance and Countermarch looms, Glimakra has very helpful information on their website.
2. Table looms
Table looms are often smaller than floor looms. They can rest on a table or a stand. Come in 4, 8, 12 and 16 harness (or more!) options and are often portable, which makes them good for workshops, travel and storage. Table looms differ from floor looms in that the shed is changed by hand instead of with a foot by treadle.
3. Rigid Heddle looms
Rigid Heddle Looms allow you to weave light work: placemats, dishtowels, scarves, shawls, fabric for clothing, etc. The skills and techniques are a bit more limited than other looms, but you can learn skills that are transferable to other types of looms. Some are smaller in size - starting around 8 inches, so they can be easily stored. The downside is that most Rigid Heddles are limited to patterns with one or two harnesses and a lot of more advanced classes require at least 4 harnesses.
4. Inkle Looms
In Old English, Inkle meant ribbon. Thus, an Inkle loom is a small loom that allows you to weave thin pieces of fabric. It’s great for belts, borders and other thin fabrics that you can attach to larger woven pieces.
5. Tapestry Looms
Vertical looms on which art is woven. Some stand on the floor and others rest on a table. They come in small and large sizes. Some of the detail on the work on these looms is incredible.
6. Card Weaving
The warp strands pass through holes in the cards and a woven pattern is created by turning one or more cards to create a pattern.
7. Bead looms
Bead looms are great for making necklaces, bracelets, belts, headbands, etc., out of glass beads. These are fun for children of an appropriate age to use small beads or adults.
8. Computer Controlled Looms