There are an incredible number of loom types and brands, which is not surprising when you consider that people have been weaving for thousands of years. 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. They 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 on table looms, the weaver lifts the shafts by hand by lifting your arm and on a floor loom you press down on peddles called treadles with your legs and feet.
3. Rigid Heddle looms
Rigid Heddle looms allow you to weave primarily plain weave and items like placemats, dishtowels, scarves, shawls, fabric for clothing, etc. Most Rigid Heddles are limited to patterns with one or two harnesses and a lot of weaving classes require at least 4 harnesses. The skills and techniques are more limited than multi-harness looms, but I've seen great scarves woven on rigid heddles in plain weave - including a wonderful cashmere modern plaid scarf. Rigid Heddles come in a variety of weaving widths starting around 8 inches, so they can be easily stored, all the way up to 48 inches wide with various weaving width option sizes in between.
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. Some weavers make wonderful art with Inkle looms.
5. Tapestry Looms
Vertical looms on which art is woven. These are commonly used to weave wall hangings. Some stand on the floor and others rest on a table. They come in small, large and very large sizes. Some of the detail on the work handwoven 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. Items woven on bead looms can be made into an individual item or used to embellish other handwoven or commercially produced items.
8. Computer Controlled Looms
Computers control the shaft selection and the construction of the shaft sequence. The possibilities for combinations are unlimited and can be changed on the computer screen.
9. Backstrap Loom
These looms use one stick or bar attached to a fixed object (often pictured attached to a tree) and a second stick or bar is attached to the weaver usually by a strap around the back. The weaver's body weight is used to tension the loom. Backstrap looms date back to ancient times and are often used in South America, but you can find teachers in other parts of the world.