The Warp-Weighted Loom

A reconstruction of a historic table loom

Picture of loom


   My wife Kate is a member of Clan Iain Abrach - MacIan,   a Scottish  historical recreation organization  that does RenFaires and Highland Games in the northern California area.  One of the ladies of the guild, Jacque, said she'd like to do weaving as part of her faire presentation, but there was no way to get a full-sized loom into a car, nor could she carry something like that around.  Since Kate knows I'll try to bodge almost anything once, she pointed her at me.


Kate described a warp-weighted loom, and Jacque had a printout of a web site describing one.  I did a little looking of my own, and found these sites :

Constructing a Warp-Weighted loom
Smith College Museum
Experiments with a Warp-Weighted loom

Basically, a warp-weighted loom is a  triangular frame with support for the heddle descending the front face of the triangles.  The warp threads hang down from a crossbar at the top, weighted in bunches.  Loops of thread attach every other thread to the heddle.  When the heddle comes forward, those threads come forward, and you throw the shuttle across and beat the fabric up.  When the heddle goes back, those threads go behind the sanding threads, and you throw the shuttle again and beat the weave up.


The Andrew Leroy  Co. was building an awning/trellis for our back yard at the time, and we had a lot of 2x2 redwood scrap lying around.  It was the right size, and the price couldn't be beat.  So, that was the basic material.

The frame is two 30-60-90 right triangles joined with crosspieces:

two 36" 2x2 : uprights
two 20" 2x2 : bases
two 41" 2x2 : faces
three 20" 2x2 : crosspieces
two 8" 2x2 : heddle supports
two 2" 2x2 blocks for the lower crossbar, to provide spacing for the warp weights

The warp crossbar and the heddle are two 24" pieces of 3/4 poplar dowel.

There is no metal anywhere in this loom, a detail in which I take some pride.  Everything is pegged and glued, so the pegs are pieces of 3/8" poplar dowel.


Since I've never made one of these before, and didn't have one to look at, I made a lot of this up as I went along.  Do as seems best to you.  I will assume you can figure out how to do the peg-and-glue joints.

1) Cut one end of each of the 20" base pieces at a 60-degree angle.  Cut the top of the uprights at a 30-degree angle.

2)  Fix the  36" uprights to the 20" bases.  I did angle joints, you can butt them or mortise-and-tenon if you're that good.  The angled ends should be exposed now.

3) Fix one crossbar to the base pieces. 

4) Fix another crossbar about a foot from the top of the uprights. 

5) Fix the third crossbar about a foot from the bottom of the uprights, with the 2" spacer block between the upright and the crossbar.

6) Trim the ends of the 41" face pieces so they will fit as the hypotenuse of the triangle.  Fasten them to the angled ends of the  uprights and base pieces.

7) Starting about four inches from the top, drill 3/8" holes every two inches down the face of the hypotenuses.  You're done with the frame.

The frame

8) Take the two heddle supports.  Choose one side, and drill 3/8" holes every inch.    These holes are for the pegs t hat will hold the heddle in place.  Put a 3/8" peg into one end of each, so about 2 inches is exposed, and glue it in good.  The free end of the pegs fit into the holes you drilled in step 7, so you can move the heddle supports up and down the face of the loom.

9) Cut four six-inch 3/8" dowels.  Make them nice and smooth.  Two of them go in the top two holes from step 7: they will hold the warp crossbar in place.  The other two go into the holes in the two heddle holders.  Do NOT glue these in place, you want them to be adjustable!

The heddle support

10) Polish the two 24-inch 3/4 dowels for the heddle and the warp bar. Mark the warp bar at the points where it touches the face pieces.   Drill 3/8" holes at right angles in the warp bar at those two points, and put some 3/8" pegs in the holes.  As you weave, you can wind the cloth up onto the warp bar; these pegs allow you to wind it up like a windlass.  See the second picture for details.

11) You need a shuttle and a beater.  I made a shuttle out of a wooden paint stir-stick, and if I had had another it would have been the beater.  Sanded smooth enough to remove the Home Depot logo, of course.

Threading and weaving:

1) Each warp thread has to be tied to the warp bar and hung down; groups of warp threads can be knotted and weighted together.

2) Make a lot of loops hanging from the heddle.  Every other warp thread has to go through a heddle loop.

I hope that when Jacque gets the loom threaded and has some cloth done, she'll send me some pictures and descriptions of how it works in practice.

Last update: 4/29/05