15 Key Features to Consider When Purchasing a Frame Loom
Are you new to weaving or are you looking to upgrade your loom? It can be really confusing to decide which weaving frame loom is best for you.
To help, we have come up with 15 key features to consider when purchasing a frame loom to help make this process easier for you!
1. Spacing of the Warp on a Frame Loom
Arguably the most important decision for a frame loom purchase is knowing the warp spacing on the loom. The warp (vertical direction of the yarn) is set up according to the spacing on your loom, known as the warp sett, and dictates how fine a cloth you can achieve on your frame loom.
To work out the spacing on any frame loom, use a ruler to count how many warp ends you have in one inch; this is known as the warp EPI (ends per inch):
- 2-5 EPI is wide and creates tapestry-style designs covering your warp (think rugs and baskets).
- 6-11 EPI is a medium thickness cloth with enough variation to experiment with thick and thin yarns (consider wall-hangings and chunky scarves).
- 13+ EPI can create a fine cloth similar to hand and floor looms (imagine delicate woven jewellery and fine scarves with a beautiful drape).
However, keep in mind that a frame loom with a narrower warp sett (higher EPI) gives you the flexibility to weave both chunky and finer cloth, but it doesn’t work the other way around for a loom with a wider sett (lower EPI).
(Left: The Oxford Frame Loom, Right: Funem Studio)
2. Does the Loom Have Fixed or Flexible Warp Spacing?
This is one of the most important aspects of choosing your frame loom. Some frame looms have fixed spacings to set up a warp (which can't be changed), some have a rod where you set the spacing yourself.
A fixed warp spacing means you start with a set number of options for your warp width. This is great if the loom spacing is close together as you will have the option to space it close together or further apart depending on how you set up the loom (most frame looms have a sett options from 2-8 EPI - see below).
Fixed warp spacing also maintains consistent warp spacing better when weaving a fine cloth, but doesn’t give you infinite possibilities to change the sett if you have chosen the wrong warp-weft yarn combination.
Flexible warp spacing means you can adjust how wide apart your warp is which is great if you are experimenting with different warp-weft yarn combinations, but it can be more difficult to maintain an evenly spaced warp when you are spacing your warp closer together to create a finer cloth.
(Left: The Oxford Frame Loom, Right: Balfour & Co)
3. Does the Loom Include an Adjustable, Double-Sided, Extra or Rotating Heddle Bar?
This is often an overlooked, but incredibly important feature of a frame loom. Having the right Heddle Bar can speed up your weaving time, enable you to experiment with different warp thicknesses, adjust warp tension, avoid pulling in on the sides of a project or add special design features to your weaving.
Rotating heddle bars are great because the really speed up the weaving process when weaving Plain Weave by quickly rotating between even and odd warp ends. On some frame looms they act as a third heddle bar to increase the warp EPI and without it the loom can only accommodate a wide sett. Some also have a narrow shed (gap you pass your weft yarns), causing friction (and breakage) between warp and weft yarns or only accommodate a finer warp, restricting warp experimentation.
A Double-Sided heddle bar is different to a rotating heddle bar as it forms part of the top and bottom of the frame loom and doesn't rotate. When a warp is set up using both sides of the heddle bar it separates the warp into 'evens and odds' making Plain Weave quick to weave. The shed is also generous and it can accommodate thick warp yarns for warp experimentation.
An Extra heddle bar is an additional (third) heddle bar on a loom and is different to a rotating heddle bar. It enables another warp to be set up using a different yarn with a separate tension, can be positioned at different points on the loom to maintain the warp width or adapt to smaller projects and create less warp wastage.
(Left: Funem Studio, Right: The Oxford Frame Loom)
4. Is the warp tension adjustable?
If you're new to weaving and don't yet understand the significance of warp tension, listen carefully!
On a frame loom warp tension is everything, so check to see if the one you're after has an adjustable heddle bar at the top and/or bottom of the frame. If it can slide (not just fixed positions) or rotate it will enable you to tighten or loosen your warp with a simple movement, making it easier for you to weave and giving you a better quality finish.
(Left: Hello Hydrangea, Right: The Oxford Frame Loom)
5. Size of Loom
Pick a loom that is appropriate for both you and your project aims.
A big loom is great if want to work on large scale projects, chunk materials or have a large amount of room to weave and store it. However, depending on your height, it might be a little uncomfortable as you may be bending or reaching unnecessarily. You also might not have the space to store it.
A small loom should do the trick if you wish to produce fine jewellery, you like to travel with your loom, or if you don’t have a lot of storage space. But maybe holding a smaller loom is tricky or your eyesight isn’t as good.
To work out what frame loom size will work for you, think about what, how and where you'll be weaving. Also, remember to measure up and compare frame loom sizes from different brands. Several brands offer numerous size options ranging from Mini to XXL, making it ultra-important for you to do your homework and compare your looms choices like-for-like.
(Left: The Oxford Frame Loom, Right: Roving Textiles)
6. Ease of Use
Your frame loom should be simple to assemble, quick to set up a warp, comfortable to weave on and easy to store. Look for features such as:
- How the loom arrives
- Is it flat-packed or is it pre-assembled?
- Does it require assembly
- Are there assembly instructions?
- Does it have many pieces?
- Are there replacements in case you lose any?
- Is there a storage pouch for smaller parts when being stored?
- Once assembled, is it quick to set up a warp?
- Can you adjust the warp tension, extend the loom or wind on a longer warp with ease?
- Does everything click into place or does it take a little patience?
- Do you need another pair of hands to make things quicker?
While none of these issues are necessarily deal breakers, you may find it frustrating to constantly run through a series of steps before (or after) weaving. So research whether there are good instructions or videos explaining how to use your choice of loom.
7. Shape of the Loom
With contemporary weaving you must also consider the different shapes of frame looms that are now available. Classic shapes include rectangles and squares, but circular and novelty shapes exist now too! From clouds to rainbows, laser cut frame looms and handmade versions made of metal can add originality and humour to a project.
However, just note that many of these new shaped frame looms feature holes, rather than notches or hooks, meaning that your project was designed to stay on the loom. By incorporating the loom into the final design, you would need to buy a new loom every time you start a new project.
(Left: Niroma Studios, Right: Tammy Kanat)
8. What is Your Weaving Style?
Do you want to weave fine cloth? Do you love thick & chunky fibres? Are you looking to experiment with materials? Or are patterns your thing? As a novice weaver you may not know what you love about weaving yet...
A simple loom with a wider sett can be great to learn the basics, but you may prefer a loom that will encourage you to experiment and discover finer cloth or learn techniques to create more complexity in your work.
Consider your motivations for learning to weave. If you just want to have a go, a basic loom will likely suffice. However, if you like the look of finer, more complex cloth, or have already caught the weaving bug, then investing in a loom that enables you to explore the many different styles of weaving will likely be better value and enable you to explore.
(Left: Balfour & Co, Right: The Oxford Frame Loom)
9. What Projects do you Want to Weave?
The type of frame loom you have will dictate what you can achieve on your loom. Do you want to weave wall hangings? Or are scarves your thing? Do you get excited by trying new techniques and like to be challenged? Do you want to create more individual work or follow patterns?
There are many exciting projects that can be woven on frame looms such as 3D textiles and double cloth structures, but you’ll need to do your homework and explore the features of the frame loom to learn what each loom can do.
(Left: The Oxford Frame Loom, Right: Nova Mercury)
10. What is Your Weaving Ambition?
If you're new to the craft, then a basic loom design is likely to be enough to get you started. However if you’ve already learned the basics and are looking for new challenges, then you might consider investing in a loom that will grow with your skill level and confidence.
Some looms have this flexibility while others will have you searching for a new loom for every stage in your development, costing you time and money in the long run.
(Left: The Oxford Frame Loom, Right: Juju Just)
11. Does the Loom Include any Accessories?
Accessories for a loom include things like a loom stand, a heddle bar, weaving tools, clamps, warp yarn and more!
Some accessories you can do without or adapt by rooting around in your kitchen drawer. However, if you’re weaving regularly it is helpful to know if the loom you are interested in includes some of the extras.
A stand will make things easier if your loom is on the larger side, good quality weaving tools will make weaving more comfortable and improve the finish of your cloth, clamps can help to extend a warp, heddle bars add speed and variety and warp yarn can start you off on your weaving journey.
Remember to look at the complete offer when comparing looms as these optional extras can elevate your weaving, but also the overall cost.
(Left: Hobbycraft, Right: The Oxford Frame Loom)
12. Assembly and Storage
Frame looms come in a variety of shapes and sizes and can be easy or more complex to assemble and store.
If you plan to travel with your loom be sure to choose a loom that is:
- Easily disassembled
- Can be stored safely with or without a project still on the loom
You should also consider how the loom is stored. Does it:
- Break down neatly to conserve space
- Have a protective case, tube or pouch for the loom or other parts
- Have a box or tube for longer term storage
How important these features are will depend on how you plan to use your loom, but it is worth thinking about if you don't want the loom (or your work!) to be damaged.
(Left: The Oxford Frame Loom, Right: Funem Studio)
Budget is a major consideration for many when purchasing a frame loom. The cost of a frame loom is determined by:
- The size (big or small)
- The type and hardness of the material (solid wood, plywood, plastic, metal etc)
- The accessories (additional extras to make weaving more comfortable or quicker)
- The quality of construction (mass produced or intricate detailing by a craftsperson)
- The complexity of the design (allowing a variety of weaving options)
Your decision will likely be influenced by what stage of weaving you're at, as well as your long-term goals, so it is important to be informed about all the features of a loom before making your decision.
14. Quality and Durability
There are many different kinds of frame looms out there, from DIY wood frames with nails to hardwood looms CNC'd with precision. The range in quality and durability will impact the costs and should guide your decision making.
- Choice of material - Metal, plastic, hardwood, plywood etc
- Finish - Is it smoothly sanded to avoid snagging yarns?
- Square - When assembled does the loom remain square?
- Suitability for the project - Rug weaving requires a sturdy loom while a finer cloth requires precision
The combined characteristics of a loom should make the weaving process smoother, the outcome more refined and the experience more enjoyable!
(Left: Louet, Right: The Oxford Frame Loom)
This is one of the most overlooked aspects of choosing a frame loom. Keen weavers will spend HOURS using their loom, so it is important that the loom has a flexible design allowing them to sit comfortably for long spells of time:
- Does it have adjustable features?
- Can it sit on the weaver’s lap?
- Does it have a stand in order to sit comfortably on a table at an incline
- Can it clamp upright to a table?
- Does the weaver need to reach up or crouch down repeatedly to reach the top or bottom of the loom?
Get this right and your body will thank you!
(Left & Right: The Oxford Frame Loom)
Invest your time and research your purchase!
As you can see, there are many different types of frame looms on the market and they can support a variety of weaving styles, abilities and budgets. We encourage you to explore the different looms available and to think about what you want from your weaving journey to make your experience with the craft more productive, creative and above all enjoyable!
If you are looking for a high quality loom with many features that can take you from beginner weaver to expert textile designer, then take a look at The Oxford Frame Loom. From double-sided features to extendable and adjustable heddle bars, our loom has many exciting features which enable weavers to really experiment and try countless techniques and designs to help you discover your weaving style. You won't be disappointed with your investment!
We are also re-launching the The Oxford Frame Loom, with special offers for the upcoming pre-order. If you want to be notified when this happens, sign up to our email newsletter. For more about the special features, visit this page.