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Introduction to Multi-Shaft Looms

Interested in learning more about multi-shaft looms? This introduction will give you an overview of both floor looms and table looms, and how they differ from each other.

Introduction to Multi-shaft Looms

What is a Multi-Shaft Loom? 

A multi-shaft loom has frames, called “shafts", that contain heddles through which warp yarn is threaded. Treadles on a floor loom, or levers on a table loom, control the shafts. They raise and, in some cases, lower, from a neutral position. Raising and lowering the shafts creates a “shed,” a space between the warp threads through which weft thread is passed to create woven cloth. Multi-shaft looms differ from rigid heddle looms in that the shafts move up/down instead of remaining rigid.

What Are the Different Types of Multi-Shaft Looms? 

Jack Loom

A jack loom has a rising shed, meaning that the shafts lift when the corresponding treadle or lever is depressed. As the shafts can operate independently, jack looms are very flexible for weavers wanting to experiment with many different patterns because it is relatively easy to change the tie up (the instruction detailing which treadles are connected to which shafts to create a pattern shed), but they can require more physical exertion than counterbalance or countermarche looms. 

Counterbalance Loom

A counterbalance loom has pairs of shafts (usually 2 or 4) that work opposite each other on rollers or pulleys. Sometimes a counterbalance loom is described as a sinking shed loom because two of the shafts sink when the other two rise. This symmetrical operation of the shafts makes these looms great for balanced weaves like 2/2 twill, but challenging for unbalanced weaves like 1/3 twill.  

Countermarche Loom

A countermarche loom combines the independent shaft movement of a jack loom, with the symmetrical shed opening of the counterbalance loom. Each shaft is connected to all of the others, so when some shafts rise, all the others fall. This means that the tie-up can be complicated and time consuming.

What’s the difference between table and floor looms?

Both floor looms and table looms contain multiple shafts for weaving, but a floor loom is larger and far less portable than a table loom. The shafts on a floor loom are controlled by treadles depressed by the weaver’s feet, leaving hands free for throwing the shuttle and beating. Table looms are smaller than floor looms, often fold for storage and travel, and can be used on a table top or on a stand. The shafts are raised and lowered by levers on the top or side of the loom.

What can I weave on a multi-shaft loom?

So many things! Table lines, scarves, shawls, towels, cloth for clothing—you are really only limited by your imagination and the width of your loom. Having multiple shafts enables you to weave complex patterns, as well as double-width cloth (fabric twice as wide as your loom). Explore all the multi-shaft patterns we offer here.

Who manufactures multi-shaft looms?

We carry four brands of multi-shaft looms: Ashford, Schacht, LeClerc, and Louet. All are highly respected companies known for making quality products, and we are happy to answer any questions about their offerings to help you make the best decision for your weaving interests and budget.

Which loom should I buy?

Your loom purchase depends on a variety of factors—how wide and complex you’d like to weave, your available space, budget, and personal preferences such as portability, weight and rising or sinking shed. We're happy to help you decide! Contact us at hello@gistyarn.com

What should I use for warp threads on a multi-shaft loom?

Warp threads for a multi-shaft loom should be strong enough to withstand abrasion in the heddles, and to handle the tension as you tighten the warp. It is also helpful if the yarn has a bit of stretch so there is some give when you are warping your loom, but not too much. All of the yarn carried in our shop can be used for warp threads. We particularly recommend the following for weavers looking for warp-friendly yarn for a multi-shaft loom:

  • Beam - our 3/2 organic cotton yarn made in the USA
  • Mallo - our cotton slub weaving yarn made in the USA
  • Duet - our cotton/linen weaving yarn made in the USA 

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