Learning about the Rug Loom For Weaving Carpets
What is a Rug Loom and How is it Used for Weaving Rugs?
The rug weaving loom is the piece of equipment with which most people are familiar when it comes to producing carpets. The rug loom has been around as long as the idea that fibers could be spun into thread and used to produce fabric. The earliest rug started as a sleeping mat to provide protection from the cold, damp ground. Since that time, they have evolved into works of art that rival those of artists such as Michelangelo or DaVinci. Let’s explore this essential piece of equipment that is used to create these works of art.
What are the different types of carpet weaving looms?
Carpet weaving looms come in various types, each designed for specific weaving techniques and styles.
Here are some of the different types of carpet weaving looms:
- Vertical Looms: Vertical looms are among the oldest types of looms used for carpet weaving. They are typically large and stationary, with the warp threads stretched vertically from the top to the bottom of the loom. The weaver sits or stands in front of the loom and inserts the weft threads horizontally. Vertical looms are commonly used for traditional hand-knotted rugs and carpets.
- Horizontal Looms: Horizontal looms, also known as ground looms, have their warp threads stretched horizontally. Weavers work on these looms by sitting or kneeling on the ground. Horizontal looms are commonly used in various parts of the world for weaving flatwoven carpets and kilims.
- Frame Looms: Frame looms are small, portable looms that consist of a rectangular frame with tensioning devices for the warp threads. These looms are popular among hobbyists and artists for small-scale carpet weaving and tapestry work.
- Pit Looms: Pit looms are large, in-ground looms where the weaver stands in a pit beneath the loom. The warp threads are stretched horizontally across the pit. This type of loom is often used for weaving large, intricate carpets, especially in regions with a rich carpet-weaving tradition.
- Jacquard Looms: Jacquard looms are mechanized looms that use punch cards or computerized controls to automate the weaving process. They are capable of producing intricate patterns and designs, making them suitable for producing complex and highly detailed carpets.
- Hand-Tufting Looms: Hand-tufting looms are used for making tufted carpets, which have a pile made of loops or cut yarns. These looms use a handheld tufting gun or needle to insert the pile yarn into a fabric backing, creating a plush carpet surface.
- Axminster Looms: Axminster looms are commonly used in the production of machine-made carpets. They allow for the creation of carpets with intricate patterns and designs by using multiple sets of pile yarns.
- Wilton Looms: Wilton looms are another type of machine loom used in the production of machine-made carpets. They produce cut-pile carpets and are known for their durability and quality.
- Handloom and Powerloom: These terms generally refer to the method of powering the loom. Handlooms are operated manually by the weaver, while powerlooms are automated and powered by machinery. Both types can be used for various carpet weaving techniques.
The choice of loom depends on factors like the desired carpet style, size, complexity of the design, and the weaving tradition of the region. Traditional hand-knotted carpets are often made on vertical or horizontal looms, while machine-made carpets are produced on mechanized looms like Jacquard, Axminster, or Wilton looms. Hand-tufting and frame looms are more suited for smaller, artisanal projects.
What material is usually used to create a weaving loom?
Weaving looms can be constructed from various materials, and the choice of material often depends on the type of loom and its intended use.
Here are some common materials used to create weaving looms:
- Wood: Wood is a traditional and widely used material for making weaving looms. It is favored for its durability, ease of construction, and availability. Various types of hardwoods, such as oak, maple, and beech, are commonly used. Wood provides stability and strength to the loom’s frame and other components.
- Metal: Some industrial and heavy-duty weaving looms may incorporate metal components, particularly in the frame and structural parts. Metal provides extra strength and stability, making it suitable for large-scale and mechanized looms.
- Plastic: Modern weaving looms, especially those designed for hobbyists and beginners, may incorporate plastic components. Plastic is lightweight, affordable, and easy to mold into different shapes. It’s often used in frame looms and small, portable looms.
- Bamboo: In certain regions, bamboo is used to construct weaving looms. Bamboo is lightweight, flexible, and sustainable, making it suitable for simple handlooms and smaller, portable looms.
- Composite Materials: Some weaving looms may use composite materials, which combine elements of wood, plastic, and sometimes metal to optimize strength, durability, and cost-effectiveness.
- PVC Pipe: In DIY and improvised looms, PVC (polyvinyl chloride) pipes and fittings are sometimes used to create a simple frame. PVC is lightweight and readily available at hardware stores, making it an accessible choice for beginners.
- Carbon Fiber: In advanced and specialized weaving applications, carbon fiber may be used to construct loom components. Carbon fiber is known for its high strength-to-weight ratio, making it suitable for lightweight yet sturdy looms.
The choice of material for a weaving loom depends on factors like the type of loom, the weaver’s skill level, budget, and intended use. Traditional handlooms are often made of wood, while mechanized and industrial looms may incorporate metal components for added strength. Smaller and portable looms designed for beginners may use lightweight materials like plastic or PVC. Ultimately, the choice of material should align with the specific needs and preferences of the weaver.
The Early Rug Weaving Loom
No one knows exactly when the first rug was produced. Textile fragments have been uncovered that date back several thousand years throughout Asia. It is believed that floor coverings go back to at least 3,000 BC in ancient Egypt. The earliest known hand-knotted rug is the Pazyryk rug which was produced about 400 BC in Siberia. This carpet has a complex design with geometric squares and animals.
The creation of pile rugs began in India before the 12th century and spread throughout the rest of Asia from there. These rugs were first brought to Europe around the 12th century by the Crusaders. Throughout this early history, the rug loom was an item of great technological importance.
Early looms were, more than likely, a simple square or rectangular frame upon which threads were strung for the weaving to take place. It is highly likely that the Pazyryk carpet was woven on such a simple loom. It is not necessary to have a sophisticated loom to create a carpet with a high level of detail. Most of the improvements made on loom design were for the speed, and convenience of the weaver, rather than the need for better loom to produce a more elaborate design. All you need to weave a rug is a wooden frame.
The simple frame loom is still used in the production of some rugs today, especially those located in remote areas. One of the advantages of simple looms is that they can be moved easily and set up in a different place as the tribe moves around. With these looms, the warp threads that will form the foundation of the carpet are strung tightly on the loom. Sticks may be woven into the warp threads to control the tension of the warp. The loom can be leaned against a wall, hung from hooks on the wall or a frame can be constructed to keep it upright. With this type of loom, the weaver uses their fingers, a bobbin, or tapestry needle to pass the threads over and under alternating warp threads.
The Introduction of Heddles
Even though many looms can still be found that use the simple frame design, the introduction of heddles allowed the weaver to produce carpets more quickly. The principle of heddles is that the warp is wrapped around the frame. This creates two sets of warp threads with one on each side of the loom. In the natural position, there is a space between the front and back warp threads. This represents one position of the warp. The space in between is referred to as the “shed,” which is where the weft threads will pass during the weaving process. This natural position is referred to as the “open” shed.
It is necessary to bring the alternating threads that were in the back to the front to create the “pull” shed, which is the second position of the warp threads. Strings are tied to the threads in the back of the loom and tied around a wooden dowel or bar, which is known as a heddle rod. When the bar is pulled forward, it brings the warp threads that were previously in the back to the front. Now, the weft threads can be passed through this shed. When this is completed, the heddle rod is then lowered, and the warp returns to the open position for the next row.
The ability to change threads quickly allows the weaver to produce rugs much faster than on a simple frame loom without heddles. The ability to create two sheds can be accomplished in many different ways. It can take the form of a weaving sword, or shed stick, that is used to pick up alternating threads so that the weft can be quickly passed through the shed.
It can also take the form of a more complex mechanism involving gears and pulleys to raise and lower the heddles and create the two sheds. More complex looms use foot pedals or a lever that can be pulled to switch between the two sheds. Some larger looms have rollers on the top and bottom to feed out more warp and roll up the carpet as it is completed.
Vertical Rug Weaving Looms
Rug looms now range from simple to complex, but the principle is still the same. Rug looms are traditionally vertical. Horizontal looms were not invented until the 13th century. Until then, all looms, whether for fabrics or carpets, were vertical looms. Even so, the horizontal loom is typically used for producing cloth, rather than for heavier carpets.
There are several reasons why the vertical loom, rather than the horizontal loom, is still used for making carpets. The first is that it is easier and more comfortable to tie the knots and weave the weft on the vertical loom. It avoids the weaver having to bend over the warp, as would be necessary if a horizontal loom was used. This is not necessary with the weaving of fabric because fabric weaving does not involve the hand-tying of knots.
With fabric weaving, different sets of warp threads can be repeatedly raised and lowered using a set of foot pedals to create different sheds. The weaver only needs to pass the weft threads between each set of warps that are raised. The weaver only needs to raise the sheds in a predetermined, repetitive order and pass the shuttle with the weft threads through from one side to the other. The need to hand-tie the knots is the element that makes the vertical loom more efficient for carpet weaving.
Another reason why the vertical loom is used is that carpets are quite heavy, and they become heavier as the weaving progresses. Vertical loom allows the weight to be supported by the top bar. If carpets were produced on a horizontal loom, the carpet would tend to sag down under its own weight and would have a greater tendency for warp threads to break during the weaving process. This is because, with the horizontal loom, the warp threads would be holding the entire weight of the carpet as it was being woven. This is not problematic with fabric because it is much lighter than a carpet.
From Hand Crafted to High Tech Rug Looms
The simplest vertical looms were still used until machines were developed in the late 1700’s, but they would not be widely available until the industrial revolution of the late 1800’s. The tradition of hand-knotted carpets continued in many areas of the world. In some places, it still does today.
Mass-manufactured carpets are produced on machines. The pile is inserted by one part of the machine and grabbed by another component. The pile is then carried up or dropped down and around the back. It works more like a sewing machine than a loom and can carry out the process at very high speeds. Now, computers can be used to create the designs.
Modern machines cannot produce the same type of carpet as a hand-knotted pile rug. A machine-made rug is not actually knotted; it is more like the pile is sewn in place. They can mass-produce carpets at high speeds, but if you look at the back of the rug, you will see that it is quite different from a hand-knotted carpet.
With a machine-made rug, all of the rows will be precisely the same. Hand-knotted rugs will have variations. Interestingly, now, they are trying to develop machines that mimic the flaws and variations that you might see in a real hand-knotted rug. No matter how hard they try to mimic the human element of an authentic hand-knotted rug, a machine will never be able to come close. A real hand-knotted rug has a heart and soul that no machine can ever reproduce.
Now, you know a little about rug looms, from simple to the more sophisticated modern versions. The quality of the carpet is more about the skill and craftsmanship of the weaver than the type of loom that is used. Some of the most intricate and beautiful designs are produced on the most straightforward frame looms that are stood against a few tent posts.
We hope that you enjoy exploring our collection of exquisite hand-knotted carpets from around the world. Feel free to browse and see if you find one that is love at first sight.