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Exploring Looms



In my last post I shared the lesson I use to introduce the concept of weaving and get children thinking about types of weaving looms. In this post I will share the pictures that I use when first exploring weaving looms with the children and offer some ideas of things to say to get the conversation going.

Even a cursory investigation will reveal that there are as many different kinds of weaving looms as their are cultures that use them, and fibres that are woven on them. Generally we can find a few things that most looms have in common and if children can recognise these, they can create and use working looms of their own.

After the Introduction to Weaving Lesson, children can go away and conduct their own research or you can go straight on to examining looms or pictures of looms together. I have printed and laminated copies of the pictures below (as well as several others, you will find plenty if you do an image search) on my Handwork shelf.

The text in italics is what I say to open the discussion about each picture.

Exploring Looms Lesson

Gather children from Introduction to Weaving Lesson. Share anything the children have found since the last lesson and tell them you have some looms to look at with them.

Lay out each picture as you discuss them:


This lady seems to be using sticks to keep her threads spread out. She has tied one end of her loom to something sturdy and the other end is attached to a strap that goes around her waist like a belt. If she leans back a little, the threads are pulled taught, if she leans forward they loosen to make it easier for the weaver to lift them up. This is called a backstrap loom.


This lady is also using a backstrap loom. It looks as if she has a special post to hold it and a seat that gives her room for her legs.

In both these pictures we can see that there is one set of threads that runs vertically and another set that are woven horizontally across them. The vertical threads are put on the loom first and these care called the warp. The threads that are woven in and out of the warp are called the weft.


The men in this picture are carefully lining up their warp threads ready to weave in and out of. Imagine how sad it would be if all of those threads became tangled!

Looms are designed to keep tension on the warp threads so that they don’t get tangled. The tension also makes it easier to weave other threads in and out of them.


Can you see how this lady is carefully weaving her weft in and out of her warp to make a pattern – this must need a lot of concentration! She has a hook to help her pick up the warp threads.

Behind her warp threads we can see the work she has already done. The loom allows her to slide her weaving around so that she can continue to work at a convenient height.


This weaver does not need to pick up each warp thread himself. Can you see the wooden frames that run across his loom? They are called heddles and they raise and lower different warp threads so that the weaver can easily pass the weft between them. This must make weaving much faster!


Can you see the wooden tool in this person’s hand? It is called a shuttle. It is used to hold the weft as it is woven in and out of the warp. A shuttle allows the weaver to work with large lengths of thread without it getting tangled.


Here we can see how the bobbin holding the thread sits in the shuttle so that it can easily be pushed through the warp.


This loom is worked by peddles and can produce large roles of fabric very fast. The strips in this fabric come from the different colour warp threads.

After exploring the looms I review the new terms that I have introduced and then encourage the children to continue their own explorations, something like this:

We have learned a lot about weaving and looms today – let’s see if we can remember all the new terms:

Loom: the tool that holds the threads so they can be woven.

Warp: the threads that are held by the loom

Weft: the threads that weave in and out of the warp.

Heddles: the frame that separates the the different warp threads so they can be raised and lowered to allow the weft to be woven through.

Shuttle: the tool that holds the weft thread as it is being woven.

Did any of you weave the fabric you are wearing? No? perhaps someone in you family wove it? No – weaving used to be a part of daily life for most families in early societies but, even though most of the fabric we use in the world is woven, most people don’t actually weave any more. Why do you think that is?

Weaving is usually done in factories. But there are many people who still enjoy weaving and many many kinds of looms. You might like to do some research into different kinds of looms or the types of weaving that can be done on them. Or maybe you are interested in the machines that we use to weave the fabric our clothes and furnishings are made of. We’ll meet again in few days to see what you have discovered and maybe have a go at making our own looms.

In a future post I will talk about the looms I have in my classroom and show you how I make looms with my students.

#Weaving #Lesson #Montessori

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© 2020 Carol Palmer   Montessori Handwork