Types of Looms

The process of weaving constitutes interlacement of two sets of threads viz., warp and weft. The equipment, which assists this interlacement, is called the Loom. The loom can be simple lion loom of Manipur or the modern complicated shuttle less power loom of Switzerland. All the Looms can be classified under two broad groups- handlooms and powerlooms- based mainly on the motive power employed in their weaving. In the present essay an effort has been made to describe the working of the Looms used basically in the North eastern region of India. There are about three to four lakh weavers, mainly in Assam, Manipur and Tripura, who regard handloom weaving more as a religious tradition or a custom, than an occupation. 


Lion loom

Mizo Women Weaving

The ancient lion loom found generally in Manipur, Tripura and some parts of Assam is a typical primitive loom. The dhakbundas of Garo tribe, the breast cloth of the Tripura girls, phenek belt and the longhand of the Naga and Vaishnava ladies of Manipur, and the dance dresses of the Ukhrum Naga girls provide ample testimony to the large variety of fabrics that can be manufactured on this loom. These age-old looms are simple in construction and easy of operation. They are cheap too. They have neither permanent fixtures nor heavy frames and so are easily portable. Apart from these, the greatest advantage that lies with these looms is the unlimited scope that they offer for designing. It is also called the Back strap loom. A common Lion loom consists of:

  1. Front bar – the front bar is a circular wooden bar put in between two loops fixed with the wall of the house.
  2. Breast Bar – the warp is fixed between the front and the breast bar. The breast bar is also a circular wooden bar.
  3. Sword – the sword is a flat wood piece and rests in front warp, one end of this sword is blunt and the other end is pointed.
  4. Healt bar – it is made of bamboo and circular in shape
  5. Circular bamboo bar – this is another circular bamboo bar but little longer than the former and is placed after the healt-bar.
  6. Lease rod – after the circular bamboo bar is fixed, the lease rod, which is a circular wooden rod.
  7. Back strap – this is made either of leather or cloth. There are two loops at the ends of the back strap, which are attached to the notches of the front warp bar.

Nearly all types of weaves can be woven in the Lion Loom. The possibilities of weaving pattern in a Lion Loom are unlimited. The weaver sits with a loom fixing the back strap, keeps her legs against the footrest, which is adjustable for keeping the loom in tension.

The weaving in the lion loom is governed by the shedding motion, the picking motion and the beating motion. The healt bar is lifted up with the left hand and the circular bamboo bar is pressed down by right hand simultaneously. Sword is then placed in the shed and kept vertical and the weft is passed from the right side by the right hand by means of the shuttle (a bamboo piece ship containing yarn) and picked up by left hand. The weft is then beaten up by the sword. The sword is then taken out and the center shed is produced through which the shuttle is passed by the left hand and is picked up by the right hand. The sword is then again placed to beat the weft. The process is repeated. When the weaving just begins, the two-bamboo splits work as the first weft. This is the technique of plain weave of one up and one down and the process is continued until any pattern is woven. 

Throw Shuttle

The throw shuttle is a loom in which the shuttle is thrown across the shed by hand. Though this loom is easy to operate, yet the fly shuttle in most places is replacing it. The reason: it is uneconomical and its low quantum of production. The loom is fitted to four posts fixed on the ground. The shedding is effected by a set of healts operated by the foot. The beating up of the weft is done by a bamboo reed to a sley. The importane parts of the Throw shuttle loom are:

  1. Slay and sley: it is a wooden frame accommodating shuttle box, sley-race reed and swings forward and backward. In its forward motion the last pick of weft is beaten up to the fall of the cloth, and in its backward motion, the shuttle is allowed to pass over the slay-race.
  2. Shuttle box: it is a wooden case for shuttle with the spindle (pirn) and a picker. The shuttle box is grooved inside lengthwise to accommodate the picker. The top of the box is open and the shuttle rests in the box for the intermediate period between two successive picks.
  3. Shuttle and the Spindle: the shuttle is placed as vertical for the weft and passes through in the process of weaving. When the loom is stationary, the shuttle remains in the shuttle box. The shuttle contains the pirn on which the weft yarn is wound. 
  4. Picker: it is a piece of leather placed in grooves inside a shuttle box on which the spindle is kept. Picker is used to give blow to the shuttle to drive it from one box to the other.
  5. Reed: the reed is the comb through which the warp passes.
  6. Healt or headles: healts are required to form a shed, which contains a series of twin loops.
  7. Treadle: the treadle is a pedal or level with which a healt is connected by means of cards.
  8. Lease rods: the division of warp threads into one, two and two, and so on is termed as base. The two rods passed between these divisions of warp and are known as lease rod.
  9. Warp beam: the roller upon which the warp yarn is wound and fitted on the bottom at the back of the loom is termed as warp-beam or weaver’s beam.
  10. Cotton beam: the roller is fitted in front of the loom, upon which the cloth is wound while weaving.

It consists of a hollow cubic structure with 4 vertical posts- one at each corner. These posts have four sides and there is notch on each post. On these notches lies the cloth and the warp beams. On the lower half of this hollow structure, there are two horizontal wooden bars connecting the vertical posts on each side. There is a wooden bar connecting the upper ends of two posts on two sides of the operator on which is kept a circular bamboo pole. On this bamboo pole a string is rolled. The free ends of which tie the healt-rods. The healt consists of two string loops crossing one another.

The warp beam and the cloth beam are circular wooden beams and on one side, it contains a hole. A bamboo-stick is passed through this and put against the horizontal beams fixed at the lower half of the wooden posts. This is known as the break, which keeps the warp, and the cloth beam fixed on a particular position. The reed consists of bamboo teeth kept tight by two bamboo frames.

Fly Shuttle

The fly shuttle pit loom is the most popular handloom in the country except in Assam. This loom is the most popular and widely disturbed loom in India. This is an improved type of loom, which increased three to four times the production of the weavers. It has all the advantages of the throw shuttle, except for, weaving intricate extra weft patterns. The whole loom rests on four vertical posts called ‘Makhong’. In this loom, the sley carries a race board and 2 shuttle boxes, one on either side, with a picker propelled by means of strings. This is the major difference between the fly shuttle pit loom and the throw shuttle pit loom. From the opposite end of the weaver starts the warp beam connected to the posterior two vertical posts then the warp passes over to another bar called phira, connected to the upper position of the posterior posts. Then it moves to the weaver passing through the healts and the comb finally over to one beam in front of the weaver, called phira, which supports the cloth to be made. 

The main advantage of the fly shuttle pit loom is that despite its increased rate of production, it can produce fabrics with higher counts of superfine yarn. The fly shuttle oscillating sley works at a higher speed than the throw shuttle sley, resulting in an increase in the rate of production: this loom can have on an average 20 to 300 picks per minute. 


Tribal Loom

The tribal loom is another typical primitive loom in both construction and use. It is mostly found in the tribal tracts of the Eastern India and a few other states. Surprisingly well-designed, heavy texture fabrics with attractive coloured stripes are woven on these out-moded looms. The total quantum of production is low and the number of looms is small. These are now getting out of existence.

The tribal loom consists of a crude frame built of rugged sticks and is fixed to the ground. Its height is short, width narrow and its entire cost may not exceed a few rupees. The healds are manipulated by hand to form shed. The weft is actually threaded through warp by hand. Beating of the weft is done by a thin bevel-edged plank. The production is very low and the cloth woven is of short width. The products are coarse and the texture looks quite close. Unusually, the fabrics look starched and have a rough feel.


Apron               Canvas sheet attached to cloth and wrap beans; used instead of fly rod.
Back Beam       A beam or bar above warp beam of the loom, which corresponds to the breast beam at the front of the loom where the weaver works. Also called slab stick and whirproll.
Back Strap        Leather strap attached to cloth beam, which run around hips of weaver.
Beam               End bars of loom, which hold the warp in the back of the loom and the cloth in front.
Beaming           The process of winding the warp yarn on the warp beam.
Block Prints       Fabric printed with carved wood or linoleum blocks.
Bobbin              a small stick on which thread is wound.
Carding             Combing cotton with bows.
Cloth Beam       Front beam on a loom on which the woven fabric is wound.
Fly-Shuttle        the device by which the shuttle on the hand loom is thrown through the shed of the loom by pulling the cord.
Hand woven      fabrics produced on a hand or on a hand and foot and hand loomed power loom.
Heddle sticks   two flat pieces of bars to hold string heddles, one at the top and one at the bottom of each set of the heddles.
Warp               the yarns that run lengthwise in a woven fabric
Weft                the cross-wise filling yarns
Yarn                a twisted strand, usually of cotton or wool and can have considerable strength or length.
Weaving          weaving is a interlacing of two systems of yarn, which interlace at right angles to each other.
Shuttle            the device, which carries the filling yarn in its course through the shed of the loom in weaving fabric.
Loom              a frame used for the interlacing of at least two systems of yarns, which cross one another at right angles. It may be hand or power driven.
Roblers           loom beams
Treadles          the foot pedals at the bottom of the loom for controlling the operation of the heddle warness.