Warp Weighted Looms

Photos courtesy of Ton van Zeijl Photo Design

Ton van Zeijl Photo Design

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Warp Weights on Israeli Loom

Scotland, Israel, Holland


I first became aware of warp weighted looms when I was looking at the influence that the Vikings had on textile traditions in the Scottish Islands.

The illustration is from an old Swedish book, from 1744.
In 1999 a group of my students built a stone weight loom for the pupils at Corrie Primary School on Arran as part of a project on the Vikings. That loom is now in the collection at the Arran Heritage Museum.

They used clay weights which were fired for us by a local Arran potter, Ramesh Lele.

Warp Weighted Loom

Illustration of Warp Weighted Loom

In 1978 I built a similar loom with pupils from Whiting Bay Primary school with found objects from the beach.

We were lucky enough to find a piece of driftwood with a row of holes about 4 inches (10 cm) apart.

We tied this to the beautiful big sycamore tree which stood outside the old church Gallery which was next door to the school.

Then we threaded a length of string through each hole in the driftwood and tied a stone (like a parcel) at each end of the string for weight.

We wove a few rows from the top to illustrate the principal and that loom hung outside for many weeks afterward.

I used to have a photo of it, with the beach and Holy Isle in the background, but the photo has gone the way of the loom.

I was reminded of the whole project, though, by an email which came coincidentally while I was putting the notes together for this page from Janet Levi.


Janet is an archaeologist in Israel with a keen interest in historical textiles.

She writes:

“My book, The Textile Industry in the Southern Levant in the Chalcolithic Period: Tools,Technology and Products is to be published some time this year in the UK.”

The book includes information about ropes snares, nets, mats and basketry sewing needles and the use of sinews in textile production.

Warp Weighted Loom

Janet’s Loom

Weaving on Warp Weighted Loom

Close-Up of Weaving on Warp Weighted Loom


Janet found out about my work through another coincidence:

“I met a Dutch photographer yesterday who said that c. 30 years ago he and his wife (she was very much involved with textiles at the time) spent part of their honey moon at the Silverbirch Workshop on Arran.

He states you were using a warp weighted loom. Was this the case?

Was this a live tradition or something you knew of from norway and introduced into your own repertoire?

I knew of the last practitioner off the coast of Norway 1950 re. Hoffman also reference by Roth 1918 that fishermen from the Shetlands had reported it still in use on the north Icelandic coast.

Love to hear your comments.”

“The sketch of the warp weighted loom is very familiar. I thought it was from an Icelandic museum exhibit. it is not in
“The Warp Weighted Loom” by Marta Hoffman possibly the book of looms Broudy? the whale bone beater in is very familiar. “

My brother in law is an artist who exhibits sometimes in Holland.

The dutch photographer was in some way involved in a project between the 2 countries.  Both had been in the desert and around the dead sea area and were winding up the day.
They dropped off at my house for a cup of coffee. He saw my warp weighted loom and told my husband had seen one before off Scotland.”

Of such coincidences is history made.

I have since been in email contact with “the Dutch photographer”, Ton van Zeijl, and caught up with news of the past 30 years since he and his wife were rained out of their tent and stayed with us in the old church Gallery on their honeymoon.

Ton has sent me these photos of Janet’s warp weight loom which he took in Israel and I am grateful to both of them to be able to use them here.

For more information check out

Brief History of Weaving

Notes For Busy Teachers