9th Experimental Archaeology Conference demonstration – Walsh

A practical exercise in the construction and operation of a warp-weighted loom improves understanding of its structure and may indicate a practical use for previously unidentified archaeological finds

Shirley Walsh

The building of a warp-weighted loom for operation by a group of medieval craftworkers/reenactors highlighted the paucity of available information regarding the construction and warping of this type of loom. Many diagrams of these looms are incomplete or inaccurate, even in academic papers, and some photographs of looms in museums demonstrate that they have been built without real understanding of the purpose of various parts – they have been
built for display, rather than use. This loom, constructed using tools and methods available to medieval craftsmen, has been warped several times, indicating that the construction and procedure for use are appropriate. At each warping the process has improved; problems have emerged and some solutions found. Since the warp-weighted loom is not an ergonomically efficient method of weaving, and there is no incentive for modern weavers to use one to
produce fabric, exploration of the loom is often limited to fairly basic constructions, and theorisation. Use of the loom is now generally limited to research and to reenactment displays, and researchers (and reenactors) often stop short of weaving sufficient quantity or quality of fabric to properly test the equipment. It is in the interests of broader research to demonstrate how it may originally have been designed and efficiently operated. Further, extensive operation of the loom clarifies the potential use of previously unidentified archaeological finds which may have a simple and practical function in this type of loom.


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