17 April 2013

The Viking Weaving Loom

Viking Loom @ L'Anse aux Meadows NHS
 The Viking Loom.

Before Costco. Before Wal-mart. Before the Hudson's Bay Company. Before Marco Polo brought silk from China. In a time, we cannot remember. At the time of Vikings, high seas adventure and world exploration; we had a people who had to take care of themselves. All needs - water, food, fire, shelter and clothing.

Cloth was not bought at the store. Stores did not exist as we know them. Cloth was made at home on a loom - of natural fibres: cotton, flax, linen or wool.

Each home had a loom or at the very least, one for each village. The Vikings Loom is pure simplicity. Effective. Portable. Repairable. User friendly. In fact, if you understand how it works, it can be built from scratch in the wilds, using very basic tools - saw, drill, chisel and a mallet. Supplies needed are also basic, 2x small logs, 2x planks, 2x "Y" branches, 2x dowels, a stick, a shuttle and some weights.

Viking Loom @ L'Anse aux Meadows
 Upon review of the photographs we took while at the L'Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site - World Heritage Site in Newfoundland (2012), I notice my sketch of the Viking Loom has all the correct pieces, just the placement of the "Y" sticks on my sketch are too low on the frame. Please note, if you are going to build one of these looms that the holes you drill for the "Y" sticks must be higher up. My bad.

The parts of the Viking Loom. 1) The Frame Logs - you need 2. About 3" in diameter and 6' to 7' long. 2) The Cross Braces - you need 2. (#2 is the upper, #4 is the lower.) The space between the inside of the frame logs needs to be at least 38", so you can weave 36" wide fabric. These can be planks or again 3" diameter logs. Traditionally, they would be drilled and pegged with wood dowels. Screws or lag bolts would work, too. 3) The Upper Anchor Bar. About 37" long if you build it to fit inside the frame. If you copy the one in the photograph it will want to be longer than the frame is wide. To build one inside the frame, auger/drill 1 1/2" holes through the upper part of the frame logs. These holes want to keep the anchor bar level. The anchor bar will want to be a 3" - 4" log, straight, and 37" long. In each end of the anchor bar use your chisel to make 1" square holes about 1 1/2" deep to insert dowels so the anchor bar can be rotated. These dowels will need to be long enough to extend through the frame logs via the 1 1/2" holes you bored. If you are able, a crank handle can be fastened to one of the dowel-ends to make rolling the fabric easier. 4) Cross Brace Lower. Same as the upper cross brace. Mount the lower cross brace below the placement of the "Y" sticks. 5) Weaving Bar. This dowel or stick is about an inch or so in diameter, as straight as possible and longer than the frame is wide. Either strings, wires or holes are attached or bored through this dowel so that every other
Viking Loom @ L'Anse aux Meadows In Action
strand of wool/flax/cotton/linen passes through. By lifting and lowering this bar; when the shuttle #10 is passed through, the weaving occurs. 6) The "Y" Sticks. These simple sticks allow the Weaving bar to be held in the up position until the shuttle is passed through the threads. You may want to bore multiple 1" holes +/- 1" deep into the frame logs, to allow variable mounting locations of the "Y" sticks. As you see in the photographs, the "Y" sticks are branches cut to size. 7) Weights. The weights hold tension on the strands of wool/flax/cotton/linen. As you may notice in the photographs, extra length of fibres are wrapped around the weights so the loom does not have to re-threaded as often. 8) Crank Handle. A simple crank handle will make rolling the fabric easier. Not required, but will make it easier. 9) The Beater Stick. This stick is used to keep the fibres tight after the shuttle has passed through. 10) The Shuttle. Forgot to draw the shuttle but is easy to see in the pictures. It is resting in the upper left corner of the frame. The shuttle is wrapped with the same fibre as is being weaved. The shuttle passes through the multiple strands and then the weaving bar is raised or lowered and then the beater stick is is inserted and pounds the strand up to keep the fabric tight. Continue. As space runs out to pass the shuttle through, use the crank to roll-up the fabric. Continue until you run-out of fibres to weave or the roll of fabric is to large to roll.

For those members of the Weaving Guild, please forgive me if I have used the incorrect terms to describe the Loom or the weaving process. I am keeping this as simple as possible, since a whole bunch of non-weavers may need to build a simple loom in their home for the future.

Imagine, if you will, having your kids putting in a few hours each evening on your very own Viking Weaving Loom, instead of surfing the 'net or playing X-Box!!! What would our world be like to have such things occur??

Until next time.....learn an old skill, you may need it in the future!!



  1. Great post.

    I have had the notion at the edge of my mind that I should learn a little more about weaving.

    Making my own packs and clothing is cool and all, but I realize that if there wasn't material available, or needles and thread for that matter, I wouldn't be making much of anything.

    There are quite a few old skills I'm interested in. Curiosity and ability and willingness to learn isn't the problem - time and resources are.

  2. Thanks.

    I have been wanting to write a bit about Viking Weaving Looms since this past summer. Next task is to build one and take it for a test drive.

    Once, I build one - I will post an update with more photos.


  3. Thank you for your information. I have just made my own Viking loom and I am looking for information about how to warp it, can you provide me with some insight into this?

  4. Renee,

    Thank you for asking that question. Please, filter my answer as you see fit, as I have not completed the Viking Loom for my wife, yet. However, if I understand the question correctly, to warp the Viking Loom, the fixed end is tied to the rolling bar at the top of the frame. As we have access to materials not available to the Vikings we could cheat at the top by stapling a short length of course canvas across the width of frame. Thus, the warp strands could be sewn/tied to the canvas, otherwise, each warp strand would need to be tied individually. As for the running end of the warp....the Viking Loom we saw at L'Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site, had the excess warp wrapped around the weights which hung from the bottom. We did see different weights, some were just stones from the beach, others seems to be little donuts made of baked clay. I have not tried it, but I am curious if a piece of hardwood would weigh enough.......hmmmm, if you were not weaving a pattern into the cloth, a single piece of hardwood might work, however, if you were altering which warps were included or not included to weave a pattern, individual weights would probably work best. It would seem once the weaver had coiled enough warp around the weight, they used a simple slipknot to secure the tension....and when more warp was needed, the slipknot were undone and the weights lowered and the slipknots re-tied. I hope that helps. Thanks for reading my blog. Cheers. Mountainman.

  5. to attach the warp at the top of the loom, you are correct in using a piece of sacking nailed to the top roller. Then each warp thread is looped over a cord so that the same amount hangs each side, when all the warps are looped over the cord is sewn to the sacking with a running stitch you can then place every other warp to the front and back to be attached to the weights

  6. @bolden jim,

    Thank you for your input. It sounds like you may have an operational loom near you. And your answer rings of first hand knowledge. Thank you.