The Tubular Loom

Despite its name, the Tubular Loom it is in fact neither a distinct form of loom, nor a special weaving technique, but an unusual way of warping a vertical loom with two, sometimes three beams. This ancient warping method is remarkable because, when setting up the vertical two-beam loom, the warp thread is wound around the loom in two layers passing around a strong cord that transverses the width of the loom. The warp thread is passed so it alternately loops the cord from above and from below resulting in a row of loops, which face each other alternately along the cord. The cord works as a “warp-lock” to keep the tubular warp together both during weaving and afterwards. 

Setting up a tubular warp on a weaving frame using the loop method

When a fabric woven utilizing this warping method is entirely finished and removed from the two-beam loom, the weaver will have a tube of fabric open in both ends ready to serve as a dress or funeral shroud without any cutting or sewing if the warp-lock is not removed from the fabric. This is named the primary state. When the warp-lock is pulled out of the tubular fabric, the tube will be turned into a square piece of fabric with four intact selvedges. This is named the secondary state. 

partially intact 'lock' on a tubular woven fabric
partially intact 'lock' on a tubular woven fabric

A piece of a warp-lock in the corner of a tubular woven wool skirt made by the Guambianos tribe in Colombia. The skirt was acquired in 1966 by Margrethe Hald and now belongs to CTR Archive. Photo by Morten Grymer-Hansen. Centre for Textile Research.

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Illustration of a tubular loom
Illustration of a tubular loom

Illustration of a two-beam loom set up with a tubular warp using the loop method. This illustration was published in Olddanske Tekstiler in 1950 as fig. 213, p. 214.

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Tubular Loom
Tubular Loom

The first wefts on a weaving frame set up with a tubular warp (loop method). See video above.

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partially intact 'lock' on a tubular woven fabric
partially intact 'lock' on a tubular woven fabric

A piece of a warp-lock in the corner of a tubular woven wool skirt made by the Guambianos tribe in Colombia. The skirt was acquired in 1966 by Margrethe Hald and now belongs to CTR Archive. Photo by Morten Grymer-Hansen. Centre for Textile Research.

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Margrethe Hald’s fascination with the different techniques of tubular weaving seems to have arisen many years before her journeys to the Middle East and South America, most probably during research for her doctoral dissertation Olddanske Tekstiler (Hald 1950) which she defended in 1950. She discovered that the renowned Huldremose dress, which was excavated in 1896, had an almost invisible unifying cord that held the fabric together as a woven tube. This discovery led her to work out that the Huldremose tubular dress and several other finds from the Danish Iron Age must have been woven utilizing the warping method described above. 

Not only did Hald come to understand how the tubular woven textiles from the Danish prehistory were produced, she also realized that they must have been produced on another type of loom than the warp-weighted loom: the vertical two beam-loom. 

M. Hald's original drawings of the warping method

Drawing by M. Hald
Drawing by M. Hald

The position of the warp loops on a small loom from Vancouver Islands. In CTR's Archive.

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Drawing by M. Hald
Drawing by M. Hald

Analysis of the warp-lock that connects the transverse edges of a textile from Borremose, 1954. Illustration from MH’s article “Olddanske Tekstiler. Fund fra Aarene 1947-1955” published in Aarbøger for nordisk Oldkyndighed og Historie, 1955.

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Back of drawing by M. Hald
Back of drawing by M. Hald

The position of the warp ends on a textile from Borremose, 1954. CTR's Archive.

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Drawing by M. Hald
Drawing by M. Hald

The position of the warp loops on a small loom from Vancouver Islands. In CTR's Archive.

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Inside Margrethe Hald's notebook

M. Hald's notebook, 1956
M. Hald's notebook, 1956

In the National Archives of Denmark

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M. Hald's notebook, 1956
M. Hald's notebook, 1956

In the National Archives of Denmark

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M. Hald's notebook, 1956
M. Hald's notebook, 1956

In the National Archives of Denmark

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M. Hald's notebook, 1956
M. Hald's notebook, 1956

In the National Archives of Denmark

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Copyright belongs to CTR and the heirs of Margrethe Hald, unless stated otherwise.