If you’re new to weaving or just thinking about getting started, buying a loom can feel a little overwhelming. I wrote about this recently when I wrote about the various loom options for new weavers. And while I’ve accumulated a bunch of looms over the years, my new 8 shaft table loom might just be my favorite. However, it also was my most expensive loom so far. Since it was just a big investment for me, I spent more than a little time agonizing over what to get.
If you’re anything like me, you want to investigate all the options before you make a big purchase. So in this article I’ve broken down all the looms I considered buying and why I did or didn’t buy them. I hope this helps you in choosing your own new table loom!
Why Buy a Table Loom?
When I started looking to buy a multi-shaft loom, I came up with a few basic criteria to narrow down the options. Price was, of course, important. I wanted to come in under $1000, including things like accessories, tax, and shipping. I also wanted to buy something new, so that as a new weaver I could be sure that it was working right. This knocked out pretty much all floor looms, so I was able to focus my search on table looms.
While buying a floor loom is still one of my life goals, table looms also have a few additional advantages. They’re smaller, which makes them a little more small-space friendly. They’re also generally more portable, making a table loom a better choice if you’re going to need to move it around to teach or do a residency. They also operate using a direct tie-up, so you play around with lots of different treading patterns without having to get under the loom to change things.
Choosing the number of Shafts on my Multi-Shaft Loom
After deciding on a table loom, I then started thinking about how many shafts I wanted it to have. 4 shafts was my bare minimum because I wanted to be able to weave a wide variety of patterns. At this point I already had a rigid heddle loom (which is essentially a 2 shaft loom), so anything less than 4 seemed too simple to be worth investing in a whole new piece of equipment.
In my search, I considered looms with up to 16 shafts. I wanted something that would allow me to experiment with patterns and techniques. I didn’t want to risk outgrowing it in a few months. On the other hand, with increased shafts inevitably came an increase in cost and loom size.
In the end, I felt that an 8-shaft loom was a perfect middle ground. I could get into some really complex patterns before I would even need to think about upgrading. At the same time, the extra shafts wouldn’t significantly increase the size of my table loom.
Other Criteria for Choosing my 8-Shaft Table Loom
The size of the weaving area was also important to consider. I wanted something that had a weaving width of about 16″. I chose that width because it would be wide enough to weave some useable projects (not just samples), but would still be easy to move and store when needed.
Next, I looked at the materials the loom was made from. Ideally, I wanted something that used Texsolv heddles. Metal heddles are just too noisy for me. I also was looking for a loom with few, if any, plastic parts. Even if I trusted plastic parts to hold up long term (I don’t), I just don’t like the physical experience of touching plastic. So, I avoid it when I can.
Finally, I wanted something I could get quickly. When I bought my loom in November of 2022, shipping was still iffy. There were some looms I eliminated fairly quickly primarily because I wouldn’t have been able to get them for several months.
Table Looms I Considered
The list of table looms below doesn’t contain every possible option on the market, but they are all models I seriously considered purchasing. These were the looms that I was able to learn about through about several weeks of obsessive internet sleuthing and asking around. If you have any additional suggestions, please leave a comment to let me know!
LeClerc Dorothy Table Loom
This was the first option I looked at, primarily because it’s what we have at the community college where I work. Since I have to use these to teach, it made sense to have one at home for testing assignment and making class samples.
The LeClerc Dorothy loom comes in 4, 8, and 12 shaft models. The smaller version has a 15.75″ weaving space. The 4 shaft is about $775, 8 shaft is around $1050, and the 12 shaft is about $1350. Meaning the 8-shaft was a little over budget, but still manageable.
However, I eliminated this loom from consideration fairly quickly. The main issue I have with this loom is that it’s so, so noisy. The mechanism that controls the shafts relies on gravity, rather than a pulley, so the shaft just free falls back to the lower position. Because it also uses metal heddles, this results in a lot of clanging about.
The raising and lowering mechanism is also a bit fussy. When you raise a new shaft, it causes all the previously raised shafts to fall. This is great if you’re doing tabby or a basket weave, but a pain with twills or other staggered patterns. I also don’t like the beater on this loom. I find it a little bendy, which makes it hard to beat evenly.
I’ve used this loom a lot while at work now, and overall I just do not like it. Unless you can get a fantastic deal on a used one, I’d give it a hard pass.
Ashford Katie and Standard Table Looms
My current rigid heddle loom is from Ashford, so of course I gave them a serious look. Additionally, Ashford is currently a pretty dominant brand in the weaving world. While going with a popular brand isn’t always the best choice, it can have some benefits. The company is more likely to still exist in a decade if you need serving and there often is a robust online community to help with questions and trouble shooting.
Ashford had a few good options. I liked the easy portability of the foldable Katie loom. However, a weaving width of only 12 inches and a price tag of about $1200 knocked it out of the running. I also looked at their standard multi-shaft table loom. The 4 shaft version was priced at $975, but seemed to only come in a 24″ width, which was a bit larger than I was looking for. There also seemed to be a 16″ 8 shaft version of this loom for $975, which would best meet my criteria. Both fold flat easily with the warp in place, which is great for portability. And I like the front facing levers for manipulating the shafts.
However, there are two big issues with Ashford looms: availability and materials. Both of the Ashford looms I was looking at seemed to be in short supply. Many dealers weren’t expecting restock until March 2023. While that likely has change now that shipping is a bit more normal, that timeline didn’t work for me. Also, I wasn’t happy that many critical parts are made of plastic. At that price point, I want higher quality materials. So while Ashford made the shortlist, neither of their looms ultimately worked for me.
The Woolhouse Norah table loom is on this list primarily thanks to the Chicago Weaving School, where I’ve been taking classes. The owner, Natalie, set me up with one of the original 4-shaft versions of the loom to learn basic weave structures on. I found it a joy to use.
New Woolhouse looms are based on the same design plans, but made by a different company and use slightly different materials. The 16″ weaving width version of the loom comes in 4 shaft ($700) and 8 shaft ($750) options, making it the most affordable loom I found. I also really appreciate that the up-charge for the additional shafts is minimal. Most companies have a much bigger price gap between models, so the small cost to double my shafts was a big selling point.
My big concern with Woolhouse was the future availability of parts. What would I do if they once again went out of production? However, I realized that the small scale of the company was actually a benefit because the parts it used were all fairly standard. If I lost a screw I could find it at a hardware store and if one of the cords broke I could easily find a supplier for a new one because they’re standard Texsolv.
The lovely weaving experience and great price quickly moved this loom onto my shortlist.
Schacht Table Loom and Cricket Quartet
The table loom offered by the Schacht Spindle Company met most of my basic requirements and I really like the front facing pulls. However, three things knocked it out of the running: price, weaving width, and steel heddles. The 8 shaft was over my budget at $1,107. Though I could have afforded one if I had downgraded to the 4 shaft which is listed at $857, but I recently found at Blick for $756. But with a 15″ weaving width, it was also the narrowest loom I had considered so far. This made compromising on shafts even less appealing. When you added the annoyance of metal heddles it just wasn’t right for me.
A much more interesting option was the Cricket Quartet. The Quartet, priced at $450, is not a full shaft loom, but an add on to the 15″ Cricket rigid heddle loom ($240). However, at a total of $690, it’s still the least expensive shaft loom option out there. Also, the weaving space with the Quartet on is only about 13″, which is a bit too small. Even so, this setup would have been really tempting if I already owned the Cricket rigid heddle loom.
So, neither of the Schacht looms ended up being a viable option for me personally. Though in difference circumstances the Quartet could be very appealing.
Louet Jane and Klik
I seriously considered two Louet looms. The first was the Jane, which comes standard at 8 shafts. I liked that the levers are mounted on the front, so that it’s easy to see which are up and which are down. It had the texsolve heddles and (from what I could see on the website) appeared to have little to no plastic parts. But at over $1400 it was too far out of my price range to be viable.
I was also tempted by the Louet Klik. The ability to expand out to 16 shafts was really tempting. It was on budget, at under $800. However, raising and lowering the heddles appears to be a bit of a fussy and slow process. It made the shortlist, but I wasn’t completely sold on it.
What I Bought
The Woolhouse Norah loom by Fiber Artist Supply ended up being the winner for me. I bought the 16″ weaving width model with eight shafts. The combination of a competitive price, no plastic parts, and an affordable 8 shaft option made it an easy decision. Again, it also didn’t hurt that I had already logged a lot of time weaving on one while in class.
I bought mine directly from the Chicago Weaving School. I bought in-person both because wanted to be sure that it didn’t get held up in the mail this time of year and because I like supporting small businesses. You can buy the loom either direct from Fiber Artist Supply or from third party sellers like The Knit Store on Etsy.
It’s been a few months and I don’t regret my choice at all. The loom is lovely to use and I feel like the 8-shaft option means I won’t need to upgrade anytime soon. The quality is great.