I searched high and low for information about which loom is “best” for beginners and learned that there is not one answer. After I read a lot of reviews, most of which used terms that I did not fully understand, and watched the few videos that I could find, it became a process of elimination for me. I started with a 32” Ashford Rigid Heddle and later impulse bought a 12" Ashford Knitters Loom, which is portable. After a few months, I wanted to be able to weave more complex cloth and purchased a lightly used 40" Macomber Ad-A-Harness and shortly thereafter purchased a used 25" Rasmussen table loom so I can take it to classes. At the end of the day, a table loom is a great way to start (and some people only use a table loom), but there are tons of other options. Keep in mind that many weavers have more than one loom and purchasing one loom can lead to more! Below are some considerations.
If you are looking to get started and want to try weaving as an evening activity while you watch tv or aren't sure you will like it, I recently tried the 10" Schacht Cricket Loom and it was super easy to weave with and can sit on your lap if you are on the couch. Another great option is one of the smaller Ashford Looms: either the 8" Sample It Loom or the 12" Knitters Loom. These are great looms for plain weave (flat cloth; Rigid Heddle looms cannot weave twill on their own). Some people are really picky when it comes to wood versus plastic parts on the loom. If it matters to you, make sure you read the descriptions carefully.
Some things to consider when buying a loom:
1. The amount of space available to you. When I started looking for a loom, I knew I faced space restrictions because we live in a one bedroom. This led me to look into smaller looms because they are more compact and can be stored in a closet, under a desk or even hung on the wall when not in use. There are plenty of great options available starting at 8, 10 and 13 inches all the way to 45+ inches wide. If you aren’t looking to make rugs or large pieces of cloth, small looms are perfect for apartments or those on a tight budget. Table looms are a great apartment friendly choice. These looms literally sit on your table (or you can buy a stand) and are great for small to medium size projects (I've made scarves, table runners, fabric for zipper pouches, etc., on mine). These are often portable (mine fits in the back seat of my car) and some offer the chance to use up to 8 harnesses (note: in short, harnesses raise the warp ends). If you have your own work room or a large space, you have more options and may want to look at floor looms which can handle bigger projects like rugs and blankets.
2. The amount of money you are able to spend. Price may be a major consideration when deciding which loom to purchase. Small looms start around $130 and large floor looms can cost over $4,400. Don’t be scared away! You will find something in your price range. It is worth it to contact any local weavers' guilds within driving distance of your house. Sometimes they have recommendations of local places to consult or they may know of someone selling a used loom for cheaper than the retail price, or, if you are really lucky, giving away their loom for free. Don't forget to factor in any additional costs of items that you may want to purchase. If you are starting from scratch and buying a floor or table loom, you will need a warp board, shuttles and lease sticks to begin with. Sometimes if a weaver is no longer interested in weaving, they will give you all of their supplies for reasonably cheap. I was lucky enough to get extra parts, warp sticks, a bench, warp board, yarn and books with my floor loom. Figure out which items need to be purchased upfront and what can be put off for the future.
3. What you want to make with your loom. To start out, I have found that scarves, kitchen towels and placemats are great items to make when you are learning to weave. You can get used to working with all the parts of your loom, get into a rhythm and learn how to be creative with design. Depending on how simple or complicated you want to get, you may be able to work with a smaller loom. If you want to make cloth with a lot of designs or attend workshops, you will likely need 4 harnesses, so you should consider a table loom. If you are looking to make huge blankets or thick rugs, you need a larger loom that can handle the fiber you will have to use.
4. Where you want to take your loom. Maybe you don't want to take it out of the house. But, after purchasing my first Rigid Heddle loom, I found out that a lot of workshops and classes require looms with at least 4 and sometimes 8 harnesses. Unfortunately, my sweet and simple Rigid Heddle did not fit within that category so I could not take advantage of a lot of the classroom experiences. If you are new to weaving, you probably want to participate in workshops, so a table loom is a great way to start.
For a first loom, I recommend finding a used table or floor loom that is in good condition. Contacting a local weavers' guild to see if anyone is looking to sell their loom can be an incredibly affordable option. There are plenty of other options of stores where you can buy looms, including direct from manufacturers. Yarn Barn Kansas, The Woolery, Harrisville Designs, Schacht, Macomber, Glimakra and Leclerc are popular options with decent websites. You could also call local yarn stores to see if they know of local places to purchase looms.