Baby Blanket Number 5 is finally on the loom!  I admit that I was getting nervous.  My niece’s baby is due in late November and here we are in late September already.  I had come up with the design.  My grand-niece is to be named for my grandmother.  My grandmother was a prolific quilter whose favorite pattern was Grandmother’s Flower Garden, a design based on hexagons.  I do quilt, but I wanted to make my grand-niece a woven baby blanket (my specialty) that evoked my grandmother’s favorite quilt pattern.  This isn’t the first time I’ve come up with a design that I can’t weave because I don’t have the loom, but it’s never a comfortable situation.

Baby Blanket Number 5 In Progress

Normally I weave my pin loom baby blankets on a square pin loom.  I knew there was a hexagonal pin loom available, which should have been perfect for the job.  However, I never cared much for the generation 1 version of the Turtle Loom.  Instead of pins, nails were used, which I found rather klunky.  It’s not easy to slide the finished piece off a loom over nail heads.  Two of the nail heads were painted white to indicate the top and bottom of the loom.  I questioned the permanence of the paint.

Generation 2 of the Turtle Looms were due out about the time I completed Baby Blanket Number 4, reviewed earlier.  Nails had been replaced by pins and the painted nail heads replaced by marks in the wood frame.  This seemed like it would resolve all my issues.  I was hoping to take the Baby Blanket Number 5 project along with me on my recent trip to Colorado.  Unfortunately, there were delays in manufacturing so starting the blanket was delayed.  Yesterday, as I came in to teach my monthly beginning rigid heddle weaving class, the shop owner told me that the generation 2 Turtle Looms were finally in!  I grabbed one and the yarn I needed and got started.

So this blog post will also be a review of the Generation 2 Turtle Looms; the Good, the Bad and the Ugly.


Well, it’s really unbagging.  The Turtle Loom comes in an organza bag.  Here’s what’s included:

Turtle Loom

  • The Turtle Loom – the pin loom comes in several sizes.  I bought the Original which produces 4″ hexagons from worsted weight yarn.  This makes it comparable to Schacht’s Zoom Loom which produces 4″ squares with the same worsted weight yarn.
  • Weaving Needle – Like the Schacht Zoom Loom, the Turtle Loom needs the enclosed weaving needle to weave the center part of the piece.
  • Crochet hook – unlike the square pin looms which only need a weaving needle, the Turtle Loom requires a crochet hook, which is included.  The Regular comes with a 4mm crochet hook
  • Hair Pick / Weaving Fork – although the “weaving fork” isn’t necessary to pack the weaving, it’s a nice-to-have.  And you can use it on your unruly hair if you need to.
  • Instruction Booklet – the instruction booklet has clear instructions with photographs for making the hexagons.

What You’ll Need

In addition to the Turtle Loom and the yarn, you’ll need a pair of scissors.  I try to keep a small pair with every project as as chasing scissors is one of my least favorite activities.

The Good

The Turtle Loom is easy to use.  Experience with the Schacht Zoom Loom isn’t necessary.  It helps in some ways and actually hinders in others.  Because the the loom isn’t warped as the square pin looms are, there is some unlearning that needs to take place.  Once you realize that they are two different looms, it’s easy to use the Turtle Loom

The enclosed instruction booklet provides clear, well illustrated instructions.  It took me almost no time to get the hang of using the Turtle Loom

The pins that mark where the weaving changes from triangular weave to rectangular weave area clearly marked in the wood frame.

The pins that mark the top and bottom of the loom are clearly marked in the wood frame.

It’s easy to slide the work off the Turtle Loom now that pins are used instead of nails.

The Bad

The enclosed instruction booklet contains no instructions for joining the hexagons.  The book refers to weaver to YouTube videos.  That’s all well and good but there are people who don’t like  YouTube and it’s frustrating to be working on a project and need to go elsewhere for vital information.  Schacht, on the other hand, includes instructions for joining the squares in the Zoom Loom’s instruction booklet.

The Ugly

While the  Generation 2 Turtle Loom looks more professional with its pins instead of nails, there are still some areas that could be improved.

The top and bottom pin markings in the wood look like the wood was split and dye poured in.  I think the marks were actually made with a wood-burning tool, but it really looks like accidental wood splits.  This is picky of me, I know, but I feel that more professional-looking marks could have been done.

To start the weaving, it’s necessary to tie a slip knot in the yarn and put the slip knot over the top pin.  The yarn tail, which will be used for sewing the hexagons together, gets in the way when the weaving is begun.  I’d like to see a notch such as Schacht uses on the Zoom Loom to hold the beginning tail of yarn.  It keeps the yarn tail from interfering with the weaving.

The pins are uneven.  I don’t mean the difference in spacing between the top/bottom pins and the side pins, although I question whether they’re right, I mean that what should be pins on a straight plane are actually slightly uneven and the pins themselves are not driven into the wood straight.  These defects don’t seem to affect the weaving, but they contribute to the loom looking unprofessional.


Overall, I like the Turtle Loom.  It’s easy to use and produces a different kind of woven shape.  I’m looking forward to this “Grandmother’s Flower Garden” woven baby blanket.  I hope my great-niece will like it!


Equipment Reviews

Here I am with the first of an ongoing series of equipment reviews.  If you’re into sport technology / wearable technology, you’ve probably heard of DC Rainmaker.  His product reviews are invaluable.  Although I don’t claim to be anywhere near his level, I thought it would be a good idea to do something similar for the weaving equipment world.  Weaving equipment is expensive.  There’s no getting around that.  It can also take up a considerable amount of space.  The purchase of a new loom is rarely an impulse purchase.  Looms are also specialized for certain types of weaving.  I’ll never forget the panic one day of welcoming my students to a tapestry weaving class only to discover that one of my students had been told (I’ll never know by whom) that a tapestry loom capable of using four sets of string heddles was the same as a 4-shaft floor loom.

So today, I’m starting with a review of the Ashford Katie table loom.  The Katie has been out for some years so it’s not a new loom.  I purchased mine new on Wednesday, July 24, 2019 through my local yarn shop.  It arrived on Saturday, July 28.

Ashford Katie Fast Facts

  • Maker: Ashford Wheels and Looms (New Zealand)
  • Dimensions (folded): 18.25″ wide, 10.5″ deep, 18.75″ high / 46.5 cm wide, 28cm deep, 47cm high
  • Dimensions (unfolded): 18.25″ wide, 29″ deep, 18.5″ high / 46.5 cm wide, 73cm deep, 46cm high
  • Weight: 14.25 pounds / 6.5kg
  • Price as of July 2019: $1,105.00 USD
  • Shafts: 8
  • Treadles: none
  • Weaving width: 12″ / 30cm


So let’s start with an unboxing.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get photos as I was unboxing it.  (I have lots to learn about this review process!)  Here’s a list of what’s in the box:

  • The Katie 8-shaft table loom – mostly finished and assembled
  • 320 Texsolv heddles installed, but not separated (40 per shaft)
  • Carrying bag
  • In a separate sealed pouch
    • Top beater rail
    • 10-dent reed
    • Hardware to mount top beater rail
    • 5 apron rods / lease sticks
    • 6 pieces of tapestry warp thread to use as apron ties to attach the apron rods to the loom
    • 2 pieces of bungee cord to return the beater to neutral
    • sleying / threading hook
    • cardboard packing sticks
    • 2 unfinished stick shuttles
  • In a separate sealed pouch
    • Instruction sheet
    • Table Loom instruction booklet
    • Ashford product booklet
    • The Wheel newsletter

Following is a list of supplies that I think you should order or have on hand when you order the Katie.  This is not meant to be a list of weaving supplies you will need, such as boat shuttles and a warping board.  This is a list of supplies I think you’ll need to set up the Katie itself.

  • 3 yards / meters of Texsolv cord
  • 220 or 400 grit sandpaper
  • Ashford spinning wheel wax or similar wax such as Howard’s Feed and Wax
  • scissors and matches or a soldering iron or hot knife to cut and seal the Texsolv.

Now that we have the facts and unboxing out of the way, let’s discuss the loom.  I’m dividing this into The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.

The Good

Overall, the Katie is a great little loom.  However, it is meant for small projects.  It has only a 12″ weaving width, which results in fabric that is roughly 10.75″ finished width.  I wouldn’t call it extremely lightly built, but it’s not the loom to weave rugs on.  It shines as a sampling loom and a workshop / travel loom.  Weighing in at only 14 pounds / 6.5kg and fitting in its own bag, it’s a beauty to take on a road trip or to a guild meeting or workshop.

I am not a fan of table looms.  I’ll state my prejudice right here.  Mostly, I don’t like them because of how far I have to reach to raise and lower the shafts.  It winds up being more of an upper body workout than I like.  The Katie has won me over.  One of the easiest things about weaving on it is how easy it is to flip the levers to manipulate the shafts.  Using levers to manipulate the shafts (or a direct tie-up floor loom) is slower than a loom with lams and treadles.  This is a cost of using a table loom.  A huge advantage, and one that I stress to my students, is that you gain an understanding of the warp thread movement that produces the cloth.

I find the Katie easy to warp.  It works well either front-to-back or back-to-front.  I did have a little difficulty getting an even tension on my first project   I think this may have been because of another issue I faced later on.

One of the things I like best about the Katie is the overhead beater.  One of the weaknesses of table looms is the swing of the beater.  Because the beater is so short, it has a steep arc.  There is very little weaving area before the beater arcs so badly that it’s pushing down on the fabric rather than packing the weft.  Ashford addresses this problem in the Katie and its other table looms by using an overhead beater. The height of the beater can be greater, allowing for a shallower arc to the swing.  You still have to advance early and often with the Katie, but it’s much more reasonable.

The Bad

The Katie’s weakest point, as it comes from the manufacturer, is the use of tapestry warp thread as apron ties.  I truly went past the lengths of thread in the accessories bag looking for the apron ties.  When I realized that the tapestry warp thread pieces WERE the apron ties, I was shocked.  Ashford uses much stronger nylon apron ties on all its rigid heddle looms from the least expensive to the most expensive.  Rigid heddle looms typically don’t put as much tension on a warp as multishaft looms. 

Although the diagram of how to set up the apron ties is clear, there is considerable difficulty in tying the apron rods to the loom and getting the ties a consistent length.  You’ll either need a willing helper, three hands or use my alternate solution presented below.

Ashford Katie Broken Apron TiesWhen I set up the Katie, I almost replaced the apron ties before putting my first warp on. I did not believe the tapestry warp thread would be strong enough.  I decided to set up the loom according to the manufacturer’s instructions anyway.  This was a big mistake as two of the front apron ties broke when I was about a foot into the weaving.  I decided that it could be fixed and I wouldn’t have to cut off the project, but it was disconcerting, to say the least.  I am an experienced weaver and have woven on multiple looms, old and new.  I have an experienced loom repairman on call as well.  In other words, I have resources available that most weavers, especially beginning ones, do not.  I still found the breaking apron ties unsettling.

This is a modification I would recommend to most weavers during the setup phase.  Leave the tapestry warp thread pieces in the bag.  Cut and seal 6 pieces of Texsolv.  Each piece needs to be 16.5″ or 42cm.  Count to be sure that each piece has 35 “buttonholes.”  It is very important that each piece of Texsolv be exactly the same length. 

Ashford Katie Original Beam HolesWhen finishing the loom (more about that below) be sure to sand the holes in the warp and cloth beams.  Mine were completely unfinished and had both sharp edges and material in the holes.  Please see the photo at right.  Even if the warp thread hadn’t been too light, it would have been abraded by the sharp edges of the holes and broken anyway.  As you sand the holes, try to angle the edges of the holes a bit.  There is a way of doing so with a drill and a chamfer bit, but be aware that doing so WILL INVALIDATE THE MANUFACTURER’S WARRANTY!  I wouldn’t recommend beveling the holes with a drill and chamfer bit except to experienced woodworkers.  I had it done to mine and I love it.

Ashford Katie Repaired Hole

Once the warp and cloth beam holes are tidied up, thread a piece of Texsolv cord into each hole.  Bring the end around the beam to the top and thread the opposite end of the cord through the second buttonhole from the end.  Make a sharp crease about midway down the cord and thread the crease through the second buttonhole from the opposite end.  Once all three cords are in place slip the apron rod into the three loops and pull the apron rod tight to cinch up the cord.  The combination of stouter cord and the smoother wood will keep your apron ties happy for a long time.  The other advantage is that the cords are all exactly the same length so you avoid the apron tie alignment issue I spoke of earlier.

Ashford Katie with Repaired Arpon TiesI was able to replace the outside cords with Texsolv with the piece still attached to the apron rod.  However, I couldn’t get the middle Texsolv tie on.  I used stout cotton cording for that.  I think it will work just fine on this one project.  As soon as the project comes off, I’ll replace it with Texsolv.

I must say that I’m disappointed in Ashford for taking such shortcuts, especially with a high-end loom.  $1000+ USD is quite a bit to pay for a loom.  I would expect it to be 100% well made, not 95% and the remaining 5% so critical.  I hope my tips help a new Katie owner to avoid having the apron ties break and the resulting anxiety.


The Ugly

As mentioned above, the Katie has an overhead beater.  It is held in place with two side pieces of plywood.  The plywood is not sanded smooth nor finished.  I would recommend sanding the pieces as best you can with them mounted on the loom.  After getting them nice and smooth, apply a coat of Ashford’s spinning wheel wax or Howard’s Feed and Wax.  It not only makes them smooth and pretty, it smells good, too!  If the roughness of the plywood doesn’t bother you, leave it alone.  It makes no structural difference to the loom.  I am picky about my tools so I want them as well finished as possible.  I would also carefully sand and wax the end grain of the cloth and warp beams opposite the brakes.  Again, it isn’t a structural issue, but it does make them much nicer.

Packing Her Up!

Katie in the BagAs I said before, the main beauty of the Katie is its portability.  It’s an easy loom to fold up with the weaving in place and fits nicely into its carrying case.  Here are the steps I discovered for packing up the loom.

  • Loosen the cloth and warp beam brakes.
  • Remove the beater bungee cords from the slots/holes in the castle.
  • Raise the overhead beater supports to bring the beater against the castle.
  • Loosen the cloth beam and unlatch the V-shaped locks
  • Fold the front part of the loom against the castle and tighten the lock knobs.
  • Repeat the above two steps for the warp beam.
  • Put the loom into the bag with the cloth beam (front of the loom) facing the back of the bag.  It’s tempting to put the loom in the bag with the front of the loom facing the zipper closure.  If you do, the zippers will be strained over the brake knobs.  Putting the loom in the bag with the cloth beam facing the back of the bag alleviates that issue.

Zip her up and you’re ready to go!!