Why the Cricket Quartet might not be the right choice for youequipment
Schacht recently came out with an accessory for the 15" Cricket called the Cricket Quartet which allows you to convert it to a 4 shaft table loom.
The Quartet is a neat option to have available, and in the reviews I've seen so far people seem quite happy with it. But I've noticed some people responding to people looking for advice on which rigid heddle loom to buy, with something along the lines of:
"You should buy the Cricket because with the Cricket Quartet you can convert it to a 4 shaft loom."
And I don't think this is good advice. Absolutely, the Cricket is a great first loom and there's plenty of reasons to choose it, but I don't think the Quartet is the killer feature some people make it out to be, and for most people this is a bad reason to choose the Cricket.
One big limitation of a Cricket already is that it's a fairly narrow loom, and the Quartet makes it even narrower, cutting down 1.5" of width. Going from 15" to 13.5" weaving width starts to make it a bit small for weaving placemats, for example. I think most people starting from a Cricket would want something wider as their second loom (or at least, not smaller!), whether that's a rigid heddle or a 4 shaft. I do have a lot of love for the 15-16" small looms as a starter loom, and think they're a great balance of cost and portability! But as the owner of a 16" Sample-It, I have no interest in a 13.5" table loom to go with it, and for my 2nd loom "bigger" was the main thing I was interested in.
The main reasons people choose table looms of that size are workshops, travel, or major space constraints like RV living. The Quartet is probably reasonable to bring to local workshops, though for travel or space constraints, a folding loom is likely a better choice.
If you want a rigid heddle loom to learn the basics with the idea of quickly moving to a 4 shaft loom, I think it would be better to pay for an in-person class before buying a 4 shaft loom, rather than buying a rigid heddle as a stepping stone. If that isn't an option for you, then the rigid heddle starter loom is a more reasonable option. I love my rigid heddle looms and think they're great, but 4 shaft looms also have their advantages and if that's the kind of weaving you want to do you can just jump straight in!
While you do get a rigid heddle and a 4 shaft loom out of it, it sounds like going back and forth requires keeping track of some extra parts and 10-15 minutes of effort - if you want to be able to do both rigid heddle and 4 shaft projects on a regular basis, it's probably better to have two separate looms, especially if you're the sort of person who's likely to lose track of the parts!
One other thing I don't like about that comment is that it presupposes that the goal of starting with a rigid heddle loom is to move on to shaft weaving. And for some people, it is, and that's fine, but, rigid heddle looms are fun, very flexible tools in their own right. You may or may not ever move to a shaft loom, and even if you do, you may well decide that 4 shafts just isn't enough and go straight to 8 when the time comes!
So who do I think it might be good for?
I could see someone unsure of where they want to go with their weaving starting with the Cricket, and then having the option to go for a bigger rigid heddle loom, or, going into shaft weaving by adding the Quartet, and then quickly adding a much larger floor or table loom. Likewise I'm sure there's also people with multiple looms including a Cricket that isn't getting as much use who decide it's a good way to add a small table loom to their collection for workshops, sampling, and small projects. I just don't think that going from no looms, to a Cricket, to the Quartet, and then staying there for a while, is a path that many people will take, since it's such a small loom.
And what are some alternatives for people who might be thinking of the Quartet?
As mentioned, there are lots of used 4 shaft table looms out there, if you are willing to be on the lookout for a few weeks or months. These are particularly useful if you think a somewhat bigger loom is ideal for you, as models 15-24" are most common.
For new, small, folding table looms, currently available at a similar cost to the Cricket + Quartet, some options are:
Louet Erica. Available in 30 or 50cm (11.75 or 19.5"), so a little smaller or somewhat bigger than the Quartet, can be purchased as a 2 shaft loom and upgraded to 4 later. Sold via dealers in many countries.
Woolhouse Alice or Norah. The 10" Alice with 4 or 8 shafts, or the 16" 4 shaft Norah are at that price point, and the Norah with 8 shafts and/or a 23" width are not that far above. Ships to US/Canada only.
All that being said, there are other reasons the Cricket itself might be the right loom for you, and I have a lot of respect for the designers making this work on a frame that presumably wasn't built with this kind of conversion in mind, and I'd love to see some looms designed from the ground up for this kind of conversion in the coming years! There are some people out there for whom the Cricket Quartet is a great choice, and reading this might help you decide that that's you!
Best of luck with your weaving journey no matter what loom you decide on!