Would you recommend an Ashford Joy?

Jeannine asked,
I am looking into raising White French Angora Bunnies and White Angora Goats for yarn. I have been looking into spinning wheels for making this mixed yarn. I am thinking I want the Ashford Joy Wheel because it is portable. Its ratios are 6, 8, 12 & 15:1. Do you think these ratios would work for the French Angora Mohair yarn mix?

Thanks for asking, Jeannine!

Now, as readers of my blog know, I love portable wheels. Why haven't I written about the Joy before? Well, because I don't have one ... I'm a tall lady, and the Joy sits just a little low for me. I suppose I was influenced by my local guild -- almost all of them have tried the Ashford Joy for some length of time. Alot of them have them, still -- anyone of average to short height. The tall ladies either sell them on, or don't buy them to begin with.

I've been giving that some thought, since Jeannine's question came in a few days ago, and I wonder about it. After all, my pocket wheel sits very low -- I may even sit so I can't see the orifice, just the fiber in my hands and yarn just in front of my hand. I admit, it made me feel a little insecure. But then I realized the yarn was just as good. It was definitely a "Look Ma, No Hands!" kind of moment. So, perhaps personal height is not really an issue.

So, my friends with a Joy ... love its bag: Beth packs in a ton of fiber, so she never runs out at Spin-Ins; Melissa stuffs in bobbins galore; and Kym has personalized hers with a patch or three (or was that Mikie's?)

Melissa has a very early Ashford Joy. She's had it a long time, and takes it everywhere. Her stay-at-home wheel is a Schacht Matchless, so you know she likes good wheels! Recently, the Joy kept popping off its bobbins -- the flyer wouldn't stay screwed in place. She called the USA distributor, who conveniently lives about an hour away. And I went with her ("road trip!") when she took it in for repair. It was repaired in about 2 hours, we had a nice lunch-and-shop around Bainbridge, and then we took it home.

Melissa has spun for years on her wheel -- always without a WooLee Winder. Recently she's taken to one of those, and does enjoy it (it had nothing to do with the other problem, as the WW came after). I would let you know, though, that Ashford USA doesn't recommend them with the Joy, because of the additional weight. Nathan Lee has engineered the Joy WW to be as lightweight as possible, but it's still heavier than the normal flyer.

On the other hand, Kym's had a WW on her Joy for many years, and not had any issues.

The Joy comes in Single Treadle and Double Treadle configurations. The Single has a nice treadle, so you can put both feet on it and "ride tandem" (or would that be sidesaddle? If I rode sidesaddle, the horse would be forever going to the left...)

First HatNow about fiber, I'll be honest with Jeannine and everyone else who has read this far. Angora and Mohair? Wow. That will be one slippery combination! My first hat was a 2-ply of Romney and Mohair, with a little 2-ply Angora band in it. Spun on: a hooky stick, a CD spindle, a Mongold spindle, and a Louet S-10. The Louet S-10 is not an easy wheel to spin slippery fibers on -- its Irish Tension pulls the fiber in fairly strongly; you can lace across the bobbin to decrease the pull, but beginners don't generally know that. I didn't. In fact, the Angora at that time was spun just on the hooky stick. I think I realized that, as a beginner, the Angora was going to be really tough for me.

The Joy has Scotch Tension, which can be adjusted minutely to allow for minimal draw-in ... a necessity with slippery fibers. For me, personally, the ratios are a little limited, but I love to spin fast. There is a lady I know who spins lovely laceweight cashmere on her Ashford Joy, using 12:1 for the singles and 8:1 to ply. If you want to get technical (but who does), then you want to look at what thickness of yarn you want to spin, how much twist per inch it might need (here's a great table of WPI/TPI match-ups for basic knitting yarns), and how long a length you're likely to draft at a time.

For example ... my draft with that combination might be about 4 inches (probably less at the start!) If I'm shooting for a DK (14-15wpi) 2-ply, they recommend 3 tpi (which honestly seems a little low, to me). That means the singles will be about 21-25 wpi, and would need about 4.5 tpi. So, my 4 inches of drafted out fiber needs 18 twists in it -- or, at 12:1, 1-and-a-half treadles. Not too bad.

The Joy has ball bearings in all the right places, so its treadle action is smooth and easy. It would be a suitable wheel for many uses. In fact, my local Joy-owning friends spin pretty much the full gamut -- fine high-twist weaving yarns, thick low-twist knitting yarns, art yarns, singles, 2-ply, wool, llama, wool/silk blends, and I bet some angora and mohair along the way, too. Melissa isn't the only one to pair the Joy with a Schacht Matchless; Kym does, too. Beth has some Ashford Traditionals as well, as she teaches and is a wonderful local enabler. I believe Mikie has just the Ashford Joy -- she's tried a few others along the way, and this suits her spinning and lifestyle as an "only" wheel.

So, in conclusion ... the Ashford Joy is a very portable wheel, and would spin your fiber combination just fine. For finer yarns, you may find yourself treadling alot or drafting more slowly to ensure enough twist -- but it's hard to find a wheel with a ratio above 18:1, especially a portable wheel.

If you are shopping around wheel brands, The Woolery has a very nicely done wheel comparison and another that focuses on several folding wheel. I expect their focus is on wheels they carry -- so the SpinOlution Mach 1, the Journey Wheel, the Pocket Wheel, and others may not show up there. The Fall 2008 issue of Spin-Off (appearing soon!) contains a big wheel review section covering many wheels. Spin-List on Yahoo is a good resource for wheel information, if you like searching archives; Ravelry's Spinner Central is another good place, as well as the wheel-specific groups that abound there.

If you've fallen in love with the look of the Joy, then go for it! Enjoying how your wheel looks and feels is as much a part of the process as ensuring it's suitable for the fiber you intend to throw at it and the yarn you want to take off of it afterwards.
Rainbow at Midnight handspun


Anonymous said...

I like the Joy wheels. They are so portable and easy to setup and get spinning on them; The bag is great; makes it easy to carry and I'm not worried about it getting banged around too much in my car.
I just ordered a Joy DT and am awaiting it's arrival. I had a Single treadle previously but found I didn't get along well with a single treadle.

Things I don't like about the joy: The quality control on the flyer is a bit lacking. My last JOy (the ST) and a friend's both had burrs in the flyer orifice where your yarn travels. A small metal file quickly solved that problem; but it was annoying to even have to figure out and then fix. We'll see if my new one has the same problem or not. I also don't like how the hooks are on two different sides of the flyer arms; and the location of the orifice hole prevents you from just putting the hooks on the same side.

I know one person who has the Joy as their only wheel and it works great for her because of space issues and portability reasons.

knittingdragonflies said...

Thanks you are a wealth of information on wheels.
Still searching for my perfect first wheel

Anonymous said...

I will admit the Joy my DH recently gave me wasn't my first choice of wheels, I thought I was happy with all my wheels and that I didn't need or want a Joy. Now after having been spinning on it for the last 2 months, I really do like it. It's very portable, with quick set up and break down. It's the most portable wheel I own, well ok, 2nd most, my Pocket is easier to set up, since it's just a drop it and spin wheel :).

I have to agree with Nancy on the quality control, I'm the friend who had a burr. I'm not real happy with the fact that the hooks are on 2 different sides and the orifice is situated in such away that you can't just flip it to the other side, makes for little hills on my bobbins, but it doesn't bother me enough to want a Woolee Winder for this wheel. The only other thing I am not the happiest with is the lack of higher ratios, I agree with Amelia, speed is the name of the game.

For space issues and portability, it would be my first choice, now that i've spent some time getting to know Joy better, but I wouldn't want it as my only wheel, though I do know at least 1 person personally who has a Joy as their only wheel and is very happy with it.

Anonymous said...

My father gave me a double treadle Joy as a gift a couple of years ago, when I told him I had wanted to learn to spin since he was sheep ranching when I was a teenager. It has been my only wheel til very recently. I am apparently not a "fast" spinner because I can happily spin fine yak down singles on the Joy.

It is very portable and easy to learn to use. So far it has done almost everything i have asked it to do, well.

Downsides - I haven't had the quality control issues with burrs that others have had, but I agree completely about the flyer hooks on opposite sides. It is not the wheel for someone who is interested in spinning super bulky or novelty yarns. The orifice just doesnt work.

Overall I have been quite happy with it and even tho I now own other wheels, I have no intention of selling it off.

Amelia of Ask The Bellwether said...

Wow! thanks everyone for the great comments.

@leanne, on the topic of art yarns, my local friend Melissa made a simple quill to stick in the Orifice of her Joy. She soon got the hang of it. It's just an 8" length of 3/8" diameter dowel, with the end by her carved down to a blunt point.