What is the Hopper?

meet the hopper
By Amelia © February 24, 2010

The Hopper ...

Let's say you want to spin art yarns. And you want to take classes. And you want to go to spin-ins. Your Mach I or Mach II is great, but boy, it's tall! and heavy to lug around. SpinOlution comes to the rescue again ... meet, The Hopper!

This wheel has a cool innovation even beyond what SpinOlution has already done, and I'm not talking about its size (after all, if we want small, we can also look at the Merlin Tree Hitchhiker, the Spinaway Holiday Wheel, or the Pocket Wheel). I'm talking about its treadling.

Mike (the man behind SpinOlution) took the rocking, side-to-side treadle and raised it off the ground a few inches. Your heels or the arch of your foot goes on the treadles. What raising the treadles did was evolutionary: the Hopper's treadle uses your large-muscle groups, quads and glutes; your ankle needn't move at all.

I've seen two initial reactions to this wheel, and it depended really on the person's height. My own reaction was echoed by other tall people: "ummm, this seems hard to treadle..." but in reality, we weren't sitting high enough. I moved up from my slouchy sofa to a dining room chair, and treadling was amazing. Totally different leg motion from the Bee, light as a feather in the lower ratios and still easy as a traditional treadle in its higher ratios.

Shorter people, in pretty much any chair, take to the Hopper instantly. It's amazing to see them sit down and get it, no matter where. Almost makes me wish I was short. But, I did find that my Majacraft spinning stool was the perfect height (18" high) for my 5'9" leggy frame. So, Hopper and stool go as a pair to spin-ins.

Both heights ask, after a few minutes of treadling -- isn't this going to make me sore? They can tell right away it's using different muscle groups. In my own spinning, I've not found any next-day soreness as a result of one-hour-to-two-hour sessions on the Hopper, which is very pleasing indeed. Now, when my ankles are sore from other things, I have an alternative to my electric wheel: the Hopper!

So, you're walking up to this wheel, you have a good chair, and you are aware that the leg muscles you're moving are moving. But what about the wheel? After all, isn't this about spinning yarn?

Ahh, let me tell you ... it's lovely! I mostly spin a DK-weight 2-ply these days (that's CVM wool 2-ply there in the picture), moving into laceweight for weaving, and occasional forays into art yarns. The Hopper comes with the Art Yarn flyer standard, but even my regular spinning filled a bobbin evenly, using the offset pegs on both sides of the flyer. It was up to the task for me, and has easily accomplished singles and plying alike.

The bobbin is the same as that on the Mach I/II (they're interchangeable!) so it holds 8-10 ounces of spun, plied yarn -- very generous! I can spin two bobbins full of singles on my Bee, then ply on the Hopper knowing it will all fit and then some.

For laceweight singles, I use a couple of standard techniques to decrease the empty-bobbin drag: lacing the yarn back-and-forth across the pegs like one shoelace in a shoe; and adding a foam pipe-insulation around the bobbin's core to decrease the distance from flyer to the yarn storage surface. All told, I might still spin my finest singles on my Bee, with its generous 35:1 top ratio, but plying on the Hopper at its top ratio of 19:1 is very tempting, to get two Bee bobbins' worth onto one Hopper bobbin.

The Hopper folds up so it can be stored in a 19 x 20.5 x 7.5 inner dimension carrier (a black canvas zippered tote is in the works, too ... one raveler found a 22" cymbal carrying bag that works perfectly). But it also has a great handle up at the top for pick-up-and-go. The one 'improvement' I've put in a request for, is a way to latch the wheel rest in the open position; it latches closed, but when open, there's nothing to keep it open when you lift the wheel. I've considered a judiciously placed thick rubber band, so I can tote my wheel around the floor at spin-ins as I bounce from friend to friend, visiting as many as I can.

Can you learn to spin on this wheel? Yes. Ratios go from 1.5:1 to 19:1 (1.5:1 is shown here), so it will grow with you from starting to sock yarns, and handle the low-ratio art yarns just fine as well. We had a new spinner going great on the Hopper at Madrona Fiber Arts Festival, and he was even spinning Suri Alpaca, a tricky fiber to master; the Hopper handled it all like a champ.

The Hopper has all the flyer innovations found in other SpinOlution wheels:
  • pegs and hook for open threading, so you can interrupt a plying job without breaking your singles; everything slides past, thick, thin, and even boucle.
  • cordless scotch tension, so when you change bobbins, there's no need to reset a brake band.
  • magnetic quick-release orifice arm, so changing bobbins is simple.
I've found it to be reliable and enjoyable, and know that I will have a lot of fun with my Hoppy Hopper in 2010 and beyond! If you're interested in others' views on the Hopper, I'd recommend the Ravelry SpinOlution! group for insights from others, as well as my own recent comparison of the Hopper and the Pocket Wheel.

I know, I've skipped over the SpinOlution Mach II, an upgrade from the Mach I; and the SpinOlution Echo, a great wheel to learn on and for those on a budget. I'll fill in the gaps, in future posts.

SpinOlution also makes a Keep it Simple Kate - see their YOuTube video on its use. It fits the SpinOlution bobbins, and is designed specifically for them.

You can also use a Nancy's Knit Knacks Kate, an Alexandra's Crafts Vertical Mini-Kate (shown here with the Hopper in an Eddie Bauer tote), a Will Taylor Clever Kate (no website, see my flickr), or the new Ogle Designs Kate (ask for 7-3/4" rods, though!). Each will fit the Hopper's bobbins, and several tip the bobbins at a 45-degree angle, so there's no need for an auxiliary braking system. Any upright Kate should also work -- put a rubber band across pairs of posts with bobbins on them to add a braking system, since the Hopper bobbins do not have a groove in them.

Yes, The Bellwether does sell these wheels, and I'd be happy if you purchased one from me. That said, finding a local vendor makes perfect sense, and you can find a list of those on SpinOlution's website. I will have the wheels with me at the Spindrifter's Spin-In (Bellingham, WA) on March 13th, at the Whidbey Spin-In (Oak Harbor, WA) on April 10-11, and at Black Sheep Gathering (Eugene, OR) in June. And they are always available for a test-drive at my fiber studio.
© February 24, 2010 by Ask The Bellwether, posted at http://askthebellwether.com/blog


Jame said...

Thank you for the review. My Hopper is due to be delivered tomorrow and I ordered it untried, although I did try a Bee and a Mach II. I wanted something portable with big bobbins and this looked like it would fill the bill, but it's good to see confirmation of that with your review.

Dave Daniels said...

This is a great review of the wheel. I've been considering it since they came out. The ONLY reservation I have is the company name carved into the wood. It takes away from the overall aesthetics of it. It's like a toaster cover saying TOASTER. {shudder}

Gladtobemom said...

Do you know of any video actually showing the treadling motion? I have a Mach I and a traveling wheel that takes the same bobbins is VERY attractive. I've not bought a bee because of that very thing. I gave up a Schacht Matchless single treadle for the Mach I, but it's not very portable. I'd LOVE to have a little wheel that I could just carry along.

I'm just worried about the treadling. I have a weak left ankle and what I love about the Mach I is that I can literally treadle with almost no effort.

Amelia of Ask The Bellwether said...

@gladtobemom -- there aren't yet any Hopper videos out there, but I'd keep an eye on youTube, someone may post one. The Ravelry group has had a few requests for one, too.

Gladtobemom said...

I'll keep checking and I think I'll request one from Spinolutions.