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...)
Now 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.