I was recently asked by a new-to-me Michael what was important to me in a spinning wheel. It set me to thinking a fair bit about that, and developing a "short list":
What would I want in a wheel?
- quiet ... this is really important for me, as I spin in the evenings while hubby watches a show or we talk. Even my electric wheel is the quietest available (the Butterfly). Majacraft, SpinOlution, and the Pocket Wheel are all nice, quiet wheels. This takes a fair bit of engineering and tight fit of things like bobbins, treadles, and the like.
- ratios ... I'm a fast spinner, so most of my spinning is as high as I can crank up my wheel; I love 30+-to-1 ratios. That said, if it's fat singles, I want about 10:1. And if I'm teaching someone on my wheel, even lower is good!
- smooth/easy treadling ... obvious, right? the foot action needs to be continuous and balanced if it's a double treadle, not a syncopated rhythm. I put my Majacraft together wrong at first and was quite disappointed; luckily I soon learned it was my mistake, corrected it, and now have smooth treadling. The SpinOlution wheels have the easiest treadling I've ever found, due in part to their completely novel approach to the topic.
- stands up to continuous use ... I spin alot. Breaking brake bands or drive bands are a real bummer.
- generous bobbin capacity; option for plying bobbin a plus ... we love big bobbins! Though when I spin laceweight, the small size bobbin can be a plus, because you really don't want to fight 4 ounces of laceweight singles all at one time (okay, maybe you do -- I don't!)
- easy to change out bobbins ... I admit, this was the one weak spot of my Schacht Matchless (the cadillac of wheels). I love the treadle-on/treadle-off ease of the Majacraft and the simple pinch-and-pull of the SpinOlution wheels.
- 14 pounds-ish ... that's an easy-to-haul weight for me. Journey Wheel, Majacraft's Pro, The Bee Travel Wheel, the Lendrum all fall in that bracket. The Pocket Wheel exceeds it, at a mere 6-7 pounds!
- won't lose the drive band during a car ride on gravel roads ... nothing so annoying as having to get one back on, bleh. Sure, a minor annoyance, but if I can avoid it, I do.
- easy to replace drive band (both material and to put on the wheel) ... can you tell I have a thing about drive bands? You see, I broke my Majacraft drive band and found out I had to partially disassemble the wheel to put a new one one. So I bought 2 and put them both on, the spare at the ready! The Pocket and the Hitchhiker win this, with no drive band at all! The SpinOlution wheels are replaceable without taking the wheel apart, which is nice.
- appealing to the eye ... I love the sleek look of the Majacraft, but have to admit the Jensen Tina II turned my head (and made me scribble in my checkbook!). There's something to be said for fairytale spoked wheels. That said, the Danish-modern of the Louet and the SpinOlution wheels have their own appeal, especially in a modern IKEA-furnished home. And the Hitchhiker has a whimsy all its own. The variety of wheels out there clearly shows the wide taste we spinners have for our wheels.
Part of what I look for in a wheel is related to how I spin. I mostly spin DK weight or finer 2-plies; occasionally I spin thick low-twist singles or art yarn.
And, I do sell the Bee and the Mach II from SpinOlution; be sure to stop by my booth at Black Sheep Gathering this weekend to give them each a spin! It's a great opportunity to compare them to all the wheels out there, as Carolina Homespun, Woodland Woolworks, and other vendors bring a wide variety of wheels for road testing too: Lendrum, Ashford, Kromski, Schacht, Louet, Fricke, and more.
So, what would you want in a wheel? Leave your input on the comments here, and I'll make sure to pass them on to Michael. After all, I told him, each spinner has their own opinion!
Be sure to see Spin-Off's Spinning Wheel Round-Up for a list of features of a wide variety of wheels!
For details on several wheels I've reviewed on this blog, see the Wheels post list.
posted 15 June 2009 at http://askthebellwether.blogspot.com/