Why spin on an electric wheel?

Butterfly and FrogBy Amelia © October 23, 2009

Electric spinning wheels -- are they the poor little sister of the spinning wheel, even more snubbed than the simple spindle? Perhaps. But they have their place.

The decision to have an electric wheel is likely a pretty personal one. Here are a few reasons I've run across...

First, my own: clumsiness. Yes, "grace" is not my middle name. So very often I get horrid bruises on my legs from clocking my ankle against a staircase or doorjamb. Painful as they swell and for a week or two afterwards. At the height of it, this can make treadling a painful proposition. So, I pull out my electric wheel and spin away my troubles.

Underplied yarnI have found, too, that the electric wheel is a quick way to fix an underplied skein. You know the one -- you worked hard on it, gorgeous fiber, and then you run it off on your skeiner or niddy. Only to have a visible chunk of it showing underplied-ness. Sigh. Wash it and ignore it? No, can't do that. So, I put my skeiner next to my trusty electric wheel and quicker-than-spit, run it through onto the bobbin, slowing the uptake only on those low-twist sections. It looks so much better! I feel so much better! The electric wheel enjoys helping me like this, I am sure.

But those are my reasons. I know not everyone is as clumsy or as prone to irregular plying as I am!

The RV/boat spinner: they look for a small wheel, one they can travel with. Yes, there are many traditional travel wheels out there, and some adopt them. Some go to their spindles. But others don't want a spindle, and can't spare the floor space for a wheel. So, they go electric. Most electric wheels are table-top style models.

The non-traditionalist: at least one person I know didn't really like the look of a wheel, but wanted to spin. So, she took to an electric wheel, like a fish to water. It suits her desire to spin without making her feel like someone from the pre-industrial age. I am glad that spinning gives us so many options -- yes, I love my wheels and spindles. But I'm happy to see someone spinning in a way that suits them, be it wheel, spindle, charka, or e-spinner.

The production spinner: many production spinners use wheels; but of those, many also look to e-spinners to aid with plying. And some production spinners do most of their work on e-spinners. It simplifies the process, definitely. Less to coordinate, more likely to be consistent, and plying becomes much simpler and potentially faster, too.

The less able spinner: let's face it, we all get older. And parts of us don't work like they used to. Will I want to keep spinning into my golden years? I don't know. But I know I would like to keep spinning as long as my hands can manage it. And I've no idea what I'll do when they give out. The e-spinner is a way for people with foot/ankle issues to be able to spin, no matter what their age. I know mine is a boon to me when I've once again bruised an ankle.

Spin It, Electric WheelWhy the focus on electric wheels? I've definitely owned my share, usually not more than two at a time. I had an older model Spin-It (shown here), then a more modern (same maker) Fricke e-spinner. Then, I purchased a Butterfly, a very nice, quiet e-spinner made in lovely woods (mine is spalted/quilted maple). Very recently, I purchased the even smaller Hansen mini-spinner. Part of that purchase was a visit to their workshop and home, and we got to talking about why people have electric wheels. Kevin Hansen designed the mini-spinner for his wife Beth, to enable her to spin on their boat during their travels. She originally picked up spinning in Tasmania, starting with spindles. The wheel really didn't click for her, and their boat had, of course, limited space -- thus the mini-spinner was created. It's Beth's favorite spinning tool now, and she has fun spinning yarn on it.

The new e-spinner means I had to let my beautiful Butterfly go, of course. It's nice to be able to mark its impact on my life with this blog post, reviewing what I did with it while it was mine.

Here is the Butterfly in operation:

And here are several of the lovely skeins-in-progress I have spun on the Butterfly:

If you have your own reasons to share for spinning on an electric wheel, do post them in the comments -- I enjoy learning why we choose the tools we use.

© 23 October 2009 by Ask The Bellwether, posted at http://askthebellwether.blogspot.com/


Molly said...

How do you find the speed of the Hansen? As far as I know, the Butterfly is the fastest on the "pre-made" (ie not custom with a waiting list a la AA) market, and I find I'm often outspinning mine. If I'm wrong and the Hansen is faster, that would be great to know.

Amelia of Ask The Bellwether said...


First I should say that I can't outspin my Butterfly, though I can spin faster than its WooLee Winder can handle. So something to consider is if you are maxing out the WW -- it has the same top speed on every wheel, more than likely, due to the physics of the WW device itself.

Kevin did run a tachometer on the bobbin speeds of both; the Butterfly topped out at a bit over 1300 RPMs on the bobbin (manual flyer) and the Hansen topped out at about 1600 RPMs on the bobbin. So, their speed is comparable.

Unknown said...

Great post, Amelia! I love spinning singles almost as much as plied yarns... it's very satisfying after a very thin 3-ply to make one quick low-twist single and it can be nice for breaking up color monotony in the middle of a project to just fill a spare bobbin with something else. :)

Peg in South Carolina said...

The Butterfly is a wonderful wheel. I have spun on it each time I go to SAFF. Even brought my husband to see it. Wish we could afford it. My Babe does the job for me, but not as easily or gracefully, plus I can't ply on it. But I can't use the WooLee Winder on it because I spin way too fast.

Anonymous said...

I bought the Hansen when Amelia mentioned it would be a good thing for my neck, because I cant look down for long periods..at first I didnt take her suggestion too seriously, because I was interested in an Art Yarn wheel, but about two days later the light went on..and I began to look at the Hansen, saw what a great design it was, and how quiet it was,( thanks to Amelia's wonderful video)..So...I bought one, and am very happy with it..Its so comfortable,( for my body), and works like a dream..It will be lovely to have it as well as my other wheel..and since I have only had it for 3 days, I dont really know yet what it will do..but so far..it was a really good decision for me..