Really, a metal spinning wheel?

Dear Toni,

It was really great to see you and your amazing spindle and wheel collection when I was in Colorado last summer. Thanks for asking then about my Columbine wheel ( ). The bright yellow was a good choice for me -- very cheerful. There are several color options available, including a much more sedate forest green and a yummy plum. These are unique wheels, being made from metal rather than wood.

I'd compare it to a Louet for spinning feel, despite it being a double drive wheel. In my experience, most double drive wheels have fairly soft draw in. But then, most have cotton drive bands on wooden grooves. The Columbine has poly drive bands on metal grooves -- very much grippier (is that a word?) than the traditional cotton on wood. So, the draw in is very strong, like Louets' Irish tension tends to be.

Since I like Louets, I felt comfortable spinning it. I am tempted to try a hemp drive band to see if that softens the drive band -- but you know me. If it took me 6 months to write this to you, it could be another 6 before I try a different drive band material.

The bobbins are immense -- though not much wider than traditional bobbins, they are easily twice as long as Ashford's. So they hold a lot! I spun up a 4 ounce skein and even the full plied 4 ounces looked like not much on the bobbin. You can say the beauty of the yarn is from the skill of the spinner, but the wheel also had to contribute, as I spun a yarn outside of my default yarn, a plump, soft, squishy two-ply. As you can see from the skein-shot, it turned out really well -- I attribute that to the quality of the wheel as much as to the talent of my hands.

One thing I had to get used to -- you cannot lift the wheel by the bobbin/flyer, as the flyer's rod (the spindle) is resting in a bracket at the back, rather than being pushed into a holder. Sure, it's not wise to lift a wheel that way in general, so I'm happy to have to correct a bad habit. My other wheels will benefit.

I got my Columbine with the matching lazy kate. The bobbins are extra-tall, so I'm not sure if they would fit on my other kates. They do have a very wide center tube, so the rod diameter would not matter. But you would want a long kate rod (how long, you ask? ummm... I will follow up with that info). I am a plyer who likes to position her kate away from her wheel, so that works well for me. And I can "store" the kate on the wide treadle of the Columbine, so it is pretty easy to tote along with the wheel. There is also an option for an on-board kate, which would be appealing for bobbin storage at least, if you have a kate for plying on hand already.

My past experience with Columbines before this wheel was helping a lady with one get it to spin well. She needed to set and then refine the tension, it didn't take long to get it spinning well. It was enough to make me interested in the wheel, so when the maker had a booth near mine at Black Sheep Gathering, I trotted on over to see cost and if I could carry them to offer them to my spinning students.

Being me, I ended up taking one home. Nothing like a skein or threes' experience to tell me how a beginner would take to the wheel. It is a good beginner-and-grow-into wheel. I would feel comfortable teaching someone on it, and would know they could have an entire spinning career on just this wheel. There's a decent range of ratios, it's sturdy and travels in cars well, and bobbin size is a big plus. It has the modern amenity of sliders instead of hooks on the flyer -- the best improvement to wheels in the past several decades.

I continue to be a big fan of castle wheels in general, and would love to find a Louet S-90 like yours with its lovely painted wheel. My teaching herd (Louets, Spinolutions, Ashfords, a Babe and a Sequoia) is happy to welcome in the cheerful yellow Columbine.

Until we meet again (will I see you at Blacksheep Gathering? I'm teaching there this year!),

© February 28, 2013 by Ask The Bellwether, posted at


Mastinomama said...

Dear Amelia,

it was due to your report that I finally decided to get a Columbine to use here in Germany. You described it SO well!

Thanks a lot for this report.

Best regards,

Amelia of Ask The Bellwether said...

This is what Anonymous said (had to delete it, it had their email in it -- didn't want them tagged with spam):
Amelia, a perfect, personal review. I also have a Columbine and keep it at the cottage as it does not suffer from temperature changes. But the drive band did become yellowed and over stretched.

QUESTION: got a new drive band without instructions. How do I put it on?

Here is my response:
To put the band on, you actually have to disconnect the wheel from the footman so that you can get it around the pieces correctly. I put two on at a time, so that when the first one gets old, I can just pop the second one in place. Once that one breaks, I put two more on.

Another alternative is to use hemp twine, so you can tie the band in place, rather than use a fully-formed ring already. The hemp twine is less grabby in the grooves as well, so you actually get finer control over the draw-in.

Unknown said...

where can i find this wheel? did they go out of business?