Choosing a Spinning Wheel

Schacht Spinning Wheel ExampleDefining how you will use your Spinning Wheel is the key to a successful choice. The three main pointers are discussed in general terms below.

First, decide on how much travelling the spinning wheel will do. Is it being carried around and taken by car and by air? Consider also whether the wheel will be used for production rate spinning and whether finer or heavier yarn is normally spun, or across the full range of grists. Finally, think about the importance of appearance. Is it very much a working wheel or must it look ‘right’ in its normal setting?

The design of a spinning wheel is a compromise between the size of the driving wheel and its position relative to the flyer which creates the yarn. The inertia of a larger wheel makes for easier spinning, but creates a heavier structure. A smaller spinning wheel is more compact and portable. However they do require greater effort to create a bobbin of good quality yarn.

There are many wheels available which cover a wide range of styles and prices. Most can meet the need of a beginner spinner, and will continue to meet your needs as your skills develop.

The spinning wheels supplied by Fibrecrafts are selected from the best worldwide, emphasising spinning performance, robustness through the structural design and manufacturing quality, as well as good appearance. We do not make wheels and we can therefore give an unbiased view on their characteristics. Always ask for advice on your choice as help is willingly and freely given.

Single or Double Treadle?

A double treadle spinning wheel balances the strain on your legs and lower back over long periods of spinning.

With smaller diameter spinning wheels, the lower momentum makes it difficult to maintain consistent rotation at the slow spinning speeds used for drafting some fibres. A double treadle minimises this problem, although a disadvantage of the double treadle is that the spinner sits ‘square on’ to the spinning wheel, and this position can make a proper long draw more difficult since the yarn is carried across the body.

Learn more about types of spinning wheel

New or Second Hand?

Many spinning wheels are purchased second hand. This is particularly true of the industrially made wheels available since the 1960’s. Modern hand made wheels and antique wheels are more rarely available and both the quality and craftsmanship varies considerably. Since most wheels are made of wood, the prior history and storage is important. There is a risk of warping, cracking, shrinkage and worm damage leading to difficulties in use. Vital parts may also be missing which are impossible to replace without access to a skilled craftsman. A number of ‘decor’ wheels were made by woodworkers. These workers had little knowledge of a working spinning wheel, and they do not spin well. It is vital to see and try a wheel before purchasing.

A good second hand spinning wheel, supplied with a good range of accessories, the original assembly instructions, and some fibre can be excellent value. With this package, expect to pay around half of the current cost of the new wheel.

Selecting a new spinning wheel gives the spinner a choice of the layout of wheel and flyer, and the correct range of fitments to produce the intended yarn. It comes with all the maker’s guarantees and technical support of the retailer. Buying a new wheel ensures that it is fit for the purpose.

Shetland, Cashmere, black Alpaca, Camel, Jacob, Mohair, Bluefaced Leicester, grey Alpaca

Most new spinning wheels come with the option of a Scotch Tension or a Double Drive arrangement for the band linking the wheel, flyer and bobbin. Each has its adherents, but it is a help to be able to change between the two for spinning some types of yarn. Some wheels also offer a wide range of whorl ratios to allow the spinner to move easily from spinning the longer wool fibres to the shorter cashmere and cotton fibres.

There are many adaptations for wheels, some of which can be added later. However some must be built into the wheel during manufacture.

These skeins were spun by Coralie Miles
(From top) Shetland, Cashmere, black Alpaca, Camel, Jacob, Mohair, Bluefaced Leicester, grey Alpaca.

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