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 Beginner wheel??

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ikkivan Posted - 01/20/2014 : 3:39:25 PM
It's been awhile since there has been a discussion here, so I'm bringing up a periodic topic: suggestions for a spinning wheel for a beginner who must teach herself all about it.

I have been spindling enough now to think I would like to try a basic wheel. I would like suggestions for such a wheel for a person who lives nowhere near any place where she can try it out first and doubts she can find anyone to teach her hands-on.

Is this even possible, with a mail-order wheel and videos/DVDs?

Donna, with intentions always bigger than her available time. (OkieDokieKnitter on Ravelry)
20   L A T E S T    R E P L I E S    (Newest First)
robinstephanie Posted - 02/05/2014 : 09:26:23 AM
Shelia, welcome home, and WOW, Antarctica. That is so cool. I want to ask a ton of questions, but maybe in another thread. I hope you had an amazing time!

And I knew you'd have a ton of helpful info to add to this discussion. I always learn great spinning lore when you chime in.


Different is good. ~Matthew Hoover
Shelia Posted - 02/03/2014 : 10:50:29 AM
Donna, my wheels run the gamut from antique to modern, custom made to an Ashford traditional, and some are always loaned out to beginners. They just multiply!

Good luck with your wheel being made, it may need some tweaking as the mechanics can seem simple but there are subtleties to great wheel action. Let us know when it's finished and post a photo, maybe at the KR group on Ravelry, so we can all see it.


ravelry name - sheliaknits
ikkivan Posted - 02/02/2014 : 5:58:15 PM
Shelia, you have 28 spinning wheels? TWENTY-EIGHT? I think I may have at least that many spindles ...

Thank you for more food for thought. While I certainly appreciate a beautifully hand-crafted "furniture" item, I am really more interested in something that will get the job done here, at least while I'm learning.

Donna, with intentions always bigger than her available time. (OkieDokieKnitter on Ravelry)
Shelia Posted - 02/02/2014 : 08:45:19 AM
I'm just back from Antarctica, Robinstephanie, and have been re-entering normal life! Seriously, it takes a few days after 3+ weeks away.

I like every one of the wheels mentioned so far, some more than others but they are all good. You will learn to spin on a wheel with whichever one you get, and the first wheel for most spinners is the gateway drug. Unless you decide spinning is not for you, and contrary to some popular opinions all knitters don't need to be spinners, there will be more or other wheels in your future. For this reason I usually advise buying a good used wheel as a first wheel. If you are worried about getting help or parts for a used wheel, buy a widely used brand such as Ashford, Lendrum, or Majacraft. Wheels are sturdy and hold their resale value, so generally a used wheel will spin with only a little (or none needed) TLC, and if it's not the perfect wheel for you it can be re-sold when a different wheel is found.

For a first wheel that is easy to spin on, Scotch tension (a wheel drive system with separate adjustment bands or strings for the brake and the drive wheel) is often recommended. Louet wheels (except for the Julia and Victoria) and some others use Irish or bobbin lead tension which has a much stronger "pull-in" of the fiber being spun so they can be a bit more of a challenge for a beginner, but are certainly still possible to learn on. Double drive wheels are often but not always Saxony (fairy tale style, a largish wheel on the side of a board called a table, flyer and bobbin can be to the right or left of the drive wheel) style, and while not always recommended people have been learning on them for hundreds of years. The drive/brake band is a large continuous figure 8 that adjusts both, for some it is fiddly but others prefer this system. Double or single treadle is really just a personal preference, I have and spin comfortably on both. Sliding or fixed hooks are again a personal preference, I like the minute adjustments possible with sliding hooks but its easy to slide too far or not enough, or forget in the zen of spinning and get a big lump!

If you are still deciding and it seems there are so many choices, buy a used wheel for a fair price ($300-400 for Ashfords and most Louets, $500-600+ for Majacrafts, Schacts and Lendrums) that you can replace with a dream wheel down the road and not lose money on when you sell it. I am not a big fan of Kromski wheels and they don't hold their value as well, except the Sonata, but they are widely available used as well. I do have a strong preference for valuing wheels as tools rather than for pretty, and that's often the reason beginners start with Kromski wheels, and probably why there are so many used ones available.

ravelry name - sheliaknits
ikkivan Posted - 02/01/2014 : 07:10:39 AM
Well, I found the answer to my question about the hooks on Ask the Bellwether ... so far the only place I've seen this addressed (but then, since I do not yet have a wheel, I haven't seen a manual, which probably explains it): the hooks on BOTH sides are used (for anyone else who may be uninformed). They are usually offset from each other, so one uses the hooks down one side of the flyer and then moves to the other side of the flyer to fill in all the little "valleys" made while winding on using hooks on the first side. Now that I look more closely at the diagram on one set of plans I have, I see there are 7 hooks on one side and 8 on the other; I didn't even notice that before.

I still plan to stick to a sliding hook (infinite positions), but at least now I know more about the procedure!

Donna, with intentions always bigger than her available time. (OkieDokieKnitter on Ravelry)
Deeda Posted - 01/31/2014 : 6:58:52 PM
Fantastic information! Thank you, Donna, for asking this question. A friend and I are just about ready to go looking for our first spinning wheel and we are about as lost as you can be. Fortunately we live in a great area for fiber artists so we have had some good advise but the folks here are all such pros and haven't spoken about what they learned on. Thank you everyone for great ideas.
finnsmydog Posted - 01/31/2014 : 3:06:08 PM
Hi Donna.

Jumping in to second (or is it third or fourth??) the Lendrum as a wheel.

I resisted spinning for a very long time. But, I opened my mouth in front of someone I should not have opened my mouth in front of (I said, "I'm never going to spin" in front of Morgaine from Caroline Homespun) absolutely the wrong person. I actually had a chance to sit in front of a few wheels, as I was at Madrona.

I liked the Lendrum for its simplicity of construction, actually. I was too much of a newbie to know if the wheel spun well from one to the next. It was really important to me to be able to see how the mechanics worked on the wheel, so I can easily assemble, take apart, self-service, etc. I didn't need the wheel to be portable, but I'm SO glad that it is.

I have supplemented my initial purchase with the very fast flyer (I seem to spin "thin", and love to knit lace), and the Jumbo plying bobbin --- and use both regularly.

I love my wheel. I can't recommended more highly --- and I love Maggie Casey's DVD and watch it often to remind me of everything she taught us in class (because I am a lucky duck who got to take a spinning class with her).

I can see, if I am going to do many sweater quantities of yarn, that I could maybe want a Matchless. I have spun a little on that wheel and that is truly a nice wheel and I felt like I could spin more consistently for a longer time on that wheel. I've not jumped in though, and even if I get another wheel, I don't think I will let my Lendrum go.

I have had several people try spinning on my wheel too and I think it's a very intuitive wheel.

Hope that helps.
ikkivan Posted - 01/31/2014 : 12:21:54 PM
Oh my, there is no end to my questions: despite watching numerous online videos (I'm still hoping to watch them ALL), I have not seen (or it did not register if I did) an explanation of why the spinner uses the hooks on one side of the flyer and not the other ... some flyers have hooks on both sides; does it matter which side is used? Once the flyer is in place, is there a "top" or "bottom" side to it?

I will watch one video and focus on ONE thing I'm looking for; then a few days later I find myself watching the same video again to concentrate on something else. Sigh.

Donna, with intentions always bigger than her available time. (OkieDokieKnitter on Ravelry) Posted - 01/31/2014 : 09:59:45 AM
I would have 2 suggestions: first is to wait until there is a gathering of some sort where the beginner could go, try out wheels, and chat up spinners about what they like and dislike about their wheels.

The second is that I truly love my Louet S10-DT. I have always gotten frustrated with the Scotch tension other wheels use and the less to mess with as far as I'm concerned. The double treadle keeps both my feet going. And I can spin anything from very fine lace-weight - that is still lace-weight when Navajo plied - to worsted weight. The bobbins have good capacity.

Susan in Downeast Maine.

Susan - on MDI
robinstephanie Posted - 01/31/2014 : 09:17:48 AM
Donna, I think the slidey thing on the flyer is great. The Lendrum has a line of stationary hooks and I have a hard time getting my yarn to pile up evenly.

Also, and others can weigh in here, or maybe you and your neighbor have already been reading about this—I believe the tension systems are different on castle versus saxony wheels. I think castles have what's called Scotch tension, and Saxonys have double-drive tension. This is another reason people like to test drive spinning wheels, because some people prefer one type of tension over another. I don't think one is better than the other, they're just different types of adjustments.

Shelia, Shelia, where art thou, Shelia?!


Different is good. ~Matthew Hoover
ikkivan Posted - 01/31/2014 : 09:14:21 AM
Okay, another question that probably seems dumb ... when starting to spin, one starts the drive wheel with her hand so it goes clockwise (for singles) and starts it going the other way to ply. Is this right? I guess what I'm trying to get my head around is that it IS the big wheel that determines the direction of the twist, and not something done to the flyer that changes this.

Also, can some of you who have used both offer input on preferences for the stationary hooks versus the sliding hooks?

I do get to attend the annual DFW FiberFest about every-other year ... last year is when I got hooked on spindles. But I won't be able to go this year to try out some wheels, as there is a conflict with another event.

Thanks for all the sharing here!

Donna, with intentions always bigger than her available time. (OkieDokieKnitter on Ravelry)
honestabby Posted - 01/30/2014 : 10:31:28 AM
I took spinning lessons from a local shop where I was able to test drive a variety of wheels. I'm glad I did, because I liked the Ashford Kiwi 2 best. So my advice is to attend a fiber fest where there are wheel vendors and try all the products for yourself. Good luck!

My blog:
ikkivan Posted - 01/30/2014 : 08:49:23 AM
Sheera, I live in southern Oklahoma, and there is no such thing as a true LYS closer than Oklahoma City or the Dallas-Fort Worth area (a minimum of 100 miles away); to most folks around here, the "LYS" is Wal-Mart. I don't do extensive driving, either. As far as fiber farms, that's cotton in Oklahoma!

Oh, I know there are undoubtedly some spinners around, but I would rather do it myself, I guess, when I get right down to it. I am not willing/able to drive a couple of hours to get to lessons if I can do it on my own.

Thank you for your comment about the castle-type wheel encouraging good posture ... that's the one I'm leaning toward, really, in the styles my neighbor and I are considering for him to build. He wants to build a Saxony type, because that is what he sees in his mind when he hears the words, "spinning wheel." But he'll make what I want. I see on most modern wheels that the orifice height is usually somewhere in the 25" to 28" range, which is about right for me when sitting in a standard chair. We're trying to look at all angles!

Floor space is not an issue for me right now, as I have plenty of room, but that may not always be the case. I guess I just like the castle-type wheel because it looks as if everything is right there in one place.

I think we also will go with the sliding hook on the flyer, rather than the line of stationary hooks.

Donna, with intentions always bigger than her available time. (OkieDokieKnitter on Ravelry)
sheera Posted - 01/30/2014 : 06:57:20 AM
A well-balanced wheel will not tip over. I like the upright model because it encourages good posture! (Obviously I'm a beginner. Not a problem when you know what you are doing.)

I'm curious about where you live, because you say you won't be able to find a teacher. You can be as resourceful about finding a teacher as you are about finding a wheel-for example, by contacting your region's spinning guild. I found a teacher at a farmer's market. Also, look for fiber farms in your region; you may be able to set up lessons there. Don't assume there isn't someone to teach you to spin just because your LYS doesn't hold classes.
suebkk Posted - 01/30/2014 : 06:34:27 AM
I was in the same position as you about 2 years ago. I got online advice from a dealer that carries a number of wheels, and she advised me to look at either an Ashford Joy or a Lendrum. I couldn't try either out, so I chose the Joy based on its looks and portability. I can put it in a hardside suitcase and send it in checked baggage, which was important to me. It was extremely easy to learn with the help of some YouTube videos--I went from spindle to wheel with almost no learning curve. I later purchased a Schacht Matchless, and that took me quite awhile before my spinning was anywhere near as even as it was on the Joy.

robinstephanie Posted - 01/27/2014 : 09:48:46 AM
I've never had a problem with a wheel tipping over, but I've only ever had the one.

And yes, people DO still use distaffs, to spin linen.


Different is good. ~Matthew Hoover
ikkivan Posted - 01/27/2014 : 08:13:39 AM
Okay, a related question (possibly a dumb question, which won't be my first) ... has anyone ever had a problem with a spinning wheel tipping over? When I look at different designs, I wonder if the castle-type is top heavy, and if the Saxony type is heavy on the wheel end? Also, some have a distaff for holding fiber ... do spinners use those nowadays?

Donna, with intentions always bigger than her available time. (OkieDokieKnitter on Ravelry)
robinstephanie Posted - 01/26/2014 : 09:54:24 AM
Wow, Donna, that's really cool. I hope you both enjoy the process and the results!


Different is good. ~Matthew Hoover
yarnlover Posted - 01/25/2014 : 5:36:20 PM
I'd be excited at this too. What an opportunity to design a wheel that not many spinners ever have. Have fun with this project and keep us updated with progress.

As far as more than one wheel, well I have four and do use them all. Different things on different wheels, sort of like knitters (me too) who have multiple projects on multiple needles at the same time. I do know someone who has over 20 wheels, some collectible vs. the ones she uses, but still that's quite a collection.

See My Stuff: Here

ikkivan Posted - 01/25/2014 : 10:34:23 AM
Well, it's good that I have plenty of room in my home for spinning wheels, in case I turn into one of those spinners I read about who ends up with more than one wheel! As it turns out now, my neighbor is going to make me a spinning wheel! He is a woodworker and already makes knitting needles and shawl pins; he has made me a niddy-noddy and nostepinne, also. He said he's always dreamed of building a spinning wheel, so mine will be his "learning-on" project, now that he has a reason. We are studying plans, reading, researching, etc. And we have the wood available already: black walnut, oak and bois d'arc (that's horse apples, to the unenlightened, a very hard, yellow-colored wood). It will be a single drive, castle type, and he will make several bobbins and perhaps more than one flyer. He said he will make two of them, one for me and one for display in case he has interest from others.

Anyway, it won't be available tomorrow, of course, but he is very excited about this and so am I. He is a wonderful neighbor and very close friends with my husband; they help each other with a lot of farm/homesteading projects.

So now I'll post a NEW question for another topic, but I won't forget these comments in case I, ahem, need a wheel before the handmade one is finished.

Donna, with intentions always bigger than her available time. (OkieDokieKnitter on Ravelry)

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