How I Chose my Spinning Wheel

When I checked my notifications this morning, I found a great question from iknead2knit. She wrote:

I’m starting to consider buying a wheel. Do you have any recommendations? I’ve been using a drop spindle.

Since I’ve been all spinning all the time lately with the Tour de Fleece in full force, I thought I would write a post explaining how I came to choose my own wheel.

Let’s back up just a smidge though. It’s important to note that like many spinners I attempted to learn to spin with a drop spindle. I am the first to admit that I was not skilled with it. In fact, I was pretty darn awful with a drop spindle. Pretty much all I accomplished with my drop spindle was to drop it… a lot. Now that I understand the process of spinning better using a drop spindle is generally not my first choice, but it is no longer outside my wheelhouse. I say this just to let you know that if you have tried to spin with a spindle and failed, try a wheel. For me, spinning with a wheel was significantly easier. Remember that people invent machines to make tasks simpler & faster to accomplish. The spinning wheel is no different. On the off chance you are like me & were awful when you tried a drop spindle, don’t give up on spinning just yet. Give the wheel a try — you might surprise yourself by finding that you are completely capable of making yarn after all.

That being said, I hemmed and hawed about learning to spin for a long time. Especially after my less than fantastic introductory time with the drop spindle, I was not convinced that making yarn for me. My main excuses were time & space — I have young kids and a teeny tiny house. Imagining finding time & making room for another hobby seemed ill-conceived. It was my husband & mum who teamed up and gave me the nudge. With my youngest child’s start in school looming on the horizon, my husband thought it would be a good distraction for me. He contacted my mum & together they surprised me with the funds necessary to go wheel shopping.

Now, where to begin?

Research the Basics. My husband did enough research to decide that surprising me with a wheel was probably not the best avenue in getting me one. As soon as I learned I was going to be wheel shopping, I started learning about spinning wheels. I didn’t know a ton & I’m still no expert but I do know the basics. Ratios, double vs single treadle, Scotch vs Irish tension, single vs double drive, spinning wheel types — there’s a ton to learn. You don’t have to be an expert before buying your wheel, but I recommend at least familiarizing yourself with the basic terminology and perhaps some pros & cons of the different set-ups before moving forward.

Space. For me in my teeny tiny house, space was a big issue. I do not have the space for a fairy tale style great wheel. Even a traditional wheel is too big in my current place. I looked to the more modern, compact designs — something the size of the the Schacht Ladybug or Ashford Traveller.

What do you want to spin? This is a tricky question, especially for a beginner. While most wheels will handle anything a new spinner wants to spin, there are other things to consider like if you think you’d like a jumbo or lace flyer eventually or if you want to invest in a lazy kate right away. If you think you might, look at if you can ‘upgrade’ your wheel with these extras and how much those ‘upgrades’ will cost. Some wheels are more amenable to a growing spinner than others.

How committed are you? It sounds like you are talking about a relationship not a hobby, but I think it’s a legitimate question. If you just want to try spinning, but aren’t sure you are really going to want to spin for years to come going with a good basic beginner wheel without a lot of bells and whistles may be the way to go. If you are like me though, and you kind of knew it was going to be a long-term thing, getting a wheel that you can grow into can save you money in the long run.

$$$. It always does boil down to how much can you afford, doesn’t it? What I encourage you to do is to look at all the accessories — bobbins, extra flyers, bobbins for the extra flyers, lazy kates, niddy noddys, extra parts, etc, that you will most likely need over the years. Add it all up & consider that when you are making your choice. Sometimes if you can afford a bigger bill up front, you can get everything you need right away rather than adding extra parts & accessories over the years.

Sit down and try as many wheels as you can. For some people this is easier than for others depending on the presence of local dealers. Trust me, though, when I say that if you can find a shop where you can test drive wheels it is worth a day trip to do so. The bottom line is that each wheel has a very distinct ‘feel’ to it and trying it out is really the best way to find the wheel that is right for you.

After studying & asking myself these questions, I knew that I wanted:

1) A modern, more compact spinning wheel.

2) A wheel that I could grow into, so a wheel for which I could get a jumbo & lace flyer were important.

3) A lazy kate for plying was on the menu of items I’d need right away, so that had to either be built-in or I would need to buy one.

4) I wanted a double treadle wheel. My bum hip left me with more than a few concerns about finding a wheel that would be comfortable for my body to use. A double-treadle allowed for the most options since it can be used as a double-treadle or as a left or right-footed single treadle.

5) I had a budget of $500-$600 — it was somewhat flexible, but I had to keep it in this ball park.

Luckily, I have the fantastic Susan’s Fiber Shop within about 30minutes of my house. Susan has a whole room set up with wheels for you to test drive. I walked in with my research done & ready to sit at some wheels. Louet & Ashford wheels were at the top of my list. A good friend had an Ashford Traveller & she really liked it so I thought it would be a good place for me to start. I actually really thought that would be the wheel I would walk out the door with.

I sat at the Ashford Traveller expecting magic. Instead, I almost instantly knew it was not the right wheel for me.

I was kind of shocked and suddenly very overwhelmed. It is not that there is anything wrong with the Traveller, it just didn’t feel right to me. I wasn’t prepared at all for the strong reaction I had to the fit & feel of the wheel.

Next I tried the Louet S-10 Double Treadle. It was OK, but just that.

Next, I moved down the line to the Lendrum DT. I hadn’t read much about Lendrum wheels as it is a pretty small outfit out of Canada. I started spinning, though and instantly I knew. This wheel was it. It was that simple.

I left the shop to mull over my options. Really, I knew which wheel I wanted, but I wanted to think it over before taking the plunge. I read over the reviews of the Lendrum and really the main drawback was that because it is a small company, repairs and parts could be an issue in the future. The reviews were really good though. The complete package of this wheel was a bit more expensive than I had budgeted for, but it did come with both a jumbo & lace flyer as well as a tensioned lazy kate and 4 bobbins. The bigger price tag upfront was competitive with the Ashford Traveller once you added in the same accessories.  I was looking for a versatile wheel that I could grow into. I knew which wheel was coming home with me. In all honesty, I knew the minute I started treadling. My husband & I discussed the added cost and I realized that I would wait however long it took to have the cash to cover the Lendrum. I knew it would be worth it.

I revisited Susan’s and discussed the repair & parts concerns with the staff and was reassured that it was a spinning wheel and thus, even if there were no proper parts (which was not likely be to be the case), fashioning parts that would work was not out of the question. With my few meager worries comforted, shortly after I purchased my Lendrum DT and I have never looked back. I love this wheel. It has a very smooth treadle that is super comfortable and easy for even my bum leg to use and I routinely use it as both double & single treadle — I love that versatility. I have also found that having the jumbo flyer for bigger plying projects makes my life & spinning much easier — I am so glad I have it!

While it’s true that I sometimes dream about a second wheel and I’m intrigued by the Majacraft & Schacht wheels that I hear so many good things about, I really do love my Lendrum. The truth, however, is that I would bet that almost every spinner you talk with will swear by their own wheel. That’s as it should be though, right?! The truth is there are a lot of components that go into finding the right wheel for you. The best advice I can give you is to go into the process knowing that the right wheel for you is not necessarily the right wheel for your bff or your mother-in-law or your sister or your uncle. Buy the wheel that your instincts tell you is the right wheel for you. There will eventually be one you fall in love with. A wheel that fits all your criteria and just feels… right. That’s your wheel. Bring it home.

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27 responses to “How I Chose my Spinning Wheel

  1. Does your Lendrum have the large orfice for art yarns? This spring I went to an art yarns workshop at the Weavers Guild of MN and a lot of the friendly ladies there had Lendrums. Some had the larger orfices and some had smaller, if my memory serves me right!

    • The regular flyer does not, but the jumbo flyer has a larger orifice for heavier yarns & art yarns. Changing back & forth between the flyers is really easy, too. I switch back and forth pretty regularly.

  2. …and did the dog come with it? Your dog is gorgeous. I have an Ashford Traveller and I love it. How does the Lendrum differ? Can you remember? So far I haven’t found anywhere that sells extra spools for mine. Are they universal, do you know? Like you I don’t have the space for a big wheel although I would love to have one, but the Ashford Traveller fits in my bedroom just right and I love the fact that it has two treadles.

    • LOL! My wheel actually predates the dog. But thank you for the kind words, he is quite a good boy and an even better spinning pal!

      To me, the treading on the Traveller was just not as smooth and the position of the orifice wasn’t as comfortable. Both of these points may be moot now that I am more accomplished as a spinner – I would actually love to test them again to see! Remember that my hip makes me a special case for a lot of reasons, too – my hip’s range of motion is very limited so I am very sensitive to a lot of these details being just right for me.

      I am not sure about the universality of Ashford bobbins, but you should be able to at the very least find an online dealer that will ship to you – many, many spinning dealers carry Ashford wheels & accessories from what I’ve seen and there simply has to be one that will ship to you!

      • Yeah I’ll keep looking. I see the spools on Ebay but I can’t tell from the pictures if they will fit or not. None of them look the same as mine and they do seem very expensive. The Ashford Travellers are made in new Zealand I believe. Maybe I’ll take another look in the manual that came with the wheel and see if I can find some more information there.
        Did you have to assemble your own wheel?
        I’m sorry I haven’t read about your hip. I’m sorry if you are disabled with it. The exercise of spinning should help, I think 🙂

      • Try emailing The Woolery with your bobbin questions. They are based here in the US, but they know their wheels & have been helpful answering questions for me in the past & they do ship internationally should you decide to order from them. I’m sure the shipping would cost you, but if it’s a one time thing to get you want you want maybe it’s worth it…

        http://www.woolery.com/store/pc/home.asp

        I did have to assemble my wheel, but the Lendrum is a folding wheel, so it literally entails two screws & a c-clip. It takes maybe 5minutes to set up. 🙂

        And thank you for the kind words regarding my hip. I certainly have limitations & discomfort, but overall I feel that I am very lucky. I can do most of the things I love to do, I was able to carry my two children without any trouble, and I have a really compassionate family that understands and accommodates however I am feeling. And, hey, I can spin & knit as much as I like – no trouble there!

      • I have a bad back so I understand living with a not so perfect body. I feel lucky too that a lot of the things I like to do involve a position which doesn’t hurt my back too much.
        I’ve only just seen your link re The Woolery. It was invisible first time I looked. I’ll check that out. Thank you.

      • Isn’t it great that we’ve found past times that work within our limitations?! I’m so grateful!

        Best of luck finding your bobbins! I bought a few extra bobbins for my birthday last year & I’m so glad that I did!

  3. The wheel chose me. A dear friend taught me on the wheel I now have, and I ended up buying it from her, because I like it so much. I have a Kromski and it is quite easy to use. I am a relatively new spinner, so this one worked well. It was also the only one I tried ;0) m.

  4. Thanks for the thoughtful article. I have a Kromski and love it but must admit the Majacraft wheels beckon!

    • I love that each wheel has its own strengths and weaknesses. If I had endless space & money I would totally collect spinning wheels so I could spin with all the different personalities!

  5. Fabulous choice! I started with a single treadle Lendrum almost 30 years ago and upgraded to a DT 4 years ago. So well made and wonderful to spin on!

  6. Great post! Wow, that reminded me of my own path to get a wheel! I ended up with a sidekick, which I adore..for many of the reasons you mentioned.

    • What what a cute wheel! And I hear so many good things about Schacht wheels. I have a Schacht spindle and it is really well made – I can only imagine that craftsmanship applied to a wheel!

      • Awesome! My Lendrum folds, but I never actually fold it down unless I’m traveling with it. I have fleeting flirtations with the idea of a true traveling wheel… *she writes as she mentally bookmarks the sidekick*

  7. Thank for this, I am hoping for a wheel here in the future. I have tried a lot of models but it always comes down to cost for us. Asking for one from either of our parents is out of the question so I’ve been socking money away. I cannot wait though – this whole knitting/spinning/yarn/designing thing is really where I find my peace in this world. Well, my husband and Max help too 🙂

    • My husband reached out because I think my mom would have done it herself otherwise – she *really* wanted me to start spinning – I’m not sure why!

      I would have waited though and your wait will be worth it!

      • In this case, it is! If I were you I would start shopping & test driving. It may help give you something to look forward to. Also, talk to your local shop(s). Mine has a deal where before you choose a wheel you can take a couple lessons to get the basics of spinning with a wheel. If you end up buying, the cost of the lessons can be put toward your wheel!

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