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.