When it comes to choice of spinning wheel, there are many factors to take into consideration before you purchase. With dozens of wheels to choose from, it can be a difficult decision. The spinning wheel you choose depends on a number of factors.

What are you wanting the wheel to achieve? This will decide whether you buy a treadle wheel, upright, traditional, portable, or an electric spinner.

Do you want relaxing spinning, production spinning, or to enable the continuation of spinning with some kind of physical impairment?

Spinning wheels differ greatly in their action, some being very easy to use while others require more attention. As rule of thumb, a spinning wheel with a bigger wheel diameter is easier to treadle with less effort than a smaller wheel diameter, while the electric spinner requires no treadling at all. Wheels are no longer cheap to buy, some running to many hundreds of dollars therefore careful choice, and road-testing (where possible) is essential.

For fast or production spinning the electric spinner is at the top of the list. All one has to do is set the speed of the whorl and feed the carded wool into the orifice. It will keep turning until you switch it off. Not having to treadle, fast production will ensue though it needs careful tensioning as some electric spinners can tend to ‘over spin’. The plus side is that a very even yarn can be achieved in a relatively short space of time. The speed can be increased or decreased by the twist of the button, although this will take one hand away from the drafting of the wool. A foot pedal option is available for on/off functions.

By its very nature, a treadle spinning wheel is slower than the electric spinner, even though the whorl can be travelling at the same speed. Just having to treadle will make a difference, but that can be a plus. A treadle spinning wheel can be better utilised by using your foot to dictate the speed it travels. When creating fancy yarns, it is essential to have total control of your wheel to enable the even distribution of twists to the yarn. Some of the smaller wheel diameter spinning wheels are good for spinning fine yarn, while others with larger wheel diameter are better suited to the heavier wools. Choices between the ‘upright’ wheel or a ‘traditional’ wheel are personal. If, for instance one has foot, leg or back problems, using an upright wheel is easier as one can sit evenly in front of the wheel and use either foot for treadling. A traditional wheel dictates the right foot must be used or one will sit twisted if trying to use the left foot to treadle.

I have three spinning wheels, and each spins very differently.

My Little Peggy was bought in the early 1980’s when I was living in New Zealand. It is an excellent spinning wheel and spins fine yarn easily.  The treadling action is smooth, although with the smaller 14″ wheel, treadling is not as easy as with a bigger 18″ or 20″ wheel, having to ‘treadle’ more to achieve the same output. It’s structure is solid with excellent workmanship, well balanced and pleasant to the eye. This wheel is small enough to take with you to spinning events. For lace and fine threads, a spinning wheel with a smaller diameter is more suitable than a large one. It has a range of ratios making it very flexible.

Although Rappard is no longer producing these wheels, they are still very much sought after. Mine is safely tucked away, though in need of a little ‘refurbishment’ due to tropical conditions and damage to the finish.

The Ashford Traveller, although still an upright, has a much larger wheel than the little peggy. This wheel spins a good yarn but is more suited to normal to heavier yarn such as 4ply, double knit and bulky. It does not like the fine yarn plying and tends to vibrate when treadling fast, making it noisy and uncomfortable to use. My wheel has a double treadle, but its possible to use just one and not both – I spin with my left foot only due to leg damage in a car accident many years ago and it works very well. If treadling becomes too much work, the electric spinner is another option.

Because of the characteristics of vertical upright and horizontal traditional, I would have to sit twisted if using my left foot on a traditional wheel, hence my preferred use of the upright wheel.

Compare this with the electric spinner…

The Roberta is an excellent example of the electric spinner and quite popular, although at the top of the price range. It spins efficiently, evenly, is fast and easy to use. I enjoy this spinner when I don’t feel like having to treadle, but on the other hand it does need an electric outlet if I take it with me to spinning events.The finish is superb and it runs like a dream once it’s ‘broken in’. As this wheel has bearings it doesn’t need oiling, but when new it has to be worn in through letting leaving it turned on and the flyer going for a while. And a little on the flyer does help at times. The bobbins need to be worn in, then it should not ‘pull’ the fibre out of your hands. If it does, something needs adjusting or out of alignment – as happened with mine. I sent it back and was told it had not been put together correctly. So, the spinner was duly re-aligned, free of charge, and now it works beautifully.

A new ‘mini spinner’ is now on the market and is worth a tryout. There are many brands of electric spinners and spinning wheels on the market and personal preference, as well as price, will dictate the model bought.

Treadle V Electric spinner – whichever spinner you choose, it will give many hours of pleasurable spinning.

Happy spinning!

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