Spinning Wheels: The Specifics of Style

Not too long ago, one of our guest bloggers shared some tips for choosing your next spinning wheel (click here if you missed it!). We’d like to continue the conversation by discussing the different styles of wheels which you will come across in your search in greater detail on today’s blog post, and why you might want to give them a try!

When we discuss spinning wheels with our customers, we begin the conversation by talking about the first level of classification: general appearance. While there are always exceptions to the rule, the basic spinning wheel classifications include Saxony, Castle, Norwegian, Modern, and Spindle.

Saxony Wheel - Ashford TraditionalThe most traditional style is the Saxony wheel – think of fairy tales such as Sleeping Beauty or Rumplestiltskin, and you know what we’re talking about! These wheels are horizontal, with the wheel on one end and the flyer on the other; typically, the frame slopes and is supported by 3 legs. One of the benefits of this style is that the orifice is lower to the ground, making it ideal for those who are shorter in stature and find taller styles of wheels more difficult to work with.

castleCastle wheels are a popular style, especially amongst those with limited space – in general, these wheels are more compact than other styles. The flyer is positioned above the wheel, and this vertical orientation requires less working space for the user – it also encourages the spinner to sit up straight as they work, so if you have back issues, this might be a more optimal choice.

norwegianThe Norwegian wheel is a cousin to the Saxony in that it has a horizontal orientation, but it is usually very ornate with a large wheel and a horizontal bench. This style is typically supported by 3-4 legs, and it’s a very traditional-looking wheel which is quite beautiful to look at, too!

modernThen next style of wheels can take on many forms, and are usually hybrids of the traditional types listed above. Folding wheel and electric spinners are all considered to be Modern style wheels, though this term can be applied to any sort of spinning wheel which attempts to take advantage of better engineering: side-to-side treadling, lightweight PVC pipe bodies, and other innovations would certainly fit into this category! These wheels are ideal for folks with limited space or who like to take their spinning with them wherever they go.

ESpinnerThough Electric Spinners do not actually have a wheel, we include them in the Modern category because they are a treadle-less option which is ideal for those who are unable to treadle (or simply wish not to). They are extremely portable and can be set on a table and started manually, and it is important to note that they are not completely automatic since the spinner must determine the size of the yarn and must stop the flyer to change hooks throughout the spinning process in order to fill the bobbin evenly. Due to its potential speed capabilities, they are a great choice for cotton spinning, much like a Charkha, which belongs to our final category of wheel styles covered on this blog post.


charkhaLast but not least, Spindle style wheels refer to those which use a spindle to hold the spun yarn rather than a bobbin – they work much like a Great Wheel, and the Indian Charkha is a good example of this style. For those of you looking to spin silk or cotton this Spring, a Charkha is an excellent choice due to the high-speed ratios which make working with short-stapled fibers much easier!

Thanks for joining us on your spinning journey!

All the best,

Chris, Nancy, and the entire Woolery team



7 responses to “Spinning Wheels: The Specifics of Style

  1. Alas! No great \ wool \ walking wheels? I have two of them and am quite taken with their ability to spin beautiful yarn, and the way that they reflect the tradition of spinning in many countries. While not many new ones are being made, they deserve a mention in your blog.

  2. As I read these posts, a couple of things come to mind. I am a left handed spinner. That is to say, I hold the fiber in my left hand and my right hand is held closer to the wheel. Saxony wheels are very uncomfortable for me as I must twist my torso far to the left. As very few left handed wheels are available, consider a castle wheel if you spin left handed. I was able to purchase a kit from Ashford to convert my Traveler to left handed.

    Give yourself enough time to really try each wheel – an hour or more. I discovered that at least one model that seem excellent at first, made the arthritis in my knees act up after a half an hour.

    Happy spinning.

  3. Kathryn Yucker

    I started with the Ashford Traditional Wheel. It is a very balance wheel – an easy spinner. Great wheel for first time spinners. Since then I bought a Louet S-90 castle wheel. I needed a wheel that was easier to get into my car for travel. I since then gave my Ashford Traveler with all the accessories to Patty Strain who wanted to learn how to spin. She now spins for our Rabbit Club at the Ladson Coastal Carolina Fair Grounds in SC. Patty thoroughly enjoys spinning on the Ashford Traditional Spinning Wheel. Patty who began spinning 2 years ago is now an avid spinner. Patty along with other spinners now do spinning demonstrations at Bee City and Cyprus Gardens here in South Carolina. It’s amazing to watch someone who is interested to learn How To Spin take such great interest and Grow from there.

  4. True castle wheels have the flyer unit below the drive wheel. The general class of wheels with a vertical wheel/flyer/MOA orientation is more correctly the ‘upright’ wheel style, with the castle style being a sub-set.

    A note to Claire – I also hold my fiber in my left hand, and control twist with my right. I can comfortably use single-treadle flyer-left Saxony wheels because I sit at an angle to the wheel itself, treadling with my right foot. (Thankfully, one’s hands don’t need to be anywhere near the orifice; mine are usually a good 16-18″ away and at an angle to it.) The only time it’s uncomfortable is with a double-treadle wheel that forces you to sit at a right angle to the wheel… in those cases, I would definitely need a flyer-right wheel.

  5. Why does holding the fiber in your left hand make you a left handed spinner? I am right hand dominant and my wheel hand is my right hand..?
    I have heard this before but I don’t get it?

    • Interesting question – and I too would like to know!

      • Kathryn Yucker

        If you are Right Hand dominate the left hand Saxony Wheel is best to use. I am a right handed person and was told that my right foot was also dominate over my left foot. The Ashford Traditional Wheel with the flyer on the left side was easier for me to use than the Wheel with the flyer on the right side. I treadle more with my right foot than I do with my left foot. I also control the wool fiber with my right hand. I sit the wheel with the flyer right in front of me so I do not need to twist my body as I work the fiber. I believe that people are mistakenly call left handed or right handed spinners due to the position of the flyer to the wheel. I was told by an historian that if the flyer is on the left side of the wheel then it is called a left handed spinner. If the flyer is on the right side of the wheel then it is called a right handed spinner. When I do spinning demonstrations at different events I get called a left handed spinner because I hold my fiber in my left hand I usually smile and then laugh. Then I would correct them by informing them that my wheel is a left handed spinner due to the position of the flyer is to the wheel. That I am a right handed person and explain to them why I prefer the left handed wheel. The visitors really enjoy hearing about the differences of the wheels and the fibers. To them it is a learning experience that they truly enjoy.

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