Tag Archives: spinning wheel

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



Guest Post: Spinning Wheel Matchmaking with Alicia Morandi

Choosing a spinning wheel can be intimidating. Not only is it a substantial financial investment, it’s a lot like choosing a partner: different wheels will have different characteristics that may or may not mesh well with what you need. You and your wheel will spend many hours working together towards a common goal, so it’s important to make sure that you find a tool suited for the spinning you expect to do. Your wheel needs to feel good, make your life easier, and it certainly doesn’t hurt if you like the way it looks. But where does one begin? If you’re a newer spinner, how do you even know what you want?

A sample of wheel variety: Louet S10, Majacraft Pioneer, Ashford Traveller

A sample of wheel variety: Louet S10, Majacraft Aura, Ashford Traveller

Discover Your Options
When you begin to shop around, you’ll notice that spinning wheels vary in a few keys ways, namely: style, portability, materials, drive ratios, number of treadles, orifice type, and tension system. The Woolery’s website is an excellent resource for getting a sense of what’s out there, and it even includes some videos so you can watch different wheels in action. I’d also recommend reading expert-spinner Abby Franquemont’s blog post on choosing your first wheel.

Style: Saxony and Norwegian wheels are arranged horizontally with the flyer and bobbin off to one side and they often have a very classic look. Castle wheels are arranged vertically with the flyer above the wheel and they can have either a classic or a more modern look.
Portability: Some wheels are small, lightweight, and portable while others are not. Castle or modern wheels tend to be smaller and many are designed to fold for traveling. Increasing portability can sometimes decrease stability, depending on the wheel.
Materials: What a wheel is made of will impact its look as well as its portability and durability. Wheels can be made of everything from hardwoods to MDF, resin to plastic. My first wheel (a Babe Double Treadle Production) was made of PVC pipe which certainly had its advantages: it was lightweight and relatively indestructible; I did not worry at all about damaging it when I brought it to meetings or spun with it outside and it required very little maintenance.
Drive Ratios: The number and range of drive ratios will directly affect the kinds of yarn you can produce. Drive ratios are determined by the size of the fly wheel in relation to the whorls on either the flyer or bobbin, and represent the number of twists imparted to the yarn with every treadle or revolution of the wheel. (I explain this in greater detail elsewhere.) Higher drive ratios (like 15:1) will add more twists per treadle and spin finer yarns or shorter fibers. Lower ratios (like 6:1) will add fewer twists per treadle and spin bulkier yarns or longer fibers.
Number of Treadles: Wheels come with either one treadle (foot pedal) or two that turn the fly wheel via footmen. How many you need is a matter of preference and ergonomic comfort for your body. I prefer two but there is no rule to which is best.
Orifice Type: The orifice is the hole through which the yarn travels to wind onto the bobbin. I figured most wheels had a small hole and that was that. However, some wheels (like Majacraft) have delta orifices (a triangular bar in front of the flyer) and others have much larger openings that don’t require the use of an orifice hook to thread the yarn through. The height of the orifice off the ground can also impact your spinning posture.

Delta orifice on a Majacraft Pioneer.

Delta orifice on a Majacraft Pioneer.

Explore Your Tensions
The tension system is arguably the most important aspect of a wheel, but it’s also the aspect you will know the least about when you begin to shop around. In its essence, the tension system determines how the fly wheel is attached to the flyer or bobbin and how the yarn is wound onto the bobbin. There are three main configurations:

Irish tension / Bobbin-lead: This type of wheel has the whorls on the bobbin, such that the drive band directly turns the bobbin and the brake band puts resistance on the flyer to allow the yarn to wind on. Irish tension wheels are simple to use and easy to treadle, but they do not have the gentlest take-up. This means that they pull rather strongly on the yarn coming through the orifice which can make it difficult to spin extremely fine yarns.  This stronger take-up makes them ideal for longwools and for plying, and I believe they make good beginner wheels. My first wheel, the Babe, was Irish tension and its simplicity served me well as I was learning.

Irish tension set-up on the Babe Double Treadle Production

Irish tension set-up on the Babe Double Treadle Production

Scotch tension / Flyer-lead: This tension set-up has the whorls on the flyer so the drive band turns the flyer and the brake band slows the bobbin. This configuration is more sensitive than Irish tension so it allows a finer adjustment of the brake band and subsequently the take-up strength, which improves comfort while spinning fine yarns. However, the drawback is that you will likely need to adjust the brake band as the bobbin fills up, since the change in diameter changes the physics of how the yarn is winding on.

Scotch tension set-up on the Lendrum DT.

Scotch tension set-up on the Lendrum DT.

Double drive: These wheels have one long drive band that is doubled up around the fly wheel such that two loops go over the bobbin and the flyer. Through the magic of physics, this set-up allows for the most consistent pull-in that does not need adjusting as you go, but can be finicky to adjust initially. I do not have personal experience with double drive wheels because when I went to a shop to try some, the person helping me couldn’t get the tension set up properly. However, my impression is that double drive wheels offer a lot of flexibility and some models can even be converted to Scotch tension, further increasing your options.

Play the Field
During my search, I created a spreadsheet within which I recorded all of the things I wanted to compare from the product descriptions at The Woolery, which included: wheel maker, materials, price of wheel, price of additional bobbins, drive ratios, tension system, and accessories included in the package price. I browsed Ravelry for wheel reviews and recorded comments from other spinners that detailed what they loved or didn’t love about a particular wheel.

My handy-dandy spreadsheet categories.

My handy-dandy spreadsheet categories.

I knew I was interested in an upright/modern style wheel for space concerns, and I didn’t particularly want a folding wheel as I was more interested in stability. Aesthetically, I wanted a more modern style and a more solid material than plastic so that the wheel would feel substantial. Functionally, I wanted either a Scotch tension or double drive wheel as I felt that the strong take-up of the Irish tension wheel I had was limiting my spinning. After gathering data and determining options, the only thing left to do was try some wheels.

Giving the Schacht Ladybug a spin, with the Lendrum DT behind me.

Giving the Schacht Ladybug a spin, with the Lendrum DT behind me.

I traveled to shops up to 2 hours away to try a good variety of wheels. If I had been more patient, I could have waited until a guild meeting or a fiber festival to try several wheels at once. I can’t stress enough how important it is to try the wheels in person. In photos, I did not like the angle of the Lendrum DT and I thought its style was somewhat boring, while in person I found the angle to be quite convenient and its clean lines to be simply lovely. Both the Schacht Ladybug and Schacht Sidekick seemed larger and more solid online than they felt in reality, and while they are popular wheels, they weren’t what I was looking for. From reviews and other spinners’ comments, I had expected to adore the Majacraft Pioneer, but it turns out that that I strongly disliked spinning with the delta orifice as the triangular point was all wrong for the angle at which I was comfortable spinning. While I loved the wheel otherwise, the orifice type—which I had barely considered before—ended up being the tie-breaker of my search.

The Honeymoon Period
Ultimately, it was the combination of tension system, aesthetics, ease of use, and value that led me to choose the Lendrum DT. I particularly loved that the complete package came with three flyers (fine, regular, and bulky) that expanded the drive ratio options from 5:1 to 17:1. With so many options and with the more adjustable Scotch tension system, I felt like it would serve whatever spinning need I encountered. While it is a folding wheel, it is made from solid maple and is plenty sturdy. Finally, it was simply comfortable for me to use. Of all the wheels I tried, it was one of the few I sat down to that required no fiddling or physical adjustment on my part: I sat and spun smoothly from the get-go.

The first skein of yarn spun on my Lendrum DT.

The first skein of yarn spun on my Lendrum DT.

I couldn’t be happier with my new addition and look forward to many years of peaceful spinning with it. I hope that laying out my thought process will help you think about different things to consider when finding your perfect wheel. If you’re still overwhelmed, then just try whichever wheel appeals! The most important thing is that you look forward to using it. And remember, nobody said you had to own just one.

AliciaMorandiAlicia Morandi lives in Rhode Island with her husband (a.k.a. the Fiasco) and two feisty cats. She works as a biologist by day and she knits, spins, blogs, and creates natural body care products by night. You can read more about her fiber exploits at Woolen Diversions and peruse her handmade lotion bars featuring the sheep-y goodness of lanolin at Sweet Sheep Body Shoppe.



Art Yarns + Spinning On The Go

Those of you who are relatively new to handspinning may be intimidated at the thought of spinning art yarns, but you easily create your own unique works of art!  Here are a few simple ways to get started:

handspunartyarnthreadPly your handspun single with commercial thread or textured yarn such as boucle or eyelash. This is an ideal approach for  fluffy thick and thin handspun singles especially; be sure to match the direction you spin your singles with the direction of the thread or yarn you’ll be plying it with.

ewelashHave you ever had too much twist in your single, causing it to periodically twist back upon itself? When plying two singles together, periodically stop to allow one of them to twist back on itself, then continue to ply with even tension. The result is your very own “ewelash” yarn!

handspunartyarnThere’s no need to buy expensive yarns with beads or sequins when you can make your own! Using either two handspun singles or one handspun single with one commercial thread (see above), string beads or sequins to add periodically as you ply. Other add-in ideas: Feather, locks, fabric pieces, silk flowers, or pom pons. Be creative!

BFGB.detailFinally, pre-made art yarn batts such as those by Butterfly Girl combine various fibers, locks and nepps with a hint of sparkle, making one-of-a-kind handspun art yarns a breeze. We’ll be giving away one of these wonderful batts here in our Ravelry group this month, too!

Spinning Wheel Spotlight: Bluebonnet Wheels

allmyloveWe’re proud to carry these handcrafted wheels from Bluebonnet that are beautiful, affordable, and great for traveling, too! They are made in the USA using solid hardwood. Each wheel is lightweight, making it ultra-portable for spin-ins and even air travel: the Thimble Spinning Wheel will fit into a “roller board” suitcase! This portable wheel is available in 4 attractive styles including the “All My Love” design (pictured at right), which is currently on special for Valentine’s day!

honeybeeIf today’s post makes you excited to give art yarns a try, the CraftyBee Wheel was designed especially for spinning art and chunky yarns. What makes this wheel so special? The 7-inch diameter bobbin will hold a LOT of yarn! Another exciting feature is the wheel axle and flyer axle, which are each on two sealed bearings for ease of treadling and quiet operation.

Portability meets quality at a nice price!

All the best,

Chris, Nancy, and the entire Woolery team


The Drive To Spin + Discounted Floor Loom

Drives with play button.jpgPerhaps the most common question we get at The Woolery, is what spinning wheel drive system is best for me?  What is the difference between double drive and Scotch Tension?  What is Irish Tension?

That is the question we tackled in one of our most recent Ask The Woolery videos.  The drive system is what determines take-up or how fast the fiber is pulled from your hands.  Each drive system is made of the same parts—flyer, bobbin, mother-of-all, drive wheel, drive band, whorl (or pulley), and uprights. How these parts interact determines the kind of drive system.

Scotch Tension.jpg

This Lendrum is an example of a Scotch Tension drive system.

Scotch tension a “single drive” system, the drive band travels around the drive wheel and the flyer whorl. The brake band travels over the bobbin whorl. You can change the take-up by adjusting the brake band. Many folks like the minute control you get with this system.  You have to make micro-adjustments as you spin, particularly as the bobbin fills.

Irish Tension.jpg

This Louet runs an Irish tension or bobbin lead system.

Irish tension or bobbin lead is another single-drive system. The drive band travels over the drive wheel and the bobbin flange and the break band is on the flyer.  This create a very aggressive take-up that is great for plying and bulky yarns.

This Matchless wheel from Schacht is set up in double drive.

This Matchless wheel from Schacht is set up in double drive.

Double drive, as you may gather by now, is a double-drive system. The drive band travels around both the bobbin and the whorl. Take-up is adjusted by changing the tension on the drive band. Many spinners like the consistency of this system. It excels at making medium-weight and soft spun yarns.

There you have it in a nut shell.  Watch the video to see these systems in action.

Happy New Year! (For A Short Time Only)

sch-stdlcNow through January 31st, we are offering Schacht’s Standard Floor Loom in 36 or 46 inch width for 20% off list price with a free inserted eye heddle upgrade and free shipping.  Click here for more details!

All the best,

Chris, Nancy, and the entire Woolery team

Spin Happy! Easy Wheel Maintenance Tips

With proper care, your wheel will give you years of spinning pleasure! First off, it’s important to note that you should avoid storing your wheel in direct sunlight or in a hot, humid environment, all of which may cause your wheel to warp. As you might imagine, repairing a warped wheel is something that requires an expert, whereas taking care and performing a little routine maintenance is easy to do-it-yourself.

It’s quite easy to protect your investment by regularly maintaining your wheel – in today’s blog post, we’ll show you how! First, be sure to amass all the tools you’ll need:

  • screwdriver
  • allen wrenches
  • q-tips & rubbing alcohol
  • cotton cloths & towels
  • sandpaper
  • wheel oil
  • vaseline (or white lithium grease)
  • wax or lemon oil
  • replacement parts, if needed

Now that you have your supplies, it’s time to roll up your sleeves! You’ll want to spread a drop cloth below your wheel or move it to a work table before you begin. After removing the bobbins and flyers, use a soft cloth to thoroughly clean all of the areas you usually oil – after time, dust, fiber and other particles are attracted to these lubricated parts and can wear them down quicker. You’ll also want to clean out all of the orifices using a q-tip dipped in rubbing alcohol.

Next, remove the treadle and grease the holes housing the treadle points. We generally use Vaseline because it’s easier to find, but white lithium grease is our top recommendation if you can track some down. Auto parts stores are often good places to find it!

Using an allen wrench or screwdriver (depending on which one your wheel requires), tighten any loose legs or wheel supports. If your wheel has a leather conrod joint, soak the leather in oil or rub in leather conditioner, letting it stand for a few minutes before wiping off the excess. If your leather conrod joint is dried and cracked, you will need to remove and replace it.

Now is also a great time to replace any worn-out drive or brake bands. We have detailed instructions on how to size and replace a drive band here in our Advice and Help Section of our website!

Next, oil all moving parts, including treadle hinges and crankshaft areas. Some bobbins can also benefit from a nice squirt of oil down the center hole. Be sure to use a light oil that won’t become gummy or sticky – Ashford Wheel oil or 3 in 1 should do the trick! Finally, use wheel wax, furniture paste or lemon oil to condition your entire wheel. Especially if you purchased an unfinished wheel, this last step is important to maintain the integrity of the wood.

Replace the flyer and bobbins and get back to spinning!

Please note, the above recommendations may not necessarily apply to your wheel – many are engineered to require very little maintenance. Please consult your manufacturers’ recommendations to ensure you are properly caring for your wheel.  

Chris, Nancy, and the entire Woolery team

Picking, Grinning, and Heavenly Handspinning!

King Edwards, a Border Leicester at Windsor Wool Farm.

We are just back from the Kentucky Sheep and Wool Festival. We brought back big bags of beautiful Border Leister Fleece from Windsor Wool Farm, a fourth generation family farm. These fleeces have lovely long locks that are just begging to be washed up and run through our new pickers.

Pickers look like some sort of medieval torture device, but they will quickly become one of your favorite fiber tools, particularly if you are trying to process an entire fleece.  They open up the locks and make combing or carding a dream!

Spinning Wheel Spotlight: Heavenly Handspun!

Now that you have gathered your fleece; picked and carded it; you are ready to spin! Meet Heavenly Handspun, one of our newest additions to our spinning wheel line up. These budget-friendly wheels work with bobbin lead or Irish tension. The drive band goes over the wheel and bobbin and the take up is controlled by a brake on the flyer.  They have two styles of electric spinners and two types of drive wheels: the clever bicycle wheel and the beautifully engraved wooden wheel.  All of their wheels are light-weight and easy to move around.  Simply put they make spinning heavenly.

Chris, Nancy, and the entire Woolery team!