One of the greatest things about owning alpaca is the wonderful fibre and the unlimited access to it. Hours of spinning alpaca can keep you in a tranquil state, allowing time to pass, while being creative. Deciding whether to use a drop spindle or a spinning wheel, or both, is an individual matter. But how do you choose the correct spinning wheel for your wonderful fibre?
Selecting a spinning wheel is a very personal choice, similar to choosing what kind of car to purchase for the first time. Everything needs to be taken into consideration; budget, transporting, ratio, versatility, double vs. single treadle, new vs. used, etc. Test driving different types of spinning wheels can assist in the decision making process when it comes to purchasing your first wheel.
A Quebec wheel is a production wheel. It spins quick and evenly. A real nice wheel for those who are moderate to advanced spinners.
Participation in a spinning guild is a perfect way to watch and learn from experienced spinners, and often provides an opportunity for the newbie to “test drive” the wheel. There are many spinners who provide classes as well and they will often have a wheel or two for you to try or perhaps borrow.
At a recent meeting at the Great Pine Ridge Spinners and Weavers’ Guild in Port Hope, Ontario, the night had a theme of “Musical Wheels.” Each member brought in their own wheel, trying to bring in different wheels so there were no repeats. The night was very informative as well as entertaining;
the owners of the wheels were given the opportunity to talk about their wheel of choice, and their reasons for choosing that particular model. It was a very educational night and quickly turned into a spin fest of likes and dislikes of each wheel.
Whether to select a Double or a Single treadle again is a matter of personal preference (like choosing between a manual or an automatic transmission in a vehicle). Single treadle is very easy to use especially after you have learned to spin. From personal experience I have found single treadles makes it a little easier to avoid treadling backwards when spinning. (When treadling backwards, a mess in created on the bobbin.) Double treadle is easy to
start and will help align your posture since you use both legs. With a single treadle only one leg is used. Double treadle wheels can also be slowed down for the creation of more novelty yarns. Since most experienced spinners can create novelty yarns using a single spindle, making your choice can be
based upon personal preference.
Some wheels spun fast while other wheels were designed for creating certain yarns; others were designed for ease of travelling.
One of the most impressive wheels displayed was an antique called the ‘Quebec Wheel’ which was (naturally) made in Quebec in 1910. A very fast wheel, it offered metal footman, tilt tension and double drive. Spinning on this wheel is a dream of an experience as the fibre flows majestically from your
fingers. The more experienced spinners did enjoy using this wheel as it made very fine yarn and was quick to spin. The wheel itself is harder to transport than some modern wheels, but it will look like a piece of art in any living room. The more modern day wheels are very compact. For example, the Ashford Joy is a very lightweight, compact wheel that is easy to dismantle and set up. A carrying case can be purchased which will make and sporting this wheel a breeze. The Ashford Joy has a built in lazy kate, and adjusting the tension is easy. The wheel is petite and is great for a first time user.
OTHER COMPACT WHEELS Lendrum wheels are Canadian made and are a particular favourite in the alpaca industry. A simple wheel with movable parts, the best feature of this wheel is the size of flyer
head that can be purchased. Using the large flyer head, which allows for larger yarn projects, one could get very fancy with a Lendrum. It is also aero dynamically correct in its design as the wheel tends to tilt towards the spinner. This wheel can collapse for ease in transporting.
The Majacraft wheel is becoming very popular wheel. Price point it is a good wheel and made in New Zealand.
Majacraft wheels are becoming very popular. This wheel is also compact and folds up into a bag that can be thrown over the shoulder allowing you to ‘spin on the go. ‘These are very high quality, attractive wheels with a very reasonable price point. This wheel, made in New Zealand by a family owned company, is seen as one of the finest double treadle spinning wheels. It is very affordable, even when purchased brand new.
The Louet seems to be another wheel that is popular with beginners and experienced spinners alike. A functional and modern looking wheel, it offers many features and accessories, including a lazy Kate. The Louet wheel is reasonably priced and is certainly one to consider whether you are a seasoned spinner looking for another wheel, or are new to spinning. It is a very easy wheel to use. My favourite wheel is the Ashford Joy. I may be partial to this petite wheel as this is the first wheel I broke my spinning virginity with. It has it’s own carrying case, it is light weight and just a pleasure to spin with. It is compact, light weight and has a smooth delivery. The Ashford Joy is made in Australia and comes with it’s own lazy Kate. You can get a single or double treadle. Totally the preference of the spinner. Another wheel worth mentioning is the Watson Wheel. Made in Canada, this is the Cadillac of wheels. A beautiful piece of work with a large price tag, one that this spinner will be dreaming about for a long time.
As you can see, there are several brands of wheels from which to choose. There are many different wheels in this world to choose from. While ‘test driving’ each wheel would be beneficial to the new spinning enthusiast, talking to others who have experience with them is also a source of reliable information. If you are finding it difficult to choose just one, locate a spinning guild in your area and ask to attend a meeting. Ask the members about the wheel they use and why. Many spinning wheel groups can be found on social media sites such as Facebook. Join the group and put forth the question, “What is your favourite type of wheel and why?”
The answers you receive will soon point you in the right direction. Fibre festivals are also a good place to view a selection of wheels and having the opportunity to use the different models will help you to decide which features are important to you. If all else fails using the drop spindle is a great way to learn as well, but that is a subject for another article.
Happy Spinning… with alpaca… because “Once you go alpaca, you don’t go backa.”
About the Author
Nancy Hutchinson always dreamed of being married to a farmer, little did she know, one day she would become the farmer. Living in beautiful
Enniskillen (NE of Oshawa) Ontario, Nancy and husband Garth own and operate Spinning Wheel Alpacas, now operating as 1 Stop Alpaca Farm.
With almost a decade of being in the industry, the Hutchinsons put Enniskillen on the map because of the alpacas and their destination store “The Fleece Station” and have not looked back. Nancy works full time on the farm, while Garth helps out after running his own construction business. Their customers agree that “Once you go alpaca, you don’t go backa”