Spinning My (Borrowed) Wheels

(Really, that should be singular, but it didn’t look right.)

Years ago, I bought a drop spindle and set about learnning – with the aid of books, downloaded videos, blogs, and YouTube – to spin yarn. Spindles are fantastic. They can be very affordable: a Louet Beginner Top Whorl goes for less than $20, a Schacht Hi-Lo (“the best of both whorls”) is just under $25, and a full starter kit including a spindle, a yarn gauge, a niddy-noddy, and 4 oz. of fiber can be had for under $75. When it’s in stock, anyway.

All those links go to WEBS – I’m not an affiliate, I get nothing for sending you there; I’m just a happy yarn customer. I actually haven’t bought spindles or fiber from them myself, but I’ve bought yarn several times, and I like them.

I bought my first spindle, along with some mystery-wool fiber, from someone on Ravelry back in late 2007. I took it with me to a class with Merike Saarniit at Stitches West 2008:

Spindle for Stitches Class

Since then, I’ve acquired several spindles and a slightly alarming amount of fiber. You can spin quite a bit on a drop spindle – there was a time, of course, when all yarn was spindle-spun – but a wheel can really up your speed. At least, in the short-term. The portability of spindles means that while you generate yarn at a slower speed, you can spend more time actually spinning. You can spin while waiting just about anywhere, for anything.

All that said, I really wanted to learn to spin on a wheel. But the price point for wheels is considerably higher, and with so many kinds to choose from, it’s good to try before you buy. Fortunately for me, my local Parks and Recreation Department offers a class on handspinning, and it was offered late enough in the day that I could make it after work. The teacher has several Ashford Traditional wheels that students can borrow for the duration of the class, as well as rent in between class series. (Since there is only one class offered, and it’s small enough that the teacher is able to spend time individually with students, people simply repeat the class in different sessions.) I’ve just started my second session, so I’ve had this lovely wheel since the beginning of July.

It’s an Ashford Traditional; I estimate from Ashford’s timeline that it’s from the mid-to-late-1970s. I’m really enjoying it, and I definitely want to get a wheel of my own. I’d like something easier to move around, though. While the traddy does fit into the back seat of my car, it’s not ideal. I’m considering the Ashford Joy, which is designed to be a portable wheel, but I haven’t had a chance to spin on one yet.

Spinners, what wheel(s) do you have? Any tips for the first-time buyer?

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