Choosing a spinning wheel

There are many types of spinning wheels, and the beginner is often totally confused about how the different types differ, or their very existence. We recommend spinning for a while, trying as many different types as possible, before making a decision. It helps if you can decide what kind of spinning you like to do before even looking: do you want to make large amounts of fairly thick knitting yarn? are you attracted mostly to spinning fine cashmere? is portability important to you? Specs are often missing, vague, or downright misleading, so direct experience is important. Types are more generally talked about in terms of furniture style rather than mechanics. Wheels are like musical instruments in that every one is slightly different, even the same model from the same maker, so trying the exact one you'll buy is helpful. And finally, ergonomic factors matter a lot but are almost never mentioned.

Mechanical types

Small parts that matter

More things to think about

Are you right or left handed? Can your Saxony wheel be assembled either way? Saxony style became popular when being left-handed was a mortal sin, liable to get your burned, and being ambidextrous best concealed. If you like to switch sides often, is the orifice in the middle? Switching can be necessary if you develop RSI, or an injury.

How tall are you? Think about orifice height. Make sure you don't trip over your own knees as you treadle. Many older wheels are designed for midgets (no offense to grandmas everywhere), and some modern foldable wheels as well.

Do you have at least one reasonably portable wheel to take to guild meetings or workshops? It should fit easily in your car at least. If you ever go to SOAR, you'll need something that can be fit into UPS size requirements without drama (108" total). Almost everyone now claims their wheel is portable, but knocking them down can be quite an adventure, even harmful. Also, keep an open mind: Ashford traditionals for instance are very good for travel even though they don't fold.

How big is your apartment? Wheels the same visual size can have very different footprints, and Saxony is always bulkier than castle for instance.

Modern brands

First published: 10/22/03

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