How to Buy a Spinning Wheel

by Ragtimelil

Have you thought of getting a spinning wheel and relaxing to the feel of wool turning into yarn? There are a few things to consider before putting out money for a wheel.

If you already know how to spin, you have an advantage. If you are just a beginner there are some things you may want to try before buying. There is certainly nothing wrong with getting your spinning wheel and learning to spin on it, but you may find later that the wheel you bought isn’t suitable for the yarn you like to create.


Navajo Lap SpindleI started spinning on a lap spindle. I still have one and use it when I want to spin something bulkier than my wheel can handle. It also spins very fine yarn and is easy to learn on since you don’t have to worry about dropping it

Drop and support spindles are inexpensive and you can even make them yourself. My favorite now is my version of the Turkish drop spindle. I have directions for making these spindles. I still like to carry one with me if I need something to do while I’m waiting somewhere.


Some Spindle Stuff on Amazon

Bottom Whirl Drop Spindle

This unstained and unvernished bottom whirl drop s

View on Amazon

Respect the Spindle

Enjoying a resurgence in popularity thanks to the current trend of DIY crafts, the hand spindle remains one of the most productive, versatile, and convenient tools for creating ...

$22.99  $14.0

View on Amazon

Ratio Does Matter

Stick with me for a minute here...

 I know when I first started spinning, I just wanted to produce a yarn that didn’t come out like a lumpy rope. Figuring ratios was way beyond my comprehension. Later on, I realized that the reason I had trouble spinning on my wheel was that the ratio was so high, it spun faster than I could manage. It would have been easier on a wheel with a lower ratio. Of course, you can learn on any wheel, but if you have a choice, ratio is something worth considering.

What is ratio? Ratio is the number of times the bobbin spins in relation to the drive wheel. In other words, if the bobbin goes around 10 times, as the drive wheel goes around once, your ratio is 10 to 1, or 10:1. The larger the ratio, the faster the wheel spins and the finer the yarn can be spun. Charkhas, wheels made for cotton, a fiber that needs more twist, often have ratios as high as 100:1.

One of my favorite wheels is the Ashford Country which does big, chunky single yarns with a ratio of 3:1. My Louet has variable bobbins so I have a selection of 8.5:1, 10:1 and a large one I haven’t checked yet. If you don’t know the ratio, you can put a piece of tape on the side of the drive wheel and another on the side of the bobbin. Move the drive wheel one revolution while counting the number of times the bobbin revolves.



Now, on to wheels

Ashford Country Spinner

Saxony Wheels

Saxony wheels often were used to spin flax, another fiber that has to be spun tightly. They usually come with higher ratios and are excellent for spinning slippery fibers such as angora and dog hair. They are the wheels most people think of when picturing a spinning wheel.

Upright Wheels

Castle or upright wheels are fairly portable and take up less room that the Saxony style wheel. The can come with a fairly low ratio for bulky spinning but the smaller drive wheel may mean more treadling for your foot.

Upright Wheels

Kromski Sonata Spinning Wheel Walnut Finish W/Bag

Kromski Sonata Spinning Wheel The Kromski Sonata is back in stock! This new wheel from Kromski has caused quite a stir in the spinning community and promises to be a terrific wh...

Only $989.0
Ashford Kiwi Spinning Wheel - Unfinished

If you're learning or teaching, the Kiwi is the right wheel for you. The double treadle makes spinning more comfortable, it also makes it easier to stop and start. There are add...

Travel Wheels

 The upright wheels usually fit in the seat of a car, but some actually fold or are built very small to fit in a bag. They are perfect for the student or traveler who likes to take projects along with them.


Antique and Used Wheels

Antiques may look nice, but might not be a good choice for spinning unless you are mechanically inclined and have the patience of a saint. Not only may you find things out of alignment, and parts broken or missing, you may not be able to get replacement parts for a wheel that has been out of production for years.

Used wheels can be a good buy but educate yourself first with the makes and components of some common wheels.  All of my wheels were used. I am pretty handy with tools and fairly mechanically inclined. My first wheel was a disaster. My second has been a delight

Vintage Wheel on Ebay

Spinning on a Point

On certain types of wheels, the yarn is spun off of a point instead of winding on the bobbin. This can be a little more difficult for a beginner since you have to draft with only one hand. It takes a little longer to spin since the bobbin is spun and wound manually in two steps. The two types most commonly seen are the charkhas and the great or walking wheels. Most great wheels are antiques but occasionally you can find someone making modern day versions.

Charkhas were created specifically for spinning cotton but can be used with other fibers. There are two styles, the folding book type and the table top or floor type. Gandhi promoted the use of charkhas to encourage self sufficiency.

Footage of Prabhudas Gandhi Spinning on a Book Charkha

Updated: 07/22/2012, Ragtimelil
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