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Drop SpindleHand spinning is again undergoing something of a revival.  When I came to live in this beautiful country of Scotland, the home of my ancestors,  30 years ago, I had recently acquired my first spinning wheel, which turned out to be more of an ornament than a working wheel!  Nevertheless, I taught myself to spin on it more or less, despite all its difficulties!

I tried for a long time to find someone who knew more about this ancient craft than I did.  At that particular time many of the older crafts were simply not being recognized or taught, and although there was interest in them, there were very few people to teach them or encourage others.Me and Jake

The only psheep knittingerson that I found was a girl much younger than myself who had more or less taught herself too.  When we got together I realised that we were both at the same stage. That was an interesting fun and encouraging connection but not particularly helpful.

The only answer was to learn as I went along by trial and many errors, and from books and any other information that I could find. Oh how easy it would have been with Google and Youtube!

Company in the garden while I work!

In the past few years I have acquired quite a small collection of wheels both ancient and modern, and I have to say that spinning is one of the most relaxing and calming occupations that you can possibly imagine. I have taught many people to spin, and also how to buy a wheel that will work well for them, because this is not as easy as it sounds. For some years I was an agent for Haldane Spinning Wheels, sadly they are no more! I have to say that Haldane wheels  are by far my favourite wheels!

Old wheelMany beautiful wheels available on the market are produced by wood turners who have no idea about the process of spinning fleece into wool. 


 Consequently these wheels are often (but not always) hard work to use and often not really viable as working tools, although beautiful ornaments!. However there are many commercially produced wheels, particularly the New Zealand Ashford's that are beautifully balanced and a joy to use. Occasionally an antique wheel will come on the market, and if it is in good heart and all there, and not too expensive it may be worth buying.  There is something really nice about using a wheel that is well worn, and that you know has been well used as a tool in earlier generations.  

  So how to choose a wheel?

As a first wheel and one that you intend to learn on you cannot do better than an Ashford. These wheels are beautifully made albeit mass produced, well-balanced and have bearings to make them run easier. If you buy one in a pack they are very easy to put together and very little that can go wrong. Ashford have now produced the Kiwi 2. (I have recently bought this wheel myself for teaching purposes) A beautiful little upright neat wheel with double treadles, it is unbelievably easy to use and to learn on. When you can spin with various yarns in various styles, that is the time to look for something perhaps more traditional or perhaps antique, but learning on an old wheel is never easy! Ashford are a wonderful company to deal with! They have always been a small 'family' company and yet you find their wheels all over the world!

We have a choice of either upright or horizontal wheels.  And the choice is entirely one of preference, so best to be in the position of trying both before you decide.  Obviously the upright wheels will occupy far ldouble bandess floor space, and will be far easier to transport to spinning meetings or classes. Against this you should know that as the fly wheel is smaller you have to treadle harder to create the same amount of wool...remember the bigger the wheel the bigger the ratio and the easier it is to spin!

Horizontal wheels on the other hand are usually more easy to spin with and more comfortable to use, the wheel will usually be much bigger than an upright and so a slower and more comfortable treadle can be achieved for a greater volume of yarn.

Many modern wheels have the refinement of a Scotch Tension Brake rather than a Double Band, this again is a matter of taste… I have both, and like them equally!

The main thing when choosing a wheel is either to be able to try it out for yourself if you have already learned to spin, or take someone with you who can.  This is the only way to really tell if the wheel is comfortable for you and easy to spin with. For more info on this go to FAQ page.

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