Monday, January 14, 2008

Episode 75: In Which Rosina Gets Her Own Wheel

Warning: More than you ever wanted to know about my spinning wheel purchase. Posted mostly for those who are considering their own wheel purchase in the near future.

On Saturday Mr. M and I made the long pilgrimage to Woodland Woolworks with a special item in mind. Mr. M had offered to get me a spinning wheel for Christmas and part of that offer was to take me somewhere where I could try different wheels. Beforehand, I researched the specifications of a range of wheels, haunted several wheel forums on Ravelry, and googled blogs looking for spinners’ comments on my top wheels. I knew that I wanted a NON-double drive wheel with a wide range of ratios and a decent bobbin capacity as this will be my only functional wheel for the foreseeable future. I’m also a sucker for a certain wheel aesthetic – I wanted a castle style wheel that was clean looking and had lots of wood. From these basic prerequisites I narrowed it down to the top two: the Lendrum and the Majacraft Rose. Louet was also on my radar, but coming in third. I almost ordered the Rose sight unseen (with endorsements like this it’s hard not to), but I’m glad that I waited to try the wheels and see how they felt to me.

When we got to the warehouse they didn’t have a Rose out, but the did have the Majacraft Alpaca and Suzie set up. I’ve heard that the Alpaca and the Rose are basically the same wheel, so I felt comfortable trying it in the Rose’s place. The Majacraft wheels were beautiful to look at and treadled smooth and fast. However, the Alpaca had a definite clicking sound and a very pronounced whirring from the brake band on the plastic bobbin. I wasn’t too worried about the clicking because I know that every wheel has some quirks and that wheels on the floor get handled a lot by people who don’t know their idiosyncrasies. However, neither I nor the woman who was helping me could get the wheel to stop clicking. The Suzie had a significant vibration that I could feel in the treadles, as well as having the whirring from the brake band on the plastic bobbin. Both wheels had a tendency for the head of the wheel to slip down under tension from the drive band. I also found the delta orifice was little different to use. Not unpleasant, just something you have to be sure would work for you.

In the interest of full disclosure, I know that every wheel will vibrate at high speeds and the Majacraft where at high ratios. All the things I’ve mentioned were probably things that an expert could tame a bit with tweaking. However, the sales lady didn’t get either of the wheels to stop doing those things, so I figured that I, as a novice, probably didn’t have much of a chance. The noise ended up being a deal breaker for me. Certain sounds are extremely irritating to me and would prevent me from using the wheel. I would have to know, for certain, that those noises could be addressed before I would buy a wheel. Certainly before I would buy the most expensive wheel on my list.

So what surprised me? The Lendrum. From the pictures, I was concerned that the Lendrum treadle set-up did not look comfortable to use. However, the motion was very smooth and natural for me. Because the lip of the treadle did not overhang, I could not treadle quite as slowly as I could on the Majacraft or the Ashford traditional, but theoretically that could be offset with that the low ratios on the jumbo head… and who knows, maybe someday my hands will do their thing a little faster too. Of course, the Lendrum also had a vibration at high speed, a slight tocking in the treadle crosspiece and the sound of the scotch tension, but the quality of these sounds was different. I don’t mind a purring, murmuring wheel. I don’t want a snoring, shuddering wheel.

They didn’t have any full-size Louets, so for fun I gave the Fricke a whirl. It must have sensed that I thought it was the ugly duckling of the lot, because it got me all tangled up in no time. Woolee winders are a brilliant idea, but they felt much more jerky than I would have guessed.

Since I arrived with my heart set on a Rose, I gave myself a chance to explore the store while my test drive experience sank in. It is one of those places where my brain shorts out at the sight of too many interesting things. There were hand carders, there were ball winders, there were packages of every fiber I ever wanted to try. People this is Oregon: no sales tax. And I was there: no shipping. My husband even looked at me and said, “Get whatever you need.”

Under those circumstances I think I’m pretty lucky that I didn’t just pass out from the excitement. In the end I came away with the Lendrum complete package (Lendrum folding double treadle with 4 bobbins, tensioned lazy kate, high-speed head and bobbin, and jumbo head and bobbin), and the complimentary Woolworks stuff (wheel oil, feed’n’wax, 1 lb medium wool). I applied my craftcash to a Lendrum carrying case and splurged on a few small bundles of roving. The high-speed head is backordered, but I’ve been at home playing with the rest of my toys. Thank you Mr. M!


Elemmaciltur said...

You surely one lucky girl!

Jacki said...

Congrats on the new wheel! I've got a Louet and a Babe (I mainly use the Louet, and the husband mainly uses the Babe), but if I was, for some weird reason, going to get another wheel, it would be a Lendrum. The ones I've spun on have been great. You're going to have so much fun!

LizKnits said...

congrats on your new wheel... that apple colored fiber is also beautiful!!

Octopus Knits said...

Wow! So exciting! I greatly appreciated hearing about your experience.

Also, your dyeing and batt blending experiments are lovely : )