From the Mailbag …

 

Well, okay. “Mailbag” is a relative term when the mail is electronic. However, Charlotte writes:

“I am very new to spinning and looking for a spinning wheel. I would like an upright wheel – limited space & tight budget. I would like one that I can use for years not just a starter. What would you suggest? Also do you know anything about the babes wheels or the heavenly spinning wheels. I live in the desert so I was think maybe the pvc would be better as the wood would dry out – I understand you have to keep them oiled, but I know its still hard on wood. I would love any help you can give me.
I was looking on craigslist at a spinning wheel they had a white horse mountain wheel. Googled that and found you :)
Thanks!”

First of all, the Whitehorse Mountain Wheel. If you read my earlier post, you’ll see that I found Dan Yeager, the maker, after many, many years. Dan made these wheels in the late 70s and early 80s and advertised through Shuttle, Spindle & Dyepot Magazine. When the magazine folded, he thought the renaissance in spinning wheels was over and decided to move on to something else. He was quite surprised to find these little wheels that he called “my ugly beast” were still known and loved. He sold them for $75 back in the day and you can still buy them for around this now. Dan says he made them 20 at a time with scraps from the local mill and help from his brother who did all the machining. The earliest wheels had short flyers and bobbins; the later ones had a longer flyer and a bobbin with an aluminum tube core.

These are sturdy little wheels and spin very well, although they can be rattly, particularly the ones with the longer bobbin. Considering you could find one for $100 or less, it is a worthwhile wheel.

The only Babe wheel I’ve had an opportunity to spin on kept coming apart at the treadle. I like a heavy, substantial wheel and the Babe wasn’t it. We just didn’t see eye-to-eye.

The Heavenly Handspinning Bellus wheel, I think, is about the best deal you will get on a double-treadle wheel. I did buy one as a graduation gift for one of my fiber students and she seems to enjoy spinning with it. She is left-handed and having the double treadle and centered flyer seem to help with the concept of left/right orientation. This, to me, may be the best bet.

Another relatively inexpensive upright is the Ashford Kiwi, which was purchased for a different fiber student and was equally loved and welcomed. Also a double treadle.

My personal favorite inexpensive upright is a Rappard Little Peggy. The Little Peggy and Wee Peggy (only difference is the front maiden) were New Zealand wheels made during the 1970s. The wheel is lead weighted and very solid. When it gets spinning, it keeps spinning. Very happy with these wheels. Single treadle, but the treadle is wide enough for me to treadle with both feet.

And, of course, the real workhorse or uprights is the Ashford Traveller. Sometimes you can pick one up cheaply on Ebay or Craigslist. I got a great deal on one that was missing its flyer, but because the wheel is still in production all I needed to do was go to the Woolery.com and buy a replacement flyer. And at the same time the wheel listing was playing out, there was another listing for an Ashford Jumbo flyer which I also got for cheap and so was able to outfit the thing for a fraction of what the dealers are asking for new ones. There is also a double-treadle kit available for these although I have yet invested in one. You can’t kill an Ashford. They may not be the classiest thing going, but are solid, sturdy spinners that last forever.

I used an Ashford Traveller as my main wheel for years, and then lucked out and found a relatively inexpensive Jensen Tina II which introduced me to the wonderful world of double-treadling and I never looked back.

Sometimes you need to try out different wheels to see which one is the right fit. Check to see if there is a spinning shop or maybe some sort of fiber event nearby that you could attend to try out a wheel at. Big sheep and wool shows like Estes Park in Colorado typically have vendors who will let you try a wheel. Another good place is Ravelry.com — there are a number of boards like the Spinners Central where you can go to ask for people’s opinions on wheels. There are many, many brands I haven’t even touched here but can only comment on the ones I know about!

Hope this is of some help and that we get you up and spinning before long!

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