Thinking about Spinning....

Ok so I saw Bucks post about buying a Kromski Symphony wheel and that kind of got me curious onto spinning. Im thinking I would like to try it, I've looked on youtube and have a pretty good idea as to how it's done, but once I get back stateside, get a job etc. It is definitely something I would love to delve into, what do ya'll suggest I do for the wheel? Should I buy one straight off? Or is there usually a "Try for 90 days" thing at places that sell wheels? I know Im a compulsive buyer so I will probably just end up buying one anyway. But if there IS indeed a way I can try it out before I drop 500 bucks on a wheel I kinda want to try that route first. Are there any good books you suggest? What about classes? Are spinning classes easy to find? I looked at an LYS back in my hometown (Fort Worth, TX) and I couldnt find anything on spinning. In fact, I couldnt find any classes that went above beginner level knitting (not that im above it mind you, I just dont want to spend 30 dollars learning something I already know). Any comments? Suggestions? Would be greatly appreciated.


Joe-in Wyoming's picture

I first learned to spin with a drop spindle, graduating to a wheel later. I still use my spindles the most because of portability and ease of demonstrating in public. You learn the basics of drafting and even spinning and haven't put out too much expense if you decide spinning isn't for you. As to may find some at your local recreation center or community college. -- Books, knitting, cats, fountain pens...Life is Good.

Books, knitting, cats, fountain pens...Life is Good.

goatboy's picture

There are different schools of thought about whether you should start with a spindle before going to a wheel, and I'll add my two cents: If you start with a spindle, you can learn the basics of drafting and twist (which require repetition and loads of practice to develop muscle memory in your hands), before you involve the feet. I say this from personal experience and observation of beginning spinners. What I find is that the feet really want to treadle before the hands know what to do with the twist. This results in either the fiber being pulled out of your hands before you can do anything to it, or the opposite, which is that twist keeps building up in your yarn without feeding onto your bobbin. I would definitely recommend Judith MacKenzie's two spinning books, and I would suggest that you look to see if there is a spinning guild in your area, when you return stateside, or a fiber fair (which always has beginning spinning classes).

Best of luck, and feel free to send me any questions you have once you start.


VillageKnittiot's picture

I started with a drop spindle as well. It is a great and less expensive to ease yourself into the water. I also like it because I can do tests on fibers or if I get a sample fiber I can spin it up on a spindle rather than setting up a wheel for 1oz of fiber. With that said, you can often find some really good deals on eBay or CL and I'm not one to pass up a deal. I got a great Clemes&Clemes wheel on eBay for about 200.00 and it was great. If you can find an LYS that has wheels, they'll sometimes let you rent one. Another way might be to ask around your local yarn groups to see if someone has a wheel you can play with to see how you like it. Good luck!

DeceptiveCookie's picture

Look around and see if there is a spinning guild near you. Most of the people I know who have taken up spinning went to their local spinning/weaving guild and became members. A lot of guilds have programs where you can rent a wheel for about a month at a time. You also might be able to find a local place that rents them out- local meaning within a 2-4 hour drive! Local colleges with textile/fashion courses might have some sort of program as well. Look and ask around… I’m sure you’ll find something.

I definitely recommend trying a drop spindle first... it's much more economicalas people have previously posted, and learning about twist and drafting is easier- but be warned... the drop spindle is not easy work... it takes a lot of time to go through 4 oz of wool... unless you're spinning a super bulky 1 ply.

I love the idea of vertically integrating your knitting... and you can come out with one of a kind, totally awesome yarns when you're spinning... but in the end, it really wasn't for me...

Who knows, though, most of the spinners I know have totally ran with it and I almost never see them knitting at knit group anymore...

Tallguy's picture

As a spinner, I will agree with all the comments from the others. But I really do like my spindle better, and I get far more done on the spindle than I do on any of my wheels (you can't have just one!). I just like the portability of the spindle, and suits my needs. I have quite a lot of skeins spun up now, and no time to knit!

There are many people around Fort Worth that spin and knit, so finding a group will be easy enough. I do like the informal atmosphere of a guild or a spinning group; however, I do think a formal class or two is a very good idea too. You do need to learn the correct way, not only the way some people do it. (you will learn there is a difference) In a group, you will see different wheel styles; find out why they bought that one. Ask if you can try it.

As for whether you should buy a wheel right off, and then learn, I could write a book on that debate! Everyone will have a different opinion. But as an owner of a couple of wheels, I know that not one wheel will do everything for you. So after you have worked with one you have purchased, you will find you want a few extra features. If only you had known earlier! But one never knows exactly what one will need until one needs it. So I suggest that you try several wheels to see how they work, how they feel, are they portable, a lot of flexibility in yarns, etc. Go to conferences where you can see a lot of wheels in a short time. Try each one of them. Keep notes. Think about what you want to spin. Where will you work at home? Is it comfortable for you to sit at this wheel? Do you like the styling (well, looks are important too)? Can you get extra parts, or support? Can you afford this one? And much more.

Don't think you will have only one wheel. Make a purchase, and sell it if it doesn't suit your needs. We all grow and make changes.

Bill's picture

definitely start with a spindle...but look at the new electric wheels, too...I have a Hansen MiniSpinner...and love it!

Andy's picture

I've recently got into spindling, but prefer a wheel for doing larger quantities. There's advantages/disadvantages to both, and I personally don't think starting with one necessarily leads on to the other, but hey, we're all different. Try to borrow/hire a wheel first, and remember to give spinning the statutory 3-month trial before you even think of given up (you won't - you'll be hooked!). Oh, and see if you can try out different wheels, for example horizontal and upright.

Crafty Andy's picture

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Learning to sapin on a spindle will give you some techniques that you will need for your wheel. You don't need to, but you will be missing a lot of the fun and frustration. You can also test fiber and learn the different kinds of plying without having to get your wheel out. I enjoy my spindle and my wheel, but I will have to say that they are two different experiences. If you want to get good instruction on wheels, Judith McKenzie has great DVDs and instructionals, if you want to lear and master drop spindle, Abby Franquemont is the deal, she is the Spindle Master in my opinion.

Stan Stansbury's picture

Try as much stuff as you can before you buy anything. Looking for a spinning guild is a great idea. In many places there are also spinning demonstrations at things like county fairs and such. Often demonstrators are perfectly willing to let you try.

Spinning is a more complex task than knitting, and every body needs to find its own way to be comfortable and productive. There is a wide range of variation in the size of wheels, and how and where the builders expected you to sit while using them. There is a similarly wide range of shapes and weights in spindles. Often trying something for just a few minutes can help you decide whether that wheel or spindle is good fit.