A beginner's guide for using a spinning wheel

July 29, 2015

Using a spinning wheel is quicker than using a spindle, and the wheel also has a soothing rhythm which can be very relaxing once the basic spinning technique has been mastered. Get started today with this helpful guide.

A beginner's guide for using a spinning wheel

Types of spinning wheel

There are many different types of wheels, but the Saxony wheel is probably the most common.

  • The Saxony wheel at right has what is known as a Scotch tension which is a system of braking the bobbin so that it travels slower than the flyer (the arm that carries the spun yarn onto the bobbin).
  • Such a difference in speed causes the yarn to be pulled onto the bobbin as you treadle.
  • It is easy to tell the Scotch tension wheel from others because it has a single drive band going around the large wheel.
  • If you have a different type of spinning wheel, read the manufacturer's instructions before you start to spin.

Practice makes perfect

Practice slowly treadling the spinning wheel first in a clockwise direction.

  • The wheel should turn freely without too much effort on your part. If it is hard to treadle, either loosen the drive band slightly or oil the wheel.

Setting the tension

Now set the tension. This is the most crucial part of spinning as the tension determines the speed with which the yarn is pulled onto the bobbin.

  • Tie about two metres (6 1/2 feet) of already spun yarn firmly onto the bobbin as a leader.
  • Take it over the hooks and through the orifice, using the threading hook supplied with the wheel.
  • Hold the leader near the orifice and start to treadle, letting the leader run lightly through your fingers. If the leader disappears through the orifice at great speed, the tension is too tight, so loosen the brake band by turning the brake band tension knob. If the leader does not pull on at all but kinks and curls, tighten the tension knob. The correct tension is achieved when the leader runs gently through the orifice.
  • Only small adjustments should be necessary.

Start spinning!

Now you are ready for the exciting part — the spinning itself.

  • There are many different methods of spinning. Do not be discouraged by your first attempts as it will take practice to coordinate your feet and hands. You will struggle for a while, then suddenly find that everything is working smoothly. Persevere through the first awkward stage and it will certainly be worth it.

Purchasing a spinning wheel

It makes sense for to buy a spinning wheel that is of a relatively modern make so that spare parts such as bobbins and equipment will be easy to come by.

  • If you are buying a second-hand wheel, make sure the drive wheel revolves freely and is not warped and that you are able to buy spare parts.
  • If you have a knowledgable spinning friend, take her or him along with you to try the wheel.
  • When buying a spinning wheel you will need to enquire about the device's drive ratio: this determines the thickness of the finished yarn.
  • The ratio is the relative difference between the size of the drive wheel and the flyer whorl. A 5:1 drive ratio means that five twists will be put into the yarn for each push of the treadle (or turn of the drive wheel); this produces a medium-weight yarn. Ratios range as high as 20:1.

Spinning is a great hobby and getting started might be easier than you think. Keep this guide in mind and start spinning today!

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