To Spin a Yarn First Choose a Wheel


When choosing a wheel you are faced with so many options, begin by prioritize what you are looking for. Do you want a first time wheel that is inexpensive and easy to operate? Is a traditional style important or do you need portability? What type of yarn do you want to spin? What are the advantages of having a double treadle where you use both feet? Should the wheel be a single or double drive?

As a new spinner, one of the easiest and simplest wheels to operate are Louet and Ashford Double Treadle wheels. When both feet are involved in bicycle style treadling, it is easier to control the wheel when you want to stop and start the wheel. My son learned to spin on a Louet Double Treadle S51 when he was 6 years old. I have knitted him 2 pair of socks and a scarf from his own handspun yarn. He is currently planning to spin yarns for the county fair competitions.

The Louet wheels are the easiest wheels to adjust as there is only one screw knob to turn if you need to change the take-up tension. The elastic drive bands are self adjusting, so there are no additional adjustments if you change whorl sizes for more speed and twist. The drive ratios (speed that the bobbin turns in relation to the wheel revolutions) are well suited to beginning spinners. Most beginners do well to start with the drive band on the largest whorl for a 5.5:1 drive ratio. As an advanced spinner, I find that for much of my spinning the other drive ratios of 7.5:1 and 10.5:1 are adequate as well. So a beginner won’t outgrow the speed of the wheel, and if they do there are the accessories of a high speed flyer and bobbin available.

The Ashford Wheels have diverse styles of wheels. If you want a traditional looking spinning wheel, then the Elizabeth and Traditional wheels are your best choice. If you want a classical wheel, but a smaller size for more portability, then their Traveller is my favorite. The portability of the Joy wheel makes it very convenient to carry when you travel.

If you are a beginning spinner and economy is affecting your choice of wheel, then the Ashford Kiwi is a great choice. The drive ratios for the Kiwi are quite low – 5.5:1 and 7.25:1 – so while you learn to coordinate your hands and feet the wheel won’t get you a speeding ticket. Once you have mastered your spinning technique there are accessories that will give you higher drive ratios for more speed of spinning and greater twist for making finer yarns. The Kiwi comes as a Double Treadle and is similar to the Louets in its operation.

With the Ashford Trditional, since the footman (the piece that connects the treadle to the shaft of the wheel) is long enough, that is easy to control the spinning direction of the wheel. With the shorter footman on the castle type wheel, the Traveller, using a double treadle makes the treadling smoother and adds greater control in starting and stopping the wheel.

Ashford wheels require more assembly and staining time than the Louet wheels. Most Louet wheels are finished and only require 15 minutes tightening the bolts once it is out of the box. The time it takes to sand, stain and assemble an Ashford wheel is variable, but it is wise to assume it is a full days work. Though with the helping hands of my boys, we have sanded, stained and assembled wheels in record time prior to a show. If you would like to explore Ashford Wheels, click on the following link:

If you still can’t make up your mind then I suggest either calling experienced spinners and wheel dealers and have a chat. Better yet, go give some wheels a test drive. Different wheels appeal to different folks, and you should find the one that inspires you to spin a yarn or two.

I love to talk about spinning and wheels, so if you can’t come by the farm to see the wheels, you are still welcome to call – 570-998-2221 or e-mail me with your questions at

For more information about Louet Spinning Wheels and equipment visit the Louet Website:

For general information about Ashford Products visit the Ashford website at

If you want Precision and Speed, then buy a Schacht.

Schacht wheels are very sturdy and constructed with precision. The wide range of whorls allows you to spin rug yarn or fine lace. I enjoy spinning both in the single drive mode or double drive on the Schacht. It is my preferred wheel for spinning fine yarns, especially Angora or Angora/Wool blends.
To switch between the single and double drive, leave the drive band that you are not using wrapped around the front support of the wheel. If you spin such variety of yarn that you use multiple whorls, you may want to have separate drive bands for different sizes. I currently have 3 drive bands connected on my wheel. Two single drive bands are to accommodate the 3 different whorls that I prefer. The double drive band is for the higher speeds when I am spinning fine silk, angora or wool.
This past year a dear friend of mine ordered a wheel from Schacht as it was able to fit between the legs of her wheelchair. She is an avid spinner and loves to spin very fine yarn. She praises the Schacht wheel for it’s stability and precision, which allows her the control to produce lace yarns.
If you are a beginning spinner and are drawn to the Schacht wheel I recommend that you also order a Slow Speed Whorl and an Extra Slow Speed Whorl. You didn’t learn to drive a car at 70 mph the first time you got behind the wheel. Don’t expect to learn to spin if the wheel runs faster than your hands can manipulate the fiber if you start with too high a drive ratio. Schacht wheels have sensitive adjustments. When you learn to work with them, the wheel spins like a dream. If you are a beginner it would be helpful to have the assistance of an experienced spinner when starting out with a Schacht wheel as your very first wheel.
For more information on wheels and looms visit the Schacht Website at
Single or Double Drives
Single versus Double Treadle:

The symmetry of the double treadle does not tire your back as quickly as using a single treadle. With both feet and legs active when using the double treadle, most people find that it is less stressful or tiring, an important factor if you have a sensitive back.
Another advantage to the double treadle is that you can stop and start the wheel with more control. For beginning spinners this is very helpful. It is easier to get the feel of regulating your speed and keeping the wheel going in the correct direction with a double treadle.For the castle type wheels which have a short footman, the double treadle smoothes out the treadling action. I prefer a double treadle on all Louet wheels, the Ashford Traveller and the Schacht wheel. For the Saxony wheels like the Ashford Traditional, the footman is longer which aids in a smoother revolution of the wheel using a single treadle. With the Ashford Traditional I would make the choice of adding the double treadle based on whether I wanted a traditional looking wheel or more balanced use of my legs.
Single or Double Drives
Single and Double drive refers to the drive band that goes around the wheel. A single drive band is a cotton or nylon cord that goes once around the wheel and flyer or bobbin. You need a separate tensioning device – a screw attached to a line and perhaps a spring with the Ashford or a piece of leather with the Louet – to assist the bobbin to “take up” the yarn. Single drive wheels are usually easier for beginning spinners to become accustomed too.
A double drive band is a continuous cord that loops twice around the wheel and once around the bobbin and a flyer whorl. The take-up tension of the double drive is controlled by loosening or tightening the drive band. When spinning fine or slippery fibers like silk or angora the gentle draw-in of the double drive is preferred. When spinning with a long draw, using a single drive with a tension band you will have a stronger wind-on.
Spinning Tips

Pre drafting your fiber can not only make spinning easier, but also effect color, uniformity, speed and twist.There are several methods to pre-draft your fiber depending on the nature of the material that you are working with. If the roving is dense and does not pull apart easily in your hand, then try “bonging” it. Hold the roving in both hands with your hands separated apart by about 6 inches. Sharply, but gently give a tug with both hands in the opposite direction. Feel the roving “bong” as the fiber is loosened up. Do this the length of your roving. If you pull the fiber apart, either the roving is light enough already or you are pulling it too hard.

Some roving and top is so thick that it is much easier to spin if you first strip it apart lengthwise. Divide the roving 2 or more times, until it is a thickness that will spin easily for you. If you want a superfine yarn, you can pull off strips as thin as possible, before you spin it. If you are a beginning spinner and your yarn is thick and thin, then pre-drafting your fiber may improve the uniformity of your spinning.

Dyed Rovings can be greatly affected by pre-drafting. If there is a repetition of a color pattern, you can control how the colors are combined by tearing off and aligning your strips of roving to achieve the desired results.

Prepared fiber, either batts, roving or top spin much smoother if they are first opened up and allowed to breath and expand. The stretching and pulling of predrafting will speed up your spinning and help you achieve your spinning goals.