Spinning Wheel & Fiber Tips

Selecting a Spinning Wheel

Spinning Wheel Types

Spinning wheels come in different styles. The Saxony, with it's slanted bed, the upright Castle style, the Norwegian style with it's double bed and the modern folding or electric spinning wheel. All spinning wheels used to just have one treadle, but in the last 20 years or so double treadle wheel have won a firm victory among spinners. Let's take a closer look:

ashford traditional spinning wheelThe Saxony style spinning wheel is what most of us picture a spinning wheel to look like. It is the fairy tale spinning wheel most often seen in movies and books. It has a sloping bed that holds an often large wheel and has three legs. The flyer is offset to one side (mostly the left, but other variations are available on some models).

Traditionally it used to have one treadle, but it it now also available from some manufacturers as a double treadle. Examples for a saxony style wheel are the single treadle Ashford Traditional and the double treadle Kromski Symphony or the Schacht-Reeves.
kromski minstrel spinning wheel

Upright Castle style spinning wheel have the flyer centered above the wheel, making them more compact. These spinning wheels range from having a classic look to modern styles that even fold. Examples for this style of wheel are the traditional looking Kromski Minstrel, the modern minimalistic Ashford Kiwi and the folding ultramodern Schacht Sidekick.

A rarer type of spinning wheel is the Norwegian, with it's typical two beds, that in contrast to the Saxony are not sloped, but straight across. The only manufacturer producing this type of wheel is Kromski with it's stately single treadle Polonaise wheel.

Which spinning wheel is right for me?

When selecting a spinning wheel remember that the wheel has to suit YOUR needs, not anybody else's. The spinning wheel that your friend cherishes may or may not be right for you. Consider the following before purchasing a spinning wheel:

Do you want a portable spinning wheel?

ashford joy spinnning wheel

Do you want to take the spinning wheel along to classes, spin-ins etc. If so, portability might be the key and the most important point for you.

Or do you want a large spinning wheel that has lots of momentum and that will not be transported often? Is space a consideration as well? Where will the spinning wheel be stored when not in use?

Does it have to fit in a closet or do you have enough space so that it can grace your living room or den?

Ashford Joy Spinning Wheel

Comfort and Availability: 

Does the spinning wheel you are about to purchase feel comfortable to YOU when you spin on it? Does it treadle quietly? Is changing bobbins easy? Will you be able to "upgrade" your spinning wheel in the future? For example can you purchase a fast flyer or whorl for high speed spinning for your wheel? Can you get a Jumbo Flyer for spinning Art yarns with your spinning wheel? Will there be replacement parts available should you need them?

Esthetics:  What should your spinning wheel look like?

Kromski Polonaise spinning wheelNo, you are not vain wanting a wheel that is absolutely beautiful to you...you will be the spinner and if looks bother you from the start, chances are that you might not use your wheel as often as you had planned.

Spinning on your wheel should not only be a manual process, but also a visual joy.

Kromski Polonaise Spinning Wheel


Single Treadle Versus Double Treadle Spinning Wheels

Ashford Kiwi 2 spinning wheelA lot has been said and written about this topic. A double treadle wheel will be a definite plus if you plan to spin for long periods of time. The double treadles demand that you sit upright in front of the wheel, (no slouching allowed!), thus giving you better posture and saving your back. A double treadle spinning wheel also will help a beginning spinner to "get the wheel going", something that may help overcome the sometimes frustrating first steps in spinning. So then, are double treadle spinning wheels better? By all means no! If you have learned on a single treadle spinning wheel and are comfortable with it, stick to it. Personal preference is the key here and what should matter most to you!

  Learn how to keep your Kromski spinning wheel n great shape with these informative spinning wheel maintenance videos

Part 1     Part 2     Part 3

Spinning Fibers

What fiber or wool is best for a beginning spinner?

Most beginning spinners will find a coarser carded wool fiber such as Corriedale Sliver easier to draft and spin. Also try our Corriedale Cross wool top on the same page. You can also start with hand dyed Potluck Roving that is equally easy to draft and comes in many different colors. Very fine wool fibers such a Merino tend to be a little more slippery, so that controlling the twist might be difficult for a beginner.

What is the difference between carded roving and top?

Carded wool slivers are also sometimes called wool roving. They come in are long band and are ready to spin. During the carding process wool fibers of different length are blended into sliver that has lots of loft and air incorporated and is easy to draft. This fiber preparation will make a springy fluffy yarn when spun. This fiber is easy to spin for beginning spinners.
Combing wool instead of carding removes the shorter stapled fibers leaving only the long fibers in a long band that looks very similar to a carded sliver. The combed top will make an even yarn when spun properly and has more resilience to pilling, since it does not contain short fibers. Combed top, such as a merino wool top is a premium processed fiber of high quality.

How much fiber will I need for?

Socks:                   4 ounces

Vest, medium:       16 ounces

Sweater, medium:  24 to 32 ounces.

Please remember that these are just estimates and that the fiber amount you will need vary greatly from one fiber to another. Design features of your garment such as size, length or knit cables can also add to the amount of fiber you will need to complete your project.

Spinning How-To


Pre-draft your fibers so that they are easier to handle. This is especially true for beginning spinners or for a "thick" roving. Take a strip of roving or combed wool  top about one yard in length and split it length wise two or three times. Firmly grip one strip of wool top with two hands held apart about 6 to 10 inches. Gently tug on the fiber until you feel them slip past each other. Move your hands along the length of the fiber and repeat. Remember that you want to "loosen" the wool  fiber without tearing the sliver into bits. Careful pre-drafting will result in a more even spun yarn. You may find a how-to spinning book or spinning DVD helpful.

Hand Dyed Fibers

Hand dyed wool fibers can be spun in several way to achieve different color results: Spin pre-drafted thin hand painted wool tops and ply at random for the most colorful "barber pole like" effect.

Ply the same wool fiber with itself using the Navaho plying technique for yarns that will change color every few inches.

Sample, sample, sample

Always spin a few yards of sample yarn, ply it, and critically review it. Is it what you had in mind? Is your yarn even and the yarn diameter right for your gauge? Perhaps a knit sample swatch is called for? Take the time to inspect your yarn, and possible revise it. It might save you a lot of time in the long run!


Spinning Accessories

I am a beginning spinner. What do I need besides a spinning wheel and fiber?


Most spinning wheels offer three or four bobbins, which are used for plying your yarns. Three bobbins are the minimum you should have, enabling you to make a two ply yarn. Many spinners keep a lot more bobbins than that on hand so that they can go back and forth from one spinning project to another.

 Ashford niddy noddyA Niddy Niddy is necessary to wind your spun and plied yarn into a skein. Doing so will allow you to count the yards of yarn you have spun, and will enable you to spin the correct amount for your project. It is also possible to set the twist of the yarn while it is on a Niddy Noddy with the help of a hand held steamer. 

Don't forget most of all that you will need a  "How to spin" book such as "The Intentional Spinner" , that will come in handy in answering many of your questions. For those of you who love visual instructions check out one of our DVDs for example Start Spinning: The Video, a two-DVD Set.


Skein Winders

Used to wind skeins of yarn, typical 2 yard, but adjustable skein winders can wind other circumferences as well. Skein winders wind yarn quicker than a Niddy Noddy, so if you have larger amounts of yarn that is in need for winding this is the way to go. Adjustable skein winders can also be used to wind off a skein of yarn so that it can be wound into a ball with ease.


Umbrella swifts are designed to hold skeins of yarn, so that they can be wound easily into balls. These adjustable devices come in a range of sizes and either metal or wood.


Ball Winders

Mostly used along with a swift or skein winder, ball winders make center pull balls that are stackable. This makes the yarn a lot more manageable for knitting, crocheting etc. It is also a good way to empty up spinning wheel bobbins for new projects. Once the ball is wound it can be slipped on a Lazy Kate and plied as usual. 

Flickers, Hand Carders and Combs

If you raise your own fiber producing animals you will have to process the fiber before it can be spun. You can use

            Flickers:  The least expensive of all fiber preparation tools these, Flickers or Flick Cards are perfect for preparing smaller amounts of fibers. They will align all the fibers so that they are parallel.

            Hand carders: These come in pairs. They work similar to Flickers, but can hold more fibers. They will align open your fiber up and incorporate a lot of air into it. This will allow you to spin a lofty soft and fluffy yarn. Drawback: Carded fibers still contain most second cuts, noils and some debris, so it might not wear as well as a combed wool tops.

            Combs: These come in pairs. Hand held combs will align the fibers so that they are parallel, but at the same time remove all second cuts, noils and debris. The result is a superior combed top that will wear really well and is less likely to pill. Knitting stitches will have more definition and combing can bring out the luster in some wools. Drawback: combed yarns are not as lofty as carded yarns. Tip: You can also buy combed and dyed wool to ready to spin

 Drum Carders

Bring out the big guns. For many spinners this is the only way to go. They process fiber quick and operate similar to hand carders. But remember that you have to use a drum carder in order to make it worth your while. Perhaps sharing a drum carder with a spinning fried or guild will bring the cost down for everybody.


Do I need a distaff for spinning flax?

No, a distaff is only needed for long line flax. These flax fibers are extremely long (up to one yard) and require careful preparation and dressing on a distaff before spinning. You can however spin commercially prepared flax top without a distaff. It can be spun dry for a slightly "hairier" effect, spun wet for a smooth yarn with a subtle sheen. Linen yarn will get softer and more pliable with wear.

  Any Questions? Drop us a line and we will try to help! 


spinning wheel bobbins