The boss came over to my desk this morning after he had fielded a note from a customer who was looking at looms; she wanted one that would do everything from “rugs to fine cloth;” luckily she was prepared to spend some money to get that, and we could advise her on that. But it got us both thinking about the subject of extreme versatility, and the concept of a “one-and-done” spinning wheel, and how much of a unicorn that was. And so I decided to write a blog post about it.
People want different things in a spinning wheel. While an ultra-slow wheel with a big orifice is awfully friendly to learn on initially, not too many people want to spin on that wheel forever; they start dreaming of lace, speed, and production. Or someone else might struggle to learn with a faster wheel and a small orifice (not the easiest circumstances for a beginner), and then having finally learned, develop a taste for art yarn.
Another spinner might need extreme portability and a compact wheel, and be able to find that, only to also find that the aesthetics are sorely lacking, or that it lacks manufacturer support.
So let’s look at the very best wheel that we can imagine, that has all the features anyone could want, and then imagine what it looks like. It needs to be lightweight and portable; spinners are friendly creatures who like to occasionally hang with their buds and spin. We’d also like it to fold so it’s smaller to put in the car (or the airplane’s overhead storage!), and it needs to come with a bag. It needs to be pretty, and efficient, and quiet.
It needs to be able to go slowly so we can do art yarn on it, and to have a big bobbin for that, too. But for the times we need to go fast and spin cotton (OMG, I just discovered cotton; I want to spin all the cotton!), the wheel also needs to go fast and have a small orifice for little skinny yarn, and a small bobbin that won’t pull too hard.
Oh by the way, it also needs to be reasonably priced (less than $700) and from a good manufacturer that has excellent parts support, and if it’s not too much trouble, please make sure that it’s a good hard pretty timber, that will take bumps and bangs and not show dings. While we’re at it, how about it can go in single-drive Scotch tension for the times I want to spin cobwebs, in double drive for most of the time, but in bobbin-lead mode when I want to spin Lopi-style; can you do that for me?
With some research, education and reflection you will see that this is a wheel that simply does not, and in fact CAN not, exist; in essence, a unicorn. When we look at the world of contracting, everyone wants fast, cheap, and good; realistic suppliers will say pick any 2 of the 3; you can’t have everything. When we are looking for the “perfect wheel,” let’s look at perfect for a few tasks, pretty good for lots more, with some features we want, and something that will light up our faces when we treadle it. The wheel has not yet been born that could do everything well, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t great wheels. And let’s also be reasonable about what a wheel will cost that will last us for 40 years and bring us that much joy!