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Tour de Fleece: 11 Wheels and Counting... Pt. 1

I cannot begin to count how many times I have been asked questions such as the following:

"Why do you own 11 wheels? What is the point? Why would a person need more than one wheel?"

My answer points to five elements—history, design, function, portability, and study. Each spinning wheel has its own story, and part of its story is found in its design and function. Believe it or not, each wheel will have its own set of parameters as far as what can be produced on it. The overall design can sometimes speak volumes of the maker's ingenuity.

I know that statement might come as a shock to you, especially those who are fellow spinners. You just may be thinking, "MY wheel can spin just about anything... It can spin really fine singles to extremely bulky singles and art yarn." Just hang out with me here for a second or skim to the bottom of this post, where modern wheels are addressed.

The size of the drive wheel, the type of tension system, size of the orifice, whorls and even the bobbin size factors into what can be spun effortlessly on it. The keyword here is effortlessly... Keep in mind that we aren't even talking about skill level here, just intentionality. For example, a spinning wheel that has a tiny orifice restricts the spinner, regardless of experience, from creating a thick singles yarn. A bulky yarn could be made with singles spun on this wheel–––the spinner can simply take several smaller singles and ply them together for a plied bulky yarn. While this is an option, it is not the only choice there is. Furthermore, I do not believe it is fair to insist someone should struggle their way through making yarn on a wheel that may not be compatible for them at the time. See what I am getting at here? Just because something can be done on 'a' spinning wheel, doesn't mean it has to be done on the same wheel, and it may not even make a whole lot of sense to do so. The previous statement isn't here to discourage anyone from spinning different types of yarn on any particular wheel but simply to explore some of the reasons why a person may acquire more than one wheel.

In a practical sense, spinning wheels are like footwear. Generally speaking, people will buy different shoes for different occasions. They may have different styles, levels of comfort, color, design, etc. Depending on the occasion and the outfit worn can help narrow down which pair of shoes, heels, sandals or boots you will wear. Similar to shoes and other things, spinning wheels can become part of a collection and displayed. If you have one wheel or many, celebrate the differences in it... or them!

But 11, Heavenly?!

My Spinning Wheel Family

Yep! This is a point where study comes in for me. Many wheels that I have were under $40, nine of them were GREAT bargains. My very first wheel was a $35 saxony wheel, my second was an upright wheel $15, and I also rescued a wheel for free. Being able to purchase vintage wheels for a decent price made it a great learning opportunity for studying the mechanics behind a spinning wheel, even as a non-spinner at the time. I am an experimenter, explorer, and curious child-like learner. I am known for squealing, 5-second operatic singing, jumping in excitement, and running/skipping around the house at 2am when I have discovered something new or groundbreaking in my yarn or fiber-related studies. To approach my mini investigation, I would often ask myself questions that would help me to get into the mind of the maker and sometimes the previous owner:

Why did they put this thing-a-majig there? How can this be repaired without ruining the integrity of the wheel? Why on earth are there only a few hooks on the flyer? What would the original distaff look like? How long was this in someone's attic? Who/what chewed on it?

So many questions! Studying the strengths in each wheel is just one part of understanding the wheel. Knowing what I don't like about a wheel is just as important as the things I love about it. Taking the time to figure out my preferences says a lot about me as a spinner. Studying is the difference between I can and I prefer. Being well-informed is definitely a good thing!

Are you a curious spinner?

Up until this point, the focus has been on antique and vintage wheels. Let's switch gears for a moment to modern wheels. Modern wheels are extremely popular these days, and many of them have 'attachments' that will give the handspinner options to spin many different types of yarns and even larger quantities. For those of you who have a wheel that can do practically anything, here's your opportunity to get excited. Some of those wheels are lightweight (12 lbs or less) and can disassemble or has movable parts that will help make them compact for storing or traveling purposes. I have two portable spinning wheels, a Lendrum DT and an Owl-shaped wheel by AthenaSpinning. Speaking of portability, here's an opportunity to throw e-spinners in the mix. E-spinners are great for traveling, can be lightweight or heavy-weight, but gives the handspinner the option to spin without using their feet!

To challenge myself to grow as a spinner, I decided to spin on all 11 wheels I own during this year's Tour. All of the wheels were in working condition and ready to spin yarn on them. I shared my journey on social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram. However, the pt. 2 of the blog will go into more detail what my results were. All yarns have been measured, and I am now at a point of reflection.

Spinning on my Ridgeway wheel. One of the Twin Towers.

Now, It is Your Turn!:

Spinner Questions: Are you a curious spinner? Can you name ways that you have invested into your learning? If you could learn one thing today, what would that be?

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