Her Handspun Habit: My First Spinning Wheel Comes Full Circle

This week I spent time with an old friend, my very first spinning wheel, and learned that experience is a valuable tool. How I adored this simple little wheel for the time I used her! While I had enjoyed spindle spinning, I desperately wanted a spinning wheel. (You may read more about my path to spinning in this first “Her Handspun Habit” entry.)

Very few spinning wheels were in my budget, but I was ecstatic when I finally found one. When I joined a spinning guild, I began proudly toting my little wheel to every meeting. (I recommend finding a spinning guild yourself. Interweave hosts a list of spinning guilds.)

I loved spinning, and I adored my wheel beyond all words. I most appreciated my wheel for her simplicity: lightweight and portable, with Irish tension. I didn’t mind the fact that we stood out from the crowd. The wheel was built by a burgeoning mom-and-pop business in my own home state, and I was glad to be a self-labeled ambassador. My wheel and I were perfect together.

Until we weren’t.

About a year into spinning on my little wheel, the typical creaks and groans of the spinning wheel—that charming background hum—became louder and more distracting. I spoke to the maker, made some adjustments, but I still couldn’t find the source of the problem. I became self-conscious at guild meetings, particularly after one member kept asking about my “homemade wheel.”

Still, we’d made some beautiful yarns together during this year. DK and worsted weights were this wheel’s jam. Low-twist singles and art yarns were also winners. However, try as I might, I was unable to get her up to a high enough speed to spin a stable fine-weight yarn.

I tried every fix I knew of: faster treadling, using the fastest whorl, lacing the flyer, and even wrapping my bobbins with foam, all to no avail. When a dear friend gave me her unused Schacht Sidekick (I know, right?), I thanked my first spinning wheel for the time we’d had together and moved on.

The Spinning Wheel Comes Around

And now, on a major destash and declutter mission, we return to my original wheel, which I’m contemplating selling. With two more years of spinning knowledge tucked under my belt, I brought her outside to give her a test run and to see if I could find the source of noise and general sluggishness. I figured I’d start with the basics, since I knew so little way back when.

Had I ever even oiled this wheel? I wondered. I recalled being told that it had specially sealed crank bearings that “don’t need any oil at all!”— a directive I took too literally, I’m sure.

So I got to it, applying a few drops of oil to every moving place where metal meets metal: the flyer shaft, the inner rim on each end of my bobbins, the metal grooves in the front and back maidens where the flyer rod rests, the main wheel axle, and yes, I even lubed the crank bearings and rods.

spinning wheel

Cleaned and oiled, my first spinning wheel runs like new. Photos by Deborah Held

Guess what? The little wheel spins like new! She practically purrs. And while some wheels are indeed best at certain yarns (and this simple-style Irish tension model is likely one of them), the real problem had been my complete lack of experience as a wheel spinner.

While I now know that my first spinning wheel likely isn’t the best wheel for my go-to fine-gauge (fine gauge), someone who didn’t know enough to oil her wheel was in no position to make that decision.

spinning wheel

Learning takes time. Lessons are learned by doing and yes, by making mistakes—even embarrassing ones. I’m proud that I was able to “fix” my wheel with nothing more than several drops of oil, and that I instinctively knew exactly what was wrong with her.

At least I’m moving in the right direction…

-Debbie

If you’re thinking of buying your first spinning wheel, Interweave has some free resources for you, the How to Use and How to Choose a Spinning Wheel eBook.

Featured Image: Iggy: Another well loved old friend, Iggy stays by my side while I’m spinning.


Show Your Spinning Wheel Some Love!

 

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