Friday, April 30, 2010

a subjective wheel comparison

Channon left this comment on yesterday's post:

Interesting. I spun on the Lendrum, a ST Matchless, the Majacraft Aura and the Kromski Fantasia last weekend. I still want to try a DT Matchless and the Majacraft Rose, but I was wondering how you think the wheels all compare.

(It will be my second wheel. I have a Heavenly Handspinning Bellus already.)

My first reaction was, "You've spun on the new Majacraft Aura?! Do tell!" But then I realized that she has likely been sworn to secrecy until the big unveiling tomorrow at the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival.

So here is my off-the-cuff and purely subjective comparison of wheels that I own or have owned. There aren't a lot of opportunities to try wheels here in Regina so I have purchased and sold a few in my trials. Luckily wheels hold their value pretty well so resale isn't too painful. I figure it's still less expensive than a trip to another city to try a bunch and I'm not too good a traveler these days. I'm fortunate at this stage of my life to have the time and money to indulge my passion.

My first wheel was an Ashford Joy and I loved it dearly. Super portable and pretty. It needed regular oiling but wasn't high-maintenance once it was lubricated. The bobbins were on the small side; putting 4 oz. of wool on them was a stretch. The padded bag protected the wheel beautifully. As my fibromyalgia progressed I didn't like having my feet so close together when I treadled so I sold it but I still miss it sometimes. You never forget your first love.

Next came the Ashford Elizabeth 2. A beautiful traditional saxony wheel but a pain to put together and an oil pig at first. Elizabeth was smooth and fast and I spun on her in double drive. My body decided that the single treadle was brutal and I paid dearly for a spinning session with pain the next few days. After much dithering on my part she eventually went on to a new loving home with Monika.

After researching a new wheel that would be kinder to my legs, I bought the Majacraft Rose. I really love Rose although there are times when my knees hurt after a marathon spinning session with her too (I don't think that I can escape treadling pain unless I use the espinner). Rose is an extremely versatile wheel right out of the box with ratios from 4.24 to 19.5. The plastic bobbins are large and inexpensive. There are lots of add-ons that you can purchase too. I have the lace kit and the stylus. My favorite feature is the adjustable flyer. It's great to position the orifice exactly where I want it just by swinging to the right or left which is terrific for long-draw or spinning with the stylus. It comes with both the delta orifice on the regular flyer (good for bulky or art yarns) and the regular orifice on the fine fiber flyer (my default flyer). There is a handle that pops up when you rotate the main support but this isn't a lightweight, compact wheel. A big plus is the Majacrafts low maintenance. Except for the hinges on the treadles, they used sealed ball bearings for the movable parts. No need to keep a bottle of oil handy for this wheel.

I liked the Rose so much that I bought a Majacraft Little Gem. I liked it for its portablity and beauty but I didn't like it as well as the Rose. The Majacraft accessories are interchangeable between their wheels with just a few exceptions. I didn't mind the different feel of the treadles although some people can't get used to it.

After selling my unloved knitting machine, I decided to splurge on the Schacht Ladybug. I adore the bug. From the first time I sat down to spin on her, I was in love. For the vast bulk of my spinning, which is fine to very fine, the Ladybug is my perfect match. My knees don't have much trouble treadling the super-lightweight wheel and it is rim-weighted so has great momentum once it gets going. It feels solid, with the sturdy flyer and bobbins that Schacht is known for. Although it is possible to spin the bug in double drive and bobbin lead, I like it best in Scotch tension. It does require frequent oiling. I find that I can get 6 oz. on a bobbin without problems. It doesn't fold but is lightweight and easy to carry. The wheel came with the attached lazy kate as a promotion. I didn't think that I would like the kate but I really do. It's nice to have bobbin storage on the wheel and its position is perfect for my style of Navajo plying. It comes with two whorls with ratios of 7:1 to 12.5:1. I bought the high speed whorl but don't find it need it much. It would be difficult to spin chunky or art yarns without the new plying flyer and bobbins but I don't spin heavy yarns much so it does everything I want for most of my spinning. If I was forced to downsize to one wheel only, I think it would be the Ladybug. The Rose has more versatility but, for my body, the Ladybug is the perfect fit.

I started to think about how much I loved the Ladybug and therefore would love the Schact Matchless even more. The Little Gem wasn't getting a lot of use at home and I decided that I really didn't need a super-portable wheel at that point in my life so I sold it to help fund the purchase of a Matchless. I tried to love the Matchless, I really did. It's sturdy, solid, and reliable but my knees hated that wheel. It was just too heavy to treadle. It moved on to a new home after a few months. I know that most people consider the Matchless the premium wheel and the Ladybug only the starter Schacht but it certainly wasn't that way for me.

Proceeds from the sale of Matchless went to purchase an Ertoel Roberta espinner. It's terrific for plying and has saved my knees in a big way! It is bobbin lead so has strong takeup. I can spin fine yarns on the Roberta but it's a struggle. I like the feeling of being one with my treadle wheels when I spin singles. I never really get that zen with the Roberta but don't care as long as it whips through all that plying. It suits my purposes perfectly. There are two sizes of bobbins and the jumbo easily holds 8 oz. It is light and surprisingly quiet. I have the pause control and dual power options on my wheel as well. Some maintenance is required to keep things clean and lubricated.

As I started taking intermediate spinning classes I found that I needed a versatile wheel to learn to spin those art yarns and high twist cotton yarns. I hate taking my beautiful Rose out in public because her soft Rimu wood is easy to bang up. My sister Darcie got a Majacraft Pioneer as her first wheel and loved it so enter the Pioneer. As with all the other Majacrafts, the Pioneer is low maintenance and versatile. She doesn't fold but she rides nicely to classes while seat-buckled in the van. Her small drive wheel makes her easy on my knees. She doesn't get the momentum of a big wheel so makes a perfect learner wheel. She's a plain Jane sort of wheel but she treadles like a true Majacraft. And she doesn't have to stay the plain sister - Darcie recently gave hers a makeover.

And that brings us to the new Lendrum which you can read about on yesterday's post.

eta: The regular Lendrum bobbins hold about 4 oz. of wool, to answer Jody's question. Also, I just took the dogs outside and it's snowing! Forget about March coming in like a lion, May is coming in like a lion! Disgusting. Only in Canada....


Monika said...

Thanks, that was an interesting post. I still use my Elisabeth the most, because of the wooly winder. If I had a wooly winder on my Kromski Minstrel I would use that the most. I just love that wheel.

Jody said...

Well I will gladly trade our humid weather for your snow thank you!
I luv my Rose so much and I can spin for hours on her no problem. Would luv to try a Schacht!

SissySees said...

Thank you, thank you - except perhaps for the link to Darcie's beautiful Pioneer, which makes me think it should be on my "try before you buy" list too.

I've discounted the Ladybug because I spun on her when she was brand new to the market and I was an even newer spinner. I have serious back problems, and I think I need to give her another try, along with the Pioneer.

Now that the Aura is out, I'll post my first impressions soon!

chevyrell said...

This was such a great post! I'm in the market for a wheel and have been shopping for quite some time. My passion is extra bulky art yarn and I want a wheel that's capable=) Currently I am looking at an Ashford Joy with the Freedom Flyer, but have been drooling over the Majacraft Aura since xmas. I would love your input on these! I will get a chance to try the Aura at an up coming fiber fest in March. However, I'm trying to decide if it's worth the extra expense or if the Joy would suit my needs for years to come. I would love any advice you have=)