When choosing a spinning wheel, it is important and helpful to understand some of the common features offered and how they can benefit you. As a beginner remember that more is not always more. Sometimes more features quickly becomes overwhelming. There are a few things to look for that are vital, budget, ratios, single or double treadle and versatility.
The drive wheel is turned most commonly by a treadle, which is a small pedal that works similar to those on a bicycle. A single treadle has one treadle and a double treadle has two. Where the single treadle needs the drive wheel moved so that the treadle is in the highest position to begin treadling, the double treadle will always have one treadle that is is the proper position. Imagine a one pedal bicycle, you would have to get the bike going before you could pedal, or you could move forward until your one pedal is all the way up, then by pedaling down you would begin moving and then your forward movement would allow you to pedal only with one foot. Either single or double treadles are good to use and it really doesn't matter which you end up with to begin.
There are advantages and disadvantages to both single and double treadles. A single treadle can be easier to use at first, but it is important to understand that you can treadle a double treadle wheel with just one foot, thus using it like a single treadle. Single treadles make it a little easier to avoid treadling backwards, which makes all kinds of mess in your bobbin. The double treadle can be advantageous because as we already discussed, it always has one pedal that is ready for the down treadle. The other advantage is that once you spin very well, you can treadle faster with less effort. A single treadle can be treadled fast enough as well, so when deciding which to get consider your budget, and also other factors in the wheel and don't focus only on the number of pedals.
Another consideration is bobbin size and the types of yarns you would like to spin. Many wheels have bulky bobbins and flyers that can be added on to allow you to easily spin those lovely big yarns that many people love to knit with. If you like these yarns and want to spin them, then you may want to check and see if that model offers a bulky bobbin and flyer extension kit. These kits are also wonderful for plying because you will not have to break the yarn and begin a new bobbin while plying as often, so this is a very nice feature to look for.
If you want to be able to take your wheel with you, then a smaller, folding wheel may be worth looking at. For most of us, budget is first and foremost, and these type wheels are often a bit more expensive, but they are worth the extra money if you will be traveling to fiber festivals and guild meetings and don't have ample room in your vehicle for a larger wheel.
Ratios that are offered with the wheel is a big factor to consider when purchasing your first wheel. You really want one that has a low ratio of 7:1 or less, and most all models do have slower ratios available. Eventually you may want to use those higher ratios but for a beginner this is equivalent to a novice riders hopping on the latest winner of the Preakness Cup to take a joy ride. The best you can expect is a wreak! So be sure that the wheel you are purchasing has smaller ratios to choose from, and also has a few higher ones as well. Most all wheels have lower ratios, excepting a great wheel which is designed to spin very fine threads.
Our picks for the purchase of a new wheel are not the end all of choosing, but here is is brief description and a list of benefits to choosing several popular beginners wheels so that you can make an informed decision. All of the companies discussed carry excellent wheels that would be suitable for a beginner, and we are not pushing one over the other.
The Ashford Traditional is an outstanding choice for a beginner for several reasons. It is easy to learn on, it has everything a beginner needs to get started, and it has many extension kits available to upgrade later if you decide you want more features. You can get a double treadle kit, jumbo flyer and bobbins for bulky yarn, a lace flyer and bobbins for very fine lace weight yarns, and even a spindle for spinning flax. You can do about anything with this wheel, and it is not only a fine choice, but is very popular for beginners for very good reasons. This wheel costs around $350 US to $500, depending on what features you get with it. This is just an estimate, so be sure to look around and get the best price you can find, you may find a better price than this.
The Ashford Kiwi, is also very popular because it has many of the same benefits of the Traditional but is available at a lower cost. This wheel costs about $250 to $400 and also has a jumbo flyer and high speed flyer available. You must purchase this separately and the wheel only comes with two ratios of 5.5:1 and 7:1. This is fine for a beginner, and you can add the higher ratios later if you like this wheel. It is also a bit more compact than the Traditional, and certainly will get you started with a smaller initial investment.
For the beginner with a smaller budget you can't beat the value of the Babe Fiber Starter, and all of the Babe wheels. These wheels don't have the stunning beauty of the more expensive models because of the modest PVC construction, but they are fully functional and quite nice to use. They come in a price range of $150 to $300 and offer most of the common features. The least expensive model has fewer features and ratios but is perfectly acceptable to begin on and would be a very economical choice.
The Kromski wheels are highly detailed and exquisitely designed by Kromsky and Sons in Poland. They offer all the features you may want and also offer superb quality and construction. They range from $300 to $600 and they have a good range of optional accessories you can purchase separately. These are the most decorative and traditional looking wheels discussed in this article so if beauty is really important then be sure and look at some of the models offered by Kromski.
Lendrums are available in the range of about $320 to $1000 and offer a good amount of choices. They have most of the features we have discussed and these are high quality wheels that many spinners love. Unfortunately they are not getting enough attention here because these are some that we couldn't review in person, so our knowledge is limited. None the less these are very popular for very good reason, and they offer a good selection of features and are well loved in the spinners community.
Louet offers functional wheels with a more modern look, and they boast all the features you need in most of their wheels. They range in price from $250 to $900 with most falling in the mid-range, they offer a lot of accessories and are very popular for beginners and experienced spinners.
Majacraft offers wheels costing $500 to $700 each and also many accessories to choose from. The little gems folds up and fits in a bag you can carry on your shoulder for spinning on the go. These are very high quality wheels and are very attractive too
Schacht wheels offer packages from $750 to $1500 and of course these are all very high quality wheels that are loved by their owners. They offer many accessories and styles and certainly have models that would suit most people if they have the budget to purchase one.
So after looking at these wheels you still don't know which to buy here are some additional helpful suggestions. Locate a local spinning guild and ask to attend a meeting, each spinner will expound the features of her wheel, and probably think hers is the best. You will have the opportunity to try out all the different models and see which one feels best to you, as this is a very individual thing. You can usually find a good selection of wheels at a local fiber festival also. Trying out the different models will help you to decide which features are important to you.
If you still can't decide, then over all the Ashford Traditional is probably the most widely acclaimed wheel for beginners. It is modestly priced for the quality and beauty you get, and will grow with you as you advance in skills because you can upgrade it in so many ways. It is not the best exactly, but probably is the most versatile and cost effective wheel reviewed here. Happy Shopping!