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If you've visited any blogs in the last year, you've read about people who've bought spinning wheels. Their first, a new one that does something that they other one[s] they own don't do. But it's definitely not an inexpensive purchase, and probably not an impulse buy.

What IS that like, to get something so old-yet-new? There is all sorts of anticipation and excitement and maybe even a little dread [for the new spinner like me that's just shelled out a few hundred dollars -- can they actually make this thing spin yarn?].

Because I'm writing this column for Knitty, I gave myself permission to get a wheel. The non-columnist Amy would never buy something like this so early in taking up a new craft, but I told myself it's for the benefit of the readers, really. I am also a certified gear ho™, and the opportunity to add something cool and functional to my collection was the final push over the fibery cliff.

So, I went on a search. What spinning wheel would suit my fussy aesthetic sense, fit in my tiny house, go with me so people could teach me how to use it and work well for the non-woolly fibers I want to spin?

I put up a call for suggestions on my blog, and got amazing, diverse and detailed answers. Like shoes or cars, the choice of a spinning wheel is intensely personal. How do you want to sit in front of it? Do you care how it looks? Do you want it tall or short? Basic, or with lots of extras you can buy later? Embellished and decorated or very simple?

My requirements were as follows:
- small/compact/portable/reasonably light
- modern and unfussy in design
- as flexible as possible in terms of ratios
- as affordable as possible

I approached several wheel companies with likely candidates, including Majacraft, Schacht, Louet and Ashford. And after much consideration, conversation with spinning friends and the gut feeling I had, I decided the Ashford Joy Double Treadle was for me. Aesthetically, it won hands down. It's a beautiful anachronism -- modern, highly engineered to do what it does, yet still reminiscent of the antique wheels I've seen and admired. It was also the most affordable for me of the three brands, and that did have an influence on my decision.

But did I test drive it before I ordered? No. Surprisingly, there are few places, even in the big city I live in, where wheels are assembled and available for test drives. If I'd been smart and patient [the latter has never been one of my virtues], I'd have waited to order till Rhinebeck where every possible wheel was available for testing. But not everyone can get to a fiber festival to test drive a wheel. Sometimes all you have to go on are specs and recommendations from your friends. So that's what I did.

I placed the order for the basic wheel with the carry bag and waited for the Vancouver dock strike to end so the cargo that was stuck in port could be unloaded. Bless them, they did settle. So Treenway shipped my first wheel to me.

I thought it might be neat to chronicle what it's like to unpack and assemble a brand-new wheel, so here, for your amusement, are the pictures of that day.

So there. My wheel. Not as expensive as a car, but certainly not a spindle, either. The double treadle design is great for my occasionally dodgy knees, and the height is perfect for me. It is portable, as promised. But can I spin on it?

See you next issue.



Amy R Singer is the editor of Knitty. She's determined to learn to spin silk and cotton and soy silk on the same kind of wheel as the rest of y'all, and no one's going to stop her.

There are little skeins of her erratic handspun all over the house and she's not quite ready to knit with any of it yet.

Read more about her adventures with wool-free spinning in the next issue of Knitty.