Iíll be the first to admit, I love old spinning wheels. That is not to say that I donít appreciate some of the modern designs out there, but the old ones just seem more in tune with my personality. However, there is more than just the aesthetic that we should consider when selecting a wheel.
The primary concern when choosing a spinning wheel is making certain it can create the kind of yarn you want. Thick yarns are nearly impossible to spin on a high ratio wheel. On the other hand, to spin a fine yarn on a low ratio wheel is far more exercise in treadling than you can imagine. Is a single treadle or a double better for you? I will admit, I have never tried a double treadle, but I can certainly see what an advantage it would be to have one.
The shape and size of the wheel are also a factor to consider. If you have limited space, or plan to take your wheel along with you, a compact wheel would be more suitable. But if you want your wheel to be the focal point of the entire room, then a large Saxony or great wheel may be what you are looking for.
Another consideration when shopping for a spinning wheel is the availability of replacement parts or upgrades. Can the wheel be fitted with a wooly winder to help you be more productive? How often does the drive band need to be replaced? Are replacement parts readily available? In the case of an older wheel like the ones that I prefer, I cannot fit them with a wooly winder, I cannot go out and purchase off the rack spare parts, but I do have a source for replacement parts should I need them.
The factor that we have to consider more often than not is, of course, the budget. How much wheel can you afford? I chose the older wheels because they were in my price range. I have either purchased them at auction and had the missing or broken pieces fabricated, or I have out and out bartered for them. I purchased one wheel for the price of 1,000 yards of my handspun alpaca yarn.
So why select an old wheel versus a new one? It all boils down to being a matter of personal preference. I like to have that connection to the past and knowing how timeless our craft is. I also like that I can take my wheels to living history performances knowing that they are of the correct time period. I entered into spinning thinking that it would be a hobby, but I am so glad that it has become a career.