Guest Author - Laun Dunn
Do you want to take your spinning with you, but just haven‘t taken to the drop spindle? Have you considered a book charkha or a table charka? These unique devices bear little resemblance to traditional spinning wheels, but they can spin some wonderfully fine yarn without taking up an entire room. The charkha, the spelling denotes whether or not it is contained in a case, was designed to be a tool that could easily become a part of every Indian household, regardless of space limitations. It is also meant to be portable.
The freestanding model, also called a charka, note the spelling, is made up of the same working components without being contained in a case. They are available in both floor and table models. It is one of the oldest mechanized spinning tools and dates back thousands of years.
The book charkha was invented in India and the word “charkha” literally means wheel. It is primarily used to spin cotton, but other fine fibers such as cashmere and silk also lend themselves well to being spun on a charka. The charka has a very high spinning ratio. The traditional models are usually around 100:1. This will allow you to spin very fine yarns with little loft.
There are also some newer table top models of charkas that have some wonderfully useful ratios. No offense to thread spinners, but as a knitter, I tend to spin to the worsted weight. Even though I haven’t purchased one yet, the models from Babe and Ashford have both beauty and versatility in their plus columns. The Babe doesn’t spin quite fine enough to be in the same category as the Ashford or traditional book charkha, but it does have a very useful range of ratios for knitters and weavers.
To switch from a traditional wheel to a charka, you must also learn to draft single handedly. The charka is closer to a walking wheel in this respect. One hand drafts, usually the left, while the other keeps the wheel moving. Good fiber preparation is critical to draft in this manner, otherwise you will have to stop and start repeatedly.