My new Schacht Matchless Spinning Wheel has arrived. I was really excited about it. I purchased this wheel from Bountiful because of her quick replies to email, her price was significantly less, and it came with 2 pounds of Cheviot wool. 2 POUNDS!!! That’s enough to get the feel of the wheel, spin some sample skeins, and several projects. I see mittens in my future. I first spun a quick partial bobbin and chain plied it to get a feel for the wheel. It didn’t take long. This wheel makes next to no noise, treadles smoothly, and adjusting is easy. The adjustment knob is secure, and you can feel that the mechanism is machined well and built to last. The wheel is sure-footed, it doesn’t slide or tip. It comes in Cherry, but the Maple and American Black Walnut looks great without adding a larger price tag. I have the bulky/Plying flyer package to expand my capabilities and ply a decent amount of yarn on one bobbin.
For my real first sample skein I broke off three 18″ pieces of the Cheviot wool top. I want to spin a 3 ply yarn, and starting with relatively equal amounts of fiber helps me spin about the same amount of each single for less waste. I initially thought I had the whorl set for a 15.5:1 ratio, that is to say, for every revolution of the drive wheel, the flyer will spin 15.5 times. This ratio in combination with how fast I draft the fiber and allow it to draw in will determine how much twist will be in the yarn. It’s easier and makes more sense to keep my treadling cadence constant through all my spinning endeavors and change ratio’s when I need less/more twist in my yarn. I realized later that my ratio was actually 11:1, slower than I thought. While spinning my first bobbin I allowed a small section to ply back on itself, and another to ply back on itself for a three-ply test strand. I made a control card for the single, 2 ply, and 3 ply with the information on it. I can stop periodically and check if the yarn thickness and twist is consistent.
After spinning each bobbin I transferred the yarn single to a different bobbin in such a way to avoid adding or subtracting twist. When transferring, I separated the two bobbins by the length of the room to help even out inconsistencies in twist. Transferring the yarn in such a way allows me to continue working on one bobbin without changing, load the single on the bobbin more evenly for plying, and help even out twist. I realized after my first bobbin that the yarn I was producing was going to be firm. Instead of abandoning this yarn, I decide to continue and use this yarn for tapestry weaving or nålbinding as it seems a tad firm for knitting anything close to the skin. I plied the yarn in the usual way by separating each single between my fingers and controlling twist and take up with the other. I plied with the same ratio as I spun my singles (11:1) I counted the ply twists per inch on my control card and in the yarn, and was quite surprised that I have a tendency to “under ply”. I removed my plied yarn from the bobbin and tied into a skein. I finished it with a soak in hot water, and hung it to dry.
I want to spin another sample skein, but I want a yarn that’s softer than the first. I realize the staple length of this Cheviot is around 7 inches, maybe too long for the ratio I used. I like to spin at a more meditative speed, so I will slow my roll so to speak by using a lower ratio. I’ll change the whorl on my wheel to the 9:1 and spin another sample. Since I decided to get this wheel, I stopped spinning on my other one. That spinning vacation was long enough to soften my skills. These samples are a great way to sharpen my skills, get acquainted with my new wheel, and have a little fiber to dye with those great black walnuts hulls I got from my cousin. I look forward to the little projects I get to use up my small skeins on, and the larger spinning projects that are still in bags in the closet waiting to be carded or combed and spun. The first larger spinning project I spin will give me the opportunity to put the plying flyer and jumbo bobbin into use. Versatility is this wheels strong point, it will be a long time before I get tired of this wheel.