by Anne Podlesak
Spinolution is a relatively new wheel production company. They began building wheels in 1983, and have a variety of styles to choose from including the Mach, the Queen Bee (their very small, foldable travel wheel) and the brand-new Wind, as well as their “art yarn” wheel, the Hopper.
Before I begin with a discussion of this wheel’s specs, let me first say I am a vanilla/white bread kind of spinner. I like smooth, basic yarns that are work-horses of knitting projects. I am not really an “art yarn” kind of spinner, but I was intrigued by the portability of the Hopper, and some of it’s features, such as the large 8-ounce bobbins and the construction (all sealed ball-bearings so very little to no oiling/maintenance is required).
Height: 20-1/2 inches [52 cm].
Orifice Height: 21 inches [53.3 cm].
Weight: 12 lb [5.4 kg].
Ratios: 5:1 to 22:1.
Tension: Scotch tension.
Each wheel comes standard with three 8-oz bobbins, and you can upgrade to purchase extra bobbins and/or also get the jumbo bobbin/flyer assembly.
The wheel arrives basically put together. The flyer assembly is turned to the side, so when you open the box, you need to take the wheel out, remove the flyer assembly and orient it towards the front, and tighten the thumb-screw on the site that holds it securely in place. Other than attaching the stretchy drive band (which are a set of heavy-duty industrial rubber bands), the wheel is ready to start spinning on. (Spinolution has a number of helpful YouTube videos which show you the set-up/unpacking process, as well as some spinning demos. They also have an online/downloadable manual on their website which is extensive and detailed, covering all the basic parts and setup to trouble-shooting of various problems.)
While the wheel is fairly short, the flyer assembly sits at an angle, making it comfortable to sit and spin for long periods of time. The front drive band is used to change the ratios. The larger wheel on the bottom has 3 sizes, and the smaller wheel located behind the flyer has 2 sizes, allowing you to customize the ratio that works best for you and the specific type of spinning you are doing.
The flyer mechanism does not have hooks but rather, pegs, set along the flyer arms. The orifice is actually a rounded hook, so there is no limit to the size of the yarn you can spin. These two details make it very suitable for art-yarn spinning. You can create very large/bulky yarns with all sorts of add-ins and there is nothing to catch or snag the yarn while you are feeding it onto the bobbin. Of course, it works just as well with a smooth yarn -feeding in very smoothly and evenly. There are plenty of the pegs on the flyer arms to allow you to fill the bobbin evenly.
The treadle mechanism is slightly different than the traditional double-treadle setup. You sit with your feet slightly elevated, and rather than using your feet and ankles to treadle, the motion is more like using a stationary bicycle, using your thighs and glutes. Some of the other user comments I’ve read have said they have had difficulty learning this motion, but I found it took only about 3 tries to find the sweet spot of how the treadling motion worked, and how to stop and start the flyer where I wanted it. I found this motion to actually be very comfortable to use, and I did some marathon spinning on it during the 2011 Tour De Fleece without listening to my ankles crack and creak by the end of it.
For my review, I spun a 2-ply Aran weight, a 2-ply worsted weight, a sportweight, a fingering weight/sock yarn, and a beaded art yarn on it. I wound up adjusting my ratios and tension very little even while spinning across all of these weights of yarns. I spun the sportweight yarn using a modified woolen method – not a true longdraw, but I attenuated the fibers back from the point of twist and left more air in the fibers than in a worsted style yarn. The beaded yarn was a single BFL/Silk blend, plyed/wrapped with a rayon thread with beads on it. I had no trouble with catching or snagging, or any breakage of that yarn either while spinning the singles, or plying with the thread.
So in summary, here are my thoughts on this nontraditional wheel:
Small and lightweight: It comes with a carrying handle and the feet fold up so it is easily portable. It would fit even in the seat of a small car with no problem.
Bobbin size: What’s not to love about 8 oz bobbins? I actually was able to cram 10 ounces of singles on one and 8 full ounces of 2-ply yarn. I only found a bit of extra effort needed to treadle after about the 7-1/2 ounce mark, but otherwise, there was no change in the treadling.
Flyer/Orifice setup: Very easy to change out bobbins – the driveband is on a separate mechanism, so you can even pull a bobbin off mid-project without having to change anything. The front piece that has the hook that works as the orifice on it pulls off and snaps on easily. You can spin a wide variety of yarns on this – everything from basic sock weight all the way up to bulky, and it’d be great for art-yarns if that’s your cup of tea.
Treadles: I personally loved the treadling mechanicsm and action on this wheel, although I do think it’s probably going to be something folks would want to try out from one of the many national dealers before buying. It takes a little bit of getting used to, but once you do, I think it’s very comfortable than the more traditional DTs.
Treadles: See above. Some folks just aren’t going to like the treadles and it could be a make or break issue if you don’t.
Tension: Because this is set up as Scotch tension and you can only adjust the tension but so low (I have no tension at all other than just the brake band itself – meaning.. I haven’t turned the tension knob at all and it’s completely loose when I am spinning fingering weight), I think it would be tricky for long-draw and/or laceweight yarns. Because there isn’t a true orifice, the wheel operates better when you can draft directly back from the hook. Drafting out to the side at too sharp an angle causes some thwapping as the twist is going in, and I think trying to do that, as in a long-draw technique, particularly with lighter weight yarns (like light fingering to laceweight) would cause some breakage. I was able to spin worsted fingering-weight yarns on it with no problems, but I did find I needed a little bit more twist with this wheel than I would have otherwise put in on my other wheels, to counteract that effect of the orifice hook.
Nontraditional: This seems pretty obvious, but this is not the wheel for you if you are a re-enactor. There is nothing “traditional” about this wheel – it’s design, it’s technical details (like the ball bearings in the moving parts of the drive mechanism and the flyer, and rubber drive bands), and it’s construction from a furniture grade plywood as opposed to solid hardwood. If the traditional aesthetic is a must for you, stick with a basic Saxony style from one of the other manufacturers out there.
Note: The opinions expressed in this product review are just that – opinions. Your mileage may vary. The reviewer did not receive any compensation from the Spinolution company for the review of this product.
Photos © Anne Podlesak