I am new to spinning and need some answers!

FAQ | HELP - I need some answers! | Glossary

The above links will take you to the Help and Glossary Pages

Here is the place you have been looking for! We have put together answers to the most common questions people ask when the are looking at getting into spinning or fibre art and we have worked hard to make sure it is in plain English. There are references and links to other resources on the Majacraft web site to compliment and further help you on your way. Some of these questions have already been answered in the FAQ although not necessarily in the same depth or format. Sorry about the duplication there. So anyway, enough of the rambling, here goes...


1. What do I need to get started?

At the most basic level, spinning is simply twisting fibres together. This can be done with something as elementary as a Turkish spindle and piece of wool or using a more sophisticated tool like a spinning wheel. Spindles work quite well but I personally do not think it is as enjoyable as a spinning wheel. There are plenty of people who would disagree with me on that one though! They are however very portable and you can carry them in your bag or even pocket (a big pocket though :-) )
Turkish Spindle
Spinning Wheels

I would recommend a spinning wheel if you are wanting to get into spinning or fibre art. If you are looking at getting a wheel, here are some things for you to consider. At least three bobbins should come with the wheel when you purchase it (2 to spin on and then 1 to ply on to). A lazy kate is also necessary. A lazy kate is a stand that holds the bobbins of spun yarn so you can ply the yarns together. Most Majacraft spinning wheels have a Lazy Kate included.

You will also need wool of course, washed and carded is best. If you wish to go for the ultimate then you can comb it as well which makes it even easier to spin. You can buy it combed or do it yourself with a set of combs.
Mini Combs

A plying set is a worthwhile addition as most knitted wool is plyed. Plying is most commonly the spinning together of two lengths of yarn to make a single yarn that is twice as thick - and hence much stronger. A plying set is (should be) designed to hold two standard bobbins worth of wool and it works in combination with a lazy kate.
Plying Kit

Once the wool is plyed, it is made into a skein. This your plyed yarn wound into a loop that is about 1 metre in circumference. Once it is skeined, it can be dyed or just wound into a ball to knit. You can skein using your forearm by winding around your hand and elbow. There are better and easier ways to do it though. A niddy noddy can be used for skeining and is relatively cheap. A wheel skeiner or freestanding skeiner are very good but more expensive than a niddy noddy.
Niddy Noddy

Finally, a set of knitting needles! Assuming you want to knit your yarns of course.

2. Double treadle or single treadle?

We are the Double Treadle Spinning Wheel Company so anything we say is probably going to look like it has a lot of vested interest. However, I believe we also have mathematics to back us up! So here goes, I am going to use arbitrary numbers because they will make the maths easy to understand.

Once the drive wheel is spinning, assume that it takes 10 Newtons of force every full rotation of the drive wheel to keep the thing spinning at the same speed. If we have a single treadle wheel, we put our 10 Newtons of force on to the pedal using one leg, wait for a full rotation and then put another 10 Newtons in and so on and so on.

With a double treadle wheel, first we put 5 Newtons of force on to the first pedal with one leg and then after half a rotation, the second pedal becomes the driver we put another 5 Newtons of force in with our other leg to complete a full rotation of the wheel. This produces our full 10 Newtons of force to keep the drive wheel moving for each rotation.

There are three things to notice in this example:
1. On the double treadle action we only have to put 5 Newtons of force through each leg. That is half the effort required of a single treadle wheel for your leg.
2. You will notice that both legs are used, the work is evenly spread over both your legs rather than having to do everything with one leg. A useful analogy is riding a bicycle. Try to ride a bike by just using one leg and then try it with two legs. With two legs it is much smoother and a more even amount of work.
3. Finally (and possibly not so obvious) is that the spinning is smoother. On a single treadle, you pedal for half a stroke and then coast for the other half – while the drive wheel slows down – then you pedal again for half a stroke. This creates a drive-slow-drive-slow… effect, kind of a surging. A double treadle wheel has the spinner driving with one leg for half the stroke and then driving with the other leg for the other half-stroke – no surging! You just get a drive-drive-drive-drive effect which is much smoother!

On top of this mathematics which I think has shown how double treadling is better, we have done some clever things with the bearings and crank assembly to make things even more smooth and easy to use!
Spinning Wheels

3. What is the point of all those ratios?

Our wheels have lots of ratios and people often wonder ‘what are they for?’, in fact, ’what do they do?’. Well, here is the long and the short of it.

A 1:4 ratio means that if you do one (1) cycle of pedalling, your flyer (the bit that actually twists the wool into yarn) will do four (4) rotations. A 1:16 ratio is similar, 1 cycle of pedalling produces 16 rotations of the flyer. To continue with this example, if you spin at a ratio of 1:4, your yarn will have a small amount of twist and therefore it will be soft and fluffy and 'lofty'. If you spin at a fast speed, for example 1:16, your yarn will have a lot more twist and be 'harder' and longer wearing.

Really fine yarns are usually spun at high ratios because they need lots of twist to keep them together. Thicker, chunkier yarns can be spun at much lower ratios and tend to be softer. For this reason, having lots of ratios makes your spinning wheel more useful as you can spin thick or thin, tight or loose yarns.

Here is the next important thing to know. You can spin tight or loose yarns, and fine or coarse yarns on a wheel that has only one ratio but to do this you need to pedal faster or slower (this will add more or less twist to the wool). If you want to spin something really fine you have to pedal really, really fast – that doesn’t sound like a very relaxing experience does it? However on a wheel with lots of ratios, you can pedal at the same speed all the time (a nice slow relaxing one) and change the drive belt to a different ratio that will spin the flyer slower or faster. It is a more relaxing experience and hence much more enjoyable.
Little Gem Ratios
Rose Ratios
Pioneer Ratios
Suzie Ratios
Millie Ratios

4. Do I need all those different flyers for a Majacraft wheel?

Yes we have lots of flyers.

NO, you do not need them all.

In fact you can do pretty much everything with the standard delta flyer that all of our wheels come with.

Here is the BUT that you were expecting! The first and most important point is that pretty much every accessory we make at Majacraft fits on every wheel. That means that you do not have to purchase significant new components or even another wheel to use a specialist accessory. Not all spinning wheels are like this so pay attention as you may be forced to spend a lot of money if you want to try something new.

What our different flyers will do is help make specialist spinning styles easier. That is the long and the short of it. As you learn more about spinning and the different yarns you can make, this will make more sense.

5. Big bobbins, small bobbins, lace bobbins … what the!!!!

OK, here is something that you are unlikely to hear many spinning wheel manufacturers say, bobbins are all compromises. Please allow me expand.

Consider a really tiny bobbin, it has not much weight and therefore has a very low inertia – which means that it requires very little effort to turn it (necessary in spinning!). This means it spins wool absolutely beautifully. Now the obligatory BUT, you can’t fit hardly any yarn on it! It keeps filling up all the time.

Now we go the other way. How about making a nice big bobbin that fits miles of yarn on it? It is either very long or has a large diameter. Either of these things means it has a lot of inertia. This makes it difficult to start spinning and difficult to stop spinning and requires more energy to keep it spinning. Rob and I have done experiments with huge bobbins and the side effects of the inertia were truly quite unpleasant. A quick addendum to that is that the inertia effects are minimised if the bobbin is spinning at a slow speed – this is what bulky spinners do.

So this is where the compromise comes in, trying to find the optimal bobbin size where we get a really light small bobbin but one that fits a decent amount of yarn on it.

Here are some extra things to know. A lace bobbin can be very small (which will spin nicely) because lace is of course very fine and you can get a decent quantity on the bobbin before it fills.

Plying bobbins – plying is twisting together two or more lengths of yarn so that your finished yarn holds together better and looks interesting – should be double the volume of a standard spinning bobbin. If they are not, when you ply, there will be yarn left on your standard bobbin that is going to need either plying somewhere else or chucking away – what a drag!

Finally, being able to use all different sorts of bobbins on your wheel without having to buy a whole bunch of expensive bits and pieces to make it work is important.

6. How do I spin?

For now, I will point you to our spinning manual which has instructions on how to spin and an introductory tutorial. There is more planned to show you how to get going

  Majacraft Spinning Manual (4.2MB - 29/06/07)

  Spinning 101 (Majacraft) (0.6MB - 13/09/07)

7. What do I have to do to maintain my wheel?

A Majacraft wheel requires very little maintenance. We recommend a couple of drops of sewing machine oil on the hinges every month or two, a drop or two on the bearings of the crank assembly. Finally a polish with something like our Lavender polish or a similar wood polish every month. It is important to remember that things like the belts, plastic bobbins and flyer guides and hooks will eventually wear out. This happens on all spinning wheels but I thought I should let you know as sometimes people have some very high and unusual expectations...