29 October, 2009

Rio Grande Spinning Wheel

Someone kindly let me try her Rio Grande spinning wheel. It's very tall and long, and the width is disproportionately slender. You treadle it, even though it looks like a great wheel. The wool is spun off the spindle tip, a feature which the owner prefers over a flyer. She is able to spin extraordinarily fine yarn on it. She is also able to spin these fine yarns quickly, which means this wheel possesses a mechanical advantage over other spinning means. Normally the thinner you, go the longer it takes to spin the same weight of wool.

The Rio Grande's treadle foot can be raised or lowered to match an uneven surface. The wheel incorporates modern parts. For example, rather than the drive band adjustment being on the spindle head side, the upright for the wheel adjusts using a very large bit of metal hardware.

I spent, oh, perhaps twenty minutes using the Rio Grande (I wasn't watching the time), first with the treadle attached, then with the treadle unattached and powering the wheel by hand.

I've been saying I'd like access to a great wheel. I feel like my bluff has been called.

My first turn at a great wheel this past spring was absolutely stupendously smooth and effortless. My performance on the Rio Grande was less than satisfactory. My treadling was awkward and choppy. My yarn was woefully underspun. There were slubs. I kept missing the wheel spokes when I tried turning by hand. Winding on took concentration and backpedaling to try and rapidly fix errors in judgment.

It was like how I kept ordering crab cakes in restaurants there for a while when I first moved to Virginia because the first one I ever ate was so good. The rest were disappointing.

The wheel is good; it was me that wasn't working properly. Sometimes you need to practice a great deal before you get the hang of a new task. And some days it just doesn't happen.

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