I already showed the first outcomes of my new hobby: spinning! I’m still on it and enjoying it a lot. It is so nice to have even more possibilities and be more independent from companies that provide materials. At the moment I’m collecting supplies to spin yarn from local sheep in spring, when the fleecing season begins. So I ordered a drum carder. And I realized that I haven’t written about the spinning wheel I bought in August/September. So here it comes!Before I start let me say something on the economical aspect on making your own yarn. people seem to think it gets cheaper the more you make by yourself. As any sewer/knitter knows: that is in most cases not true. At least if you consider the equipment costs and surely not if you add the costs of an hourly compensation. With spinning this is no different. I don’t think anyone should start spinning because of money reasons.You should start to be more independent and because it is fun.
I started spinning with a simple drop spindle that I bought on ebay. It was inexpensive and a nice way to start and see if I liked spinning or not. I did and because I love shopping equipment and wanted to spin faster I found myself very quickly looking for spinning wheels on the Internet. Let me tell you: there is such a huge variety! At the start of a new hobby I have always found myself in the situation that I wanted to buy equipment but had no clue what to look for, what I needed and even what I liked. This can be frustrating. So when I saw a video of Chantimanou, THE German spinner, reviewing the Woolmakers Bliss wheel and recommending it for beginners, I just bought it without spending too much thought on it. It comes at a very reasonable price and I didn’t want to waste time on the frustrating process of searching for something but not knowing what I was looking for.
I have spun on this wheel for about 4-5 month now and I am not that much wiser than before I bought it, but maybe my thoughts on the wheel can help someone who is the same position as I was. So please consider this a review from someone who is a complete beginner and hasn’t spun on any other wheel than the one being reviewed.
And another thing: I bought this wheel myself, it wasn’t given to me or anything. Not that that would change the review. But just so you know.
Woolmakers does not manufacture their wheels and their drum carder themselves. The manufacturing is done by the well known spinning equipment company Louet, which are also located in Holland. People seem to trust Louet, and I trust dutch people, so… hehe. Louet spinning wheels are more expensive than the ones from Woolmakers, but they offer a much greater range and more features.
The look of the wheel is unique, I think. It reminds a lot of people of Ikea. I think they have a point. It looks kind of minimalistic, clean and modern without looking cheap. At least to my eyes. the wheel is made of laminated birch wood,which is nothing fancy but very easy to clean and dirt and water resistant. That is very important to me, I like to spill things :)
What would be nicer was, that the metal parts were still black. AT some points Woolmakers changed the color of the hooks and other metal parts from black to silver due to costs. Black would look nicer, but okay.
What is nice is, that I knew in advance that they had changed the color and I knew why, because they wrote it on the website. Overall I have the impression that they try to be very transparent about problems and also about prices, which I think is great. Just o you know, Woolmakers have announced that they will increase prices. initially the price should have been increased since January, but due to webshop problems they’ve delayed the increases to start in February.
That is nice, but as I write this, the whole website is down again. And it has been down for over a week now. And that is the second time in the last month that people were not able to place a order and I have to say that this kind of looks unprofessional.
However, if you want a Bliss or something else from the shop, it seems you almost always have to wait for it. Because most of the time they’re out of stock. I waited about 3 month until the wheel arrived, but I ordered at the beginning of their 6 week summer break, so chances are, you will wait less, when you order at any other time. And after all, 3 month wait aren’t that much for a spinning wheel. People in my spinning group have told me they’ve waited 3 years on a wheel. But that was custom made for them.
The wheel arrived unassembled. But most people wrote it was easy to assemble, so I was optimistic. Soon after I was really pissed off. I have assembled a lot of Ikea furniture. believe me: a freaking lot! Everything I own furniture wise is Ikea and I have assembled it all. Some pieces alone other together with Marvin. I know how to use tools, I know how to help myself when I have broken anything. Which, I admit it, happens ;). But I am used to working with instructions in German and I am used to working with schematic drawings. I didn’t have both and that meant some extra work for me. I only know the standard vocabulary when it comes to furniture assembly. Like screw and screwdriver, and hammer ;) That’s about it. So I had to look up at lot of terms. It would have really helped me if I could have seen what has to be done in pictures, BUT there were only tiny black and white photographs in the instructions. Looking like they have been printed on some 20 year old inkjet printer. I can feel the anger coming back, writing this :D Soo I had to think about every screw. some looked alike. So I counted them and looked trough the whole instructions and try to figure out which one was the right one, by the exclusion principle.
The most annoying thing, that took me the longest to figure out was when I got to that part were it said something like “tap this into that”. You must know, that every tool that you needed to assemble was included in the package. Except for a hammer. So I thought I didn’t need one. To me there is a difference between tapping and hammering. But maybe that is because I am not a native English speaker. However, I found out that you actually needed to hammer that thing into the other. And you needed to hammer really hard. But before I dared doing that I wanted to make sure that that really was what I needed to do. And that took time and some nerves!
But in the end I managed to assemble that thing.
What I found super practical about the wheel is that it fits into our Ford Focus without any problems. It is light and I can simply put it in the trunk as it is it. Also i do not have to fear to somehow break my precious wheel. Because it is not s precious and because it is sturdy. Not many things to break here, really, Up until now there no trace on the wheel, showing what I have done with it. I have taken it with my to our holiday in Italy, where it has been used outside a lot. And I have taken it to several spinning group meetings. I move it around the house a lot too. You can simply grab it with one hand and move it. No problem at all. Sometimes I put it into one of these huge Ikea bags for transport, and sometimes I just grab it. Just so you know: it fits well into the bag :)
The wheel isn’t making much noise while spinning. A little, because of friction, but it is not squeaking or anything. You do not have to oil it, as all bearing are ball bearing, which do not need to be oiled, well, that is my understanding :) And it didn’t get louder with time or anything. I can watch Netflix while spinning, and the wheel is practically not hearable. Marvin isn’t complaining either, so all is good :)
What requires a little getting used to is the wheels brake. the Bliss is a single drive flyer-lead wheel with a scotch tension brake systems. That means, that the drive band loops around the flyer, causing it to spin. To get the yarn to loop around the bobbin, the bobbin needs to spin either faster or slower than the flyer. The scotch tension brake, slows the bobbin down. The brake itself is a bandthat loops around the bobbin, by adjusting the tension of the band you adjust the brake friction force. The bliss wheel has a knob, you turn that and the brake band loops a little more a less around a stick.
A very small adjustment of that knob leads to a great difference in the brake force and that takes some getting used to. Chantimanou claims that replacing the nylon cord with a cotton cords helps a lot with theses types of brakes, I found that looping the spun thread through the opposite first hooks also, does help a lot too and is a simper adjustment :).
The spring at the other end of the brake band is there to make the braking more fluent and smooth. As the spring can only work under tension and not under pressure you have to make sure that the bobbin always pulls and never presses towards it to get it to work correctly.Otherwise the wheel wil run less smooth and be noisier. So if you spin clockwise, the spring should come down at the left side of the bobbin (that is what you see in my pictures here), and it should come down on the right side if you’re spinning counter-clockwise.
The Bliss wheel is available with a single or double treadle. As the conversion kit was only available from single treadle to double treadle at the time I bought the wheel, I decided to go with the single treadle and covert if needed. Well, I’m fine with the single treadle :) The treadle itself is huge, you can put on or both feet on it and treadle very relaxed :) I also found that I can slouch on my couch more comfortably when I have one foot free :) So I guess having a double treadle wheel is much more healthier for the back ;) because have to sit more disciplined, but I think you can treadle also faster and more controlled.
I for myself treadle too fast fr my hands with only one foot, so I’m fine :) I haven’t even used the fastest translation of the wheel. The wheel has 4, by the way. I am no expert but people in the Internet say that those 4 translation are great and even enough for people who are not beginners like me. I am fine with the translations. I guess I would have been fine with less too :)
What annoys me a little is that you have to stop the wheel from time to time to loop the yarn through the next hook to distribute it evenly. And even though there are a few hooks the distribution isn’t that even, there are always valleys and mountains and it is never completely even. I think Flying hooks are more convenient and help you get more yarn on the bobbin. Nevertheless I was able to get 200 g on the bobbins. But that was the absolute maximum.
The wheel has an untensioned Lazy Kate integrated in the frame. I ave used it for all of my plying so far and it worked nicely. I do understand why you would want a tensioned Lazy Kate though. It happens to me that I pull the thread and the bobbins turns and turns and turns and the thread loops around the bobbin in the other direction. Takes some getting used to, too, but it works, and a tensioned Lazy Kate would be a convenience feature.
You might see a pattern here. The wheel has everything one needs to start spinning, what is doesn’t have is convenience features. You know, things you want when you’ve been spinning for a while and enjoy it. Same as in sewing where after some time where after some time you’d like to get a serger and a top feed. But you cannot know what convenience features you want and need unless you don’t have them and miss them:) So I think the Bliss spinning wheel is a great place to start when you don’t have any idea about what exactly you want, need and if spinning on a wheel is something for you. This wheel is great to find all of that out. And it comes at a reasonable price. The wheel is nice too for everyone who is looking for an affordable transportable wheel I think. There is not much to get damaged on this wheel and spinning with it is, apart from the brake, very uncomplicated.
So my summary is that you cannot really go wrong with buying a Bliss.
Let me know if you have any question and Happy New Year :)