Spinning wheel-wise I'm a castle wheel woman. Ever since the first time I saw a Schacht Matchless I've been smitten with castle wheels.
Castle wheels are spinning wheels that are pretty compact and vertical, saxony wheels are the Sleeping Beauty style wheel, more horizontal. To me they look like the difference between a dog sitting up and a one laying on her side.
I'd never been much tempted by saxony wheels. In my greedy mind, I always thought I could fit two castle wheels in the same footprint as a single saxony. Greed-y. I have a Schacht Matchless and Sidekick, a Majacraft Suzie Pro, a Lendrum DT, and a Hansen minispinner which has the smallest footprint of all. I think a Louet is next.
I wasn't tempted by a saxony wheel until I met the Schacht Flatiron. I really liked the way it looked. Yes, I call it the Schacht-Ikea, but as a compliment. It's a flat pack wheel that can be built with the orifice on the left or right side, and all of the parts are US made. I was also attracted to getting a wheel with a big drive wheel at an affordable price. I first spun on it at PLY Away and it was incredibly smooth.
The build took me forever! I have never built a wheel before and it took me almost four hours to put it together. Many spinners who have built wheels before report a time of 90 minutes or less. The instructions were great and easy to follow, I just kept double checking going very methodically - rare for me.
Then came the spinning. I knew it would be awkward, that I would have to rethink a few things, but I didn't anticipate how long it take me to get into a saxony groove.
I spun on it a little, with hesitancy. I couldn't find a chair the right height, I couldn't figure how to sit in front of it or how to comfortably draft. I loved how it spun, smooth and speedy, fine yarns are what this wheel wants to churn out with ease. I kept trying to force it to work like a castle wheel.
Spinning at a castle wheel, I sit straight in front of it, and draft backwards (with my left hand). I tried straight on with my Flatiron and it only worked in the most awkward way possible. Treadling came in starts and stops. I couldn't really get a good long draft with my fiber; I knew I was supposed to draft across by body, but my body was in the way. I could spin and make yarn, but I knew I wasn't doing something right. My Flatiron was never crabby about it, she was just waiting for me to figure it out.
I looked at pictures and videos of spinners at saxony wheels, I paid attention to my students in classes. They all had their wheels a little angled with the orifice away and the drive wheel closer to their bodies. I tried it. I also looked at the Flation's treadles, they are angled. If I sat straight in line(ish) with the treadles, the wheel would be angled drive wheel close/ orifice away to my body.
It was much easier to treadle, to stop and start and just cruise, when I was sitting the way the wheel maker intended, all of the treadling weirdness I experienced was gone. The other thing that orienting did was to completely open up my drafting. I could draft all the way across my body, more side to side than back. I could get a loooong draft and it made my tired shoulder much happier. Right now I'm spinning with a sprained ankle and it is easy to treadle using one foot; it's still silky smooth.
I've been moving toward finer yarns, fixating on fine woolen yarns or woolen drafted top, so the ratios of this wheel (a bigger drive wheel allows more flyer rotations even with a medium sized whorl, which means more twist with each treadle and easier fine yarn spinning) make me so happy. Like my other Schacht wheels before her the Flatiron can be set up in all three drive systems and adjustments to the brake and drive wheel are set so minute adjustments are possible.
Since this is a Schacht wheel, all of my other Schacht wheel components fit on the Flatiron, whorls, Schacht bobbins and Akerworks bobbins, and yes, my WooLee Winder. Imagine the smile on my face.
Castle wheels are still my first love, but now that I've figured out saxony wheels, thanks to the patient and easy to use Flatiron, I'm looking for spots in my house to fit another saxony or two.