Be forewarned, this post will be about spinning, and therefore possibly incomprehensible/boring to non-spinners, but also possibly fun and interesting (?).
There is no way to do justice to all the information out there on this wheel. I’ll just give you a quick overview and a synopsis of my feelings about it. So, here is my beautiful Kromski Sonata. Kromski is a family company, and they still build their wheels in Poland. The main thing I was looking for in a wheel was that it was compact and portable. We live in a small house and we own a lot of stuff, so I knew I didn’t have the space for a large wheel. Also, apparently, wheels with two pedals, as opposed to one, are easier for beginners to operate. (I don’t know about this from experience because I’m hardheaded and I usually just buy what I want after doing research, instead of trying things out. This generally works okay, so I haven’t altered my practices.) Price, of course, was also a factor. You can spend a lot on a wheel, but it seems like the very least you can spend is around $350. This one cost a bit more than that, but it is also full sized, which a lot of folding wheels are not. This wheel folds down and fits into a nice carry bag, that I can wear as a backpack (though it is big enough that I look a little like a Ninja Turtle). Also, like many of the other Kromski wheels, it has a more traditional look, which I thought was attractive. Also, I sprung the extra $20 for the walnut finish.
Let me tell you, learning to spin from written instructions and short clip videos on Youtube is not for the faint of heart or short of patience. I chose a weekend when my husband was away fishing and I had the whole house to myself to curse, cry, etc. I had a dickens of a time getting started. To get started you attach some leader, or waste yarn, to the bobbin where the spun yarn will be collected, and then attach your unspun wool to that leader. Well, I was remembering my spindle, and trying to use acrylic yarn for the leader, or some of the unspun yarn, twisted up into rudimentary wool. These things really do kind of work on a spindle. But the wheel was too strong and my spun wool kept breaking. Additionally, I got one spindle “full enough” before I realized while reading an article on plying, the second step in this process, that I was doing the whole thing LEFT HANDED. I’m not left handed.
One additional hurdle I seem to have conceived for myself is that the wool I’m spinning with was not meant to be spun with. A spinner friend of mine bought way too much wool at some point. She had some of it converted into batts for quilts, big flat rectangles of unspun wool. I took two of these batts off her hands, thinking I would make quilts with them, but then I was thinking, why learn with good stuff, why not learn with not so good stuff and move to the good stuff later, and also it is a nice color anyway. I think, because it wasn’t meant for spinning, the folks who processed the wool into a batt didn’t card it as well as wool intentioned for spinning. I think this because this wool is full of neps, little fuzzballs that are hard to stretch out into flat enough and so they stay little fuzzballs form slubs, which are the non-uniform parts of the yarn that are like soft bumps. See, neps and slubs, all kinds of fun language. In the end, all I can hope is that they give the yarn a little bit of a tweed look.
So, I’ve started to fill my second bobbin, and once that is done and I have somewhere around the same amount of spun wool on both then I’ll ply them together, and then I’ll have yarn. Well, I’ll have yarn after I “set the twist” which is basically like blocking the yarn, like you would block a sweater (blocking: to get a wool thing wet and stretch it into the shape you want, and then pin it or something until it is dry, and then it retains the shape you want).
Things that bewilder me: getting the spun wool to be collected evenly on the bobbin. There are lots of photos of people’s spinning and it is very nicely collected on the bobbin, whereas mine is all humped. Second: people in spinning articles I’ve been reading keep talking about twists per inch, and how you want all the yarn you are using for one project to have the same twists per inch, but I’ll be darned if I can figure out how you count twists per inch.