I'm going to be honest; it is kind of a monster to spin on. Let me rephrase that - SHE tends to be a little sticky in the treadle, is heavy, has a bit of a finicky double drive tension, and is kind of noisy. And I love her. I've owned many spinning wheels, and sold them as I've changed spinning styles, needs, or desires, but this one... this is the ONE despite her difficulties.
Her, you ask? Yes. My wheel has engendered itself. I'm not prone to the anthropomorphism of inanimate objects, but this one exudes personality---and femininity. She even has a name, and I'm pretty sure she gave it to herself; it's Larethia.
I think you need a closer look before you think I'm crazy.
The wheel is one of a kind, and I doubt there will ever be another one like her. She was made by an Oroville, Washington woman named Betty Roberts. This one started life out as a Black Walnut tree (Juglans nigra) in Betty's neighbor's back yard. In 1981, a storm blew the tree down. Betty salvaged the wood, and made the wheel as a gift for her neighbor, who thought she wanted to learn to spin. At that time, the wheel was known as the Riste Wheel, named after the neighbors. Jen fostered it for a while. I have adopted it now, and it won't be going anywhere anytime soon.
It spins like a dream. I can easily spin lace weight yarn. I can easily spin worsted and aran weight yarns. I would not spin boucle or artsy yarns on this wheel due to the maidenhead set up, but I rarely use those kinds of yarn anyway so who cares. I wish the bobbins were a little bigger because heavier yarns end up being smaller yardage skeins, but no big deal. My favorite weight to spin on her is DK anyway.
And did you see the butterflies and wildflowers???????
There is a yahoo group devoted to lovers of Betty Roberts wheels called "Spinning Wheels by Betty Roberts." It is a restricted group, but the moderators are lovely people and genuinely interested in sharing their passion for these wheels. It is probably the best place to find one for sale, and definitely the place to see the other, very unique (and updated) wheels Betty has crafted.
If you are going to Madrona Fiber Arts this year, you are likely to see some of us spinning together on our Betty wheels. I will be there.
As for me, I am happy to be reunited with my wheel. Today I got her cleaned up, polished, oiled and reassured that my love for her remains true despite the Louet Victoria in the corner. I have gone back to spinning with Larethia in the mornings. We are working on some very special silk for a very special shawl. That project, however, is a post for another time.