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Collected Wisdom from the
Ashford-Spinners Mailing List

Traditionally Speaking

Spinners share information, tips and techniques on the use of the classic Ashford Traditional Spinning Wheel

From: (Leslie)

I have an Ashford Traditional which I ordered in kit form in Spring 1997. When it arrived in about a million pieces I panicked, having absolutely no wood-finishing experience, but I finished it and put it together all by my lonesome and have been feeling pretty proud of myself. The directions that come with the kit are pretty darn good IMHO.

From: (Mary)

One very helpful article in Spin-Off for upgrading and maintaining your Ashford wheels is in the Summer 1995 Spin-Off, page 92, "Making the most of your spinning wheel: The Ashford Traditional." On page 101 is the article "Fine-tuning the Ashford Traditional." This is a great help when my wheel is being, shall we say, finicky.

A Brief Run-Through of Wheel Parts

From: (Bobbi)

Treadle: - Position your foot on it in such a way that your heel will be at or near the back edge while treadling. It should require only moderate pressure of your toes and ball of foot to get the drive wheel moving. When trying to stop or reverse, use a rapidly alternating heel and toe pressure to stop treadling.

- Footman: the wooden stick that is attached with a piece of flexible leather to the treadle at one end and with nuts and bolt at the other end, to the

- Crankshaft: the bent piece of metal that has a flattened tip and a hole to accommodate the bolt end coming from the footman. You can call it the axle crank because it is an extension of the

- Axle: the metal bar that runs through the hub of the

- Drive Wheel: the largest part of what is essentially a system of pulleys. Note grooved circumference which should have finely braided (usually cotton, sometimes linen) cord running from the drive wheel to the

- Flyer Pulley: the grooved "whorl" on the "horseshoe-shaped" or "U-shaped" piece of wood that has little hooks on one or both arms. This is the

- Flyer: serves to wind the yarn that is being twisted onto the

- Bobbin: the "spool" that is mounted onto the spindle shaft of the flyer. (Note that on older model Traditionals, you may have to file the inside curves of the flyer just a tad deeper in order that the flyer can accommodate the later-made bobbins, which are sometimes just a fraction of an inch too wide.) You don't want the bobbin rubbing any surfaces other than the spindle shaft (very lightly) and the

- Scotch Tensioner: Also called the "bobbin brake" or Scotch Brake, it's a piece of what looks like heavy fishing monofilament (and, in my case is just that) with either a tiny metal spring or a heavy rubber band attached to one end. The Scotch tensioner is laid into the pulley groove in the larger end of the bobbin and is attached at both ends to the

- Mother-of-All: the tiltable "table" or platform onto which are fitted two

- Maidens: two uprights (posts) which are press-fitted into the mother-of-all and can be swiveled in their seats in order to have the flyer and bobbin assembly mounted into the leather bearings. Note that one bearing has a larger opening to accomodate the "orifice" end of the flyer. The other bearing takes the spindle shaft. Note that this end of the mother-of-all has a knob press-fitted into its side and that the scotch tensioner extends from this knob over the bobbin pulley and fastens onto a small hook screwed onto the M-o-A's side opposite the knob.

- Drive Tensioner: Is the knob that is screwed into the top surface of the M-o-A. This knob tilts the entire M-o-A in order to apply tension to the drive band.

The Rear Maiden Slot

From: (Sandy)

Re the rear maiden on the traditional -- mine does have the slot, but I wonder everytime I remove the bobbin if I am doing damage -- or are they meant to take some torking around (as they appear to be made out of nylon). I always worry that somehow the turning/twisting/lifting action to remove the bobbin somehow must not be good for it and I wonder if I'm doing it properly. How is the proper way to remove the bobbin?

That's a tough piece of nylon; you aren't going to hurt it. I tend to sort of hold the wood part with my hand while my fingers push straight up on the flyer shaft to pop it out of the slot. Also, should the "worst" happen and it broke (which I don't think I've ever heard of happening) it is an inexpensive part to replace. You could use a sharp knife and trim the inside rim of the slot to smooth it if it is rough and very slightly enlarge it.


From: (Rosemary)

My first wheel (which I still have) is an Ashford Traditional. It was purchased in a kit form and I assembled it. (The directions are very easy to follow btw.) I subsequently acquired the double-drive flyer and had Alden Amos do what he refers to as a 'tune up'. He balances the bobbins and what not. If you are contemplating this, check with Alden. There is a higher charge if he has to do this on an assembled wheel. So, as one woman said, who was spinning on my Ashford, "This isn't 'stock' is it?" I still recommend the Ashford Traditional as the best wheel to get when you are starting out. It is an easy wheel to use and one that most spinners are comfortable with.

Shipping Your Wheel

From: Susan Druding

Definitely take the main wheel parts apart to ship and move it. You do NOT want to ship an assembled wheel, and not just because of UPS size requirements - too easy to damage it! Take the flyer assembly and bobbins and pack them with clothing or other soft items around them in a suitcase or other firm container. The other pieces can be packed with wadded paper. You don't have to TOTALLY take it apart - just enough that you can lay the larger pieces flat. We do this for trade shows all the time and it all goes back together just fine. We did so even when the old "pin-hub" arrangement was present. I had a friend who took her wheel apart and moved it twice a year for years! Take a fine strong knitting needle or a long brad to knock out the old pin - put it in a baggie for safe keeping.

From: (Verne)

To ship your Traditional, send it in pieces. They come apart more easily than you think. Nothing is glued, you can do it with a screwdriver. Then pack it in a flat box. The one critical point is the "pin" which goes through the drive wheel and shaft. You have to drive that pin (it's about 3" long) right out use a hammer and a big nail and out it comes. It will go back just as easily.

From: (Kerri)

I agree with the previous responses and think taking the wheel apart is a good idea. It makes for a great opportunity to give it a real good cleaning. I would take mine apart once a year or so and clean the axle etc. Lots of dust and fiber can accumulate and slow your spinning without you noticing.

From: (Becky)

There is a way to remove the wheel and axle from the leg supports, but it is pretty brutal. I had to do it to my Traditional this summer to ship her from Seattle to L.A.. I wouldn't recommend it unless you HAVE to do it. I don't know if the older wheels are the same, but on my Traditional (which is about 8 years old,) there is a groove in the wooden hub of the wheel, running the full width of the hub and passing through the center. In other words, the groove is a "diameter" of the hub. The axle, which passes through the center of the hub, has a small hole drilled through it in such a location that when the axle is inserted the proper distance into the hub of the wheel the hole can be lined up with the groove in the hub. Groove and hole are the same size, just a teeny hair smaller than a metal pin that sits in the goove and passes through the hole, holding the axle into place in the hub.

The pin has to be hammered out to take the wheel and axle off the legs. In order to apply force to the end of the pin you need to find an extremely hard, sturdy, long, skinny metal implement that will fit into the groove, so you can hammer out the pin. I used (and ruined) a small diameter hex wrench. I used the same hex wrench (it isn't good for much else now) to hammer the pin back into place when re-assembling the wheel. I do not think the wheel can be taken apart and put back together more than a couple of times before I do serious damage to the wooden groove in the hub, so I would not dis-assemble the wheel lightly.

From: (Jacklyn)

I have had correspondence with several individuals from the Knitnet group who have mentioned that their Ashford Traditional wheels tended to creep along the floor when spinning. I have experienced the same with mine, although not on other types of spinning wheels I have used. I have dealt with the problem by oiling the wheel, loosening the drive band (easy to over tighten) and finally gave up and purchased non-skid cups used for bed frames. They work great!

What Fibers Can One Spin On A Traditional?

From: (Lauren)

I feel like I can only make one type of yarn on my Ashford Traditional. Is it me? or do other people feel the same way. I would appreciate any hints/tips in this area.

From: (Patsy)

Don't lose heart. Your traditional ashford will spin almost any fiber, any style and any weight yarn you will be able to think of. When I did my "Certificate Of Excellence" yarns, I used my Ashford Traditional for all of the yarns, (36 yarns - cotton, wool, silk, flax, and other fibers), that weren't required to be spun on a different tool. Four yarns had to be spun on a drop spindle, support spindle, Navaho spindle and a spindle point wheel to prove proficiency. Then all of my Master's novelty yarns were also spun on the same Traditional.

In the beginning you must make a very conscious decision that the next bobbin is going to be different. Most of us are "habitual" spinners, this is Rita Buchanan's term for getting comfortable with one particular style and size of yarn.

To make a different yarn you must change something intentionally. I have my classes first try to spin twice as fine as their usual yarn. Finer is easier than thicker. Change the take-up to a lighter touch, use a very nice wool preparation, pull off a thinner sliver from the roving. Draft a bit finer than you are a first comfortable with. Relax since you have more time to insert the needed extra twist.

Then after you have mastered a thinner yarn. Make a conscious effort to decide at the beginning of each spinning session, that this bobbin will be the old thicker or the new thinner. If you don't retain how you used to spin thicker, then the new thin yarn soon becomes the "habitual" yarn and you will be saying those words again. "All my yarn looks alike, only now it is thin." Good luck.


Yes you can spin cotton on a Traditional using double drive. That's the way I spin it. The first cotton I used is some brown roving I got from a member of my guild. She said, "You can't overspin cotton" and once it is spun to wind it on the niddy-noddy and throw noddy into very hot water if I want to keep that shade of brown. Currently I have some plain old white stuff that I want to dye. So far I have found it possible to spin llama, cotton, merino, coopworth, and polyester batting (desperate for fiber, wasn't I) on a Traditional using double drive. I discovered this fact after my grandson ran off with the little spring and knob to attach the scotch tension. They haven't been found and he's too little to interrogate! It just takes a little extra fiddling with each fiber to get timing, position etc right.

From: (Kate)

I spin cotton on my Traditional (and on my Traveller) with no problems...just trot right along on the treadling...spin it long draw and lots of twist...the long draw will allow you to draft out the slubs. Just remember that cotton is stronger if spun fine. Use very little take-up.


My Ashford Traditional has no trouble spinning cotton. I had a little trouble until I took a great class from Paula Shull. Spin with practically no tension and lots of twist. I especially love to spin a cotton/silk blend-such a texture!

From: (Sue)

I've done flax on an Ashford Traditional with no problem. Same bobbins and everything. If you want to go really fine, you might want to try the lace bobbins or start the flax on a 1/2 filled bobbin. It'll pull and break less at the beginning. Since the fibers are longer, you won't have to treadle as much as you would for merino or a short staple silk, but you will have to go faster than for knitting wool.

From: (Claudia)

Spinners of angora need to be aware that twist is all that keeps angora together. And the longer the fiber you are working with and the THICKER a yarn you are making, the less twist you have to have. I find with the smallest whorl ratio on the Traditional, I treadle once for every inch of drafting for my prime plucked long-fiber thin spinning. For the thicker yarns, one treadle for every two inches or so is all I need. Hope this helps out.

From: (Nancy)

I would like to encourage others to try 'designer' yarns... I just tried making boucle with my Traditional and it worked great! I love this spinning wheel. How?

- Spin 2 plys, same or 1 thinner. (z twist)
- Hold thinner tight, hold other loosely & let wrap.
- If you want, push loosely wrapped ply into bumps periodically. (s twist)
- Ply again, using sewing thread or very thin ply. (z twist)

From: (James)

I have an Ashford Traditional and use a plastic drive band. I love it. Don't feel bad; at first I was confused at to how to get it on and then was told you cut and then melt the ends and fuse it back together. It is a bit of a pain, but worth it. I would imagine you could do the same on the Traveller. Hope this helps.

Single and Double Drive Alternatives

I recommend the Single Drive Traditional Ashford as the best all-around wheel for most purposes. There are those who recommend the double drive and either one spins just fine, but the original is still the best to my mind. A double drive wheel comes with set ratios while a single drive wheel has the full range of adjustment possible. Although the double drive wheels can be converted into single drive, they don't convert into as convenient a single drive as the wheels built to be single drive.


From: (Debbie)

Just bought an Ashford Traditional and have been happily spinning away for the last week in the double drive mode. At a spinners' group yesterday, someone suggested I use the scotch tension while spinning some merino roving, so I tried to use it today, and can't figure out what it's supposed to do. I moved the drive bands over to the flyer whorl, & stretched the little nylon fishing line-like thing over the groove in the bobbin & attached the spring to the hook on the front of the maiden. But it doesn't seem to do anything when I treadle, even when I tighten the knob, so have I hooked it up wrong or what? I just can't tell how it's supposed to be from the pictures in the directions. I've been spinning the merino just fine with the double drive and the smaller whorl on the flyer, but what's the scotch tension for anyway? Any help will be much appreciated.

From: (Lynne)

I have recently started on a Traditional, too, and had the same experience with trying the scotch tension. With both drive belts on the flyer, there's nothing to turn to bobbin, right? Anyway, I just went back to double drive, which works fine for me for fine spinning, medium, or bulky. Maybe someday I'll learn the scotch tension -- or maybe not. As much as I love the wheel and what it ALREADY does, I don't really care.

From: (Claudia)

I use all the Ashford wheels successfully. The key is a light tension on brake band and/or drive band. I find the scotch tension a lot easier to manage, but double drive has worked successfully if I keep the wheels well oiled and take the time to adjust carefully before I start. Right now I am working mostly on my Traditional with jumbo flyer but with standard bobbin and standard whorl. I am too lazy to change the whole assembly all the time, and the ease in plying on a jumbo setup far outweighs any inconvenience in spinning tiny yarn through a huge orifice. Besides, if I want the ultimate spinning experience, I use the JOY or ELIZABETH with standard set-ups and enjoy the tighter control and light response. It's fun to break the rules on a steady basis... keeps one in charge.

From: (Deborah)

Scotch tensioning versus Double Drive: All of my wheels, except one, are double drive. The exception is my original Ashford traditional. And, this is the wheel that I use to try any "new" fiber. My little Traditional allows me the most control at the lowest speed -- or at least, that's how it feels... perhaps I am so comfortable with this wheel because it's my first and I've been spinning on it for so long. By the way, by "new" fiber, I'm not referring to anything very exotic like wolf underdown or whatever... I'm just referring to anything technically difficult. For example, in 1996, we produced some of our finest kid mohair, ever: the slightest breeze would make the fiber "float"... rather like a good angora. While I've spun fine kid mohair for years (and love it), I'd never spun anything quite like that... as well, I only had a bit of it -- 3 kid fleeces -- because most of the babies were sold that year prior to their first shearing. To spin these three "treasures" (2 very black, one a soft charcoal flecked with red), I went back to my Ashford Traditional. On the other hand, if I'm working with a fiber (shetland, for instance) that I'm very comfortable with, then I use a double drive (perhaps dear Elizabeth) and just FLY!

From: (Carmen)

I bought a Traditional over the 'Net and am trying to learn to spin. My wheel arrived with two sets of bands. Each set has two bands. There was no Scotch tension apparatus, although I think it can be used as a single drive with Scotch tension, alternatively. I've been trying to learn using the double drive.

My question is: If you have a double drive do you HAVE to use a single band, doubled, or is it possible to use a two-band system, one band for the flyer and one for the bobbin (both also around the big wheel)? I can't see that it would make that much difference - but I'm just a beginner.

A "double drive" band means a single drive belt (read : string) in a Figure-8 - it is NEVER two separate circles of string or band. It's called double drive as the belt goes around two places in its two loops. The wheel won't work if the belt isn't in a Figure-8 (folded in half) form.


From: (Chris)

I have purchased a new Traditional DD and can only say that the new wheel is a delight to use, (although I have only used it so far as a single drive). It is such smoooooooth treadling. At the time, I also picked up Patsy Zawistowski's video tape which a few of you recommended and it has helped me tremendously.

The Traditional DD has a few different combinations of band placements from which to choose and the Ashford directions give no indication of what to use for what purpose. The bobbins on the DD have a groove on each end, one being larger than the other, of course. The flyer whorl also has two band grooves. When using the wheel as a single drive which bobbin and which whorl groove is for what type of spinning? Which would one use when spinning with the double drive option and for what purposes?

From: (Annette)

I'll try to answer this for you, Chris. My Traditional is a single drive, but my Traveller is double drive. What you need to do is start making notes for yourself. Place one drive band on the bobbin, small end and the other drive band on whorl and start making ratio notes (how many turns of the flyer to turns on the large wheel ie: 14:1). Then switch the bobbin around, and start making the same notes for that end of the bobbin. There is also Irish tension to consider with a DD, but that's something else again.

Generally speaking, the smaller the whorl, the higher the twist, so if you want to spin a lace weight and don't have the lace flyer, then choose the smallest end of your bobbin with the smallest whorl. And the reverse of that, of course, is that if you want a soft spun singles, you'll need to use the largest end of the bobbin and the largest whorl. When I want to spin a soft spun singles similar to Lopi, I actually use my jumbo flyer unit and a long, quick draw with very well prepared rovings.


I would like to ask about ratios. How do you get three ratios from a two ratio whorl flyer? I have about driven myself mad with trying to figure this out and my husband has given it his all and has come to the same conclusion.

The 3rd speed (which isn't obvious so you aren't doing anything wrong not to know about it!) is achieved on a double drive wheel by a technique sometimes called "Irish tension". It's explained in the Ashford Book of Spinning by Anne Field - you put BOTH loops of the drive band on the bobbin whorl and no loop on the flyer whorl. The air and friction on the maidens allows enough drag on the flyer to let the yarn draw on. Try it - it works.


From: (Michael)

I owe Faye a report on the high-speed flyer for the Traditional. I think I have used it enough now to make a fair evaluation. I have a double-drive Traditional (half year old)... Okay, on the whole I like it. Spinning a good sea island cotton is a dream (which is what I got it for), though I still find it easier to ply on the regular flyer.

I had a problem with getting the tension right initially... if it was too loose, there was no spin, but then suddenly it would grab and go as I increased the tension. I have solved this problem by using a little paste wax on the bobbin whorl, to allow for more slippage. If there are other solutions, I would be interested in hearing them. I did try scotch tension, but didn't like it. I spin a thin yarn, and with the scotch tension, the yarn was jumping the hooks *continuously*. I really am sold on the double drive, anyway.

From: (Jane)

I have a Double Drive Traditional Ashford wheel. I love it. I have a question about the way the whorl attaches to my spindle. My standard flyer has a screw on whorl, my jumbo flyer has a press on (? D) whorl. Now I need a high speed whorl and I presume that it should go on my standard flyer. Can I still get a screw on high speed whorl or will I have to buy a whole new flyer?


I, too, have a Traditional DD and recently purchased the high speed kit. It contained the new keyed ('D') whorl, four bobbins, and the complete keyed flyer. On Susan Druding's advice, I ordered a new keyed standard whorl and no longer use the original flyer. The cost for the new whorl was modest.

From: (Lynne)

I chose to buy an Ashford Traditional Double Drive because it has the option of using either Scotch tension or belt drive tension. I must confess I've never used the Scotch tension because I've been able to get the double drive to do everything I've wanted to do. I totally love my wheel. Only thing I might do differently in the future (in ADDITION to, not instead of the Traditional) is get one with treadling and orifice both centered because the position I usually use for spinning does strange things to my right leg and body. But I wouldn't trade the Traditional for the world. And I suspect everyone you hear from on this list will be equally exuberant about THEIR particular choice - so don't be surprised if you end up more confused than you already feel! In my humble opinion there's no way you could go wrong with any of the Ashford products -- and no, I'm not on the staff! Just a satisfied customer.

From: (Portia)

Lynne and I have been having an off-list discussion about double drive/Scotch tension Ashford Traditionals. We each have one which we love, but there's a confusion factor that we need to get cleared up. Can anyone help us? Here's the problem:

When I recently bought my Ashford traditional with double drive/Scotch tension and double treadle, the previous owner cautioned me that when it is set up for double drive, the bobbin spins backwards and puts an S twist in the yarn. She said this means that yarn spun with double drive can't be plied with yarn from Scotch tension. When I set mine up for double drive, that's what appeared to be happening, and some other spinning friends who are familiar with the wheel confirmed it. So I've gone back to Scotch tension so I don't get too confused at this early date (I'm already confused enough :) ).

Here's what Lynne says about the question:

"My yarn, using DD, with the wheel turning clockwise, has a Z twist. if the wheel turns counterclockwise it produces an S twist. If your wheel doesn't do that, something is set up incorrectly. Let's ask Susan; this has got my curiosity tweaked now."

Susan or someone, can you answer our question? Does double drive produce S twist or not? If not, what am I doing wrong when I set mine up for DD? Inquiring minds want to know...

I'm not sitting near a wheel, but after closing my eyes and thinking --- the yarn should all be the same twist, but it's just winding differently on the bobbin on double drive as compared to single drive?

In single drive the bobbin is turning more slowly than the flyer but in the same direction - in double drive the bobbin is turning faster and the flyer is wrapping it the other way,

BUT it's the FLYER THAT DETERMINES THE TWIST DIRECTION! Not the bobbin - The flyer is doing the spinning at the orifice opening whether or not the bobbin is even turning. The bobbin is only winding the yarn onto itself.

Do this - take a foot of yarn spun on each set up and hold it vertically and I think you'll see that the direction of the twist is the same and matches the direction in which you turned the wheel, ie. the way the drive wheel is turning.


From: (Sara)

I purchased a left handed Traditional at Convergence in Minneapolis. These wheels are not just a gimmick. After spinning nearly 20 years on "normal" Saxony wheels, my back had actually become a bit off-center and when I stood "straight" I was actually looking toward the left. Since breaking in the new wheel and spinning quite a bit of yarn on it, I can happily attest to a straighter spine. It just feels really great to use it. I don't think, however, that is makes any difference in the yarn. What makes a left handed spinner? It's anyone who draws the yarn with the left hand - even if right handed.

From: (Deborah)

I've used a combination of vaseline and mineral oil for all of my approximately 17 years as a spinner with good results, starting with my little Ashford Traditional. Now, there may be better, more modern products available (surely things have changed in 17 yrs ); however, I'm an alumnus from the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" school of thought... hence, no change. I use a little vaseline on the flyer shaft to keep the bobbins running smoothly. I reapply vaseline every couple of hours. I apply drops of mineral oil to all of the other moving parts on an hourly basis. If I haven't been spinning for a couple of days (or weeks or months), I clean the orifice, hooks, and flyer shaft with a little rubbing alcohol and one of my husband's old, soft t-shirts. A heavier oil might allow me to spin, uninterrupted, for a long period of time; but, at my age, I've learned that an hourly break (I also get up from my chair, stretch, and look out the window) is good for keeping my body parts moving smoothly, too! I now have a collection of some 13 wheels (okay... I admit it... I have a problem!) and I use this combo on all of them.

My only problem with any of the Ashford wheels have been warped bobbins. If the warp is mild, I simply ream it with a small round file. When we moved from the coast to our mountain aerie (dry!), all of my old Ashford bobbins warped (poor dears) and I have since replaced them. We're planning on moving the ranch North to a much greener, gentler land in a couple of years when my husband retires; it will be interesting to see how the wheels and bobbins handle a more humid home!

"Favorite Direction" Dialog

From: (Cathy)

Is it possible for a particular wheel to 'prefer' to spin one direction over another? I have a Traditional that spins beautifully 'Z' but bucks and kicks when I try to spin 'S'. Since I spin singles "Z" and ply "S", that means plying is not a fun experience! I was trying to do some Navajo plying this past weekend and finally gave up, conceding victory to my wheel.

From: (Joyce)

My old Ashford Traditional (>20 years) definitely prefers spinning clockwise. Counterclockwise, the nuts and stuff at the top of the con rod at the end of the axle get messed up. I don't have a solution, unfortunately, except, possibly to ply with the lightest possible tension?

From: (Cathy)

My thanks for the advice on my stubborn traditional wheel. The consensus seems to be that some wheels really do have a "preference" of which direction they want to spin. So I guess I can either be more patient when plying, or try to find another wheel that I can use for plying.

From: (Peggy)

I had a horrible time getting my Traditional to spin counterclockwise for plying. After fighting with it for a while I spent a bit applying a little mechanics to the problem. I decided the biggest difference between the forces on the flyer during clockwise and counter clockwise rotation was the location of the tensioning spring.

When you are spinning clockwise, the pull of the brake band is away from the rubber band, making it more responsive to the tension release on the yarn for taking up the spun yarn. When you spin the wheel counter-clockwise, the pull is against the string wound on the peg, hence a rotten time getting the yarn to wind on once plied enough.

My solution was cutting the brake band between the eye and the peg, and tying in a rubber band there too. By this I mean that I inserted a second rubber band in the section of the brake band that is horizontal just before the band winds onto the peg. That fixed the problem.

From: (Donna)

When I ply my singles with my Traditional, I find that I have to use even less on the break band than spinning. I assume you're plying with the wheel spinning in the opposite direction than when spinning. If not that may be your problem. I discovered that after getting a couple of skeins of corkscrews...

Advice from the Just In Case troubleshooting manual:


15) If the wheel binds slightly loosen the 4 bolts securing the frame together. Spin the wheel and retighten the bolts in a different sequence until the wheel spins freely.

16) If the drive cord is not directly aligned between the wheel and flyer whorl, adjust the maiden bar horizontally by loosening the screws under it. Realign the drive cord and retighten the screws.

17) Retain allen key for future re-tightening of wheel parts as during use vibration may loosen bolts. (Tape it under treadle?)

The Lace Flyer


The Lace Flyer has ratios of 40:1, 30:1, 20:1 and 15:1. The 40-30-20-15 ratios are those obtained with a standard cotton drive cord (included in the kit). Also included will be a poly-stretchy drive cord for extra "grab". Using this stretchy drive cord will slightly lower the ratios since it has a larger diameter than the cotton, but its ease of use will be worth the slight loss of ratios for many spinners who will like the feel of using this stretchy drive band.

The ratios quoted are those obtained on the Traditional Ashford Wheel; the Traveller will have slightly lower ratios due to having a smaller diameter drive wheel than the Traditional.

There are 3 different Lace Flyer Kits:

1. A kit that fits both the Single Drive Traditional AND the Single Drive Traveller;
2. A kit that fits only the double drive Traditional;
3. A kit that fits only the double drive Traveller.

There is no adaptor kit which some people ask about. The reason people think there is an adaptor kit is that after Richard Ashford developed the Lace Flyer kit for the Single Drive wheels (which didn't fit the double drive wheels) his plan was to make an adaptor kit to do this. (The early advertisements we ran in SPIN OFF mentioned this adaptor kit) But, instead, he ended up making two separate Lace Flyers Kits, one each for the two styles of double drive. Each kit has everything you need to install the Lace Flyer on the wheel you own.

The ASHFORD LACE FLYER Kit includes:

- A completely re-designed flyer with an elongated, slim design for optimizing high speed spinning;
- New front and rear maidens with special ball bearings inset into the maidens to allow for easy treadling and true ratios (i.e. to minimize slippage);
- Three fat-core Bobbins to facilitate beginning extra-fine spinning on an empty bobbin;
- Two drive belts: standard cotton and new stretchy poly, a "fusing block" and instructions for joining the ends of the poly belt;
- Flyer hooks set in a staggered pattern in the flyer arms to allow for even filling;
- A packet of Ashford's Merino Sliver to practice lace yarn spinning with the new flyer.

Suggested retail: $95.00

Price may vary depending on dealer's shipping and handling charges.

From: (Anne)

I am having trouble with the lace flyer on my Ashford Traditional. At the moment I am spinning silk on the fastest/smallest whorl. The problem is that the slightest bit of tension on the Scotch tension causes the flyer to rotate very slowly, and sometimes stop. But without any tension, the spun thread is not winding on, and ends up in a kinked mass near the orifice.

I have spun lots of silk with this flyer, and the problem only occurred intermittently, until now. Usually I could do some fine-tuning and get it too work right, but not tonight. The only new thing I did was to put on a new Ashford fat-core bobbin, which is very tight, as if the hole is slightly too small. Is this the source of the problem?

It sounds as if you have a source of extra (unwanted) friction - check over each area - the bobbin should turn VERY easily and fast if you twirl it on the flyer shaft while holding the flyer in your hands. You need to OIL the flyer shaft often where the bobbin "rides".

If the hole is somehow blocked in the bobbin (peer through it) you can rasp it out a bit with a circular file (I keep a small one with my spinning stuff to keep inner bobbin channels open).

Make sure you using a drive band that isn't oily or slick. Others may have some ideas, too.



From: (Mary)

I also stopped by the Ashford stand to buy one of the new tensioned Lazy Kates, and was tempted into sitting down to try a Traditional wheel fitted with double treadles and the new super-fast lace flyer. Honestly, I've never felt so much in control of a wheel in my life! A few weeks ago I was privileged to take a course with Margaret Stove on spinning Merino, and didn't find cobweb-fine spinning at all easy. But it flowed like a dream on this new Ashford. I really hate to admit it, as I dearly love my beautiful Norwegian wheel that I've had for 30 years, but I've been having disloyal thoughts about maybe making a change!

Lazy Kates


Hi, I'm fairly new to the list, my name is Sarah and I live in Evansville, IN. I've been spinning for a year on an Ashford Traditional single drive and my question is this: Can the lazy kates that come with the Traditional be modified so that you can actually use them to ply from? I get a tangle of singles every time I try, so now I just wind all my singles into balls and ply from them - no tangled mess, no hassle. I've tried brake bands on my lazy kate, but that wasn't much help. Granted, it doesn't take much time to wind the singles into balls, but it would be nice to use my lazy kate for something. Any suggestions?

There are tricks people do with the standard Traditional Lazy Kate (such as laying it on its side and using rubber bands and some other things people may post) to add tension -or- there is now a newish Tension Lazy Kate with built-in brake bands that can be bought (simple assembly) for tensioned plying. Any Ashford dealer can quote a price on this (and they cost only a slight bit more than the regular Lazy Kates)


From: (Cheryl)

Maybe a slight alteration to your plying method will iron out the difficulties; it's worth a try, anyway! Perhaps try having only 2 bobbins in the Lazy Kate at a time (obviously, this lets out 3-ply yarns....). Space them at the top and bottom of the LK. Turn one bobbin over , so that they they are feeding from opposite directions..... Ideally, the top bobbin unwinds from its top. Likewise, the bottom bobbin is unwrapping from underneath. I've had good results this way, hope that you might, too!!

From: (Dianne)

I used a Traditional for six years and plyed off my lazy kate that came with it. This is how I plyed without getting the tangles: I put the lazy kate in between my legs, on the floor. I bring the single ply around the sides of my legs instead of right up through the middle of my two legs and to the orifice. One single on the side of my left leg, one single on my right leg, (out side). This I found created some drag which pulled the tangles out. Separating the singles with my legs keeps the singles from tangling together.

From: From: (Aimee)

I also use the lazy kate which came with my traditional wheel. I spin pretty fine yarns and so I need some tension, too. I place the two bobbins so that the yarn is coming over the top of the top bobbin, and under the bottom of the bottom one. Then I tie some string (rug warp works great for this) around BOTH bobbins together --get it in the grooves on one side or the other -- it doesn't matter which side. It should be pretty loosely tied or you'll never get your yarn to move! This way, when you pull, the bobbins will turn in directions opposite to each other, and the string they share will drag them both down. I've used this method for years and it's remarkably effective.


From: Theresa

I've finally gotten to sanding the bobbins on my new Traditional. Is it my imagination, or do they require a whole lot more sanding than any other part of the wheel? Is this because they are made with the plywood rather than a solid piece of wood? Is it possible that I'm being anal retentive and the bobbins shouldnt have as smooth a finish as a piece of furniture on their edges? I'm not trying to get the groove smooth because I figured that needed some drag for the belts, just the outside edges of them. I'm using an extra-fine sandpaper, but after 15 min of sanding, steel wool still snags on the edges in places. I'm afraid of over sanding them, too. Any suggestions?

I have spun on skads of Ashford bobbins and have never touched one with sandpaper - I use them as-is.


From: Wilma

I am very new to this (spinning and list)... so bear with me. I plan to purchase a used Traditional. The wheel is about 15 years old but in good condition. It has only one bobbin and no lazy kate. My question: can one easily find/purchase used (or new) kates and bobbins for a wheel this old? Have there been any significant changes to the Traditional that I should be aware of ? Any other considerations? The price of the wheel seems reasonable

Yes, current bobbins will fit fine. You have a choice of 3 kinds of Lazy Kate : the original upright style, the horizontal style that comes with the Elizabeth and the newest "tension" Lazy Kate.


The Jumbo Flyer

From: (Karyn)

I've got a Traditional double drive. I made what I consider a wonderful hack to the wheel to enable me to change from the standard to jumbo flier in no time, and also to allow me to change bobbins easier (when I'm not changing fliers).

The problem became apparent when I bought the jumbo flier kit. To change to using the jumbo flier, I had to change the front maiden (larger opening for fatter yarn needs a larger orifice in the flier, thus needing a different front maiden). This involved unscrewing the standard maiden, and placing in and screwing in the jumbo maiden. The screws supplied by Ashford are wood screws, and with each change of standard to jumbo to standard the wood screws would be slowly eating away the insides of the maiden. Eventually the screw would damage the maiden so much that I would either have to use a bigger screw or buy a new maiden. Also, the very act of having to find a screwdriver and spend at least 5-10 minutes with the screwdriver at an awkward angle while I did the unscrewing of the 1 inch plus long screw, watching the insides of my maiden getting eaten away with every turn of the screwdriver, made me loathe to want to change fliers with any frequency.

Optimally, in my mind, changing to the jumbo flier should take less than 1 minute, use no extra tools, and cause no harm to any part of the wheel. It shouldn't be much harder or take more time than merely changing the bobbin. I came up with a solution.

With the double drive, the whole mother-of-all is forward of the wheel. This is your saving grace. This cannot be done with the single drive wheel, as far as I can tell.

I removed the front maiden, tossed out the evil wood screw, and inserted a the special type of screw into the maiden which has a wood screw on one end, and the tread for a wing nut on the other end. When installed, the screw and wing nut hang off the bottom of the mother-of-all, but since that is in FRONT of the wheel, it doesn't get in the way of anything when you're spinning. I put a similar screw on the bottom of that front maiden supplied with the jumbo flier. These screws will remain forever in the maidens. Time to modify maidens: 5 minutes each. Tools needed: your fingers to twist the screw into the maiden (use the wing nut to twist the screw).

So, it is now trivial to change from standard to jumbo fliers. I simply take the drive band off the wheel, remove the old flier, flip the mother-of-all on its side (via the hinge) and give the wing nut a twirl. The wing nut flies off, I remove the metal washer (which is there to protect the underside of the mother-of-all's wood from the wing nut when it tightens), pop in the replacement maiden, replace the washer and wing nut, and mostly tighten.

Now I put on the new flier, and before I tighten the wing nut all the way, I spin the flier with my finger (drive band not on) and adjust the angle of the front maiden until the flier spins freely. Now I tighten the maiden, put the drive band back in place, and start spinning. Time to change from standard to jumbo fliers: about one minute. The hardest part is putting the drive band back on the wheel.

This modification also negates the problems I have with the removal of the flier. I don't like the way that Ashford has supplied us with the "v" opening in the rear maiden to "pop" the flier out of the rear maiden. I always feel like I have to use too much pressure to get it out, and I'm afraid I'll break something. To change bobbins, I never touch the rear maiden. I always simply reach under the front maiden, loosen the wing nut by a quarter twist or less, twist the front maiden slightly and the flier comes out. When I am done changing the bobbin, I put the flier back, and do the quick spin I described in the above paragraph to ensure the maidens are parallel, tighten the wing nut on the front maiden, and replace the drive band and spin.

If you want more details (like what the special screw is called so you can ask at your friendly neighborhood hardware store) I can help, but I merely brought the front maiden to the store and told them I wanted to put a wing nut style screw in the bottom of this chunk of wood and they found the appropriate screws, wing nut and washer for me.

From: (Karen)

That sounds a great idea you thought up for the Jumbo flyer. I don't know how many people have been put off buying/using it by the thought of the user-unfriendly changeover. I certainly dithered a long time before committing my money.

I have a scotch tension (single drive) Traditional and found a different way around the difficulty. It was mentioned in an old issue of Spin-Off in an article called 'My Souped-Up Ashford' or something similar, by Patsy Zawistowski. She just leaves the Jumbo maiden on the wheel all the time. When using the normal flyer, the tension of the drive band stops it slopping around and it really doesn't seem to make any difference to me. I still have the (very slight) problem that although I have the 'clip out' rear maiden, I still have to twist it slightly to remove the Jumbo bobbins, as it doesn't seem to have enough clearance otherwise.

I think she also came up with the idea of using a small wedge under the tilting bit of the mother-of-all to take up extra slack in the drive-band when using the smallest whorl of the high-speed flyer. That way you can get away with using one drive band all the way through from largest jumbo whorl to smallest high-speed whorl. I haven't actually done this though as I had already got two drive-bands set up. I wrap the one not in use around the base of the wheel support.

From: (Sue)

I have the same problem with the jumbo flyer - the smaller whorl won't line up with the drive wheel. I also find it easier to twist the rear maiden sideways to remove a bobbin, even though mine does have the slit. There's a tight little bump in the center of the slot that the axle just doesn't want to go through. It's only a minor annoyance so I just keep my Swiss army knife handy to tighten the screw.

I took my Traditional apart last week for a thorough cleaning. It's working much better although I still would like a faster wheel. At least if I get a faster one I can either keep this one and have two good wheels or sell it to a friend who's interested in learning to spin. I'm going to be very careful when I get a new wheel since there are very few on the market as quiet as a Traditional.

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