The Ashford Traditional is the KitchenAid Mixer of spinning wheels: it’s classy, classic, and has quite a large number of attachments available. However, unlike the KitchenAid, it’s not an item I would necessarily recommend to everyone. I bought my Ashford Traditional spinning wheel in the fall of 2004, and while I’ve made a great deal of yarn I love on this wheel, it’s not necessarily the best choice for the new or especially productive hand spinner.
Made from New Zealand silver beech, the Ashford Traditional is one of the most popular spinning wheels for spinners of all levels. This wheel is made by a renowned company (Ashford is known for their looms as well as their wheels), in a classic design, and available in a variety of finishes. Unless you purchase one which has been assembled by your local fiber store, the Ashford traditional comes in a box with all the tools needed for its assembly. It is available in single or double drive, with single or double treadles.
The Ashford Traditional (single drive, single treadle) was my first wheel, and while I’m fond of the Traditional, it’s been quite a struggle to produce the yarn I love on this wheel. My main problems come from its torque – unless carefully guarded, my yarn is heavily overspun even at a very light weight on the highest setting. (Perhaps a double treadled wheel would have less problems in this regard, being easier to control.) I eventually bought a jumbo flyer and bobbin because it was impossible to spin without frequent breakage on any ratio higher than 6.5:1. Also, the orifice is oriented to the left of the spinner, which caused additional difficulty for me in maintaining the correct tension while drafting fiber.
However, that’s not to say that this wheel is all bad. The yarn I have spun on this wheel has held up well, and it is easy to ply from the included Lazy Kate and extra bobbins. The versatility of this wheel, given the bevy of attachments available for it, is undeniable. Aesthetically, this is an absolutely beautiful wheel, although I often feel that it is more decorative than functional for me.
If you’re a sporadic spinner and want something stunning to awe your fellow fiber hobbyists with, the Ashford Traditional is a great choice. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a production wheel that spins like a dream, I’d recommend the Ashford Traveller or Joy instead.