Other spinners warned me that once I got my first wheel it would be a slippery slope towards acquiring more wheels after that. I didn't believe them. After all, I'd settled on a Schacht wheel which is one of the most versatile wheels on the market. What else could I want??? Weellll - portability. The Schacht is a bit of a brute. That's what makes it such a work horse. I hadn't factored in that my spinning guild would be so active in terms of displays and spin days. It wasn't long before I started eyeing up the new folding wheels.
I'd spun on a Lendrum for a few months and it is a very nice wheel - no doubt about it. It did fold down a bit but was still substantial to transport (13 lbs). I was quite taken with the Louet Victoria wheel which clocks in at around 7.75 lbs and comes in a nice carrying case. A friend of mine got one for Christmas and I had a chance to spin on it over the holidays. It treadled beautifully and spun nicely but was a bit tinier than I needed. My friend and her family go North camping quite a bit and she wanted something to take back and forth every weekend. I wanted something between the Lendrum and the Louet Victoria. When I saw the specs on the Kromski Sonata, I sensed I was getting close. Weighing around 11.5lbs, the Sonata is made of Birch and Alder (I recall reading somewhere but I'm trying to verify that) and is made by the Kromski family in Poland. Their wheels tend to be more ornate and "old world" but the Sonata had a nice touch of that ornate design without being too gingerbread. It's a true double treadle meaning there are two treadles with two footmen each attached to the wheel crank. It's a reasonably priced wheel and the reviews from people who'd purchased from the first December shipment were glowing. I contacted Wildrose Fibres in Alberta and put my name on the list. I asked Colleen about the Walnut stain which was marketed as an introductory limited edition offering. Since the first shipment sold so quickly, I assumed these were long gone. When Colleen sent me an e mail indicating there was a rumor of more walnut stained Sonatas in the next shipment, I was thrilled. I think of the Schacht as the classic blond American and the Kromski as the dark sultry brunette European. I simply wanted something different from my Schacht for variety. I ordered the bag especially designed to carry these wheels as well. A four day Easter weekend and a two day business trip kept my Sonata and I apart much longer than necessary but last Wednesday I came home and had a chance to see it up close.
Here's the wheel folded up. There is a hole in the wheel and the frame that match up allowing you to place a screw through both holes to anchor the wheel shut. The wheel folds open quickly and easily (19" x 22" folded) and comes with a total of 3 matching bobbins and a lazy kate that folds out from the foot of the frame. There's a bottle of oil too to get everything lubed and good to go.
Here's the wheel set up before its first run. I chose some Lisa Souza Blue Faced Leicester roving in the buttery Jonquil colourway to futz around and get the wheel to a point where I was spinning consistent yarn. I'd planned on a day or two of adjustments before I was happy with the results. I was shocked to discover that with 3 little tweaks, the Sonata was spinning beautiful, consistent yarn. The take up was perfect and the treadling smooth as silk. The wheel is nice a quiet and will be perfect for seminars and demonstrations. It felt solid and stable and I had lots of space on the treadles. I took the wheel apart and packed it in the bag to take it out again this past weekend. Once again, after a brief set up, a couple of adjustments had me on my way. I'm extremely pleased with my choice and this will be a great complement to my Schacht. I do miss my Woolee Winder though but hopefully, they will make one for the Sonata soon.
It's been postulated that spinning's growth in popularity has come from knitters turned spinners. As The Yarn Harlot puts it "Cool! Another way to get yarn." Knitters like knitting largely because it's portable and therefore this explosion in folding/portable wheels is an off-shoot of that expectation.
If you're wavering between a Louet Victoria and a Kromski Sonata I would suggest that the degree of portability you need be your guide. If you're like my friend and travel to a cottage, camp or travel on business a lot - I would recommend the Victoria. It takes up little room and delivers a nice spinning punch pound for pound. If you have a closet or two to store a slightly larger bag and want a wheel that will feel like a full sized wheel but be more portable - the Kromski Sonata is a great solution. Louet = traveling wheel, Kromski = portable wheel.
My Sonata and I have much beautiful yarn to make. I'm looking forward to taking it to my upcoming seminar on how to spin yarn to make socks in May. There's just something extra mysterious about an import.