Choosing an E-Spinner
Recently, I’ve been spending my evening spinning time almost exclusively with my e-spinner. As someone who was and continues to be madly in love with my cherry Schacht Matchless wheel and my cherry Lendrum Saxony, I stumbled upon a demonstration table for the Ashford E-Spinner 3 last fall and was immediately smitten. In previous years, I had owned an e-spinner from Hansen which was lovely, professional, and productive… but I wasn’t in the right mindset to own one for myself. I felt two big feelings: 1) that I didn’t deserve such a fabulous machine, and 2) that I was feeding the machine and it was spinning for me… like somehow I was excluded from the process of creating yarn.
Interestingly, both of these perspectives came up during Debbie Held’s workshop on Spinning with E-Spinners that we released very recently. During the workshop, we also had the opportunity to see a few different e-spinners, but it also made me realize how many options we have available to us today. When I first started spinning back in 2005, it seemed like there was only one or two e-spinner options and they always seemed like they lived in the realm of untouchable or unattainable. But now, you can get into spinning with an e-spinner for as low as $100 US. Options like this have made spinning with an e-spinner incredibly accessible… even more accessible than spinning with a traditional treadle spinning wheel.
So let’s look at all the different options for e-spinners that are available to us now and you can see where you might find the ideal e-spinner for your style of spinning and budget.
Ashford E-Spinner 3
This is the e-spinner that I currently own and spin nearly all of my yarn on right now. I unboxed it and set it up about seven months ago and you can see that on YouTube here.
The Ashford E-Spinner 3 is an all-around E-Spinner that is very versatile. You can spin anything from fine yarns to chunky yarns here. Currently, it runs about $800 USD depending on where you find it. It feels like it’s mid-sized at approximately 26 x 14 x 21.5cm (10¼ x 5½ x 8½ in) and 2kg (4.4 lbs). There is a separate battery pack that you can get that enables you to bring your e-spinner anywhere. The speed of this e-spinner is continuously variable from 0 to 1,800 RPM and it has a 5/8″ orifice that can accommodate larger yarns. You can also insert the orifice reducer to spin finer yarns. The bobbin is the “jumbo” size bobbin from Ashford and can hold up to 8 oz of fibre.
This E-Spinner has fit really nicely into my life and I popped it on top of an Ikea rolling cart and pull it around the house to wherever I want to spin. It also fits perfectly in the mid-range of pricing so I feel like it’s very accessible and could serve as a second “wheel” for plying or as my “one-and-only wheel” if I was also considering something like a traditional treadle wheel. Finally, something about spinning with this e-spinner has made me a more intentional and intuitive spinner, by allowing me to focus on the nuances of the drafting process.
Dreaming Robots Nano Electric Eel EEW 1.1
In preparation for our Spinning with E-Spinners workshop, I bought myself a nice purple Nano E-Spinner from Dreaming Robots to test drive and demonstrate on. You can see that unboxing video here on YouTube as well. This tiny little e-spinner is the most affordable e-spinner right now, priced at only about $110 USD. Having spun on this little e-spinner for a little bit, I can see that it’s very lightweight, portable, and travel friendly. It is also a scotch-tension e-spinner and has an orifice of 1/2″ (or 1/4″ with the orifice reducer). I was able to spin a fine yarn on the Nano with very delicate movements. The noise level is a louder than the other e-spinners I’ve spun with, but it’s something you could get over if you were spinning while listening to music with headphones or something like that. If you need to replace the motor at any time, there are replacement motors available from Dreaming Robots as well. The top speed for the Nano is about 800 to 1,000 RPM.
For a more robust offering from Dreaming Robots, you might also check out their newest wheel, the Electric Eel Wheel 6.0 which will rotate at 1,800 RPMs. This new e-spinner is available for about $279 USD right now.
I truly admire what Maurice at Dreaming Robots is doing with his e-spinner designs… he’s trying to make a good compromise between price and functionality. His preference is to make an e-spinner that is affordable, rather than the best e-spinner that would be unobtainable. But you’ll need to decide for yourself if the functionality of the EEWs are a good match for your spinning needs.
In 2013, I went to FibresWest and it was the one and only year that HansenCrafts hosted a vendor booth. I stood there at their booth for two days, spinning on this demo model of the MiniSpinner and ended up asking them to pack it up for me. This e-spinner was beautiful. Made of stunningly beautiful natural wood, it was as finely crafted as my other spinning and weaving equipment. It has that “fine furniture” feel to it. Alas, this was the E-spinner that I felt like I didn’t deserve because I didn’t spin enough on it. I ended up selling it to a spinner who was injured in a car accident and couldn’t treadle while she was recovering. I felt much better for sending this e-spinner back into the universe… but I didn’t love it any less.
It probably cost me somewhere between $1,400 to 1,600 CAD at the time. Right now, you can get the basic Hansen miniSpinner v2 in Maple for as low as $865 USD or splurge for one of the exotic wood options that can go as high as $2,000 (like $2,025 USD for the Zebrawood or Wenge miniSpinner Pro).
If you are interested in the difference between the regular miniSpinner Classic and the miniSpinner Pro, the Pro version has 2.5 times the power and offers flyer speeds up to 3,000 RPM. The Classic spins at up to 2,000 RPM. Again the orifice size is the same as the Ashford, with a 5/8″ orifice and smaller orifice sizes possible with orifice reducers.
As Debbie showed in her workshop, the Hansen miniSpinner (hers is version 1.0) can fit in her hand with dimensions that are almost exactly the same as the Ashford (the Hansen is 10″L x 6.25″W x 8″H and 4.8 lbs).
Daedalus Magpie and Starling
The Daedalus e-spinners sound incredibly powerful and if you watched Debbie’s workshop, you’ll see just how large the Magpie e-spinner is. The dimensions of the Magpie are 15″L x 8.5″W x 11″H (38 x 21 x 28 cm) and it weighs 4.5 lbs (2 kg). So, because of it’s 3D printed parts, it about 1.5 times the size of the Hansen, but weighs less.
Most interestingly, the Magpie can be set up in both Scotch tension or Irish tension and the manufacturer even suggests spinning singles with scotch tension and plying with Irish tension. Also different from the other e-spinners, the standard flyer offers a 20 oz bobbin capacity and a 2,300 RPM flyer speed. The “art flyer” has a 40+ oz bobbin and a 1,400 RPM speed for scotch tension. Prices for the Magpie start at $1350 for your choice of Standard OR Art flyer/bobbins, or you could get both heads (3 bobbins each) for $1800.
The Starling is a smaller e-spinner that is about the same size as the Ashford and Hansen. The Starling is 8″L (10″L for XL) x 6″W x 8″H (20 – 25 x 15 x 20 cm) and weighs just 2 lbs (0.9 kg), so it’s incredibly light. The Starling spins up to 1,800 RPM and possibly even 1,850 RPM. This e-spinner option is also priced in line with the Ashford and the base Hansen, at $800 USD for the Starling Mini and $900 USD for the Starling XL.
Several spinners in our community have also chimed in with support for their Spinolution Firefly e-spinners. These e-spinners are an interesting option in that they are modular. So you can take the flyer and use it on either the Firefly base (electric base) or the Monarch base (production treadle wheel). It also has the largest bobbin options of this entire bunch, with the largest bobbin capacity being 64 oz! So with the modular design, there are 4 oz, 8 oz, 16 oz, 32, oz and 64 oz options for the flyers. The price for the Firefly ranges from $1,219 to $1,429 depending on the size of the flyer. Spinners in our community have been spinning everything from cobweb yarn to bulky rug yarn on their Fireflys!
Choosing your E-spinner
Now, choosing a piece of spinning equipment will always be a balance of functionality, aesthetics, and price. Ask yourself some of these questions:
- what kind of yarn do you want to spin? lace yarns? chunky yarns? what kind of functional requirements do you need to spin the yarn you want? Perhaps you need Scotch tension or Irish tension. Perhaps you need bigger bobbins to accommodate large art yarns or big plying jobs. Or maybe you need very fine speed control, lighter bobbins, or the ability to double lace your yarn.
- do you need any aftermarket accessories like a Woolee Winder? If you want to spin “hands free” without having to stop to move your yarn as it builds up on the bobbin, you might consider a Woolee Winder. So ask yourself if the e-spinner you want can accommodate a Woolee Winder.
- do you like how the e-spinner looks? For me, I love the fine wood that the Hansen miniSpinner comes in. It feels like a handmade item that I’m making handmade items on and fits in with my idea of “making”. But everyone is different and maybe you like the modern, non-traditional look of a 3D printed e-spinner.
- do you need it to be portable and travel-friendly? Some wheels and e-spinners are big and unwieldy to transport, while others will easily fit into your luggage for a spinning retreat or a conference.
- what fits your price range? There are options at the low end (about $100 USD) to middle of the range (about $800 USD) to the high range (about $2000).
Finally, the best advice I can suggest is to actually test and spin on the e-spinner, if you can. That’s how I was sold on the Hansen miniSpinner and the Ashford E-Spinner. I had a chance to sit and spin at each one, learn to adjust the speed dials, play with the foot switch, and more. Once you have a chance to test the e-spinner for yourself, you’ll have a better of idea of how it will fit into your spinning life. Any of these options will get you up and spinning… and the ultimate goal is for you to be able to enjoy your spinning time and feel empowered about the process of making your own yarn.
Download our Guide to E-Spinners
Download our Guide to E-Spinners, complete with a comparison chart of the e-spinner options currently available:
Discuss your favourite e-spinners in our Community Forums here or learn to spin with e-spinners here.