Guess Who’s Hanging With Me For A Few?

Some boxes got here just after dinner last night.

Hrmmmm… says Louet all over those boxes. Let’s look closer.

In case you can’t tell, that says S-11 Julia. What I have here is a prototype/demo of Louet’s latest spinning wheel, the first round of which are due to arrive at US and Canadian dealers who’ve pre-ordered them, real soon now (in the next few weeks, once their container clears customs). I was so eager to give this wheel a real Abby-style test drive, though, that Louet kindly agreed to let me borrow the prototype. They packed it up and shipped it to me and, well, okay. I may have blown off some of my evening chores last night.

You don’t think less of me for that, do you? You would have done the same thing when FedEx came. You know you would have. Anyway, so the first thing to come out of the box was the base. The treadle and footman assembly is very similar to the Victoria travel wheel, but larger.

I shut myself in my office and got to unpacking. The drive wheel, made from furniture-grade hardwood composite with a beech veneer, is attached to the upright maiden/mother-of-all with sealed ball bearings. Like the Victoria, the flyer detaches fully and secures with a pressure seal, and the scotch tension system is found on a crosspiece just for that purpose. There is no friction bearing for the orifice, a design element that lessens drag and wear and tear. There’s a lazy kate (more on that later) and a total of 4 bobbins and a stretchy drive band. That’s it! Nothing complicated. That’s what she looks like disassembled.

So, how to assemble it?

Just unscrew this fella at the back of the treadle assembly, revealing this bolt…

…which in turn fits right into this spot on the upright…

…and tightens by hand, no tools required.

Like the Victoria, the footman connects with a polymer fitting…

…that goes over this zero-maintenance sealed bearing and secures with a snap-in-place polymer ring. This was the thing I most expected to see wear on the Victoria, but over a year of fairly rigorous use has shown me that in fact, it’s quite durable. “Why wouldn’t it be?” my husband pointed out when I commented to that effect a while ago. “They make lots of very sturdy things from polymer. I mean, they make firearms from it, an skateboard wheels, and all kinds of stuff that takes a beating.”

The whorl, too, is heavy-duty polymer. And groove (hahaha, I said “groove!”) on its range of ratios.

With a drive wheel measuring 20″, these ratios run from 5:1 to 20:1. Very nice. Did I measure the intermediate ones while I was in the throes of setup? No, of course not. LATER! I’ll get to that LATER! Must. Set. Up. Wheel.

The scotch tension system needed screwing onto the upright. I, of course, had a screwdriver handy. But if I didn’t take this off when disassembling the wheel for transport, I mused, there’d be no need for a tool, and there would be one step less. So I’d probably just leave this attached most of the time.

This is also pretty much just like the Victoria one, except this one mounts the other way (so the knob is to the inside rather than the outside) but you could, if desired, screw it on the other way. And as evidence of Louet’s process of integrating customer feedback, you can see that whereas my Olde Victoria From The First Batch(tm) has a removable knob, this one is secured with a screw, preventing the knob from coming out unexpectedly. It was a point of frustration for some Victoria owners that this knob would tend to jounce loose when transporting the wheel, rattling in the carry bag and in some cases, resulting in the brake band snagging on something when you opened the wheel back up. Indeed, Louet offered to retrofit my Victoria thus (but I declined), and I believe that’s one of the things they do if people bring them or send them Victorias for updates.

But, anyway, like I say, I screwed that scotch tension rig on there…

and then basically, the wheel was all set. Put drive band in place…

…and now it just needs the flyer…

…and a bobbin…

Right, so speaking of the flyer, if you’ve seen the Victoria, the flyer will look similar. Except the orifice is different.

It’s trivial to thread with no hook, with a frictionless insert. Between that, the powder-coated (and thus very durable) hooks at the edges of the flyer, and the positionable sliding flyer hooks, and scotch tension… I could already tell this wheel would do sme neat things.

And the bobbins are redesigned too, but we’ll talk more about that later. First, check out the lazy kate!

Were this not the prototype, I’d have the other support for the kate, allowing it to be positioned in a wide range of ways, so that no matter where you put it, in what orientation, you get side-feeding, which is really essential for optimum yarn management. But even so, tensioning is simple friction provided by felt washers — a simple yet forgiving and flexible system — and little rubber endcaps keep bobbins from being at risk of coming off the kate no matter how you position it. I’m eager to test it out for sure.

So with that in mind, I oughta start spinning, eh? So, right: back to the bobbins, then. You may have noticed no leader; instead there’s a slit with a wide part in the middle. Huh? Okay, tie a big chunky knot in something, like so.

With me so far? Now, over at the bobbin…

…put the knot in the wide part and press it in, then…

…tug towards you, and…

Voila, leader attached.

No threading hook needed here…

Or there…

Just use your fingers to get your leader threaded through the orifice. Voila!

Oddly enough, at this point, I stopped taking pictures. I think it’s that I got distracted with spinning. I did snap a photo of some yarn on the bobbin though.

Leftover fibers from sock yarn class, and these will be sock yarn, for the first test skein off this wheel.

Speaking of which, I totally have to go. To, um, do chores. And laundry. Yeah. I swear, I’m NOT just blowing you guys off to play with the Julia. No, really! I wouldn’t do that, would I?

(Okay, so I’m busted. Just don’t tell the manchild. He’d use it as ammunition the next time he gets a new Bionicle.)

15 thoughts on “Guess Who’s Hanging With Me For A Few?

  1. I was curious about this one when I saw the ad in Spin-Off. It looks rather nice! I’ve also been thinking about a Lendrum. But I haven’t had a chance to spin on the wheel I’ve got since the Madrona Fiber Arts retreat, so buying another one right now seems a bit silly. 🙁

  2. The way to get around younger people trying to make you adhere to your own rules is to institute the “over 30” rule. As in “only people over 30 are allowed to skip chores to play with their new toys.” Or my personal favorite, “Only people over 30 are allowed to eat cake for breakfast.” Tell him he can too, when he’s over 30.

  3. I love it when spinning wheels come over for sleep overs. Again though not much sleeping happens eh?

  4. It figures that this would come out just one week AFTER I gave in and bought a Sonata.

    Torture me – tell me that this new Julia will also accommodate a bulky flyer for plying (the only reason I didn’t get a Victoria). You can insert the razer blade right here – just above the point where my thumb meets the wrist….

  5. Lucky you!

    Thank you for writing up such a detailed post: I’m thinking of getting a second wheel, so the photo-heavy review of this and the Victoria are both really, really helpful.

    If you don’t mind me being ridiculously curious — how does it compare in overall size and bobbin size with the Victoria? I like the wider range of ratios offered by the Julia, but I’m curious about how much of a difference there is in the size of the drive wheel.

  6. I agree. Can you please post a side by side with your Victoria? Thanks!

  7. So does your family have any clean underwear yet? Or do they just need to wear newly spun yarn?

  8. Um…will you be doing a side-by-side comparison of Julia and Victoria?

    Will they ever make a wheel and give it a guy’s name? Mike? Jim? Steve?

  9. Looks like Louet is really paring wheel design down to the elemental parts. Interesting…

    Some wheels don’t have maiden supports for the flyer at the rear AND front. (Majacraft, New Louet, Ashford Joy, Fricke, Journey Wheel, etc.) I know you are a big fan of Majacraft, Journey and Fricke and wonder about your opinion on that. It kind of bugs me if the orifice wavers.

    I guess a spindles “orifice” just floats in space, so it is probably less of a concern for you.

  10. This is REALLY interesting! I am very impressed with some of these design features, and it is cool that it has a reasonable ratio of 20:1 right out of the box. I don’t QUITE get the Scotch tensioner having the knob on the inside, that’s a good way to get your hand thwacked if you adjust while spinning! Or it looks that way.

    I gave in and ordered a Mach 1 demo unit this morning, so I should have one of those to test drive next week some time. Okay, so I couldn’t wait for others to report. But now I wish I hadn’t done that. This has a better ratio range, and is a little “cleaner”? How much does it weigh? This Mach 1 is seductive with what they are claiming is a nearly 12 oz bobbin, but I wonder if it is going to make that puppy top heavy when it gets full: it sticks out so far from the rest of the wheel!

    Are you getting my emails? I think you ARE, but if you are answering me, I am NOT getting yours…

  11. Clicked through here from the Spinner Central review on Ravelry. Thanks for writing such a detailed review. It makes it much easier for someone like me to decide which wheels I want to try out.

  12. Thanks for this picture series and the review on Knitty Summer 08.
    I started spinning in May 08 with a used Ashford Traditional. I have been looking for another spinning wheel for a couple of weeks but was not able to decide until a couple of weeks ago when I ordered a Julia. I am so glad to read your positive reaction to it since it will be the first new wheel I get. Now I just have to wait until the factory opens after the summer holidays, because the Danish supplier did not know anything about it.
    Happy spinning,
    Vips – Denmark

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