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In Which the Pirate’s Flock Expands.

It’s here, it’s here! The Spinolution Pollywog that I won in their Tour de Fleece giveaway is HERE! Read on for lots of pictures and my first thoughts about spinning on it:

The corner of a cardboard box with a "Made in U.S.A." American flag sticker attached

Since they gave this tiny wheel to me for free, I thought it only fair to do an unboxing post and a review. Let’s dig in! The red bag on top of everything held the warranty card, a ratio guide, and the drive band. Underneath it, the packing list and several bubble-wrapped bundles. One held the flyer with a bobbin installed, and a small bit of yarn that I’m assuming was from a test-spin before they mailed the package. Two more bobbins were wrapped together, and then the main part of the wheel was tucked into the bottom of the box. Everything fit perfectly into the packaging and nothing seems to have been damaged in shipping.

Looking into a cardboard box. There are several bubble-wrapped items and a red plastic bag, on which "Pollywog" is written in black marker

Here are all the parts set out on my coffee table. The two-step assembly process was so simple that they didn’t even need to include instructions: the flyer goes on top and screws in, and the drive band goes around the 12″ wheel and the whorls on the back of the flyer. The tiny treadles flip up and away from the center cam, so unlike my other wheels, putting the drive band on is incredibly easy.

An unassembled Pollywog spinning wheel on a wooden coffee table. The main part of the wheel sits to the left. There are two bobbins next to it, and a third bobbin on the flyer behind them.

I named this little guy “Chance,” though I might have referred to him in conversation as “Mr. Tiny” – look at him sitting in front of the 30″ Schacht-Reeves! He’s so smol!

The new Pollywog spinning wheel looks very small in front of the 30" Schacht-Reeves spinning wheel. They are displayed on the living room rug in front of a pinball machine and one of the stereo speakers.

How about a bobbin comparison? From left to right: a Woolee Winder bobbin from the Schacht-Reeves, the new Spinolution bobbin, and a Woolee Winder bobbin from the Kromski Sonata. That Sonata bobbin holds a lot of yarn! The S-R bobbin is a little shorter than the Spinolution bobbin, but its diameter is wider and it doesn’t have that extra chunk of wood taking up space, so I think (without doing any math) that they’ve probably got about the same overall volume.

Three bobbins, compared in length. The Schacht-Reeves bobbin on the left is the shortest; the Spinolution bobbin in the center is a little bit longer; the Kromski bobbin on the right is significantly longer.

Three bobbins, seen head on. The Schacht-Reeves bobbin on the left is the widest; the Spinolution bobbin in the center is the smallest. The Kromski bobbin on the right is between them in diameter.

Spinolution says that their bobbins hold four ounces of yarn – but the only way I’m going to know for sure is to spin and find out. The next fibre on my spinning list is 200g of grey Suffolk that I got from World of Wool. It’s quite soft and with a longer staple than I’m used to spinning – nearly 7″ (17.78 cm)!

This picture also shows the integrated bobbin holder. Just behind the flyer, there’s a slot which holds three metal dowels. It’s magnetized, so they won’t fall out. You can (just about) see two of them poking up in this picture, and I’ve got the third in the centre position with a bobbin sitting on it.

The Pollywog wheel with a little bit of gray yarn spun onto the bobbin and a lot of gray fibre hanging down from the orifice hook.

So now, of course, the real question – how does it feel to spin on a Pollywog?

It’s smoooooth. Treadling with just my toes is more than a little strange, but I’m getting the feel for it. It’s easy enough to get the wheel going in the right direction with just a light nudge of the flyer; treadling is incredibly light. The treadling mechanism, and the way the whole thing rolls around, is just so cool to watch. (Spinolution does sell a 3D-printed “flipper” accessory that slides on over the treadle to give more of a platform… for $35.)

Pirate's toes on the tiny treadles of the Pollywog spinning wheel.

After about fifteen minutes of spinning, the wheel started to make a clicking noise. Michael and I watched the video about balancing the drive wheel and then gave it our best attempt. We loosened the cam and the two screws, but the wheel didn’t get nearly as loose or moveable as in the video. So we aligned it as well as we could and tightened it up again. It still doesn’t seem to be balanced, but it’s not clicking anymore, so we’ll call that a win. Perhaps the wood will shift a little as it gets accustomed to the humidity in our house, and we’ll be able to adjust it better.

The only issue I have so far with this wheel being so tiny is that the orifice is really, really low. I don’t spin right up next to the orifice in general, but for comparison, the S-R orifice is 25.5″ off the ground and I’ve got the Sonata raised to about 32″. The Pollywog’s open hook is just 19.25″ off the ground. (They do sell a 3″ riser… for $55.)

I do like that there’s no need to fish the yarn through rings and an orifice tube, but the large hook they’ve used sends quite a lot of vibration back up the singles to my hands. It’s not the worst thing ever, but there’s probably a smoother solution to having an open orifice.

Spinolution’s user guide says, “Yarn is thumping as you spin: Be sure your yarn is coming from the center of the orifice hook toward your body in a fairly straight horizontal line. A slight angle is possible, but don’t put the yarn at a 45 degree angle up, down, or sideways from the center of the orifice hook.” The thing is, with the orifice so low, there’s no way for me not to hold the yarn at an angle from the hook? (They do sell a hook tube orifice bar, which they say is “highly recommended for an ultra smooth fine spinning experience”… for $29. The accessories are where they get you, apparently.)

If you want a larger capacity bobbin for art yarns, plying, or just spinning more without swapping it out, they offer a 12-ounce flyer plus one bobbin for $429, which is almost the same cost as the entire original wheel with the 4-ounce flyer and three bobbins at $440. This seems kind of strange, no?

Anyway, back to the good stuff – tension is managed with a spring-loaded block that screws into the side of the wheel, behind the flyer. Its brake is a felt pad that presses on the flyer’s shaft. The user guide indicates that this is a reversible piece of wood, but mine seems to be the updated 3D-printed block. Neat! It’s quite sensitive and easy to adjust.

In addition to being super smooth, the Pollywog is very quiet. There’s no rattling, squeaking, or shaking. The bobbin has a star cutout which fits onto a nut at the back of the flyer and it’s magnetized. It snaps together in a very satisfying way when changing the bobbins, but the magnetism isn’t so strong as to make the bobbins difficult to remove. The front orifice piece is held on with magnets as well, and it’s shaped so that there’s only one right way to put it on.

Double picture showing the back of the bobbin with the star-shaped cutout, and the back of the flyer with the magnet and hex nut.

The Pollywog’s ratios are 1:2.5, 1:4.5, 1:10, and 1:14 – which is a great starting range, wider than the Sonata’s and just as fast at the top end, and I’ve never felt the need to get the fast flyer for the Sonata! (For $209 (ouch) you can get an accelerator wheel for the Pollywog that acts as a riser in addition to giving you more speeds.)

I admit that I’m a little spoiled by having Woolee Winders on my other wheels, but the peg system on the Pollywog’s flyer is easy enough to use – I just have to remember to stop and change the peg every so often! (I should note that they do sell their own version of an automatic winder. Unlike the Woolee Winder, it doesn’t require all new bobbins, which is a plus.)

Anyway, that’s probably enough for a first impression. Chance and I are getting along pretty well so far, and I’m looking forward to many happy hours of spinning :)

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