Sarah Jane Humke

The life of a traveling, reading, writing, spining and knitting shepherdess.

So I added another wheel to the flock.  Oh, I forgot to mention that I have a “flock” of wheels now did I?  Well, I guess if two can be called a flock then I did.  I will tell you about the other wheel when it’s more appropriate as it needs a little TLC and that’s part of my wintertime project list.

The wheel that I added this week is a travel wheel.  It’s the Capricorn wheel from Athena Spinning.  This wheel first came onto my radar at the 2018 Iowa Sheep and Wool Festival.  The Athena Spinning folks had a booth there and I briefly tried one between my myriad duties.  I’ve wanted a travel wheel for some time now as most of the classes that I want to take these days seem to be spinning or spinning related and hauling an Ashford Traveler around (which ironically, doesn’t travel so well) isn’t ideal, especially in situations where a plane ride is required.  I have spent more time trying to devise strategies to transport that wheel than I care to think about at the moment.  My personal favorite was the wheel balanced on a cookie sheet on the back of a wheeled luggage carrier/handcart with about a dozen bungee cords restraining it.  I schlepped that contraption up and down the stairs of multiple train stations, tube stations, and into a cab.  The cookie sheet would rattle loudly as I pulled my wheel behind me, announcing my arrival to everyone around me.  You wanna get some looks?  Try pulling a full-sized spinning wheel behind you in the busy London tube system.

For some time I had been eyeing The Device by Questionable Origin.  A couple of things kept me from pulling the trigger though.  An electric spinner isn’t always the most practical thing, even with battery packs.   I’ve been in many a spinning class where the person with the e-spinner had to sit off from the rest of the group due to a lack of power outlets near the spinning circle.  Also, the price tag made me pause. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that The Device is overpriced for what it is.  Not. At. All.  I just wasn’t completely sure that it was the wheel for me and paying that kind of money to find out made me really hesitate.

Since I am on the topic, there are going to be people who think spending any money on a spinning wheel is a waste.  Well, I think jet skis are a waste of money but I’m not going to get all judgemental on your ass.  I enjoy spinning and I think that if the hours of pleasure that you get from a well made wheel (and mind you, there are wheels that are two hundred years old that are still perfectly functional) versus the cost, I think that the wheels would come out on top for hours of pleasure per dollar spent.  It’s the same with any specialty tool, you pay for quality.  A great many different kinds of spinning wheels are running well over a grand at this point in time, both electric and treadle, travel and stationary.

I did know what I wanted in a wheel.  I wanted it to be packable, to be relatively light, not require an outlet, easy to set-up and take down, easy to use, attractive to look at, have bobbins that are interchangeable, parts that are not custom made,  and have the ability to spin a variety of different speeds.  Also, preferably, under a grand.  So, you know, just your basics:-)

The Capricorn (amazingly) touched on pretty much all of those for me.  It’s easy enough to pack flat.  Here’s a photo of it in a Thirty-One bag that was a Christmas gift a few years ago.


Here’s a photo in the bag.


It comes apart in several pieces.


Putting it together is super simple. First you attach the upright part to the treadles.  It’s one screw.


Then you click the treadles into the the holes on the wheel.  They literally just pop in.


Then you slide the spinning apparatus in.


This is actually the trickiest bit as you need to line up those two little holes for the pin that holds it in place.


This pin is also a hex key that is used to adjust the ratio that the wheel spins at.  The wheel can adjust from a 5:1 ratio to a 13:1 ratio and is completely adjustable in between to suit your taste.


Then you put on a bobbin and the flyer (both just slide on), set the scotch tension, and you are ready to go!


The bobbins are a generous six ounces, but I can use my standard Ashford bobbins as well.  This is the view from the driver’s seat.  Note that there isn’t an “orifice” so to speak so no orifice hook to lose.  Another advantage is that it has ball bearings so nothing to grease, no oil can to carry around.  Since this is a friction wheel, there’s also no drive band to break and to have to reset upon each set-up.IMG_3549

My first impressions of this wheel are of quality.  The wood is all well sanded and protected with a satin finish.  It feels substantial without being heavy.  Some travel wheels that I have tested in the past I could feel move away from me as I treadled because they were so light weight.  This wheel also has rubber/plastic feet on the bottom to keep it from sliding around on slick surfaces.  It’s treadling depth is shallower than that of my Traveler, so I am adjusting to that.  However, the treadles are smooth, no jerking at all.  Spinning on the Capricorn is whisper quiet.  Honestly the noisiest thing in the room while I was spinning on it were my jeans rustling.  I started at the slowest setting (which was too slow for me) and worked my way up.  Draw-up was smooth and easy and honestly spinning on it was a joy.

Buying a wheel from a new company concerned me a little bit, however, after talking to the creators at IS&WF, my fears were addressed.  First, most of the moving parts are available through normal parts channels (like hardware stores).  The friction bands are simply polyurethane (if I am remembering correctly) o-rings that can be purchased easily on the internet.  The hex key could be easily (though not as prettily) replaced with another hex key of the same size.

I’m happy that I purchased this wheel as I think that it will work well for my traveling purposes.  I feel that this wheel could be an excellent beginner wheel as well given it’s easily adjustable ratios and ease of set-up.  If the folks from Athena Spinning are at a fiber festival near you, I would strongly suggest that you check it out and give it a test spin like I did.

12 thoughts on “Capricorn

  1. Rebecca L Howe says:

    Hi Sarah Jane – Congratulations on your new flock member! I noticed the Athena wheels at IS&WF too, but didn’t try them. They are beautiful little wheels. I just got my Fantasia a couple months before IS&WF and I didn’t want to be tempted. Will definitely take a look at the Athena wheels when I’m ready for a true travel wheel.

    Happy spinning! One of these days I’ll get “Greta” and her companion from Jason Seelow’s flock processed, then I can start having some real spinning fun!


    Sent from my iPhone


    1. Sarah Jane Humke says:

      I understand about not wanting the “temptation” when you just got a wheel:-) I have been looking for a travel wheel for nearly 5 years at this point. (I am both picky and patient which are a good combo to be:-))

    2. Dolly says:

      Thank you for your comprehensive review. I saw the Athena Capricorn for the first time today at a fiber fest in Northern New Mexico. It was love at first sight! I’m a novice spinner and own two other wheels but I made up my mind to save my pennies for an Athena. Your review solidified that decision. Thank you.

  2. Congratulations!! I hope you have many happy hours spinning and traveling with her:)

  3. EllieJune says:

    Thank you greatly for posting such a comprehensive review! My Capricorn is ordered and I am beyond excited.

  4. Jennifer Chu-Carroll says:

    Thank you for the review! I came across a post about this wheel in an upcoming virtual festival. It looks great, and I am tempted (I just learned to spin and am really enjoying it. Have not invested in a wheel yet) I am wondering if your opinions have changed 2 years later. Thanks!

    1. Sarah Jane Humke says:

      Hi Jennifer! Actually, my opinion has only gotten more favorable of the wheel and the people making it. I had a small problem about a year after my purchase and they not only fixed the issue (a ball bearing that was supposed to last basically forever decided to break) but also basically upgraded the wheel with a small modification that they had made on wheels made after mine. I have taken this wheel to festivals (both fiber and music) and it’s traveled nicely. I haven’t yet needed to take it on a plane, but it has gone on a number of car trips with no issues.

      1. Jennifer Chu-Carroll says:

        Sarah, thanks much for your response! That is so good to know — I love supporting small businesses and this wheel is a beauty. But I needed to know how well it worked for spinning :).

  5. Sarah Jane Humke says:

    It works great for spinning! I love that it’s so adjustable. It makes it easy to find that ratio that works best for whatever yarn you want to spin. It’s easy to set-up and use quickly. It’s quiet and works really well. I would happily recommend it for beginners and more advanced spinners alike.

    1. Jennifer Chu-Carroll says:

      Wonderful! Thank you so much for sharing your experience!

  6. Sylva says:

    I recently became aware of the Athena Capricorn. I haven’t yet seen one in person, but am actually considering a purchase anyway. Your review with followup comments have been really helpful in my research. I am an experienced spinner and have a feeling that this is one wheel that I could easily love without a test-drive. I would like to know how you find the spot on the rod to set the ratio to repeat a specific yarn. As an example, if I create a yarn to a specified twists-per-inch (tpi), I note the whorl used on my Lendrum, as well as the number of treadles per draft length. The whorl on my Lendrum is what gives me a specific ratio. If I want to duplicate a yarn on the Athena Capricorn, how do I find that spot repeatedly? If I switch between two spinning projects, how do I find the correct spot for my desired ratio for each project?

    1. Sarah Jane Humke says:

      Hi Sylva,
      So the way that I do it is VERY unscientific. Since the wheel is wood and has a unique wood grain pattern I just make a note of where it was in regards to a specific mark or pattern in the wood (I take a photo with my phone of the particular spot). If I was more precise about it I would probably just make a small mark on the shaft with a sharpie to note where I wanted it to be.

      Another way to do it could be to simply figure out the ratio by turning the wheel one revolution and seeing how many times the flyer rotates and adjusting up or down until you get the proper number again. It’s easy to adjust so I don’t think it would take too long using this method.

      I hope that this helps!

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