The Schacht Matchless wheel is casually known as the Jaguar of wheels among spinners and based on the comments of my Matchless-owning friends, deservedly so. When I was at SOAR last fall, I found myself surrounded by happy Matchless owners spinning silently and happily.
So when I learned that Schacht's new wheel, the Ladybug, was available for test drives at SOAR's spinner's market, I was quite curious to test it out. This new release has been categorized as a good wheel for beginners, with a price noticeably lower than the Matchless. It also shares a genetic history with the Matchless which made me think it would likely be well-designed and built, as well as a good spinner. [Who said beginners don't need quality tools?]
Drive system: scotch tension
[can also be used in double drive mode]
Ratios: comes with medium and fast whorls -- medium 7:1 & 9:1; fast 10-1/2:1 & 12-1/2:1. Slow [5:1 & 6:1] and High [14:1 & 16:1] whorls optional -- $23/ea.
Number of Bobbins supplied: 3
Lazy Kate: optional [tensioned]-- $34.95
WooLee Winder available? yes [uses the same bobbins as the Schacht Matchless; same WooLee winder fits as well]
Weight: 12.5 lbs
Wheel height: 29”
Orifice height: 27”
Orifice size: 3/8"
Drive wheel diameter: 16"
The wheel is a quirky looking thing, which is part of its appeal to me. I am not someone who covets vintage-style wheels. Streamlined looks and unique design are part of what guides my choice of a wheel. The other part, of course, is how well it spins for me.
I sat down to test the Ladybug with absolutely no intention of buying it. I just wanted to learn more about it and see how different it was from my current wheel. The first thing I noticed was the super-smooth, easy treadling action. Near effortless. I then noticed how the wheel felt solid as a rock. Not wiggly, jiggly or wobbly. Solid, stationary, and doing what it was built to do. After that, the spinning was easy. I wanted to grab the wheel and run out of the hall. [I hear that was a common reaction at the show.] The decision to buy it wasn't even conscious -- I had to have this wheel. It felt like a natural extension of my body.
Soon after placing my order, my very own Ladybug arrived, shipped in a custom-built cardboard shipper box. Though I hadn't ordered it, Schacht included their on-board tensioned Lazy Kate kit so that I could review it. Assembly of the wheel was relatively easy [see pictures and notes below] and I had the wheel together in under a half hour. Adding the Lazy Kate took less time and was only fiddly when I was tightening the nuts that keep the steel rods in place with a tiny Allen key.
There's no way to continue the discussion about this wheel without mentioning the one kitsch aspect: the little Ladybug mascot that each wheel comes with. Every Ladybug wheel has the mascot in a different place, so there's a fun bit of hunting when yours arrives in order to discover its location. Mine was an easy find -- right on the back of the rear maiden, conveniently by the Schacht logo.
The Ladybug comes with two whorls, giving you four spinning ratios right out of the box. Two additional whorls [one smaller, one larger] are also available for purchase.
For my spinning, which has been mostly bamboo lately, I've kept the fast whorl on the wheel on the slower ratio. The drive band is a stretchy cord, and it would probably be wise to move it to the faster ratio on the whorl when it's not being used so it's not under as much tension. I haven't done that yet, however, and should the drive band be too loose at any point, there's an additional wheel [see the small white one with the black center in the pictures below] that you can swing up to lengthen the path of the drive band slightly. This takes up any slack.
I've found the tensioning system to be very consistent and effective. The tension adjustments are made in tiny increments, and I don't find myself having to re-adjust very often.
What about that Lazy Kate? Well, honestly, I don't love its looks and I think it detracts a little from the prettiness of the wheel. But it's reasonably priced, works exactly as it should, and is the easiest thing to carry along with the wheel, since it's built in and lightweight. There's room to store/ply from four bobbins, which is nice. I have tried one other built-in Lazy Kate on a different manufacturer's wheel and this one is superior -- having the bobbins sit on their sides makes the yarn feed much more smoothly. It does make me wish my legs were longer, though, so I could sit further back from the wheel.
One thing that is missing from this wheel is foldability. The wheel has 3 integrated handles that work well for transporting the wheel, but it would have been nice if this wheel could have folded flat. I have heard rumors that Schacht may release a new wheel which will be foldable, and the buzz about what it might look like is growing.
So, am I happy? Very. This wheel is now my sole spinning wheel. I can't imagine much that it wouldn't do for me, except fit into a suitcase. I'm thrilled with the wheel and look forward to spinning many miles of yarn on her.