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Saturday, May 1, 2010

Majacraft Aura: At Last! Photos and a Review

The Aura arrived here in Minnesota on Thursday.  I invited my spinner friend Kerry over to help me assemble the wheel and take photos, so THANKS to Kerry.

First impressions:  The box was much smaller than the boxes that the Rose and Suzy come in.  Here is what I saw when I opened it up, removed the top piece of styrofoam.
I lifted up the wheel and gasped.  It is GORGEOUS, SOLID bamboo, and very heavy.  In my opinion it is the most beautiful of all the drive wheels Majacraft makes.

Next we unpacked the pieces.  The treadles are lovely, and have a curvy new look.

The spinning head has been completely redesigned.  The only thing that looks the same is the shaft.  There are two whorls in place of the one whorl in previous models.  They rotate independently.

The jumbo flyer has the aerodynamic wooden crossbar, jumbo sliding hook, and a unique orifice called a "pigtail".  It is very easy to thread and has options for threading fine or lumpy yarns.  It is quite easy to spin at an angle to the pigtail.

The jumbo bobbins are bamboo!  That was a surprise. 

And of course the signature at the base is very important.


Here are some photos of the wheel after assembly.

And here is a close up of the spinning head with the pulleys and whorls and drive wheel connected by bands.

The white band is not stretchy.  It goes from the front whorls (which rotate at the same speed as the bobbin) to a "holder" pulley (small pulley on the opposite side) and then down to a special, deep groove on the drive wheel.  The green stretchy band goes from the whorl groove to the wheel, as in the other Majacraft wheels.  This whorl is very large and has three grooves.

The tensioning requires a paradigm shift in thinking about how spinning FEELS.  Adjustment of the white band controlls the amount of pull, or tug on the wool during spinning.  The green band adjusts the speed of the takeup, and the difference in size between the first and second bands is how one arrives at the correct tension/pull/takeup for the wool one is spinning.

Here are some answers to common questions about the Aura.  

Q:  Will my other Majacraft bobbins work on the Aura?  
A: No.  The Aura bobbins have holes that fit into pins on the spinning head to keep it in pace with the first (white band) whorls.  I tried to drill holes in one of my lace bobbins in order to make it work - first attempt at mod was not a success, but I haven't given up.  Right now, the only bobbins that are designed for the Aura are the jumbo Aura bobbins.  The wheel comes with three jumbo Aura bobbins.  Additional bobbins cost $45 USD.  BUT these are such large bobbins that having many extra bobbins is not essential.

Q: Will my high-speed head fit on the Aura?  
A.  No.  The spinning head on the Aura is mounted with a bolt that passes through the head. 

Q: How is the tensioning different from other Majacraft wheels?
A: Scotch tension requires tweaking as one spins.  As the bobbin fills the pull and takeup change and tension has to be increased in small increments.  With the Aura tension system, one only has to set it for the type of yarn and GO.  No readjusting.

Q: Is the Aura only for art yarn?
A: No.  The Aura can spin anything, although as it is set up now (huge bobbins, large whorls) it is perfect for art yarn, bulky yarn, or worsted weight soft singles.  I was able to spin laceweight once the bobbin was half full.  More about that later!

Q:  Would this be a good wheel for a new spinner?
A:  YES.  More about that with the review!

Q: What does the Aura cost?  
A:  It is listed at $963 USD.  It is definitely the top of the line now.

Q:  Will Majacraft make other whorls/setups for this wheel?
A:  Yes, but there are not dates on this yet.  Glynis mentioned to me that they will probably make a lace flyer with standard orifice next, but she was thinking out loud, not announcing a fact.  Right now they are busy getting the pre-orders out!

Ok, my review!

Kerry and I spent about four hours spinning, between the two of us.  Kerry spun fine merino top from the fold.  I spun Romney, Romney blend, mohair, merino, CVM from rolags and merino/bamboo.  We spun as fine as we could and I spun fat art yarn.  We took it up to speed and raced it (my job), and we tested how leisurely we could spin (that was Kerry's job).  We also brought over Kerry's son Josh who is 15, and has never been able to get the hang of spinning on the family Rose.  He was able to spin immediately.

It took a while for me to adjust to the new feel of the wheel.  I did a lot of adjusting.  Like I said above, spinning on the Aura requires a change of mindset.  The side knob controls how HARD the wheel pulls against the wool, but NOT how fast it takes up.  Changing the position of the green band up and down the whorls changes how fast the yarn takes up.  I am not used to thinking of tension and takeup as separate functions, so...being middle-aged, it took me a while to stop breaking the yarn.  

Once I got the hang of it I found my sweet spot setting and was able to spin for an hour solid making perfect, even Romney singles that would knit at about DK.  I was AMAZED at how smooth the treadling and tension are.  When I speeded up my treadling I was able to make consistent sockweight, laceweight singles, though this was nearly impossible until the bobbin was half full.  The bobbin is so large that the slightest pull would snap those fine singles.  Once the bobbin was essentially a "fat core" the fine spinning was possible and easy.

Bulky spinning was great too - no overtwisting.  I didn't have to work so fast that I lost control.  I could make slubs, twits, add in fluff, whatever, at a nice, steady pace.  The orifice can handle all manner of blobs with ease.  This wheel will make the art yarn spinners jump up and down but the rest of us have plenty to be happy about too.

The wheel is slow.  It will require gearing up for me to spin lace at the speed I want to go.  I can spin lace, but not fast.  This would be a good wheel for a tense person (that would be me) because the pace is so relaxing.  

I'm just getting used to Aura but I give her a hearty thunbs up.  I know Majacraft is going to expand the wheel in time and it will be THE spinning wheel everyone wants to have because of the versatility.  Right now (May 1, 2010)  it is already PERFECT for 1) spin control 2) soft, even singles 3) bulky, funky, lumpy, happy yarns, 4) learning to spin/draft 5) leisurely spinning of very fine yarns, once there is a bit of a core built up on the bobbin.

Please feel free to comment, to ask questions, or e-mail me for more info. stseraphinaknits at


  1. Hi Kris! Thanks for inviting me over for the great Aura unveiling! I wanted to add my thoughts about the Aura...

    First, a bit of spinning background, so you have an idea of my perspective. I consider myself to be an intermediate spinner: I can spin what I want, but I have to work at it. I spin out of sheer determination sometimes ;-). I am a relaxed spinner with a nice slow rhythm. I like to let the wheel do the work for me.

    After playing a bit and getting a feel for how it works (the mechanics are a bit of a mind bender, it is so innovative!) I was able to sit down at the Aura and immediately spin beautiful, even, lofty singles in any weight from sport to heavy worsted! Wow!

    The greatest thing for me was that once the Aura was set for the yarn I wanted to create, there were NO ADJUSTMENTS!!! I can't even begin to tell you how that made my heart sing. Think consistency bobbin to bobbin start to finish! Wow!!

    The treadling is ohhh, so smooth. I've spun almost exclusively on my Rose and had always thought that the Rose had smooth and easy treadling, but the Aura is like buttah! So nice, so easy, so effortless.

    I wanted to make a comparison to my Rose, so I set aside my current lace weight merino-tencel, and replaced it with a fresh bobbin and the Rose whorl, grabbed some merino and sat down to spin. Though I had no trouble spinning the merino on my Rose, my singles were thick and thin and over/under-spun, it will take some time before I'll get the consistent lofty worsted singles that I was able to make so effortlessly on the Aura.

    My son Josh has tried spinning on my Rose a few times, discouraged as the fiber whipped out of his hands or snapped. He was able to sit down at the Aura, with a quick lesson on drafting from a batt, and spin thick/thin slightly overspun singles. He had so much fun that he continued to spin for about a half an hour! By the end of that half hour, his yarn was becoming more consistent. He says he had a blast.

    It's funny, because when I first sat down I thought, why would I want to consider exchanging my Rose for an Aura, but now, the thought keeps popping up in my mind in a quiet litany... amazing treadling, beautiful singles, no adjustments. I must admit that the Aura is singing a syren song to me.

  2. Three questions:
    1. Can the head be flipped so the flyer is on the right (for us lefty/long-draw spinners)?
    2. Speaking of long draw -- have you tried that, how was it?
    3. Plying: I'd love to hear how that went, when you get some bobbins full for that :-)
    Thanks so much for the review, it sounds like a cool new wheel!

  3. Answers 1: Yes, the head can go on either side of the stem. 2: Yes, most of the spinning I did was long draw and the ability to have constant, predictable "tug" made it even easier. It was leisurely - at this point it is not set up for production, high speed, high twist spinning - but long draw was not a problem. 3: From what I can tell, plying will be fabulous - that even, controllable tension that doesn't change as the bobbin fills will make it simple to get a rhythm going and to keep the twist consistent throughout the batch.

  4. Thanks for the review, Kris!

    I'm awaiting my first wheel (a Pioneer); I almost held out for the Aura but was concerned with how easy or difficult it might be for a complete wheel beginner like me to handle a double-drive. Part of me wishes I'd held out, but I think the Pioneer will still be a great introduction, and with your review I'm pretty sure that the Aura will be next on the list in the next year or two (especially if a lace flyer and bobbins are added)!

    I do wish to know how it handles worsted spinning; my biggest, far-future wheel investment will certainly have quality and versatility as top priority.

  5. Thanks, Ed. I'll be here when you're ready to move up to a bigger wheel :-) The Pioneer was a great choice - you won't be sorry about your choice once you start spinning! Happy Spinning!

  6. How much do the bobbins hold (dimensions), are they comparable to the Spinolution giant bobbins, will they hold all of a pound of wool spun thick and thin? and how complicated is it to figure out the double drive when you have only used a single drive Susie Pro ? I noticed that when I spun thick and thin on the largest bobbin for the Susie Pro, it wouldnt all fit on one large is difficult to see from the picture if they are the same size as the large wooden plying bobbins that go with the wildflyer..

  7. The bobbins are the same size as the other Majacraft Jumbo bobbins. In fact, the only difference is that 1)they are bamboo, and 2) they have holes in one end for the flyer pins. The website says they hold 8 ounces, but I have never gotten 8 ounces of wool on a bobbin of any size, so no, they do not compare to a 1# Spinolution bobbin at all. The double drive is different but not hard. It is easy to adjust one belt, see how it feels, then adjust the other belt, see how it feels, until you get the balance you need for the yarn you are making.
    You can use an Aura bobbin with your Wild Flyer or Plying Flyer, but you can't use your older jumbo bobbins on the Aura - they lack two holes for the flyer pins.

  8. A really great review! I look forward to more info as you continue to use it.

    And for Ed: I love my Pioneer, purchased from Kris (thank you!) and I was a pretty new spinner when I got it. I had spun a little on my Ashford Traditional (now in a new home) but really love this Pioneer. And I tried out other wheels in Maggie Casey's "Learn to Spin" Class (each week a diff wheel, for a week, not including any Majacraft) before settling on this one for many reasons, most or all of which I'm sure you considered before purchase. Love it! But it would be very nice to have a wheel like the Aura that doesn't require any fiddling with tension once you find the workable "sweet spot".

    One note to Ed: the brake band tension on the Pioneer only requires the merest adjustment....teeny tiny changes...use a delicate hand!