With tax refund time coming up, I've started thinking pretty seriously about getting a spinning wheel. I really love spinning; I think a spinning wheel would be a reasonable purchase that won't end up in a corner collecting dust. (I always go through this line of reasoning when contemplating buying something that costs more than $100 and takes up considerable space. I was right about getting the kayak and the elliptical trainer; I think I'll be right about this, too.) Spinning with the spindle is fun, but I really want a wheel.
In class I used a Babe, an entry-level spinning wheel made out of PVC pipe. They're not pretty, but they're cheap. The one I used in class worked fine and was plenty good enough for me to have a blast using it. After serious consideration though, I think I prefer a wood one enough to pay the difference in price. Knowing myself, once I buy a spinning wheel, I doubt I'd ever buy another one, so it's worth it to spend a few hundred extra dollars up front to get The One. I just have to figure out what that is.
There are a lot of spinning classes that I want to take at far-away fiber festivals, so I really need something portable. Flyable, even. (The two main things I desperately want to go to are The Knit and Crochet Show in New Hampshire and SOAR in the Poconos--neither within practical driving distance.)
I've read a lot of reviews on Ravelry and LiveJournal's handspinning group. Of course, most people write a review of their own wheel, which they have a tendency to love, but it's still useful input.
Some of the folding spinning wheels I've heard about are the Ashford Joy, Kromski Sonata, Ledrum Original, Louet Victoria, Majacraft Little Gem, and Hitchhiker, but I've heard that the Hitchhiker is very tempermental, and there's a lot of variation among Ashford Joys. Also, I've heard the Majacraft Little Gem is a little unstable, plus it looks too funny for me. Similarly, I think the Louet Victoria is too small, and I don't like the odd angle of the Ledrum. (The Woolery has an excellent comparison of pictures and specs for some of these.)
I'm leaning toward the Kromski Sonata. It folds very flat and apparently very easily, it comes with a nice padded bag to carry it in, it has a good range of ratios, the default bobbins have more capacity than those of its competitors, and I like the way it looks. Some of the others have a lower price, but by the time you buy the bags for them, the Sonata actually comes out ahead.
I really hate waiting and am very tempted to just order one online. (Many places are offering free shipping for these!) But the sensible thing to do would be to try several of them before buying anything. My next mission will be to check out Little Barn and Yarn Expressions and see what spinning wheels they carry. If they don't have the Sonata, I think I'll go to the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival and try wheels there. It's 11 hours away, but it's supposed to be one of the best fiber festivals, and it's soon. (Oh, I'm sorry, did I just get drool on your keyboard?)