Alden Amos Has Left Us with His Legacy

A tribute to Alden Amos

One of the Grandfathers of modern handspinning has passed on. Alden Amos passed away on November 28 but his family only recently made that news public. And Alden did have a public. His full length obituary was published digitally on Dec 18th and ran on page A25 of the December 21, 2015 (today) print edition of The New York Times. Alden was a maker of spinning wheels and he was probably the best in the world. Why The New York Times ran with a picture of him working on an Ashford wheel, instead of one of his own, is beyond me.

If you dabble in handspinning you may have heard of him. Alden Amos’ handmade spinning wheels are very coveted. He built them in his shop and each was customized for the size, physical make up, and spinning preferences of the customer. The waiting list for one of his wheels was 5 years. People paid $2000 or more for them. And he made over 600 in his lifetime.

(I’m just speculating here but I think his family may have delayed the announcement of his passing because they had to contact up to five years of future customers, tell them first, and resolve outstanding financial arrangements. So if you happen to actually own an Alden wheel, treat it like gold. There won’t be any more.)

Alden in his workshop (from the majacraft blog)

Most of us will never get our hands on one of his wheels. But, we can get his book. The Alden Amos Big Book of Handspinning is on my shelf. If your interested in developing your spinning skills it should probably be on your shelf too. Don’t let Alden’s suspenders and his Farmer Joe fashion sense fool you. The man was brilliant and he wrote a textbook for spinners. Its a full course of study. I’ve read it several times, in sections, and I still haven’t absorbed it all. As you might expect from a wheel maker, Alden was a technical spinner. He spun for results and measured progress and performance very precisely.

Amos Big Book of Handspinning
Amos Big Book of Handspinning, a small selection of pages to give some idea of the breadth and depth of his work

He also wrote Spinning Wheel Primer. Its more about how wheels work than how to use them. If your interested in repairing old wheels or even building your own, this might be the book for you. I don’t own a copy myself as I have absolutely no interest in that sort of thing, but I’m sure its a very good resource for aspiring wheel makers. 

But he was more than a man who could build spinning wheels and explain the physics of handspinning. He was also a veteran, a father, and probably a lot of fun to hang out with. Here is a short interview he did with Interweave back in 2009.


If you didn’t bother to watch it I’ll give you the best (in my opinion) highlights:

  • Don’t spin under fluorescent lights. The flicker of the lights and the flicker of the moving yarn can cause absence seizures, aka petit mal seizures.
  • Drink beer. “Beer is good for spinners.” Why? “Because it makes them take frequent breaks.”


Bye Alden. God speed you to your reward. We will miss you.


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12 Comments on "Alden Amos Has Left Us with His Legacy"

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If you haven’t read his Spinning Wheel Primer, yet, I strongly suggest you do. Even though it is short and sweet and to the point, there are many helpful explanations of what makes a good wheel work well – always important to know, even if you don’t intend to build or repair wheels.

It has also been an extremely helpful resource in pointing out to people why that “bargain” wheel they found at an antique store/garage sale/thrift shop is never going to work satisfactorily, and just isn’t worth their time or effort.


Shocked to read of A. A.’s passing. I do have his book, but it is so very technical (and I am not at all)!


I have been lucky enough to know both Stephenie, aka Goddess of cotton spinning, and Alden. Alden’s sense of humor is legendary. When confronted with a copy of his Big Book, he commented that the real information is in the footnotes. Also, to read the section on lubricating wheels several times.

He is a treasure, and his legacy is the number of spinners who demand and use well made wheels. As for the Ashford, I’m betting that somewhere on it there’s his signature AA, and maybe even the inscribed comment “You could do better”

he will be greatly missed.


I had his book but gave it away to a real spinner. One who would get the most from it. I love the beer suggestion. Thanks for sharing this it was so interesting.


I’m not a spinner but what a great interview to watch, would have liked to have met him
Does anyone know where he lived?