A Flock of Spinning Wheels, Part 1

There are 6 in my spinning wheel collection.   How exactly does that happen?  I mean, it’s not like they procreate…..right? (although the triplet of baby wheels makes me suspicious).   Spinning wheel crazies um….folks on Ravelry have playfully dubbed this wheel pursuit “Falling Down the Rabbit Hole,” referring both to the collecting of them (a self perpetuating addiction) and the Wonderland you’ve stumbled into.

Spinning Wheel Flock

Wheel collector ‘Crazies” is my term of endearment.  And I’ll even own up to it; I may be one of them.

adj.  cra·zies  (kra zeez)

a. Possessed by enthusiasm or excitement: (well….Yah!).

b. Immoderately fond; infatuated:  (What’s not to love?)

c. Intensely involved or preoccupied: (but… there are so many types to explore)

d. Foolish or impractical; senseless: (Nuh uh!  Wheels are totally practical!) .

So I have six.   Eh, that’s not so much.  A very nice lady in our spinning guild owns about 63 wheels!  Clearly I’m such a beginner (ha ha)

How Did my Wheel obsession Collection begin?   With this Mystery Object:

The vintage Turkish Spindle from Greece

The vintage Turkish Spindle from Nafplio on our trip to Greece.  Hand carved, in matching cup.  Why the cup?  I really don’t know….. but it was a lovely, patina’d, hand-carved souvenir & fit in suitcase.  Love at 1st sight.

A 1996 visit to small coastal town in Greece and this lovely souvenir came home with us.  Back then, we thought it was a carved wooden version of Ball & (spinning!) Jacks.  No hook, no string, or English sign to explain.  It sat a dozen years unidentified upon our shelf, until a 2008 visit to Oregon Flock & Fiber Festival….brought enlightenment.  I went to see the barn critters.   Wandering among the outdoor booths, I was instantly enthralled by the spinning wheels in use on the lawn.  Wow – I’d never seen any in person!  The spinners were delighted to explain the how wheels worked “Practically tied me to a chair to inflict knowledge upon me” I’ve said ever since.  AND they talked me into joining their Aurora Colony Handspinners Guild, tho at the time, I only knit.  “Don’t worry,” they assured me, “We can tell you’re one of us.  It’s only a matter of time until you’ve got your own wheel.”  And of course, they were right.  They could spot a crazy–  Spinner-to-be a mile away!

Back home, online wheel research led to an explanation of drop spindles, with photos of the Turkish design.  Sudden epiphany + shouts of delight!   Mystery object identified!  Armed with this spindle, I visited the Guild, learned to drop spindle yarn, and used it over a year until buying my 1st wheel/s off Craigslist.  My spindle already had a wee hole at either end of the shaft, so I scrounged a vintage eyehook, clipped, sanded & inserted it.  It spins wonderfully well!  I still use it to spin small yarn quantities faster than using a wheel.  Plus the Turkish design allows you to immediately ply your singles.  I love my souvenir from Greece.

Meanwhile…. I longed for a wheel, and haunted the ads.  Success?  Yes, but I may have made a few minor eager-newbie errors along the way…..

# 1.  The (ubiquitous) Lendrum.  See palest wheel in group photo.  Craigslist find. Moderately priced for the whole kit.  Following Lendrum purchase, dear hubby surprised me next morning when I found him treadling the wheel.  No fiber on it;  Spin Off magazine open in hand.  By way of explanation, he informs me “It says here to practice your treadling.”   Groggy halucinations?  Was my man using the wheel?  Gosh I really needed my coffee.  Properly caffeinated,  a rare insight hit, cautioning me to keep a distance.  Do -not -attempt -to -instruct -husband.  Step away.  Let him be….

For weeks he tinkered solo ~uninstructed ~ until by golly, he was teaching himself to spin.  How awesome is that?!  Clearly wheels were A Good Thing, and there were more in our future!   All the more so because HE finally laid claim to the Lendrum.  K’, fair ’nuff.

Mothra.  Name due to  husband's odd sense of humor.

Mothra. Name is due to husband’s odd sense of humor.  An actual –gasp!– wool moth flit thru room, inspiring a frantic assassination attempt, which succeeded when it landed directly on the wheel!  Japanese husband regards this name doubly amusing, considering both his own cultural background AND Mothra’s Japanese movie nemesis: Godzilla.

# 2. Mothra.  Craigslist find.  Identity unknown.  Later renamed “Whimsy” when I painted over playful colors of milk paint.

Mothra wheel, mother-of-all and flyer assembly.

Mothra  Note:  years later renamed “Whimsy” when I milk painted my wheel in playful pastel colors to match my new Whimsical Ewe fiber festival booth.

Swiss Side Treadle wheel

Swiss Side Treadle wheel.

# 3.  Swiss Side Treadle.   Okay, by now I admit I had a hint of crazy obsessive growing fondness for the many varieties of spinning wheels. And gee, Craigslist can make them so accessible!  But I had a budget and strict some criteria to be met.  It had to be inexpensive – although I later learned (ouch) cheap is not necessarily an advantage.  When a treat like this is listed for $50, and the sellers relent to $35, it’s too irresistible.  Alas…it needed repair, and another wheel got hidden in another closet til repair time.  Fixing it definitely upped the cost, but overall it was still an inexpensive acquisition.  I just really liked it’s unique appearance.  I’ve cleaned off the dust of ages and oiled her thirsty dry wood.  Wheels are so much more appealing on display when the bobbin holds yarny proof of the wheels functional ability.   Eventually a few wheels came out of their closets, due to my inability to really keep a secret long from dear hubby.  He’s really quite tolerant of my crazy obsessive um…unique hobbies.

Swiss wheel, short footman

Side treadle, and short footman

Swiss wheel hub, with much little carving details

Swiss wheel hub, with many little carving details.  Inactive woodworm holes appear lighter due to photo flash / are darker & unobtrusive in person.

Swiss wheel, with metal flyer and carved floating rings

Swiss wheel, with metal flyer and 5 carved floating rings

PART II  of “A Flock of Spinning Wheels” will be in next post.

7 thoughts on “A Flock of Spinning Wheels, Part 1

  1. Hi Dana,
    I really enjoyed our visit at Newport! Your wheels are really neat. Each one has its own character. You have really collected some interesting wheels that I have never seen before. I am sure that you enjoy spinning on all of them.

    Are you going to the Whidbey Spin-In in April? My husband has a booth there. He is still setting up his shop and he has a lot of inventory to build back up. I will be spending the next couple of days at Madrona in Tacoma. I am also taking classes on how to weave. My hubby bought me Baby Wolf floor loom for Christmas!

    Your Friend,


    • Thank you Terry! It was lovely seeing you again. We always look for you, and wonder what you’ll surprise us with next. Like your own latest wheel, the stunning Myrtlewood Drudik wheel. Absolutely the most gorgeous wheel I have ever laid eyes upon. I sigh….I pine…. I could gaze at her beautiful wood and pet it for hours. You’ll be so admired at future spin events, I wonder if you’ll manage to get any spinning done!

      Alas, no Whidbey this year. We had a schedule already thought out, but have scaled back somewhat to allow time prepping for our daughter’s wedding! So exciting and a very special occasion. Perhaps we can apply for Whidbey next year, now I’ve heard enthusiastic stories about this event.

      Tell Dave to have a grand show and I’m thrilled his lovely wood yarn bowls are so popular! http://www.dywoodcreations.com He always looks so happy standing among his wooden treasures! Bring photos of your weaving results soon and show me!
      ~ Whimsical Ewe

    • Hmmmmm, I don’t specifically have any repair information to provide. It’s more a matter of I simply disassembled easy bits and cleaned screws, crevices, axle joints gummed with oil & fiber, and polished wood on any of my wheels that I prettied up after acquisition. These tasks take a bit of time, but the satisfying results can be immediate.

      I’ll be watching in November for your own wheel restoration project!

  2. I have a twin to your Swiss wheel, and your photos have just helped me to figure out a mechanical problem I was having with the treadle, so thanks for that! Mine has a large captive ring on the wheel hub spindle as well as the four up top – does yours have that one as well? Mine came to me through German eBay after being found in a barn in Bavaria. My tensioning peg was missing and I replaced it with an antique clock key.

    • Hello Hypercycloid!
      Belated reply due to long sabbatical (in which a house got prepped & sold. whew) and now I’m finally back to blog & shows.

      Don’t I recognize your name from the Ravelry pages?

      My Swiss side treadle wheel had been advertised on Craigslist. The elderly couple selling it invited me info tea & muffins, and gave the background story.

      He’d been stationed at an army base in Germany, in 1965. I forget the name, but how many could there be?

      They’d got to dinner at house of locals, where the son carried the wheel indoors after dinner, exclaiming about the junky thing he’d found in an out building. It was offered to the American couple, who brought it back stateside. The lady only ever kept it as decoration over ensuing decades. Now they were downsizing and I came to look it over.

      The wheel had been baked dry from years of residing by the fireplace. I cleaned it then gave a generous oil bath and watched it begin to gleam as it soaked up the oil.

      There are 4 captive rings at the top, and 4 spaces along those two top bars where more rings should have been. There are none on the wheel rungs.

      I’ll have to go read over my post again, to see if I used the ‘before’ photos, and whether I ever inserted the ‘after’ photos.

      I had the help of a talented woodturner who took such a liking to this wheel, he’d mention it repeatedly over the past few years. So this year ~ and to his great delight ~ I finally sold it to him. I think it was meant to be and it just felt like a good karma thing to do. The wheel still lives nearby and I can visit if I wish.

      I LOVE your inventive idea to use an antique clock key for the tensioning peg. How marvelous and I hope you shared that marvelous notion on Ravelry.

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