January 2023 still is having its way with changing my plans so I will just have to acquiesce and make new plans more in line with the year’s decrees. I am still working on my vocabulary note, I can’t show you too much about my big Christmas present yet, since my desk is trashed as I try to move furniture and upgrade my office to better function. I am also debating which of my flock of wheels (is it a flock? or should it be a whirl or maybe a herd of spinning wheels? Maybe it’s a flurry, let me check with google, silly distractible brain!! Worse google doesn’t know!!! Let’s say it’s a whirl or a flurry, since when you get one, usually more follow.)
The plan, (barring more changes) for next Monday’s guild social, is a “meet the wheels” afternoon and early evening. We have a good number of new-ish spinners who began their journey just before or during the plague. Those of us with wheels who are willing to let others try them will bring one (or maybe two) to the social and introduce them to the curious spinners. I wish I could take all of mine outside and get a group photo, but it’s snowing and there are stairs to navigate. So that may be a photo shoot to do in the spring or summer possibly with a bit of carrying help.
My first wheel was found in an antique store on Bank Street. It was under $150.00 Ashford traditional wheel with 1 bobbin and a 1 or 2-speed flyer. I think I upgraded to the 2-speed. It was a bit overpriced, but it hooked me on spinning and started the collection. I have had a number of Traditionals over the years. The oddest was from the Stittsville flee market. I was cruising the outside parking lot stalls and spotted the wheel so stopped to check it out. The wheel was very wobbly and may be warped, and the maidens (the part that holds up the flyer and bobbin at the front of the wheel) had been painted to the point they didn’t turn to get the bobbin out. Hummmm. The frame seemed loose too, that will just need an allen key to fix. Worse still someone had taken city of Ottawa fence paint, brown, to the whole wheel!! Poor thing. (It looks like the brown colour that taking lots of leftover paint and mixing it together makes.)
The vendor rushed over excited by the prospect of a sale. “Oh do you like my antique wheel?”
Poor vendor, he really doesn’t know what is about to hit him. I replied going into educational demo mode, “Well, it’s an Ashford traditional wheel. It is sold out of New Zealand, as a kit spinning wheel. They were making them to help home production of yarn during world war II. I was on their website last night, you can still order one today and they make replacement parts!” I took a breath and his face looked a bit deflated. “The wheel may be warped,” I spun the wheel showing the large wobble, “the Maidens are stuck and won’t rotate to remove the single bobbin, it should have 3 bobbins and a lazy kate when it was shipped.” He looked a little more deflated when I looked up.
“So, you know what it is?” he said.
“Oh yes!” I stated with enthusiasm, “They still sell parts! If the wheel is warped I can order a new one, I may be able to get the maidens loose if not I can order a new mother of all,” pointing out the parts which would include the base where the maidens sit as well as the maidens. “So, how much are you asking for her?”
“Would $50.00 be too much?”
“No, that seems fair, I should be able to replace anything that isn’t working.” He looked relieved and took my money. As I put the wheel on my shoulder and turned to go. There were two glaring women standing behind me…. I am not sure if they wanted a wheel to put as a decoration on their porch, or were actually spinners who just missed out on a good deal.
I wandered around the market with my wheel looking for an allen key. Then remembered I had one in my change pouch…. I found a quiet spot put the wheel down dug out the key and tightened all the frame joints, then gave the wheel a spin….. Oooh, it spins true!!! No more wobble! Now if only I can get the paint loose from the maidens and around the bobbin. I spent some time when I got her home working to loosen the maidens with success. She spun like a dream but was the ugliest wheel I have ever owned. I think I traded her to Elizabeth for the same make of wheel but one without paint (it looked better with the looms).
The guild has a couple of Ashford Traditional wheels. They have been good teaching wheels. I have found that mine always reminds me of a golden retriever of wheels. “Is that fibre? Can we spin it? Aww, Please?” They are fabulous sit-by-the-window-and-spin wheels, but with their Saxony-style shape (Flyer beside the drive wheel) they don’t fit quite as easily into and out of cars, so I probably will not bring mine next week.
1) 2003 one of my Ashford Traditional wheels (on loan to another guild member) and my Lendrum folding upright wheel (it has a broken peg underneath that I can’t fix so wobbles from side to side as she spins. The wheel still spins well even with her drinking problem.)
Wheels come in many shapes and sizes. You can divide them into spindle wheels (they have a spike to spin off like the sleeping beauty wheel) and flyer wheels (that’s the Rumpelstiltskin straw into gold wheel). We can then further divide the flyer wheels into the upright-shaped “Castle” wheels or the more horizontal-shaped “Saxony” wheels. There is a third group of flyer wheels called “Direct drive” wheels. They don’t have a drive band but they are usually small and portable. I have a few wheels in each category.
Thinking upon my, flutter or flurry or whirl of wheels, I should select a couple that would be available but also they may not have seen. I think the ones that would be most beneficial for other spinners to try would be; the Louet S40 “Hatbox” (Louet made a commemorative edition a few years ago so you can again get parts for the old ones!). The Road Bug wheel by Murlen tree and probably my Alvin Ramer Kick spindle (it’s like a tiny grate wheel but a lot slower but also more portable).
The Louet S40 “Hatbox” arrived one day at the guild while we were still at the old location on Chapple Street in Ottawa. There were 3 of us drooling at the cute little wheel that fits in its own box. That is why it’s called the hat box and not by its actual name S40. One could not get it to spin, (there is a trick to that) which left two of us in serious want of a hat box. The other contender was finding spinning more difficult from health problems so we decided that if she didn’t want it anymore she would sell it to me at the same price as was being asked. Which eventually happened and the wheel came home to meet its new wheel friends.
Being a direct drive wheel the flyer drive ring must sit against the drive wheel or the flyer doesn’t turn. If you spin and pull the yarn to the side away from the wheel, you also pull on the flyer and lift the drive ring off the drive wheel. Lifting the flyer Stops all rotation of the flyer and thus the spinning. So spin directly in front of the orifice or towards the side with the drive wheel. It comes with three small bobbins. Along with the flyer, they are stored in the lid of the wooden top of the hat box. It is a single treadle with a nice heal-tow action.
2) 2010 Spencerville Demo Ann has an Ashford Traveler. We are separated by one of my floor inkle looms. I am spinning on my hatbox wheel. (We were in an unheated, dirt-floor, arena. Not the heated building we were expecting.)
This was one of my main demo wheels for years. Before the introduction of the commemorative reissue a few years ago, it was very hard to get replacement parts. The tensioner, to keep the flyer leaning into the drive wheel, had long ago been replaced by an old shoelace. It worked but, occasionally at a demo, she would randomly and holey unpredictably go from silently happily spinning and being ignored by passersby to suddenly screaming at the top of her lungs (yes I am sure this wheel at least has lungs). This tended to gather a large crowd to see what I was killing in the corner. She would again shift back to a mild happy spinning wheel persona and happily demonstrate spinning fine lovely yarn. (I think she just didn’t like being ignored by possible admirers.) I did eventually get a replacement for the old shoelace and she has not screamed at anyone in ages. (I rather miss her occasional screams).
The road bug wheel is made by Murlen Tree, in Vermont, USA. Mine arrived many X-mass mornings ago and was quickly put together. There was a bit of a wobble in the wheel but it spun beautifully. I borrowed my father-in-law’s computer and sent an email to the company asking how best to adjust it to reduce the wobble. (This was early X-mass morning so I did not anticipate a response until at least after Boxing Day.) The return email was back within about an hour with apologies and suggestions for fine-tuning. He suggested I get back to him if I had any further problems. WOW. What a company! I sent back an apology for interrupting his X-mass morning and thanked him for his suggestions. It has also been a fabulous demo wheel.
3) Road bug at the Richmond Fair, the wheel is sitting on a rubber-backed mat on top of a tarp on wet grass, covered by a tent.
4) Road Bug spinning wheel in an under bed box at a rainy demo in Manotick.
5) Another rainy demo, this time at the Richmond Fair. Spinning with the road bug in an Ikea under bed storage box to keep it off the wet ground. (trundle box is visible behind the chair under the table.)
I have trundle boxes for each of my travel wheels. It’s a folding plastic box with 2 wheels and an extendible handle. There is room to put the little wheel, hand cards, and fibre (or a bit more fibre if I’m spinning and shopping at a fibre festival!). If you are considering spinning in public or are demoing, a trundle box can make transporting your wheel and spinning equipment much easier. If you have a larger wheel, one of the folding camping wagons is a good acquisition to move your wheel, small loom or felting supplies.
6) My spinning spot with the trundle box up on the window ledge, the Road Bug on a small rubber backed mat and a green uncomfortable hospital chair.
7) Chesterville Spin in, 2013 Kick spindle in front of Road Bug
The last spindle wheel I was considering is called a kick spindle. Mechanically, it works like a Great wheel since it uses a spindle. Unlike my diminutive great wheel which has a ratio of 80 to 1 (that means one rotation of the big drive wheel turns the spindle 80 times) its ratio is much slower. There are quite a few makers of Kick spindles, but they are not common. You can occasionally see them on Etsy or Kijiji. I found mine for sale on Kijiji and rushed out just at the end of a very large snow dump, before the roads were completely cleared. I only had to get to a town just south of Ottawa but saw many cars in odd parking spots off the sides of the highway as I slowly got there. The poor driving was worth it to bring home an Alvin Ramer made kick spindle.
8) Farm show demo 2013m sitting with my Right foot turning the large drum, which runs the spindle.
9) Jan is sitting in the corner of the hospital room, listening to audiobooks, while spinning on the road bug wheel.
10) This is the Kick spindle I switched to partway through Glenn multiple times in the hospital.
I had been taking in the Road bug and was sitting with him while he slept. He said he would start to wake up, hear the wheel making its whirring sound, know I was there and go back to sleep. One very early morning at shift change a new nurse rushed in to check the machines, muttering “it doesn’t usually make that sound!!” I stopped spinning and she seemed to notice the wheel and me, sitting in the corner of the room, she had run past me so I don’t know why she didn’t notice a spinning wheel. While Glenn found the quiet sound of the wheel soothing, it seemed to have distressed her. Therefore, I switched to my kick spindle, which is, basically, silent.
11) Road bug in one of Glenn‘s hospital rooms, sitting on the window sill out of the way.
12) A different hospital room, with the same wheel and trundle box sitting on the window ledge.
13) During the various hospital trips and stays I also found out you can spin fully gloved and gowned with a drop spindle.
I spun in the coffee shop in the hospital while Glenn was in surgery and had patients, nurses and a couple of doctors come over while I was stress-spinning, and tell me how relaxing it was to watch me sitting by the window spinning. This may be a good spot for spontaneous spinning, it helped me calm down while waiting and it also calmed those around me. It has been quite a few years since I have been spending time at the hospital but I still have my emergency spinning bag hanging on the back of the door. It has a couple of spindles, in case anyone wants to join me spinning, and some good fibre. Glenn has not been hanging around at the hospital since these trips quite a few years ago, but it’s good to have a spindle ready just in case his body changes its mind. (I have also taken felting for hospital appointments but I can’t find a photo of them.)
Looking through the photos I found another “meet the wheels” guild day in 2014 shortly after we moved to the new location. I seem to have brought the Road bug, Hatbox, Kick spindle and the Cowichan wheel (Indian head spinner) from B.C. I tried out a Majacraft Aura and enjoyed its smooth spinning. I hope to find an affordable, lonely, second-hand Majacraft Aura or Suzi at some point.
14) My Cowichan and Road bug wheels with a spinner trying the latter.
15) I am trying out a Majacraft wheel. the wheels moving from left to right is Majacraft Aura, Ashford Joy, Louet S40 Hatbox, Cowichan or Indian Head Spinner from B.C. and Merlin tree’s Roadbug. Behind the wheels is the Alvin Ramer Kick spindle, sitting on the chair beside me.
Learning to spin has taught me how to draft fibre, how to comb and card fibre into various fibre preparations and has given me the opportunity to spin different types of fibre and blends of those fibres. Coming from a spinning (and weaving) background I think this has helped me in my felting endeavours. Spinning also keeps your Fiber-hoard in check if you do a bit of Over-shopping. But I will warn you that the acquisition of “A” spinning wheel can lead to the acquisition of More spinning wheels!!
If you are curious you can find out more about two of the wheels that are still in production below, you will have to be lucky and catch a Hatbox or a Ramer Kick spindle secondhand. Both are fun and worth trying if you get the chance. Have fun and keep felting and maybe try spinning if you have not yet had the opportunity.