The Wendy spinning wheel and her relatives

WendyPhilip Poore’s little Wendy wheels are still sought after, in New Zealand and other countries. But few people know that Wendy was part of a tradition of New Zealand flyer-frame wheels. Back in 2008 I told their story – now republished here.

Being reminded of William McDonald, maker of one of Wendy’s “ancestors”, always makes me smile remembering one of my very first spinning lessons with the formidable Miss Stace. As the leader of the Eastbourne Spinners, a group she had founded in WW2, she had a studio full of a variety of wheels that I now wish I could remember more clearly! Mr McDonald, as well as being one of her spinners and making his own little wheels, helped by maintaining the group’s wheels. One day Miss Stace told me with great amusement that he had just telephoned to say he’d “be over later to fix the loose maidens in the spinning club.” wendyandfriend

‘Flyer-Frame Spinning Wheels in New Zealand’ was originally published in The Spinning Wheel Sleuth #60 (April 2008), and I thank editor Florence Feldman-Wood for agreeing to it being reproduced here. I have added a couple of photographs and a footnote that were not in the original.

Makers’ instructions and information

Every so often someone asks for these, and I have some in my files. So I thought I’d start putting a few up here. The first is for the Sleeping Beauty saxony wheel – five pages. You’ll find them under “Makers’ leaflets and instructions” in the menu at the top.

I hope there won’t be any copyright problems. All the former makers I’ve spoken with have been delighted to learn that people were still interested in their wheels. As for current makers, the information is on their own websites so you won’t find it here.

Golden Shears!

Women competing alongside the men

Competitive shearing is big in New Zealand – in fact some of us think it should be an Olympic sport!

Shearers compete at agricultural shows all over New Zealand. The season culminates in the Golden Shears, a tremendous event that attracts international competitors as well as shearers from all over New Zealand. It’s held in Masterton in early March each year. In 2015 I attended many of the sessions, and described the experience (and other Wairarapa attractions) in Yarnmaker,  an interesting UK magazine about all things fibre.

I loved “the Shears” – read about it here.

Our Spinning Wheels

A distracted spinner: detail from the Smithfield Decretals, an illuminated manuscript of about 1350 in the British Library. Creative Commons

Here is the third and final part of my attempt to put together a short history of spinning and spinning wheels, first published in Creative Fibre magazine, December 2015.

Again I owe grateful thanks to Creative Fibre and its editorial committee, for their skilled and helpful editing as well as their kind permission to reproduce these articles.

Next month I hope to have something rather different for you.

Really, really ancient spinning wheels

Here is the second article on the history of spinning wheels. There was a Chinese spinning wheel, treadle and all, that was way ahead of its time – ahead by hundreds of years. These wheels were a dead end. They must have spun innumerable miles of yarn, yet they had no influence at all on present wheels. I can’t help imagining what our spinning meet-ups might look like now, if this technology had spread from China to become mainstream in Europe.

In writing about early spinning in China, I also had to confront the question “What is spinning?” Probably most of us would agree that it starts with drafting, and then there’s twisting followed by winding the made yarn onto a storage device (spindle, bobbin). But what if there is no drafting – the fibre is already the right thickness, and it only needs twisting and winding on?

Before there was drafting, there were devices for twisting. At what point do we start calling them spinning wheels? See what you think.