Updated 17 April 2018
I’ve been inspired to write about these by a discussion on Ravelry, in the Wee Peggy and Little Peggy Group (which deals with the larger Rappard wheels too). I am very grateful to all the Ravelry members and others who have been so generous over the years with information and photos of their wheels!
The first wheel John made for Maria didn’t look a lot like any of the later Rappard wheels – it had relatively elaborate turnings but no carving.
A little later, in 1968 or 1969, this very early Northern European is still not immediately recognisable, but it does have some sort of design on the treadle. Unfortunately the photo doesn’t show it clearly – it doesn’t look like any of the motifs we see later.
in 1970 the Rappards went into full-time production of spinning wheels, converting to workshops the hen houses of their egg production farm on Signal Hill in Dunedin.
The saxony-style Northern European was their first model. It was superseded by the Mitzi (a name Maria was sometimes known by), an attractive double-table wheel. All the horizontal wheels produced in the Rappard workshop had a motif on the treadle. Maria, who had an artistic background, designed a series of them, and they were carved into the treadle with a router by the craftsmen.
The heart above is a little crude in execution, and the poor-quality photo of the simplified flower doesn’t excuse what looks like perfunctory workmanship. Maria said once that she used to get annoyed when the craftsmen became lazy and didn’t take enough care with the router. She wouldn’t have hesitated to make her views known about this or any other shortcomings that she felt the easy-going John was overlooking – one former part-time worker told me that when she came into the workshop ‘sparks would fly.’
This series is interesting: three flower stalks on a Northern European, two stalks (beautifully carved) on a Mitzi, and one stalk on a Little Peggy! This is the only treadle carving I’ve come across on a Peggy – perhaps it was a special request from a friend? The placement on the treadle is a little off, and one suspects the craftsman wasn’t used to putting carvings on that shape of treadle. (I should add that the single stem is also found on the larger wheels.)
I once asked Maria what was the plant whose flowers are shown here, but she was vague – just flowers from her imagination, apparently.
If you know of a Rappard treadle motif different from any of these, I’d love to hear from you. A photo would make me even happier!
More about Rappard wheels and their history can be found at www.nzspinningwheels.info.