Tag Archives: Northern European

More intriguing Rappard wheels!

Two months ago we saw an unusual Rappard Northern European, though now it’s clear that I shouldn’t have called it ‘unique’. Now, after some discussion on Ravelry and some checking back through my files, there are six Northern Europeans with a slashed-arrow mark! Here is the earliest one, of the normal type, dated (by carving in straight lines with some sort of chisel) to (19)68!

That is remarkably early, considering that Maria Rappard told me that their commercial production of spinning wheels began around 1970.

The next is the wheel with the finials, dated 1973.


The one with 16 spokes is dated 1977.

And another three of the normal Northern European style with the slashed arrow mark have come to light (so far) dated 1974, 1978 and 1981.

I nearly weep when I remember Maria showing me this first wheel John ever made, and that I never thought to ask her if I might look underneath. There is no design on the treadle.

I’m now wondering whether there are actually any Northern Europeans without the arrow … If you have one, please could you turn it over and see what mark (if any) is underneath? And let me know what you find?

And then, in one of those wonderful pieces of sheer coincidence that seem to happen so often with spinning wheels, there was a post in Ravelry from the puzzled owner of this:

She’d been gifted the wheel and told it came from ‘that place in Ashburton’ but realised it didn’t look like an Ashford Peggy. Was it a Peggy at all, she wondered?

I was excited. For years I’d been wondering about the photo in this little flyer someone gave me. You can click on it to enlarge.

No date is shown and the shop whose stamp is on the bottom is long gone. Was the wrong photo printed in the leaflet? Or had there once been a Little Peggy like this? Now it seemed that there had.

I asked the owner please to look for any markings under her wheel. This was the reply:

The slashed arrow and initials, on a Peggy! And look at the year – 1969! Since then she has kindly sent more photos of her wheel. Here is a comparison with a Peggy (on the right) from the early 1970s –

Among the differences from the ‘normal’ Little Peggies that we know and love are (starting at the bottom):
the fancy ankles,
the slightly more angular treadle,
the straight, stick-like spokes,
the unusually shaped segments of the drive wheel (visible in the first photo of the wheel, above; this continued for another two or three years),
the less curvy main support posts,
the straighter mother-of-all with its flat ends,
and above all the maidens, which lack the graceful curves that we are used to seeing in all Rappard wheels.

Actually we can catch a tantalising glimpse of maidens like these on a little photograph Maria gave me of the very first Northern European, which was no longer in her possession –

So I am imagining that after making the first one or two Little Peggies, John took a photo to be used in a leaflet. And that about that time Maria, who never hesitated to speak her mind, told him in no uncertain terms how the turnings could be improved on the Northern Europeans. She also pointed out how Little Peggy should be redesigned to be more attractive. But the new leaflets were being printed by then and were sent out with the old picture. (That’s just a story I made up, but I don’t think anyone who knew them would find it implausible.)

There’s still the question of why John used the slashed arrow for his mark. Sagittarius, as we saw, doesn’t fit. Apparently an arrow with slashes is used to indicate an unsuccessful reaction in organic chemistry, but he wouldn’t have wanted an implication of failure!

The arrow is still a mystery.

A huge thankyou to everyone who has sent me pictures or taken part in the discussion of these fascinating wheels!

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A unique Rappard wheel

It now (July 2019) seems this wheel is not  nearly as unusual as I thought. More here.

At the 2019 Creative Fibre Festival recently, I watched the Fashion Parade. There were many stunning garments  and I should have been paying close attention. But there was also a spinning wheel, at the far end of the runway beside the commentator’s lectern. I was fixated and frustrated, trying to see it properly.

Afterwards, seen from closer to the stage, the wheel was clearly a Rappard Northern European – with 16 spokes! I knew of one other, but only had a couple of small photos of it. So it was out with the camera and notebook.

The turning is nicely detailed, but it has a sturdy, almost peasant feel. Northern Europeans are  quite different from the graceful simplicity of the Rappards’ later Mitzi, and this one has more detail than the ones we usually see.

Comparing the turning, from the feet to the maidens to the drive wheel, the usual 8-spoked model is simpler almost everywhere.

One thing all Northern Europeans I’ve seen have in common is the unusual construction of the drive wheel. It’s like this:

 

which would have been made by joining four pieces of wood like this and then cutting out the circle. It might be easier than the more usual method of making matching segments, but it means that end grain of the wood is being attached to lengthwise grain, which can be tricky.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are two little retaining pins to stop the tension screw from screwing right out. Two seems a bit like overkill.

You may have noticed the unique design on the treadle.

It’s far more elaborate than any we’ve seen before. Did Maria design it for someone special?

Then I peered underneath, and found, not the usual Rappard name and numbers, but this:

– JR (John Rappard), 77 (presumably 1977) and two lines with an arrow through them. He put similar mark on just one other wheel that we know of, the one below with its charming little finials between the spokes.

Its treadle motif is the rosette, one of the standard ones, but underneath is this –

It’s marked (19)73, so it’s a really early Rappard, and it has three lines pierced by the arrow. Was the arrow symbol perhaps used on wheels which were made specially for a particular person?

And what does the symbol mean? Rex Chapman-Taylor (son of the famous craftsman-designer James Walter Chapman-Taylor, who did not mark his work) used an arrow mark on items of furniture he made (this example is on a chair):

It looks like a sign of Sagittarius, the star sign of the Archer, and Chapman-Taylor senior was very interested in horoscopes. But neither he nor his son Rex was a Sagittarian, and nor was John Rappard,  – all three were born in June. So the arrow and slash(es) mark remains a mystery.

Later I learned a little about the wheel’s history. It had belonged to Betty Healey, a colourful character who was much loved by her fellow members of the Dannevirke Spinning Club.  Longtime members still remember her with affection, and remember her big spinning wheel, though she was actually more of a weaver. it’s not known whether she had owned it from new. It ended up in a shed, but was found by her son and has been given to the Manawatu Spinners and Weavers Guild.

The wheel has some visible history. That mark in the middle of the table is actually a very rough hole which goes right through. Apparently at some point someone tried to add an electric motor to it. But that’s no reason why it shouldn’t still be a good spinner.

Carvings on the treadles of Rappard wheels

Updated 17 April 2018, 20 May 2019

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.

This tulip is particularly lovely, and the rosette (my rather inadequate name for the second design shown) is simple and refined.

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.)

Update: And here is another one, which turned up in Denmark:
– one of Maria’s little flower sprays, behind a beautifully stylised kiwi!

I once asked Maria what was the plant whose flowers are shown on these little stems, but she was vague – just flowers from her imagination, apparently.

Another update, 20 May 2019:  This is on the treadle of a 16-spoke Northern European, dated 1977:

The wheel also has an unusual makers mark. There’s more about it here.

Updating again, 19 July 2019: Here is a heart with an adornment, on a very early (dated 1969!) Northern European:

For more about this wheel and some other early Rappards, see More intriguing Rappard wheels!

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.