Tag Archives: spinning wheels

Spinning and wheel maintenance instructions

Recently I’ve received two sets of instructions, by two of New Zealand’s best spinning wheel makers. They aren’t about setting up their particular wheels; they explain about how wheels work and how to spin on them, and one even has something on knitting. So they aren’t (for now, anyway) going in the Spinning Wheel Leaflets section, but they are too interesting not to publish.

The first is by Philip Poore, who made Pipy, Wendy, Poly and Sprite wheels. It’s titled ‘Brief spinning instructions for a double driving band spinning wheel’ and it’s here:
Pipy Spinning instructions.

He begins with instructions about preparing wool for spinning, assuming you are starting with a fleece. Then he gives excellent advice for a beginner just learning to spin, starting with treadling practice, followed by illustrated notes on how double drive bands work, including drive band thickness.

Finally we find three pages of ‘Hints for knitting handspun wool’ with acknowledgement to Bess D’Arcy Smith; she was a prominent woolcrafter and a member of the inaugural executive committee when the New Zealand Spinning Weaving and Woolcrafts Society (now Creative Fibre) was first formed in 1969-70. Her hints contain good advice about everything from fleece selection to seams and buttonholes.

The second set of instructions, by Mike and Maggie Keeves, makers of Grace wheels, is called ‘Getting the best from your spinning wheel’. It’s here:
Grace spinning instructions

It starts with a description of how a spinning wheel actually works, something that is a mystery to a surprising number of spinners:
‘A basic understanding of the following sequence of events will help you to trace any faults in your spinning wheel.

‘The motive power is supplied by your feet via the treadle. The Footman arm conveys the power to the crank which turns the wheel. The energy is stored in the rotation of the wheel and taken to the whorl by means of the drive band. The whorl and flyer are driven round drawing in and twisting the fibre and winding it onto the bobbin.’

We should all be familiar with this, because ‘Any undue friction, misalignment or drag that interferes with this sequence causes wear and tear on the machine, [and on] the spinner, and can cause the most astonishing language to be used.’

Maintenance is discussed in some detail, under the headings of the various parts, from orifice to treadle and legs, concluding with advice on lubrication.

It’s an excellent little primer, though the authors point out that it should not override manufacturers’ instructions for their products.

A big thankyou to the helpful people who have sent me these documents – you know who you are.

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Christchurch – sightseeing and spinning wheels

I was last in Christchurch in February 2013, almost exactly two years after the second dreadful earthquake.
Much of the central city was still a red-zoned no-go area.

There were unsafe buildings everywhere awaiting demolition, and it’s no joke demolishing (for example) a 26-storey hotel that’s ready to fall down at any moment. Aftershocks were still happening, too, though we didn’t feel any.

It’s by no means all fixed now, but some places are getting there. The Arts Centre, for example, which will be a happy memory for any fibrecrafter who visited Christchurch before the earthquakes, looked like this in 2013:

Here is much the same view today:

It’s not so pretty round the back though:

Did you notice the very white new stonework on the right, contrasting with yellowed stones around the windows that date from when this was the original Canterbury University? Christchurch is a city of contrasts at present – lovely old heritage buildings restored, others shored up and crumbling, impressive new buildings, and many, many open spaces still awaiting who-knows-what.

It can be a bit confusing, even (I was told) for the locals sometimes. The cathedral, for example, is famously a wreck.

(taken with the lens poked through a high wire-mesh fence)

Recently a decision has been taken to restore it, at huge expense. But everyone I talked to thought it should be preserved as the ruin it is and a new cathedral built (think of Coventry). There are still, after seven years, families and elderly people whose homes are uninhabitable while the Earthquake Commission, the insurers and assessors squabble about what to do with them. Better, surely, to choose a cheaper alternative for the Cathedral … ?

Yet from the back, you’d hardly know it was damaged.

Look around you at this spot, and you’ll see the new as well as the old –

these charming sheep flock in various public spaces, and there are murals and installations all over.

Here, strange things are done with mirrors.

Further along the tram route (a wonderful way to tour Christchurch) you pass near the most interesting playground I’ve seen. This is a tiny corner; I didn’t see it all as my feet were getting tired by this time.

It was Friday during school hours. I’m sure it would be crowded on a fine weekend!

Yet half a block up the road, the site where an 18-storey office tower had to be demolished has turned into this –


One thing hasn’t changed: Christchurch is still ‘the garden city’. We stayed at the YMCA, opposite the Botanic Gardens. Here is the autumnal view from our window –


So what about those spinning wheels I promised? I was fortunate to be able to go to a meeting of the Christchurch Guild of Weavers and Spinners, at their wonderful rooms at The Tannery.  I was in awe of their beautiful work – you can admire it on their blog
http://chchweavespin.blogspot.co.nz/

They were welcoming and friendly, and several had interesting wheels. This one is a hammer wheel (no prizes for guessing why the name) made in the late 1970s by a company in the Netherlands called Moswolt. It’s bobbin lead, and the owner said she was told she’d never be able to spin fine on it – but she can and does.


There was also a Gypsy, one of Mike Keeves’ earlier Grace wheels. They are rather rare.


And something I’ve never seen in person before, only in photos – a wheel by Noel Price  of Greymouth.

He only made a few and they are really well engineered. See the little wheel that smooths the path of the thread to the hooks:


On my last day in Christchurch, I saw another intriguing wheel. That one and its relatives will be the subject of next month’s blog.

First aid kit – for spinning wheels!

Last year I put one together for the group I belong to, the Wairarapa Spinners & Weavers Guild. It gets a lot of use – most members now know where it’s kept, and will go and get it if a wheel needs a minor fix. Here are the details, first published in Creative Fibre in December last year.

An individual spinner might find one useful too. You won’t need so much, just the items that will be useful for your own particular wheel or wheels, though you might be surprised at how often you hear “Please may I borrow your …”

I should add that since writing the article, I’ve learned that beeswax (no other kind of wax) is good to put on slipping drivebands.

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.

More …

Here is another article, an appropriate one at this time I hope. There has been a lot of commemoration of the struggles and sufferings of those who fought in what used to be called “the Great War”. Much less is heard about the efforts of the women left at home – indeed, relatively little is known about them. But a hundred years ago women were toiling and making sacrifices to support the war effort, just as they did later in World War 2.

More about Chapman-Taylor and his elusive wheels can be found in Chapter 5 of the book, and at http://www.nzspinningwheels.info/norwegian.html#C-T

I have also added an “About me” – partly as an excuse to show you some nice scenery.

Did you notice that the blog header has changed?

I’m starting to add here a few of the articles I’ve written over the years. Hence the change to the header.

The first is one Lyndsay Fenwick and I wrote for the March 2009 issue of Creative Fibre magazine, which was a special issue celebrating the 40th anniversary of the society. We had collaborated for several years on what we came to call “the Great Spinning Wheel Search”, and we like to think that this account of the development of wheel-making in New Zealand from the late 1960s may be of general interest.

It’s under Articles in the menu above. Most of the pictures will enlarge if clicked, or as they say on Ravelry “Click to embiggen.”