Spinning My Wheels

January 9th, 2013

It seems I am well equipped for hand-spinning. Last weekend, I finally unpacked the boxes that held my wheels and other tools.

This is the wheel my grandfather rebuilt for me years ago when I first became interested in spinning. Someone in my grandmother’s guild was selling it, in need of a few repairs. I believe it was made in New Zealand. Despite having only one pedal (slightly trickier to use than double pedal wheels), it spins like a dream when it’s been properly adjusted. I need to put another leather thong on the pedal before I can use it.

my spinning wheel

I also have one of my grandmother’s wheels.

Gram's spinning wheel

Yeah, I probably don’t need two spinning wheels. But this one was custom built for her by my grandfather. It seemed like it should stay in the family. And the action is very different, thanks in part to the double pedals and compact shape. I need to repair the string that wraps around the wheel and makes it go.

Detail of Gram's spinning wheel

Lest you think that a spinning wheel can stand alone, here’s a sampling of my other spinning tools. The two cross-like items on the left are called niddy-noddies. You wrap freshly spun yarn around them to set its twist and make a skein. One is mine, the other was Gram’s. There’s a selection of drop spindles — used to spin yarn without a wheel. My mother (whose interest in needlework is relatively limited, but intensely creative) says they are most effective when dropped off the balcony of a three story building. I’ve also got two sets of hand carders, mine and Gram’s. And Gram’s tiny carder, along with a leather shield to protect your lap from flying carders.

spinning tools

Last but not least, a drum carder. Serious spinners go through roving pretty quickly. Hand carding is slow and potentially painful (cramps and cuts). So my grandmother invested in a mechanical carding machine. Back in the 1980s, when she was learning to spin, there weren’t any internet sites selling pre-carded fibres…

carding machine

I’ve got bags of hand-spun yarn in every color and material imaginable, all from Gram’s talented hands (waiting to be knitted up into family Christmas presents for many years to come). It’s a high standard to live up to, especially when I look at the pitifully lumpy yarn on the extra bobbins of my wheel. I think I’ll be spending a lot of time on this site, The Joy of Handspinning. Of course, I’ll need to dig out the box of fleece and fibres first…