Today’s post is brought to you by guild member Elizabeth O’Connor who you all may know from Ravelry as LizLimerick. I really wanted a post during the Tour de Fleece that focused on wheel spinning and Liz has helped me out with my own wheel and to find my feet with her. This is a beautiful and interesting read, so make yourself comfortable and come and meet a beautiful collection of spinning wheels:
In Autumn 1994, I took my first spinning lesson. It was a weekend course, in West Co Limerick. We learned to spin on a drop spindle and to spin on a wheel. There is a photo of me spinning on a Louet-type wheel in the kitchen of the draughty farmhouse we lived in that year. This photo reminds me that I rented a spinning wheel from the spinning teacher, Julie, for a month or two. The winter got colder and so did the kitchen and I was expecting my first child and so the wheel was returned to Julie and my drop spindle got packed away in a box.
Roll on 16 years, and 4 children later. I had some time off work for health reasons. The Internet had arrived. I discovered blogs, and blogs about knitting, and then Ravelry, and then spinners! I dug out the old drop-spindle and said I would start spinning again. I bought a new spindle, and some fleece to spin. Then an offer came from a German lady on Ravelry, asking if I would like to buy a wheel she had for sale. YES! So in September 2010, I got my first spinning wheel, a heavy Louet-type Dutch wheel, Irish tension, single treadle, from the 1980’s probably. It pulled and it creaked and sometimes it clattered, but it worked and I began to spin. The wheel had turned full circle, so to speak.
After some time I noticed that I was spinning finer and finer, and the Dutch wheel was pulling and breaking the yarn, so I put out an In Search Of request on Ravelry. I was very lucky to be able to buy an Ashford Elizabeth I from a lady in Cork in August 2012. The Elizabeth was a different ball game, it had Double Drive and this was a bit of a learning curve. I persevered and I spun some wonderfully fine even yarn on Elizabeth. The only disadvantage to Elizabeth was that it was not easy to move her from place to place in the car. I had become a spinner who liked to spin in public. I needed a more portable wheel.
I put out another ISO, and this time I bought an Ashford Joy I from a lady in Galway. My nephew said he would collect it on his way home from university in Galway and deliver it to me. In the meantime, I spotted an ad for a spinning wheel for sale in an antique shop near Limerick city – an Ashford Traditional. Not one to hesitate where wheels are involved, I called the shop, drove 30 mins and snagged myself an Ashford Traddy. So the Traddy and the Joy arrived within weeks of each other in February 2014.
The Traditional is single treadle, single drive, from 1982 or so, and is a lovely wheel to spin on. I use it for Heritage Week type events, as it fits the image of the spinning wheel that the public expects to see. It is also fool-proof and never complains when being lifted into and out of the car and taken to events. No fussing about setting it up either.
The Joy is equally lovely, double treadle, and so portable. It is sturdy, attractive, effective and mesmerising to all who see it in use. At home, it folds up and fits in a space about 5 inches wide between two presses. It sits in the space behind my car seat when I am going to Knit and Spin Night, leaving seat space for my basket of wool.
I was pretty much happy with my lot at this point, but continued to peruse sites like adverts.ie and donedeal.ie. Well, we all know where that will end…..
Two years ago, June 2015, I saw an ad for a Great Wheel/Walking Wheel in Cork. The price was too high and it looked a bit funny. It had a square frame which seemed quite unusual to me, but what did I know? I asked the good folk on Ravelry what did they think, should I go look at it, or keep far away? The advice was to run. I had to clarify that, did they mean run away, or? Nope, run and get it! It was unique!
The price dropped and I made an offer which was accepted. My daughter, who was doing her Leaving Cert at the time, was a Learner Driver, mad for the road and for driving practice. She happily drove me to Cork to collect the wheel on a gorgeous sunny Friday evening in June 2015. The wheel was bought in Canada by the seller’s mother many years ago and it had been shipped to Ireland when the family moved back.
I subsequently discovered that there is one twin wheel to this wheel. The twin wheel was found in a garage sale on the South Shore of Nova Scotia, (NS), Canada, near Lunenburg and was probably made originally in that area of Canada. The owner of that wheel has done some research and found that “the best evidence would suggest that this frame was built between 1840 and 1870”.
6 months later, January 2016, I saw a wheel for sale on Donedeal.ie. The wheel was in North Co Tipperary, not far at all. A look on Ravelry and an email to Johnny Shiels in Carndonagh Co Donegal confirmed that this was indeed one of the Shiels wheels. Off I went, on a grey January Sunday. The wheel had belonged to the seller’s mother, who lived in Dublin. When I got there, the wheel was disassembled and so began the task of assembling the wheel and trying to get her together correctly. I got the wheel upright, and set up to spin. Somehow I got her to spin and so purchased her straight away and headed home. A Donegal wheel! Wheeeee!
By now I just placed new wheels in the living room in front or between other wheels. It took a few days before anyone noticed that there was a new wheel in the room and that it was different!
3 months later, April 2016, I was gifted another Shiels wheel, a lovely dark mahogany wheel, in excellent condition. This is my wheel of choice for Irish-style Heritage events, eg, Bunratty Castle or the 1916 events last year.
In September 2016 I bought an Ashford Traditional from a fellow spinner in Limerick on behalf of a friend in Waterford. That wheel is now living happily in County Waterford.
Spring 2017: I had been telling a friend, who wanted to buy a spinning wheel, all about the Bliss wheel produced by Woolmakers, a daughter company of Louet. This wheel is said to be very versatile, great for beginners, can spin all weights of yarn, is indestructible and public friendly, and costs about 300 euro, postage included. Then the idea dawned on me, I should get a Bliss! I saved my pennies and after a few months I got my Bliss, single treadle, 6 bobbins. Bliss made the journey with me to Sheep’s Head Yarn Festival, me and 5 wheels in a Ford Focus saloon, to teach spinning on a spinning- wheel to fellow yarn lovers.
In June 2017, I made two trips to Dublin, one to buy an Ashford Traditional for a friend in Clare who was looking for a wheel for a while, and the second trip to buy a small quaint-looking wheel, identified by the folks on Ravelry as a Wendy wheel. Wendy wheels were made by Philip Poore, in New Zealand in the 1970’s. Philip Poore started out making Saxony wheels, called Pipy, which were based on an Irish flax wheel. He then made Wendy wheels, smaller and more portable. He signed and numbered the wheels and mine is numbered MB 7112, the 71 denotes 1971 as year of manufacture. I believe the 12 means the wheel was made in December, the 12th month of 1971. This wheel is small, dainty, but sturdy. It can be lifted in one hand and is very cute. It has a large wooden ball at the right side attached to the metal frame which holds the flyer and turning the wooden ball adjusts the tension. The very day I bought this wheel I brought it to Limerick Knit and Spin Night, oiled it and spun on it.
There are 9 spinning wheels in my life at the moment. They each have their own history and place in my heart. I do not use them all all of the time, but they are precious to me. I think I want to Save All the Wheels and Teach All the People to Spin.
My Spinning Wheel Wish List would be to have a Swedish wheel, a Dutch Schippertje wheel and/or a Frank Herring bentwood wheel. So if you are destashing wheels….
However, I think I have probably saved as many wheels as I have space for currently. So now to just teach all the people to spin.
A huge thank you to Liz for sharing her wheels with us and if you want to find Liz online you can find her Facebook Page Spin me a Yarn Ireland here and you can find her on Ravelry as LizLimerick. Liz also runs workshops focused on drop spinning with a spindle and spinning on a wheel which in my opinion is a fantastic opportunity to learn how to spin but to see her beautiful wheels up close. Please pop over to her page and let her know you read her wonderful post.
The guild is also looking for volunteers to host a Spinning in Public Day event in your local area this September so please get in touch on firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested.
Liz has also put these handy links together for you for more information sourcing wheels and accessories:
http://www.woolmakers.com/ for Bliss wheels and Hero and Giant Drumcarders
http://www.nzspinningwheels.info/pipy.html information about Philip Poore and his Pipy and Wendy wheels
2 sites for people looking for secondhand wheels, which have been checked over:
http://wolplantage.nl/ger/ Dutch site selling Dutch wheels, postage to Germany is quoted, but she will post to Ireland for a bit more.
http://www.woodland-turnery.co.uk/recon.html reconditioned and renovated spinning wheels for sale, in UK. Email for prices.
My page on Facebook, where I post all the crafty /historical bits I love: