Spinning Wheels Antique and modern . Beauty follows Function.
Form follows Function
Spinning Wheels and Accessories
Grace, Beauty and Utility
The first antique I ever bought was an ebony, child's spinning wheel. It was so pretty sitting there in the dusty window that I passed every day on the way home from school. It was decorated with white bone embellishments and had all the air of just coming from Sleeping Beauty's castle. I broke open my piggy bank and bought it. Little did I know at the time that it was incomplete and would never spin without a spindle and flyer. It was inscribed 1869 in the white bone and it cost eleven pounds in English money. I have treasured it ever since
Years later the local college was offering evening classes in spinning and weaving so I enrolled. It opened up a whole new world to me. Spinning is relatively easy, a knack like riding a bicycle. One you never lose. Soon, I was enjoying the delights of various fleeces and spinning lovely yarns from different varieties of fleece from many animals.
Alpaca fleece is soft and silky, takes dye easily and will felt well too. Felting is becoming more and more popular these days. Felting is less time consuming than knitting and has the air of alchemy about it with all those boiling pots and clouds of steam.
Angora Goat fleece is soft yet springy. It is often very straight with little crimp to it. The crimp is known as staple. It is best mixed with another type of fleece with more crimp to produce a better quality yarn with more strength.
Sheep fleece varies incredibly from breed to breed from fine haired merino to chunky coarse wool full of kemp from the hardy Herdwick breed of the English Lake District used for carpets. Kemp is the coarse hair mixed in with the wooly fleece and is good for carpet wool, woven not knitted. Merino is highly prized for men's suiting. Some growers keep their sheep indoors to protect the very valuable fleece, Merino wool with micro fine threads.
Spinning wheels are of several varieties, the upright or Castle wheel, the Saxony where the layout is parallel to the ground and the walking wheel. The Walking wheel is a much larger one that is out of fashion nowadays as it takes up so much room. Originally wool was spun by hand on a spindle and still is in many parts of the world. Spindle whorls have been discovered of great antiquity.
Basically the fleece is combed into usable long coils called rovings which are fed into the revolving spindle so that twist is applied by the turning wheel. The U shaped flyer guides the spun wool onto a removable reel . To produce two ply yarn, two reels are fed back into the spindle while the wheel is turned in the opposite direction to twist the threads together, but removing some of the original twist as two ply yarn doesn't need to be so individually strong as a single thread that has to stand alone.The wool is spun in the greasy form so that it twists together more easily. It is then removed from the reel onto a swift or wound around your forearm in hanks. The spun wool is then carefully washed.
The end result is a variety of beautiful yarns of great character.
Spinning wheels are to be found in many varieties, most of which are very attractive. They make an interesting addition to any interior as well as being very useful and therapeutic. Gandhi used to spin every day and recommended it to all his followers. I have used an Ashford wheel for over thirty years and it is still as good as the day I bought it. There are many wheels on the market today and I recently saw a split pedal wheel in use that appeared easier to use than the single pedal one. The choice is yours but I know that it will bring you joy and tranquility. Gandhi, while imprisoned, used to spin every day and said it kept him sane.
Ride a Painted Pony!
Accessories and books on Spinning
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