Ancestral gadget!

I forgot to add that the other marvelous thing about last weekend was that we finally got the walking wheel set up!  A walking wheel (also called a “great”, “muckle” or “big” wheel) is a sort of intermediate step between a drop spindle and treadle spinning wheels.  They are, as you may have guessed from the name, big.  Set up, the top of the wheel is about level with my eyebrows (I am, for reference 5’5″), and the whole setup is almost six feet long.  It’s not very wide, though — the back legs are only about a foot and a half apart.  So it could easily be set up against a wall in the basement and not take up all that much space.  The next time the parental units come to visit, they will bring it :-)  It belonged to my great-great-grandmother; we’re not sure how old the wheel is, but she was born in 1872.  I’m astounded that it’s still in as good shape as it is…it’s really not all that sturdy looking, but it still spins fine with a little tinkering.  I got some cornhusks to braid into a new bearing and gave it some grease and beeswax, and Dad hit various parts with a large wooden mallet and now it seems to be aligned properly.  It’s actually in better shape than my grandmother’s treadle wheel, which spins fine but appears to have been dropped off a truck at some point.  Both wheels’ drive bands still make occasional leaps for freedom.  In order to spin it, you turn the wheel with one hand while holding the fiber in the other; you do this odd little flick where you spin the wheel the other way to get the fiber twisted around the spindle. (The cap with the tassel on it in the picture isn’t there when you spin; that’s just to prevent people from accidentally impaling themselves.)  I’m slowly getting the hang of it, but this means that you’re doing all the drafting and other fiber manipulation one-handed, which is hard.  At least, it’s hard if you want pretty yarn.  And I’m overtwisting it.  But once I get it right, this is the perfect tool for making very fine, very strong yarn.

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1 Response so far »

  1. 1

    Mom said,

    I am well into the autobiography of said great-great grandmother. There is VERY frequent mentioning of spinning. She has mentioned her mother at a spinning wheel, her great aunt Eunice at her spinning wheel, AND a grandmother at a spinning wheel. I haven’t gotten to the chapter yet, where mother/great-aunt/grandmother bequeaths a spinning wheel to Mary Emma, thus establishing a more ancient heritage.

    How the heck did this site know I was “Mom” and how did it know my email ??… freaky ….


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