Monday, November 02, 2009

Name that wheel?

Have a lookie at this.....(more pix on Flickr here.)

No, not mine, sadly. It was brought into the Haddington Spinners by an older local lady who was hoping we could help her with finding some information on the wheel. She'd inherited it from her granny and remembered hearing family stories about Granny spinning on it during WW1. Granny was a Yorkshire lass who had moved to Edinburgh when she got married and the wheel apperared around then.

Well, fairly generic wheel of the era, you might think? Look again. That drive wheel has 18 spokes and that's really quite unusual. Most wheelmakers go for 6, 8, 16...easy divisions of a circle. I mooched around the internet looking for information. Eighteen spoke wheels were common in the Hebrides and apparently were connected with the fact that a compass has 360 degrees ie 2 x 18.

So off I went looking for pictures and info on Hebridean wheels, assisted by the Antique Spinning Wheels group on Ravelry. One of them came up with this picture....

Not a bad match, is it? The turnings are different yes, but lots of the important bits match, like the way the pegs stick out undeneath, the unusual height of the treadle bar and the circular mount for the mother of all. Not twins but perhaps sisters? Or from the same maker at different times. The picture is from the front cover of this book, "Whorl and Wheel: A History of Handspinning in Scotland", by Su Grierson. The picture credits says it is a Dutch type wheel popular in the Isles of the Outer Hebrides and was photographed courtesy of the Highland Folk Museum Kingussie.

I have emailed my photographs of "my" wheel to the curator at the Highland Folk Museum, asking if they could please provide any more information on either wheel. I also emailed the book cover scan to the owner, K, and she came up with this nugget of family history.

My granny from Yorkshire was a doctor who spent all her married life in Edinburgh. During World War I she was employed by the armed services to go round Scotland to inspect the living accommodation for the women in the army and navy. ( Mainly to make sure it was a fair distance from the mens quarters I think!) Meanwhile she employed a girl from the Hebrides to look after the children at home and the girl may have brought her wheel with her. I will check with my sister to see if she knows anything more about this Hebridean connection.”

So there is a Hebridean connection after all, however tenuous.

Anyway, I'm finding all this sleuthing rather exciting. She'ss a lovely wheel, not small, not big, but she weighs a ton for her size and that indicates oak or similar, yes? The 18 spokes make the drive wheel massively heavy and it's not easy to get going, especially since the treadle is set unusually high. But once you get her rolling she spins like a caffeine-frenzied dervish, at what feels like 100mph. Yes, I'm pleased with myself that I got her spinning again after decades of being a mere ornament. Actually, everything important is there, she just needed a bit of oil and a tweak. A few knocks, yes, deep grooves in the flyer and looking at the underneath she’s been taken apart and reassembled several times, not particularly carefully either. Everything pins together with wooden pegs, but they look like they’ve been levered out and the wood has splintered. And the flyer has broken at least twice, or at least been mended twice.But given a good slather of oil and a bit of tweaking, she was still up and spinning within minutes. Old, yes, but still game!

Anyway,watch this space for more news, or feel free to add any suggestions in the comments, please! In the meanwhile, I'm teaching K to spin so she can use her Granny's old wheel. Isn't that lovely?, I'm not teaching her to spin on her 100mph wheel. What a comedown, eh? The woman owns a fine historic wheel with (hopefully) lots of history and she's learning on my battered old plywood Louet S20, lol!


Joanna said...

This is an interesting story. I love seeing different types of Scottish wheel. Is the Su Grierson book worth pursuing? It doesn't seem to be commonly available.

Wool 'n' Wood said...

Hi Happy New Year and you'd have to be with that find.
I'm Ray an ex-pat Geordie living in Western Sydney, I'm into woodwork and turning an a lot of other things to. My wife Sue is a Spinner and Weaver and Secretary of Fairfield Spinner's Weavers and Dyers.
Last night we had guest over and they brought an identical wheel. ( see my post on woodwork forum . I would like to keep in touch as your find is excellent condition in comparison, if you'd allow me to get measurements dimensions etc off you.
I will as progress happens put it up in our own blog

Regards Ray

Anonymous said...

Hi sorry for the delay but Christmas and a january full of birthday's and a wedding in Melbourne kept us busy.

I have finaly posted photo's and some detail as to the restoration of a Habradian spinning wheel I am restoring.

I'd appreciate your comments and any information on the wheel makers.

Regards Ray

Wool 'n' Wood said...

My apologies my above comment was not supposed to be anonymous


shiels said...

johnny shiels
spinning wheel maker,live in ireland .make the donegal or the dutch wheel see