My Haldane Hebridean was the wheel I was taught on and it was my first wheel but in truth I’ve been having quite a bit of trouble moving on from the basics with her. And with weaving having taken over my waking existence, I wanted to be able to spin thin strong warp-able yarn. So I’ve known for a while that I needed a bigger wheel.
Alas while I love spinning I don’t do twee so it is not often that a wheel crosses my path that I actually like. I know that Ashfords are popular for many a spinner (I think I saw a statistic somewhere that over 95% of spinners have one), but I like the old and the battered; if I am going to spend my days with something, I want it to have character and soul, something that has lived. So when an elegant looking grand dame popped up in my Facebook feed, off I went to check her out.
It was clear from the outset that she shared a number of features with an antique wheel featured in fibre2fabric.
Like Dot’s wheel the turning is simple and elegant – like chess pieces as she very aptly described them. The wheel also shares the rather unusual layout of the bearings, the one on the right maiden being horizontal. Both maidens are fixed in place and there is just enough ‘give’ to get the flyer out. The leather is obviously dried out, but stitching is still visible.
The orifice is very small, as are the flyer hooks; there are only six on each side, whereas Dot’s had seven.
Unlike Dot’s the whorls are of different sizes. Fortunately there is a bobbin (a thing of utter beauty in itself) and I’ll be getting some copies made.
The footplate is ornate and similar although not exactly the same as Dot’s and there is a very simple decoration of the saddle, lines on the side and small indents at the ends.
Unlike Dot’s, she also has a strange peggy type thing between the mother-of-all and tension knob, I don’t know if it has a function or if it is just a knot in the wood. She is a very sturdy well-built thing. There is some recent and superficial woodworm in one of the uprights but I’ve treated that and with a bit of wax they are now virtually invisible, apart from that she is in very good condition.
There was a suggestion that she might be one of the post World-War I Dryads, built by recuperating servicemen. But she is made of different woods (and that is as far as I can go I’m afraid; I have a carpenter cousin who I’ll ask to identify them), and according to Dot the Dryads were usually more homogeneous. A clue emerged as soon as I got her out of the auction room and into the daylight – she actually has a stamp “The London School of Weavers 3 Bryanston Street W1”.
Not a little Googling ensued but there wasn’t much out there until I come across an article in a Canadian newspaper which stated the LSW was established in 1898 and amalgamated with the Kensington Weavers in 1919 where they were indeed involved with servicemen making spinning wheels. Presumably as this wheel has no mention of the Kensington Weavers, and Bryanston Street was in Marylebone, it was built before 1919. It seems the LSW built wheels to sell and this could well be one, but presumably they also had wheels to teach on and which might have been older and the stamp merely to declare its home. So I suppose really, I remain none the wiser. But what I do know is that she spins exceedingly fine and so very, very easily. Time to unpack the half dozen fleeces that have been hanging around since the spring me thinks.