Bobbins, boards, pegs, and a new year beckons!

Been a manic few weeks in the run up to Christmas so apologies for another medley post.

Spinning Wheel Bobbins

My new antique spinning wheel is up and running and not in small thanks to some new bobbins. The Cellar Project is a Yorkshire based charity which helps people with mental health problems back on their feet and into work, not least through ‘skill shops’ where service users can participate in woodworking, horticulture, IT, conferencing and catering. The woodworkers make and sell garden furniture but they also make bespoke items and as every spinner/weaver knows, their best friend is a good carpenter. As well as reproducing the bobbins for my wheel they’ve also made me a warping board (which you can see hanging from the wall below) and all at a great price; we used this plan, it took a bit of tweaking but we got there in the end. They’ve also done me a spool holder although I could do with a bit of a proper creel, perhaps in the new year.

Warping Board

There is some possibility that my wheel may be related somehow to those made by recovering soldiers after World War I; although astoundingly useful such ‘therapy’ is not so fashionable as it once; The Cellar Project is one of the few places where it still goes on – the workshops give people an opportunity to get some practical skills, start rebuilding their confidence and see a palpable result at the end of a day’s endeavour. I should just mention in the interests of full disclosure that I am one of its trustees and very proud too!

I’ve also paid a visit to Don Porritt’s studio in Menston (alas no website) and treated myself to some shuttles and a new reed for my four-shaft table loom; it was lent to me by a friend but it did need some doing up and the reed was too rusty to save, so I’m looking forward to getting it going and doing some more experimental textiles. Don really was terribly friendly and helpful and it’s nice to know there is someone so close for all the bits and bobs one needs. He is the main supplier for Texsolv and I got some anchors and they have been life changing – no really! I never wanted to mess around with my tie ups too much as it was such a faff but they make it so much easier. I was worrying needlessly that my loom’s treadles and lams were too worn to take them.


I don’t know if this will work or even makes sense, but one of the hardest parts of weaving for me is keeping track of where one is when treadling, however many post-it-notes I plaster around. For some reason I got it into my head that a cribbage board  might be the answer. I can attach it to the beater and stick the treadling plan down the centre of the board and move the peg down each time I beat – well we’ll see, I haven’t tried it yet!

Painted Pegs

I’ve also updated my blog theme and header – something a bit more cheerful, some painted pegs I’ve made for a Christmas present for some friends. It seems a bit odd to give someone a bunch of pegs, but they have been going down very well and are a great deal of fun to make.

Anyway this is what I’ve just taken off the loom, the second of some designs inspired by the interior of the United Reformed Church here in Saltaire. It’s the first time I’ve taken something concrete and turned it into something abstract so I’m feeling quite smug with myself. It helped browsing through the Saltaire Daily Photo blog as she has some great pictures that really helped me see differently what is, after living here seventeen years, so familiar. Anyway I am now bursting with ideas for the coming year.

2012 has been an amazing year for me and that’s down to the support, belief and friendship of some amazingly talented designer-makers in the Yorkshire area as well as those of you who have been kind enough to check in, comment, or get in touch. I’m really looking forward to 2013 and have heaps of plans and can’t wait to get started. So, Merry Christmas one and all, and very best wishes for the New Year x

Antique Spinning Wheel

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.

Again the hub shares some similarities with Dot’s wheel, not least the double and single lines to aid proper replacement of the wedges.

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.

Worldwide Spin in Public Day at Saltaire Festival

The lovely streets here in Saltaire are bunting and banner coated and there is that buzz in the air that begins to descend during the Festival. On Saturday a great time was had at the Maker’s Fair Festival Special and on Sunday I treated myself to tickets for the award-winning Orkney folk band The Chair at Victoria Hall and had a foot-stomping time. I used to play the fiddle myself don’t you know, until someone about six doors down once told me he thought I was “getting much better now”.

The crafty goodness is set to continue for the upcoming finale weekend and not least because the 15th just so happens to be Worldwide Spinning in Public Day. Saltaire Handmade who are running a craft fair at the Caroline Street Social Club have kindly given me a spot and I’ll be there with Morag (my Haldane Hebridean spinning wheel) as well as a bunch of spindles and plenty of different fleeces, so if you’ve ever fancied having a go at spinning or are just curious to see how it’s done, do make sure you pop by and say hello. Local artist David Starley will also be doing demos, and two of my fave local designer makers will also be there, Quernus Crafts and Inkylinky. Flag crackin’ sunshine is forecast – it’s going to a great weekend.