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Reviving Ramie on the small saxony wheel

In the final days before welcoming T home last summer, I opened my 151 g of Ramie top, and started spinning on my painted East European saxony wheel.

Spinning Ramie on antique Eastern European flax wheel

For Twitter and my only record of the start (please excuse the mess!)

This is my first project with Ramie & was love at first spin.

Priorities soon made themselves known.  The night that I had given a Lecture on not touching Mom’s tools, I took this wheel and its Ramie up to my studio.  The fibre stayed downstairs but it was a pretty vain hope.  With everyone under strain family bonding was clearly more important.  What I didn’t know then was how long that takes when your child is aged 4, and circumstances are what they are.  Sitting at wheels took a back burner as we navigated our long, early parenting days.  Others came out but this easiest-to-knock-down wheel was up until just last month.

irieknit spinning Ramie fibre on antique painted East European saxony wheel

Dust-gathering no more!  Ramie stash spinning again.

Small note It is a crazy peg array.  Safety first, and I am not telling anyone to follow this particular flight of fancy.

While she was up & out of dear T’s reach, I saw quite a few questions in Facebook spinning groups about similar wheels.  The questions boil down to:

  • Should I buy this?  A: maybe – do you know what you are looking at; do you like to spin fine?
  • Did I make a mistake in buying this?  A:  it depends; I love mine.
  • something something ‘gypsy wheel’… A: no, seriously, all of Eastern Europe

Invariably, 1 or more voices on the thread cry down that these small wheels make you “treadle like a hamster even if it operates.”  Well, mine operates and that is not my experience.  At all.

The wheel has such a gentle action in terms of the draw-in of the yarn, and the old leather hinges on the treadle bar.  It is also an almost wheel-less feeling as I work since she stands below my torso.  With the band fitted and at the right angle with the mother-of-all, this is smooth and easy spinning now that my (yes, crazy; do not do) pegs are worn in a bit.

irieknit's antique East European saxony spinning wheel drive wheel detail

Small drive wheel = light drive wheel

Sometimes, I do need to fiddle with the mother-of-all screw tension.  Most times it is fine with my Hempathy yarn band going strong.  When running these wheels have a sweet spot of momentum.

We are at around the half-way mark to what experts call the family equilibrium.  Supports have come and gone; other supports are tremendous.  Not only is this & my Martha wheel now carrying spins-in-progress but I got myself an afternoon away this weekend as a real break.

irieknit's Kissing Cousins sock in progress and spinning Cheviot on Turkish Delight drop spindle

Mobile comforts – mindless sock and Cheviot spin

This top-down to toe-up piece is a March pattern release by Sarah Jordan called Kissing Cousins Socks.  It is in a Turtle Purl yarn, Tiberius.  The Cheviot wool dyed by Sheepy Time Knits is my ‘Pyrenees Delight’ Tour de Fleece project.  It was such a thrill to have my spinning picture featured by Ravelry and this has stayed in my spinning rotation ever since.

Progress and respite.  I wish the same for you!


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Tension magic – antique flax wheel restored

On what was a pretty ugh day, the restored flyer for my antique flax wheel arrived in the mail.  It’s been cheerful around here ever since!

Antique flax Canadian saxony spinning wheel

All in one piece!

Regular readers & Twitter followers may remember this wheel as coming home by accident from the Ramer spinning wheel collection.  Not all of my wheels have names but hers is Linley.

Spinning Tussah silk laceweight yarn on antique flax saxony spinning wheel

The flax wheel’s a keeper – tussah silk and a sea urchin for scale

Along with other repairs, Alvin Ramer re-built her flyer.  It has the wide arms that I love for wet spinning flax, and he also made 3 new oak bobbins.

The issue was inside the antique whorl, and it completely lost all traction after I had a blast spinning 618 yards of 2-ply yarn from silk caps.  It was too loose for a teflon tape fix, and I needed professional help.  Non-spinners, this is code for I got lots of twist but the wheel could not wind the yarn onto the bobbin.

Tension is the magic that allows your wheel to fully function.  And it is probably the single most important thing you can learn about your wheel.

Bette Hochberg, Handspinner’s Handbook, p. 17

Reed Needles, Wheelwright in St. Mary’s Ontario gave me an on-the-show-grounds consultation at Woodstock this October, and now we are back to working order.  If you haven’t met Reed, the CreativFestival blog has that nice feature post about his work & with tips on restoration issues.

Front maiden view of antique flax saxony spinning wheel

A very flax orifice – it’s tiny and it’s round

The orifice hook that you see in the 1st image is also Reed’s work.  It is custom to fit the wheel’s 7 mm diameter opening.  This is slightly larger than 4 mm diameter of the William McDonald Nova Scotia flax wheel fluted orifice for example but is way too small for Reed’s standard hooks.  He has my thanks for such a great touch.  The bent paper clip is gone, Reed.  It is really gone!

 The good news!

In looking over the wheel, Reed had observed that the maker used cedar for her treadle.

Antique flax saxony spinning wheel treadle

The treadle is as comfortable as it is pretty

This is a strong indicator for a Canadian origin. I am going to edit my earlier posts to add a note rebutting the Irish presumption!  Those posts still get views through search engine traffic.

Antique flax saxony spinning wheel carved tension screw

Heart of the matter, the tension screw

Reed also shares my love for Canadian flax wheels.  It was wonderful to hear his positive evaluation, and interest in my find!  The main wood is quarter-sawn oak, and Reed also liked what first drew me in as well, the craftsmanship in her details.  The tension screw matches the maidens’ design beautifully for example.

There is some not so good news too

Decisions are still pending, and I am treating the wheel gently.  Now that the flyer is stable, I am sure of a current alignment issue with the drive wheel.

Antique saxony flax drive wheel axle

The rear axle is showing wear

The spinner’s side axle shows no wear but you can see how worn down the metal is on both contact areas of the rear axle.  What I can hear & feel while spinning is movement like a swash.  Crossed-off the trouble-makers’ list are:

  • The spinner’s side axle – snug in the bearing & well pinned;
  • The wheel hub – stable with no movement;
  • Uprights – they are level with shims under the table, and the rear axle has a bearing added; and
  • Generally solid as a rock.

A temporary fix has been to add smooth leather in the wall of the rear bearing.  Following advice shared in the Antique Spinning Wheels forum on Ravelry, I will also try to improve the situation with copper.  My other idea was to tape the axle wear points as a way to watch for more wear.

Ultimately, I may need to consider a replacement for the axle.  That’s a big repair.  I have also explored brazing a little but am concerned about possible weakening of the metal in the process.  If anyone has thoughts or insights, I would love to hear from you.  This is a new issue for me to learn about!

Handspun Polwarth wool on antique click reel

Polwarth wool

It’s been good spinning of late, and I wish the same for you!  This Polwarth project is up to 910 yards and counting on the Spinolution Mach 2 from a pound of undyed top.


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Adventures with Babydoll Southdown wool in our fibreshed

Just a couple of days after my last blog post, I headed out to the Woodstock Fleece Festival.  It was a day of bustling spinners’ mayhem, and this post is brought to you by a happy co-incidence.

Antique flax saxony with flyer out for repair

We were bound to run into each other again at Wheelwright’s booth.  My reason:  an antique flyer in need of repair.  Hers:  wheels!

The spark for this adventure is a local credit to adolescents everywhere, E.  Her grade 8 school project led us to connect with shepherd Robert I’Anson & his wonderful pure-bred Olde English Babydoll Southdown flock.  Other handspinners have now found Bob’s fleeces thanks to E’s project.

We first met in September 2014 when E came to a guild meeting with her Mom.  She presented so impressively about her aims to prep, spin & dye local wool for her project with knits.  E was a novice spinner, and her enthusiasm was infectious.  I soon agreed to stand as mentor if they were comfortable to go ahead.  We did!

This experience was a real privilege, and ever since we met-up again at Wheelwright’s festival booth in October, I have wanted to really share it with you at long last.

Sourcing the Wool

With generous help from my friend, Sasha of Sheepspot, we quickly got in touch with Robert I’Anson who still had fleeces from his 2014 clip.

Since to quote Sasha the only thing that she loves more than wool is the ocean, I was certain that we were in good hands.

Olde English Babydoll Southdown ewes Louth Ontario Robert l'Anson

Bob’s Babydoll Southdown ewes, and Jacqueline the brown lamb

The ewes were in their front paddock.  We gushed at the cute.

Shepherd from Louth Ontario, Robert I'Anson and Belgian Shepherd Jack

Bob I’Anson and Jack

Bob not only welcomed our teaching visit to his farm in Louth, Ontario but also donated a ram’s white fleece for E’s project.

Olde English Babydoll Southdown skirted raw wool fleece Laurie's Little Lambs

Raw Babydoll Southdown ram’s fleece for E

We chose this fleece after looking at a few.  All were sound, and it was a fun decision.  We also got to learn more about the sheep, farm, and Bob’s approach to breeding.

Olde English Babydoll Southdown sheep Louth Ontario Laurie's Little Lambs

Keeping their distance, adorably.

On that high note we turned to cleaning E’s wool

Guess who approved of our plan to clean the wool in his presence?

Melvin and drying Babydoll Southdown Ontario wool fleece

How to build a better pet crate: add wet wool roof

The scouring stage was intense on instruction as we worked on spinning through the soaking sessions.  It was a good, long day. E really picked-up on everything & then did her homework.

It was also my first high-lanolin fleece.  Even though the water ran clear after 2 baths with original Dawn detergent, the dry wool felt tacky.  That was solved by simply re-washing but I will now use power scour in the first place!

Cleaned bag of Ontario Babydoll Southdown wool

Have you any wool?

E continued to work on other fibres for her display, and then did an amazing job on fibre preparation & spinning of the Babydoll Southdown over her winter break.

Thanks also to Deb Robson who gave her quick permission to share her Fiber Exploration Record Card with E in the project. It sets out key characteristics, and after taking a breed study workshop with Deb 3 years ago, I use the card for my own learning/ fibre preparation.

Natural dyed Polwarth handspun wool with avocado by irieknit

Avocado dye experiment

As soon as E saw my 2012 avocado dye experiment on Polwarth she determined this was her favorite.  We worked from there, and she chose a water-only soak extraction method for her yarn.

Grade 8 presentation in Ontario on fleece preparation, spinning, dyeing and knitting

E’s spinning project display

There are no words.  I was just blown away by E’s display & presentation – she received full marks and deserved applause!

My personal favourite part was her answer to the FAQ an attendee had to ask.  In complete dignity & more tact than I will ever muster she asserted,

Well, I think that my spinning is a much better quality than what you can get at Walmart because they use factories, and I made mine by hand.

Babydoll Southdown lamb Laurie's Little Lambs Louth Ontario farm

Webster, the youngest Babydoll Southdown lamb this year

The Babydoll Southdowns are still growing wool, and Bob’s flock is doing well.  I visited with N at the end of July, and have cleaned an ewe’s fleece.  It is astonishing, and you will hear about it!

Yes, I gained friendships beyond E’s school presentation this March, a new wool discovery, and confidence in teaching.  That’s all been fabulous but the best part is being there to see a young spinner’s imagination carry her into our local fibreshed, and onward.

edit to correct Webster’s name.


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Antique spinning wheels – in praise of the sub-herd

A trio of restored antique wheels lives with us.

Antique flax saxony spinning wheels acquired in Canada

Flax wheels wave to the blog

Each has these features:  sloping-bench, three-legged, double-drive, screw-tensioned, treadled, flax loving.  They share the overall Saxony spinning wheel structure, and they work.  Apart from all coming to me right here in Ontario they have little else in common!

From late 19th-century Eastern Europe, Chela

Since my February 2012 post about this “not child’s play” painted wheel, several spinners have contacted me with their own strikingly similar examples.

Irieknit handspun linen yarn vintage Pennsylvania flax on antique spinning wheel

Last spun: linen yarn from vintage Pennsylvania flax

This is the finished combined 307 yards from two fingers of the vintage Pennsylvania line flax that I have from an eBay purchase.  It was wet-spun on Chela, and wet-plied on my Spinolution Mach 2 wheel at 10:1.

Bobbin and flyer on antique Eastern European flax spinning wheel

This wheel is useful, and has a beautifully gentle action for fine spinning.  She does need help for a safer peg system.

Although the back of the bobbin is badly chipped this does not affect the function.  Not every break needs major repair.  The pegs have held fairly well but do need attention.  Each flyer hole is a different size but it will be a minor repair for a wheelwright.

From early 19th-century Nova Scotia, signed Wm McDonald

The largest in the trio, this signed flax wheel is a rare one that is just beautifully made.

Restored antique Nova Scotia flax spinning wheel by William McDonald

Repaired & in good form, William McDonald wheel

Alvin Ramer quietly gave me better flyer hooks while he fixed the treadle at the end of October, 2014.  It is now restored to working condition.

Irieknit handspun silk buffalo cashmere yarn on antique McDonald Nova Scotia spinning wheel

Last spun; silk/buffalo/white cashmere blend

The celebratory lap was to seize my 50% silk; 25% buffalo; 25% cashmere batts from Sericin Silkworks, and give her a spin.  Record-breaking sustained cold this February was definitely a factor in the indulgence!

Irieknit handspun silk buffalo cashmere blend yarn on antique William McDonald flax spinning wheel

Fast but oh so soft spin!

Two batts weighed a total 2 oz/ 56g.  I tore strips, and with not another thought made the 189 yards of semi-woolen yarn.

The wheel passed my test for plying the yarn on her second ratio, so she is simply an all-round good example.  I am so happy to have this wheel!

The new Kid from the Ramers, Linley

This is the Oops!  In my defense, she came with 3 Ramer bobbins + a (partial) Ramer oak distaff.

Antique compact saxony style flax spinning wheel

Wheel no. 15, Ramer spinning wheel collection

I am still puzzling over this wheel – is she a low-Irish wheel as the Ramers suspect or is she a North American example?  Any tips will be appreciated, dear readers!

Antique saxony-style spinning wheel table with depression

Depression in the wheel’s table

To my (untrained & enthusiastic) eye, the depression in her table looks original .  Barbara Ann Ramer suggests that it would hold a water dish, perhaps tin.

For my spinning, the water will be kept away from the compact table but it is a good spot to park all manner of things!

Irieknit handspun yarn from silk caps on antique saxony spinning wheel

The inaugural spin, silk caps

The singles for this 618 yards were spun from 24 g of silk caps on my new antique saxony wheel.  I used my Watson Martha wheel in double drive to for plying.

Rear view of antique flax spinning wheel with water dish depression

Audience-side of Linley the flax wheel

When the previously strong take-up stopped on a dime, I discovered that the old flyer whorl (darker wood) was threaded.

Older posts in Ravelry fora gave solutions to hold friction, and I went in search of plumber’s tape.  I needed a combination with painter’s tape but it seems to be holding now.

Rear axle and drive wheel for antique saxony spinning wheel

Added concerns

A large but seemingly stable crack in the back wheel support is also of concern.  The wheel sits level on a leather bearing but its axle seems worn.  I am not sure if this will need additional professional work but have decided to ask for an assessment.

The spinning on these wheels has been a delight.  My hope is to keep them working as tools in my spinning practice, and to get back to the flax.

Space does not allow me to have a large collection but the trio makes an awesome sub-herd!

edit, December 4, 2015: Wheelwright, Reed Needles, notes that the treadle on this unsigned oak flax wheel, Linley, is cedar.  It points to Canadian & not Irish origins for this wheel.  See my update post of today for more!


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Living a little and crafting a lot – knits, spins and even weaving!

The past month took me home for a sad occasion with family.  It has meant working harder to get ready for the holidays ahead but I came back deeply grounded.

Bougainvillea new growth after coming indoors

Her late blooms and new leaves are a wonder

On the flight south, I took out my new Ampersand sock-in-progress… only to find out that my seat-mate was also a knitter!  She had holiday knits on the go, and I got down to the foot with this lovely Indigodragonfly merino yarn as we knit along with each other.

 

Indigodragonfly fingering weight handdyed yarn

‘Who’s a Happy Tribute?’ colourway from the Knitter’s Frolic

A better blogger would have the actual sock project to share, I know.  This is the trouble with major disruptions & terrible seasonal lighting around here – not for everyone but if you are me the photography it suffers.

Catching us Up (a bit)!

You were missed, as I was propelled forward.  This is only the tip of what’s been happening while I was away from posting.

Antique saxony spinning wheels in a hatchback vehicle

We can call the wheels at home a herd now.

Only a couple days before our sad news was delivered, I had another trip to visit Alvin & Barbara Anne Ramer. Alvin repaired my antique William McDonald wheel while I cough fell in love with the smaller wheel in the foreground cough.  The separation of this metal pin and an old fix to her treadle bar needed attention.

 

Broken treadle pin on antique Nova Scotia flax spinning wheel

You can imagine my horror

Alvin fixed this main problem, and he also made other adjustments to the wheel.  It was awesome to see him in good health & at his wheel-smith work.  Barbara Anne was so gracious as well, and I loved speaking more with her about spinning, weaving and her plans.

Blue Faced Leicester/Silk yarn spun on antique spinning wheel on niddy noddy

First spun on the early C19 Nova Scotia wheel

The first spin is 646 yards (127g) of BFL wool/silk.  It was all plied on my Watson Martha wheel in double drive.

Last Thursday, I used this yarn for a great dye experiment with Madder root.  The mordant is alum @ 8% and cream of tartar @ 7%.  I brought the 100g of ground Madder with 1 tbsp of baking soda up to a simmer, and cooled overnight.

Madder dye bath preparation

Straining madder root from dye liquor!

Further tweaking happened in the morning after straining, and I mordanted handspun Dorset (horned) wool yarn for the legendary exhaust baths.

Natural dye with Madder root on handspun yarn

Home-dyeing with Madder root!

This operation was surprisingly fragrant!  The madder has a nutty, smoky aroma.  After rinsing & drying, I have rich oranges – and the exhaust material/bath in reserve!

Natural dyed handspun yarns using Madder and alum mordant

Madder’s fall bounty!

Although I strained & rinsed thoroughly small specks of the ground dyestuff are scattering from the skeins.  It’s no big deal at all but is a side-effect!

Handspun Falkland wool dyed in black walnut, antique wheel spinning

Walnut-dyed Falkland handspun yarn

The McDonald antique wheel was also a joy for spinning my Falkland top that is dyed with black walnut.  The 5.9 oz gave me 593 yards of 2-ply.  This time I changed ratios on the Watson Martha but still plied in double drive.

Spindles, loom & knits

All have been in rotation since I recovered from the time away.  These are just quick out-takes (in no particular order) while I keep gaining on deadlines.

Spinning organic handdyed Polwarth wool with a Tabachek drop spindle

Cedar Tabachek with organic Polwarth

The dyed-by Sheepspot spinning project is down to the last 44g of Polwarth wool.  Having the cedar Tabachek drop spindle in regular use again has made me so happy.  My plan is to chain-ply this yarn when it is all spun up.

Spinning batts from Enting Fibercraft on Bosworth Moosie drop spindle

Oceanside Ent Batts for a Moosie WIN!

These batts by Naomi at Enting Fibercraft are amazing.  Four breeds of wool are blended with Tussah silk & Bamboo rayon.  The colour is so deep, and the blend is just fabulous on my Moosie spindle.

Handwoven cotton kitchen towels in Keep it Simple pattern

Learning curve & humble pie to mix metaphors!

These towels stretched me so much.  The red one is unwashed.  A mistake that glared at my friend Diane in the top towel got corrected thanks to her kind pointing-out.  They need pressing, hemming and documenting but they certainly have happened!

Baby Surprise Jacket, newborn size in Heritage Handpaints by Cascade

Another Baby Surprise Jacket!

A lace-edged hat, and booties went with this Baby Surprise Jacket for my cousin.  Her shower was this past Sunday, and we can’t wait to see her baby outfitted in the knits!


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The footnote, and the flax that brought us here

There is a footnote to my last post on the Wm MacDonald Saxony spinning wheel.  Since posting she continued to impress me through 4 bobbins of BFL/silk top.

BFL wool/silk handspun yarn by irieknit on antique Nova Scotia spinning wheel maker William MacDonald

Four bobbins’ worth from the antique MacDonald wheel

As she ran, I cleaned and oiled and spoke to the twitter.  A wool lock shim came to the front maiden & I had an eye out for any signs of trouble.  Towards the end of the fourth bobbin, I felt a slight shift.  All of a sudden, I discovered an old repair to the right of the front treadle support – and not in a good way.

R. Needles, “Wheelwright” from London, Ontario spoke at the 2013 Ontario Handspinning Seminar.  He writes succinctly in his paper for the seminar:

Function matters if you’re going to use it.

This named wheel functions beautifully, and is an important historical artifact.  We are going to seek professional assistance to restore this old fix.  It’s actually still holding because I recognized the change in feel, applied a non-invasive brace (hello, leather tag from that purse!), and caught it before real damage happened.  As a solid piece it can take glue you know from a pro.

More than anything else there is a simple fact.  I love this wheel.  So, stick a pin – we’ll get to that 5th bobbin spun yet!

Blame the flax

This tipping point from “wheels” to “wheel collection” is all because of flax.  Yes, that’s right, I blame the flax.

A lot of line flax spread for my distaff

Pennsylvania flax

You should watch out for this sneaky fibre called flax.  It wants you to have specialized wheels, and takes its own sweet time to whisper sweet nothings in your ear as you go.

Antique Pennsylvania line flax dressed on small distaff for spinning

My glorified stick distaff

See the twisted fingers of flax to the lower left of the distaff?  This is the finest from the antique Pennsylvania flax that I combed last October. I brought it out last month for a group fibre study on Ravelry.com.

Flax boon waste during handspinning on denim but it's antique!

Flax boon fallen away from the fibre in spinning

Even after last fall’s hackling, the best of this flax has a ton of boon & straw!  Out came a bandana, in fact.  It was that much dust as I drafted from the distaff.  The flax varied wildly.  One minute I had soft, fine lengths, and the next I was waving the straw along!  I just went with the texture, and kept up with wet spinning to smooth it all over.

My jeans were soaked.  I looked a sight.  Still there I was, hooked all over again on the linen.  Having a virtual spin-along was also really cool.

About the wet spinning – it wasn’t plain water this time.  I gave a lot of flax seeds a generous splash of boiling water.  Steeping & stirring happened but I was really halfway to the wheel before long.  There was a good difference.  In the future, I’ll boil the seeds, and use the flax-slurry.

Book - Reflections from a Flaxen Past by Kati Reeder Meek and handspun linen single yarns

Learning the linen

This fibre varied from fine to feeling almost like tow flax.  I hope there was enough twist in this linen yarn.  It was spun wet, and felt fairly textured when I wound it from my drying tin (holes are punched in the sides of the tin) to the rolls for storage.

Alongside my singles is a birthday present – Kati Reeder Meek’s, “Reflections from a Flaxen Past for love of Lithuanian Weaving.”  A fantastic first flax reference for my shelves!  It was Camilla Valley’s last copy, and is blowing me away.  The Lithuanian linen tradition far more complex than I ever dreamed.  Most of all, I am thrilled to have a spinners’ insights on making linen weaving yarn.  It is so well reasoned, and accessible.

Handwoven linen Swedish lace sample by weaver Jette Vandermeiden

Handwoven lace samples in linen by Jette Vandermeiden

Also inspiring this push is the samples of handwoven linen lace that Jette Vandermeiden brought for our guild class last month.

Handwoven lace samples by weaver Jette Vandermeiden

More samples from Jette’s class

All of the samples were interesting but I was so drawn to Jette’s discussion of the linen laces in particular.  My goal is to practice weaving first, and build my skills but with an eye towards learning to weave my own linen textiles.

First year bloom on Clematis vine

Happy Canada Day!

Happy Canada Day to all Canadians near & far!  Like the Clematis, this is my first year with roots in the Canadian soil for this day, and that means something!

 


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From their heart: The Ramer spinning wheel collection

Last Thursday, after a big detour of the Mapquest misdirection kind, I arrived in one piece at the Ramers’ home for my appointment.  It was a fantastic visit starting with the warm greeting from Rev. Barbara Anne at her front door to me, the previously lost spinner.

The well-lit room contained the most spinning wheels that I have ever seen much less beautiful antique spinning wheels.  My friend was spot-on when she confirmed for me that the Ramer collection still had flax wheels!

William McDonald antique saxony Canadian spinning wheel Alvin Ramer collection

Wheel number thirteen

Having walked the room and gathered my thoughts, she was the first wheel that I took down to sit at.  Wheel number thirteen was included in the collection catalogue, and the note under, ‘Spinning Comments,’ rang true:

This is a smooth spinning wheel.

When I later mentioned this to Barbara Anne, she laughed saying, “Those are the words straight from my mouth!”  I am lucky to have this wheel, and a copy of her 3 pages from the collection’s catalogue.  The note under ‘Distinguishing Features‘ also landed squarely in my brain.  It says, in order of the image captions:

Treadle of William McDonald antique Canadian saxony spinning wheel Alvin Ramer collection

“The footpiece is fastened to the treadle with wooden pegs.”

In taking this photo, I noticed the etched star motif on the back support of the treadle.  It looks like simple lines from a penknife, and the rest of the wheel is elegantly turned and constructed.   The feel of the broad, worn treadle is fantastic underfoot.

Drive wheel of antique Nova Scotia saxony spinning wheel maker William McDonald Alvin Ramer collection

“The Wheel sections are fastened together with wooden pegs.”

The drive wheel is 20 ¼” in diameter with 14 spokes in 4 rim segments.  It has one wide rim groove and spins true.  The heft of this hardwood drive wheel is exactly what I was hoping for in a flax wheel.  In comparison, my P. Cadorette CPW has a 29 ½” wheel diameter.

Table, audience-view antique Nova Scotia saxony spinning wheel maker William McDonald Ramer collection

“There is a decorative bead around two sides and rear of the table. The front of the table is bevelled.”

Provenance in short form for wheel number thirteen

We know from her makers mark that she was made by a Scottish settler in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia in the 1820s – 1830s.

Makers mark William McDonald antique saxony Nova Scotia spinning wheel

Makers mark: W. M.Dld. (McDonald)

The presumed maker is William McDonald as identified in the catalogue sheets by Keith MacGillivary.  In searching, I discovered that Mr. Ramer’s Nova Scotia wheels were featured in the July 2004 issue of Spinning Wheel Sleuth magazine.  I would love a copy of this issue!  The sheet simply says that it was purchased in August 2001 from Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia.

Flyer detail antique saxony Nova Scotia spinning wheel maker William McDonald

Pie-crust orifice fluting

One frustration in spinning flax on my small Eastern European flax wheel has been its large orifice.  This wheel controls the fine single, and I was thrilled to see the fluting on the inside of the orifice.

That screw-tension double drive wheels were even being made by several wheelwrights in Nova Scotia in this period is remarkable.  The report, “Selected Canadian Spinning Wheels in Perspective:  an Analytical Approach”  says that the 1759 expulsion of the Acadians from Atlantic Canada, “curtailed most of the early spinning traditions of Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia…” (p. 265).

Ontario was not producing any wheels of this type at the time (ibid, p. 275).  This wheel must have stayed in Nova Scotia until the turn of this century.  Now nearing 200 years of age she is restored, oiled, and in another immigrant spinner’s home.

Antique saxony Nova Scotia spinning wheel spinner's view William McDonald maker Alvin Ramer collection

Beautiful twin maidens!

Click reel for the new weaver in me

Around the time of helping me select this working click reel from the collection, Barbara Anne answered my deep thanks for the sale being open for us spinners.  It was a moment of being alone in the collection, and she met my eyes saying simply, “It is what we wanted.  We had offers to buy the collection whole.  It is our heart. ”

 

Blue painted antique wood click reel yarn winder weasel

Pop! goes the weasel!

The vertical reel stood out among her peers from across the room.  It is all 1 piece with a handle for winding the yarn.  The wound skein is removed by bending the knee of the one jointed windmill arm.

Painted blue wood antique click reel winding yarn gear detail

Inner workings

Behind her pretty front blue skirt is the also-painted wood gear and worm mechanism.  Once the metal pin on the small lower gear rotates fully, it slaps a long piece of thin wood & pop!  I jump every time.

Chip carved edging of table on antique blue painted wood click reel yarn winding weasel

Pretty as a pie-crust, chip carved reel table

As if this is not enough excitement for one humble tool, her tripod platform has even pie-crust chip carving and a front bead.  Also overflowing with excitement was me last week!

Best cakes from lovely cousins!

Coded candles  

The sale has been precipitated by family issues for the Ramers.  I was very happy to meet Alvin, Barbara Anne, and their friend, Rosemary.  It is a big transition but Barbara Anne asked me to let spinners know that Alvin wants to resume his wheel repair work as soon as possible.

My hopes for the awesome circa 1820s Atlantic Canada wheel are simple – I want to spin flax.

Antique Pennsylvania line flax dressed on a distaff

A flaxen future perhaps

These are more than tools for that goal though.  They come in my 5th year as a spinner, my 1st year as a weaver, and shortly after becoming Canadian.  I am honoured to have such well restored artifacts to work with, and the good wishes of an expert flax spinner, Rev. Barbara Anne Ramer.

Bloodgood Japanese maple sapling crown

Also setting down roots

Well, friends, 5 years makes a habit and that is my new answer for, “How many spinning wheels do you have now?”