Ladies and Gents, We Have Uptake (I MacGyvered my spinning wheel)

Let’s face it, if you’ve ever tried your hand at spinning yarn on a spinning wheel, you will have an intimate understanding of what I am about to write. If you haven’t had the pleasure (and the pain) of turning a ball of fluff into yarn on a contraption that seems to have dropped out of the pages of history…read on and enjoy my suffering and my successes.

My mother purchased an old spinning wheel (who knows just how old as there are no markings or identification) at an auction for $10.62. What a steal! Functioning wheels run upwards of $200, with antique wheels even higher than that. The key word here is functioning. My wonderful wheel came to me in pieces: when mom picked it up to put it in the car, all the legs fell off, and the flyer and bobbin too, then that nice turned wood piece that I have yet to figure out exactly what purpose it serves. She presented the wheel to me in a Valentino’s parking lot in the rain like some shady deal was going down, one piece at a time. We were off to a great start!

I am a sucker for a good puzzle, but putting this thing back together proved a little difficult and I had to turn to google images for a road map. Only I didn’t quite know what to look for, as my wheel has no brand name. I put all the pegs and legs in the holes and proceeded to stare the thing down for a couple of months; skirting it like a cactus in the corner- it looked nice, but it could bite me. Then I caught some inspiration and ventured to the hardware store to pick up some parts that where broken and missing. After several hours of work, some copper pipe, epoxy and a few random pieces, the flyer was in working condition. I hopped in the seat and started pedaling like mad! The wheel jerked and bucked and sounded awful. It definitely needed a good greasing and a little more love. I finally spun enough fiber to almost fill the bobbin, but realized that the whole flyer/bobbin contraption was not large enough to accommodate my lofty spinning goals; that and when I built up a certain amount of fiber, the whole thing stopped working. Back to the drawing board…

I took some measurements and the flyer/bobbin contraption to the farm so I could root around in the shop for materials to build a new one (or two, or three). I explained the predicament to my dad then explained it again; finally I just told him what materials I needed and the sizes we would need to cut the wood and dowels and ready-rod. I returned home with the pieces for two new flyers and three new bobbins, much larger and not nearly as pretty as my antique wheel pieces. I am a problem solver at heart, and a reuser for life, so I went on a scavenge hunt around the house to find items to re-appropriate as spinning wheel hardware. I used a hanger, cut and hollowed wine corks, a cut shampoo bottle lid, 2 rubber bands, some washers and nuts, cotton yarn, fishing line, and the shell of two ballpoint pens. After several hours of diligent (and frustrating) work, with my husband handing me tools and then finally wandering off to do something else, I hopped into the driver seat and started madly pedaling. We had uptake! And then the drive band (fishing line) jumped off the track and the whole wheel shut down. A little tightening of the line here, wiggling the cork there, sawing deeper grooves here, moving the hanger there and I finally got everything lined up and again took up my post in the seat. My wheel worked! I spun up a whole bunch of wool into super fine yarn in no time flat. The only issue now is that the whole contraption sounds like a freight train and it’s liable to send a bit of hardware flying in any direction at any moment. It’s not perfect yet, and if you ever visit me, please be warned that you may need safety goggles to witness the beauty of my spinning wheel in action!

Alright, if you made it to the end of the post, and are any bit excited to see what I am making on my madcap spinning wheel freight train, this picture is for you. And, now that I can spin more fiber in less time, I will have some wonderful twisted items to share with you in no time flat. Check back soon to see the new yarns!