Wednesday, April 08, 2009

A Wheel of My Own

I admit that when I first get something in my head, it consumes me. This is true for knitting, sewing, life in general. That is why it was dangerous to get these spinning lessons and borrow a friend’s wheel. As I began to understand the process and feel more comfortable, I really got excited about the prospect of owning a wheel of my own.

And that’s where the problem came in. Spinning wheels aren’t cheap. I’m borrowing a used wheel that was found on ebay for $150, and that was a great deal. Buying new can easily be over $400, especially if you want the wood to be finished.

And I’m impatient. I recognize patience is a virtue, and I do display a modicum in other areas of life, but delayed gratification is tough when it comes to hobbies. However, much as I wanted to go charge one and do my part to single-handedly turn our economy around, I was ready to buckle down and start saving up for a spinning wheel, which meant sometime this late summer or fall I would be the proud new owner.

I should also add that if you ever cross paths with me on any casual level, you’re likely to know my reigning passion. It goes something like this:

You: Um, could I get help registering?

Me: [shoving my knitted socks or handing you my spindle of newly spun yarn] Thanks for asking about this! I just knit/spun this up! I’m so excited!

Anyway, rewind to Friday. It was no surprise that my coworkers were familiar with my current obsession with spinning. One of them, K, attends auctions. She and her husband find ones that offer items of interest to both of them. She likes the fabric, yarn, sewing machines and kitchen items, and he goes for the power tools. She told me about one of Saturday’s auctions was slated to please them both. There in the list of items were three simple, glorious words: wood spinning wheel.

She said since they were already attending, she’d be happy to bid on it if I gave her what to look for and a top price limit I’d be willing to pay. I was ecstatic. Here I was, drafting some items to guide her, someone with absolutely no idea on what to look for in a wheel (i.e., where I was just a month ago).

She knew the auctioneer and I called to see if it would be possible to get a photo before Saturday. He didn’t have access to the storage facility until 7 AM the following day, but he did tell me he thought the wheel was not an antique and was functional. He speculated it was going to go for around $20-30, which made me think he didn’t know what he was talking about since some people troll auctions looking for long-forgotten spinning wheels.

So Saturday I waited expectantly, since K had both my home and cell numbers. I was all excited when the home number rang – most friends and family call our cell. It was a survey.

A couple hours later, she did call. She said it looked like it worked, but she couldn’t find an identifying brand on it anywhere, perhaps revealing that it was handmade. She added that it looked like a photo of an Ashford Elizabeth that I had sent her with, but she wasn’t sure she should have spent as much as she did given the condition. My stomach tightening with the prospect of paying way too much for a nonfunctional wheel, I asked what she paid. She laughed, since she had me going. A whopping five dollars. The auctioneer started at $35, and with no bids, he kept lowering the starting bid. When he reached ten, K offered $5, and no one else countered, so it was mine! Beforehand, she had also noticed a box of 30 spindles and other accessories that she informed them belonged with the spinning wheel, so she thought I should be completely set.

She brought one of the spindles in to work to show me, and it was much smaller than I expected and was missing the groove I was used to seeing on the other wheels. However, I’m most interested in spinning thin yarn, so even filling one of these, while not as accommodating as a full-size spindle, might still have yielded decent yardage.

I took ownership of the spinning wheel Monday evening. Immediately I noticed that it was missing the flyer (the object that connects to the wheel via a band and as you pedal, it turns and wraps the yarn onto the bobbin), and I strongly suspect the 30 small bobbins I have don’t go with the spinning wheel.

Since it appears to be a homemade wheel, I’m bringing it to my weekly knitting group tonight to take it under advisement. There will be up to three other spinners present that can let me know if we can redeem it. The wheel has a slight wobble, but it treadles smoothly and I suspect once the band is attached to the flyer, the tension will eliminate the slight turn. I’m hoping after taking measurements of a friend’s similar wheel that I will be able to buy replacement parts from Ashford (uprights, flyer, bobbins, new band, and if absolutely necessary, a maiden bar with knobs).

One of the reasons I am considering buying Ashford replacement parts instead of finding someone to make the necessary pieces is that I absolutely love the Ashford wheels, and perhaps someday in the future I will find myself the proud owner of one. In that case, I could use the bobbins/additional flyers as interchangeable pieces.

So right now, my spinning wheel is a beautiful antique of original workmanship. I am able to use my friend’s wheel for a couple more weeks before she moves, and then I hope I won’t have to wait too long – or spend too much – before making mine functional.

I’ll try to update with the verdict on my wheel sometime later this week, as well as show off my first plied yarn (to be accomplished tonight).

1 comment:

madalyn said...

Wow, a $5 wheel?! You can't beat that!