Harold Spins Again!!!

Wow! Look at Harold go!!!! He’s spinning again after tons and tons of years idle!!!! I can’t believe it!

If you’ve been following along on our little fiber journey… you know that we recently bought an antique spinning wheel from a lovely lady in Michigan. It was my birthday gift from my wonderful daughters! As the story goes… this lady, who is elderly, her FATHER owned this wheel from the turn of the century. He bought it for a lady he was courting, as a gift, perhaps as a wedding gift but alas, she turned him down and gave him the wheel back. Harold was disappointed, but went on and wed another, which was to be this lady’s mother! And apparently, no one used the wheel much if any. It stayed in the family as a cherished antique and finally ended up in pieces at this lady’s home. She took the wheel to a spin doctor, someone who refurbishes wheel and this fellow updated the wheel with a new flyer and a crafted a few of the missing parts. He got it running again, but since no one was interested in spinning, that was that. It just sat around as a family antique. Finally, she decided to sell it to someone that would use the darn thing and that is how I got this wheel!

Problem was… or is…. there were a few issues with it. Sure it spun, but not sure if it really spun WOOL… or flax or anything. Not sure if the fellow showed her how it was worked or what. It was hitting the floor as you spun, which was sort of interrupting how the wheel rotated. It was not so nice. And the wheel was really wobbly, like there were pieces missing or something. To make it quick, it was a cranky old wheel and impossible for a newbie like me to get it going right… I needed some professionals!!! I was getting worried that perhaps this old wheel was just going to be a decoration. We really didn’t pay very much at all for it, especially in the range of spinning wheels, which seem to start at $300 and upwards!

So when my friend Mary asked if I wanted to go to a fiber get together with some of her friends, I was so excited! Yes!! And she said that one of them was really good at getting old wheels to work and that I should bring Harold along… oh, yes! I was so on board!!! So Jessy wanted to come along as well, to work on one of her needle felting projects and I brought along the wheel as well as my needle punch to fiddle with and off we went!

The hostess of the gathering was a wonderful lady named Katja. I believe she is either AUstrian or German, but has been here a good while. Sweet lady! Lovely crafter, homesteader…. and she runs a beautiful home spa at her lovely farm. Oh my gosh, the gardens and all… you could tell, even buried under two feet of snow, that they were lovely and just so nice. Meeting all her friends, it was just a lovely afternoon! A bit after we arrived, her friend Michael came to the gathering and he was so excited to get fooling with old Harold, the spinning wheel. (I like to name important things in my life, if you haven’t noticed yet! haha…. And i thought it would be fun to name the wheel after the man that bought and owned him! Why not?)

Well Michael agreed.. this was a cranky wheel. He started to putter with it, saw that the wheel itself was much too wobbly, and we fixed that by adding a few washers to the spindle to fill up the wobbly gap. Katja had a little bucket full of odds and ends in the washer department and there were a few that perfectly lessened the gap that let it wobble. We took an old twig from the kiddling pile near their wood stove and fashioned a little peg that was missing and helped to hold the wheel in place!!! And then he adjusted and moved and fiddled and hmmmed and hawwed and pretty soon, Harold was spinning SO MUCH BETTER than I ever got him to. Michael also oiled the flyer and the wheel axle and just got that old wheel smooth as silk!

And then Katja came over to add her expert spinner’s twist to the wheel. She helped to get it in the right alignment and get him ready to spin. And spin she did!!!! Jessy took a picture of the actual first yarn on this wheel, most likely in nearly a hundred years!!!! Oh my gosh…. At first we started with some crazy neon lime green roving! It was kind of funny… a very modern take on the idea of yarn from Harold! But that ran out quickly, so we got spinning on a bit of available dark greyish brown roving and away he went!


Well after a bit, Katja gave me some pointers and set me at the wheel. And of course, as a new wheel spinner, I overspun my yarn, and couldn’t quite get the rough motion of this still slightly cranky wheel’s treadling down good and then my pinch and draw was rough… haha… but I did manage to do about 10 or 12 inches of the stuff because Katja, THANKFULLY, relieved me and got to spinning again on it so I could watch. Jessy’s video taped it so I could review on my own wheel, which I think I’ve watched now about a zillion times!!!!

After we were done, she wound the spun yarn on a little handly yarn winder and then she showed me how to double ply on my wheel!!! How cool! I didn’t know you would do that, but well, you can. I am so learning so much this wonderful fibery year of mine! SO blessed to have the best people in my pathway on this journey of fiber enlightenment! Katja and Michael then gave me a little laundry list of things that I can do to make Harold run even smoother and less cranky. And Katja gave me a homework assignment!!! She wants me to treadle the wheel for two weeks without even trying to spin! Just treadle. Make it go fast, slow, medium speed… learn to use one foot, two feet, left foot, right foot. And make a few changes to it… like shortening up the treadle stick thingy on the back so it doesn’t whack the floor… (HUGE help! Oh my gosh!!!) and then to work on getting the wheel in even better shape… it’s got some burrs and rough spots in the groove that holds the band… and occasionally it snags the band and jumps the wheel. So Michael gave me instructions how to fill in the bad parts with a bit of wood glue and to use a little file and smooth out some of the snaggy parts. He also said it would really benefit from a drenching of linseed oil since the wood was very very dry. That is why some of the wheel is splitting. I know Maggie will be able to help me for sure.

So, I’m already working on my treadling and Maggie helped make a few of the adjustments already with me. It’s spinning so much better now… and the linseed oil really made it beautiful! He was so right, Harold soaked up a ton of the stuff! But it also brought out the beautiful oak wood and carving! We have had a busy few days but Maggie intends on filing and filling the cracks in the wheel for me and letting that dry nice. And then she’s going to paint the actual wheel for me in dark purple and dark green… a beautiful sort of Gypsy like design that will be wonderful as it spins! (Because of the wood filler and some major cracking, leaving the wheel natural just looks a little, well, not as nice. But a sharp paint job from my lovely talented painter daughter will fix that up perfect and make Harold very unique!)

I leave you now, with my first spun ball of yarn on my lovely little Saxony spinning wheel. I have my first yarn that I spun on a drop spindle as well, it’s very special to me and my journey! I have been practicing my treadling and I must admit, after now about four days, I am SOOOOO much better! Katja says you need to build up your muscle memory in your feet, so that the treadling part is just automatic, you hardly have to think about it. That way you can concentrate on making beautiful yarn from my beloved flock of sheep! I can’t wait… she is so right! They get together quite regularly and I sure want to show her I have been practicing and that hopefully, I can actually show her that I’m learning to spin, too!! But until then… one step at a time!!! I’m just so excited to see Harold spinning after so many years of idleness!!!


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About Mobymom

the banjo player for Deepwater Bluegrass, and the editor of BuckeyeBluegrass.com as well as the main graphic designer of the Westvon Publishing empire. She is a renaissance woman of many talents and has two lovely daughters and a rehab mobile home homestead to raise.

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