I hit it with a shoe

Just a quickie, as I sit having my coffee in the airport before my flight to Denver. (I’m giving a talk/performance/standup/whatever the hell it is that I do tonight in Loveland, if anybody wants to come. I think it will be superfun.) I’m totally ready for this trip, and I think I actually nailed the packing, except I forgot a pair of shoes.  (Not totally, I mean, I’m wearing shoes, but I forgot to bring shoes that won’t look stupid with the skirt I packed, and now I have to choose between not wearing the skirt, and looking stupid.  I do both of those things all the time, so I’m not super stressed.) I’m looking forward to a nap and knit on the plane, but I wanted to update you on what happened with the wheel.

Wheelparts 2014-09-10

Putting it together, it turns out, was pretty easy.  It was together and almost spinning really quickly. Getting it together right though? That took time – and I’m still not there.

I can spin on the wheel, but not well, and it skips and stalls.  After a long conversation with Judith, I think I’ve solved about half of the problems, but I’ll need some new parts to solve others.  Most of the problems have to do with the spindle.  This works just like a drop spindle does.  The spindle spins, and adds twist to the wool – whammo, you’ve got yarn. The whole wheel part is really just a drive system to keep the spindle spinning.  The spindle is attached to the “mother-of-all” and then the wheels turn it with drive bands.  That little wheel on top is an accelerator head, and I’m happy to have it.

minershead 2014-09-10

It used to be that the spindle was attached to the mother of all with strips of leather that were held in place with little wooden plugs in the back.  I didn’t have any leather, so I just tied them there, which didn’t work at all.

tieditintheback 2014-09-10

Then I got the brainwave to put buttons on the back so that I could tie them tighter, and that’s working a little better.  The leather’s going to be the thing though.

withbuttonsbetter 2014-09-10

The next problem was that the upright that held that whole setup wasn’t right. The drive band was rubbing the spindle, and that can’t happen. On the phone with Judith, texting pictures to her for reference, we pretty much got it licked.  Joe’s dad had lovingly refinished the wheel, stripping off some old paint and cleaning it up, but in the process had removed the wear marks that would tell me how the pieces were put together, and I’d erred on the side of gentleness.  An hour later I was whacking the uprights in a lot tighter, and things were starting to fit better.

spinningwheeltogether 2014-09-10

It’s nowhere near ready, and there’s going to be more work yet getting it really going, but I’m super excited about it.  I think I can get this wheel so that it runs really well, and I love the idea of something so old coming back to a useful life.  I haven’t figured out yet where you put a wheel this big in a house this tiny, but right now it’s in the dining room- which is totally not a long term solution, because it’s pretty fragile, and I think Lou is going to have a really hard time keeping his hands off it. I’ll figure it out though.

All right! I’d tell you more, but they’re calling my flight. Next stop, Colorado!

(PS. The November Retreat at Port Ludlow is open for registration.  The theme is “Emergency 911” and we’ll have knitting rescue and repair (that’s me teaching) Spinning rescue and repair (that’s Judith MacKenzie) and knitter/spinner rescue and repair, and that’s Carson Demers. He’s a physiotherapist/knitter/spinner. Amazing guy.) If you’d like to know a little more, you can look at our Facebook page, or email us at Strungalong@yarnharlot.ca. We’d love to tell you about it.)



90 thoughts on “I hit it with a shoe

  1. What a gorgeous piece of history. My first wheel came from NZ and is old. I used it to spin enough yarn to make a large man sized sweater. It has tiny bobbins but I persevered. I liked the idea of a chain of women going back into history using my wheel. (although for pure convenience, I prefer the large bobbins on my current wheel!)

  2. Pingback: I hit it with a shoe | Yarn Buyer

  3. I’ve got a leather stash for fixing wheels. Let me know what you think you need and I’ll mail you some. No sense in buying large amounts when you just need a bit!

  4. In terms of storage, could you hang it on hooks on a wall like a piece of art? I love the contrast between a great wheel and a painted wall – I have my not yet working great wheel against a white wall.

  5. You can also use corn husks torn into strips and tightly braided in lieu of the leather bearings. I’ve seen it often on old Great Wheels. You’d be surprised how long corn husk lasts, and you can get it this time of year. That wheel is exquisite. You’re going to love working on it.

    • Leather boot shoelaces work great for great wheel spindle supports. Mine, that I no longer have or I would send photo, had small wooden pegs that went into the hole with the 2 leather strands to keep the leather tight instead of your buttons

  6. How lucky to have a family wheel, in useable condition, lovingly cleaned up and best of all an accelerator head. It was meant to be. Happy Spinning. Envy.

  7. Wonderful wheel! I purchased a non-functional wheel at an antique store for decor (it looks like it was constructed from a kit and too much stuff is missing to make it useful). The wheel turns so my almost-four granddaughter “makes yarn” on it. She is starting to realize that it doesn’t really do anything, though, so one of these days we will have to learn the real thing.

  8. That’s so perfect! I’m jealous, as I used to have a walking wheel but had to give it up due to space issues. sigh. I’m so glad you are getting this family wheel back together and running. I’m looking forward to reading about what you are spinning on it!

  9. I am just wondering if you ever wrote up the pattern for the baby layette that you wrote abount on August 27, 2013. It seems like such a gorgeous knit.

  10. Gorgeous wheel!

    Looking forward to hearing your talk tonight since you’re coming to my wee corner of the world. My conundrum is — doing I bring the sweater or the sock for out & about knitting?

  11. I’ve never seen a walking wheel with an accelerator head. That must put in a hellacious amount of twist per turn. Thanks for sharing this! It’s beautiful.

  12. Great wheel, but, Stephanie, you’re killing me. I had to endure the fact that Cincinnati was overlooked during your last book tour but now your on your way to Loveland. Well, I love in Loveland, OHIO, a suburb of Cincinnati. I hope one day you’ll get it right! !

  13. Make sure to drink lots of water while you’re here in Colorado! Loveland is a bit lower than Denver, hopefully that will make it easier for you. Sorry to miss it.

  14. Sort of like the sailboat . . . you keep working at it and eventually, you will be sailing away. Enjoy. It will be beautiful. Someday, I’ll spin (shhh, don’t tell my husband).

  15. I have long yearned for a walking wheel. I have thought it would be so nice to use it from time to time. But when I’ve seen them for sale at antique shops, I always ask the question, “Where would I put it?” So I have not succumbed. But having a family treasure walking wheel, what a wonderful gift. I’m sure you will find the space for such a treat. I even think a “Congratulations” is in order for obtaining such a beauty. Can’t wait to see the finished product.

  16. The wheel is a work of art, absolutely elegant and I am so glad you are doing it and Joe’s great grandmother honor by bring it back to life!

  17. Wow gorgeous! I also have a leather stash. Let me know if you need or want any. Would need to know how thick and if you want it plain, or dyed. Brown or black. Not sure if i have tan dye or not. Will check. What a lovely gift.

  18. Dude, the walking wheel is a work of art. It needs to be displayed. When it’s not in use, how about hanging it on the wall using bike hooks? You could add bumpers to prevent banging / damage.

  19. I’m so disappointed that I won’t get to see you in Loveland tonight! It’s the old theater-person mantra – “I can’t, I have rehearsal.” Hope it’s wonderful (and that you packed a jacket – it’s rainy and kinda chilly here this week).

  20. Just gorgeous. I spin on various Ashfords and would love someday to have a Big Wheel. But a neighbor just leaned over the fence and told me his elderly Ukrainian grandma has a table top loom in her basement and did I want it since he wanted someone who would use it to have it. I have no clue what it will be, and I am not (yet) a weaver-resisting til my retirement in 2 years.. but I am excited… I will need a Judith sort to help me…

    • You’ll do just fine! Try to remember that gajillions of people, with far fewer assets than you, have made a success of weaving for centuries. You’ll be great!!

    • yes, sometimes the universe tells you when the time is right ! you could not get much clearer than that. and you will be helping them because they are handing it on to someone who will value and use it.

  21. What a beautiful wheel! I’m so glad it was rediscovered and is in such great shape. I always see the big wheels and generally want one but I want to at least start with a drop spindle before I go whole hedgehog into spinning…

  22. Well, you could teach Lou to spin. But he might be a bit short yet for the walking wheel. When I got my sock knitting machine, it came in a large crate and every single one of the six million pieces was individually wrapped in saran wrap and duct tape. Hubby and I pored over the mess and put all of our combined brainpower together to figure out how to put it together. We had videos and an old sock machine manual to help us, and eventually we sorted it out. He’s really good at seeing where things should logically go. A few parts had to be replaced because they were too covered in ancient grease to be cleanable. Then I learned that just because you put something together right, doesn’t mean you know how to run it. So I don’t think your wheel looks quite as complicated as my machine, but I think it’s great that you’ve gotten this far. It’s a beautiful wheel.

  23. Your post title made me laugh for reasons that have nothing to do with yarn. Made me remember a wonderful story my parents told me about going to a get-together in our working-class suburban neighborhood and one of the area bigots spinning off an Italian joke … and my mom reacting by throwing her shoe at him. 🙂 Not quite mother-of-all. More like mother-of-watch-your-ass.

    Morals of the story:

    1) My mom is awesome.
    2) Today is Non-Sequitur Day.

    • My maternal grandmother, of Polish descent, did the same thing when my dad was telling Polish jokes she found offensive during a holiday gathering at her home!. She was in the kitchen at the back of the home and he was in the living room at the front. She managed to aim that shoe directly at his head and hit the target!

      He always watched his tongue around her after that.

  24. Looking good! I too love the idea of something old coming back to useful life (which could be me in a few years!). Where’s the sock? Isn’t the sock on every plane trip?

  25. I have twin three year boys and the two great wheels in my house are currently still stored far away from them! They are good with a a Schacht in the playroom, though. They think spinning is a totally normal Mom thing to do…especially spindling in the yard.
    Some storage hints–hanging on the wall could harm your wheel and make it less round. Avoid that if possible. Consider lining the wheel up against a wall when not in use. Turn the spindle towards the big wheel so it does not protrude, and put a cork on the point to avoid accidents. I like a big champagne cork best, and then you have to drink the bubbly first, which is fun! If this works, the wheel takes up only about 6-10″ of real estate along a wall. It worked in my dining room for one wheel, before twins. Enjoy! What a wonderful adventure.

    • I was going to suggest the cork. The spindles can be quite sharp and not pleasant to accidentally brush against.
      Ditto on not hanging it on the wall: roundness of the wheel a concern as well as having the wheel true to the grooves of the spindle. Accelerator will be super useful for plying. ( I believe in the early 1800’s when you could buy single yarns from a mill women would use the accelerator to ply to the desired thickness of yarn they wanted. (I think wool or cotton singles would work).

  26. My 96 year old grandmother has a spinning wheel that size strapped to the attic ceiling above her garage. I’m told it belonged to her mother. I’ve been fascinated with it for years and everyone thinks I’m crazy. To my grandma, that wheel represents a lot of tedious work that doesn’t have to be bothered with anymore.

  27. If it wasn’t for the fact that the legs go at the angles that they do, you could just put the wheel up against the wall and then it’d be a décor piece, giving a country feel to the room, and it’d also be a great conversation starter as well as being for practical use!

  28. Lou is a toddler, that I understand. But what about the cat? How do you keep the cat away from your spinning wheel? My husband stores his in the spare room for fear of the cat clawing the thing!

  29. I realize that you’ll be in Hot Springs in a few weeks. If you need in personal recommendations or have any last minute issues there send me a message. My grandmother and aunt have condos right downtown off Central Ave in the historical district, I visit twice a year and know the place fairly well. I would recommend doing the baths at the Buckstaff Bath House and there are some great hiking trails off the promenade behind bathhouse row. You might even see my aunt there in the early morning.

  30. Gorgeous wheel! Even if you don’t get it spinning well, it deserves a place of pride for its looks and history. If you have to, get someone (Joe?) to install a wall shelf that would keep it out of Lou’s reach. Perhaps over the dining room sideboard, if you have one. Still, I can imagine a certain puddy tat napping on it if you keep it near a window that gets sun for a decent length of time. . .cats, one of nature’s original “solar cells”!

    If you have time and some luck, stop by a Payless Shoe Source or Famous Footwear store to see if you can find some (relatively) inexpensive replacements for the shoes you forgot to pack.

  31. I keep asking each remaining member of my paternal family if they remember a spinning wheel in our Grandmother’s front bedroom. NO ONE remembers it but me! Is it because everyone I’ve asked was male and it did not register as important to them, or because I’ve just wished for one so long that my imagination has invented one for me? By the way, yours is lovely and I am very jealous.

  32. It’s beautiful!

    Lou-proofing is good, is there anywhere where the cat won’t be able to get at it? (Assuming the cat is still around. The one I remember is I think older than the blog.)

  33. It looks like a tall pretty girl – all ready to dash along. Wow. I don’t know why I thought it would be small…? I’m glad you two found each other.

  34. I do not even know how to spin, and am not yet entirely convinced I want to learn, and I live in an apartment much too small for that, but still, I want one!!!

  35. Denver has an amazing museum and I’ve found the museum staff where I live to have been incredibly helpful in similar situations as your mystery wheel assembly-what parts missing-where do we get one replicated-nevermind the museum has some-take ours. Really. They live for this. It will be the highlight of their week.

  36. How cool that you have a wheel with such family history! I have to admit that I talked to my great Aunt who owns the family farm about where my great-great aunts wheel might have gotten too (out by the barn) and that I spent quite a bit of time trying to find any pieces that might have been left of it (no success). It’s cool that some people felt the old wheels were family treasures to be preserved.

  37. I wonder if there’s a spinning wheel at Pioneer Village which would give you further clues about set up. Or is there a historical group near Toronto which uses the old spinning wheels.

  38. Yes, those great wheels are lovely! but huge! Every time I’ve tried spinning on them I’ve failed, because you have to be able to do a long draw with your left hand, and I do that with my right hand. Same with charkas. So if you have a drafting style that already works with the correct hand, you are going to love spinning on that thing!

    • Similar thing here with the charka. I’d love to have and use one just because I really like small, portable technology and love the idea of something like that being so neat and compact. However … there is a reason why treadle wheels took off like rockets when they were invented. It’s just so much easier to spin with both hands. Oh, well.

  39. I like to think that previously owned craft hardware, be it hooks, needles, wheels or tatting shuttles, are easier to work with because they already know what to do. It’s up to the current owner to use them for good (or evil).

  40. Saw you speak last night here in Loveland. Thanks so much for coming here. You are a gifted storyteller. I’m so envious of your wheel. I don’t really spin (Took a class and liked it but it didn’t stick.) but now I’m thinking of asking around my husband’s family to see if there are any wheels in attics!

  41. Very nice wheel, and you are so lucky that it is complete and the parts appear to be in good condition. The great wheel is a wonderful simple machine that requires gentle balancing of its moving parts so they interact properly. Be careful not to tighten anything too much–that just stops the wheel. Both of the upright support posts–the wheel support and the mother-of-all–should be able to be twisted to line up the accelerator head and the wheel rim so the drive band does not jump off. The leather strips or braided cornhusks holding the spindle should allow free spin and be well-greased with petroleum jelly. The wheel axel should also be well-greased. The drive band and accelerator band should be tightened just enough to spin the spindle–you will have to alternate between the two, tightening each of them gradually until the spindle keeps spinning when you exert pressure on it to draft yarn. Be sure to keep both of the screw supports on the acellerator head even, so the tiny axel does not bind. Oh yes, and dress both of those string bands with some beeswax–helps them to grip their drive wheels. Ooh, I wish I could drop by Toronto to help you get her tuned up!

  42. My wife and I attended your talk in Loveland last night and we both really enjoyed ourselves (it didn’t even bother me that I was the only guy present!). About your great wheel – Kaye has one that she has spun on and we’ve both tried to keep in working order. Just in case nobody else has mentioned this; you need to put the main drive band over the smaller of the two diameters of the accelerator wheel. When you do that the spindle will speed up and the drive band won’t rub on the spindle.

    Have fun with it!

  43. Gretcheng and Domeguy have good advice.There needs to be lubricant on the bands (leather or corn husks) and the spindle to facilitate smooth, unhindered turning. In searching for an excellent lubricate that wouldn’t eventually gum up, Ed found one at a bicycle shop to be used on gears: Tri-Flow. The main ingredient to look for if you can’t find Tri-Flow is PTFE – the slipperiest stuff on the planet. (Ed’s made 5 Walking Wheels so far and has repaired a few accelerator heads.)

    Also, the drive-band on your wheel could be a lot thinner, we found the wider surface area of the thick ones slowed down the works but a thin 12-ply cotton band works wonders. You’ll soon learn the dance of just enough tension with the bands, the correct angles and height of the accelerator head.

    My two-year old granddaughter loves to turn the wheel for me when I spin. It took awhile for her to learn to turn it only clockwise, and to stop when I asked, but now she knows to follow my directions.

  44. From the title of the post I expected a harrowing tale with some kind of big insect or arachnid. I scrolled down gingerly and so was pleased to *not* discover yet another of the freaky spider pictures that have been showing up in my Facebook feed! Have a great time in Colorado and don’t forget to drink waaaaay more water than you think anyone could possibly ever need. Your body will thank you. :). (And enjoy the great beer for which our beautiful state is also known!)

  45. You need an online packing list! I travel a LOT and was always forgetting something. I started a packing list in Google Docs (the Excel-type one) and I use it every time I pack now and never forget a thing. It’s the best!

  46. Good call, Domeguy! The 2 drive bands are mixed up in the photos. The accelerator head has a band that goes around its disk and the small cylinder on the spindle–pick the groove that doesn’t interfere with the big drive band. The Big Drive Band that runs the walking wheel goes around a groove in the spindle’s cylinder so that it is centered on the rim and doesn’t jump off. This set-up results in the speed that the accellerator head provides. It’s a pretty significant mechanical advantage, which is why most walking wheels have one, instead of the original direct drive to the spindle alone (called an owl’s head, though I’ve never used one myself).

  47. Your spindle bearings made out of string and buttons are cute. If you find they are not working that well you can try braided corn husks. From an ear of corn, peel and discard the outermost husk sheaves, and the soft innermost. Somewhere in the middle you will find the perfect weight sheaves for making bearings. You use three sheaves, each about 1/2″ wide, knot the ends together and c-clamp them, and make a tight braided length about 6-8″ long. Wrap the braid around the spindle and pass the ends through the hole. The ends of the braid can be wedged with a stick so they can be adjusted, or tied if long enough, with the ends fastened with string.

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  50. I have a walking/great wheel also. Consider yourself blessed that all the major pieces were there and in working order. One of the uprights that holds the Miners Head (sp?) or the accelerator was broken off. had to have an entirely new assembly made. Yes, leather is the answer for holding the spindle.

    • Hi everyone! Im a teenager from Michigan. Never had any experience in this feild, but yesterday I came across something at a garage sale, a small ornate wooden object that a man had. He gave it to me for free, told me he found in a barn up north and had no idea what it was. It turns out it was a Mother-Of-All, something I was shocked to find. And what is more, it is the EXACT same one in these Images. Is there anything else anyone can tell me about this particular wheel? Perhaps a date, where it was made? I have to know, so Intrigued.

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  52. Thank you for your post and pictures! I just got my Great Wheel and I am working on getting it running and have been curious what to do about the spindle. I can’t wait to get her running again.

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