While I was living in Victoria, BC, I fell in love. You will be relieved to know that I did not cheat on my husband. It wasn’t even another man that captured my heart. Rather, I fell head over heels with an elegant older woman who may have once lived in a beautiful medieval German castle, perched high up on a hill overlooking a meandering river…
You see, one day I came across an ad that read:
FREE – Old Spinning Wheel. Not sure if it works. Taking up space in my house. Come and get it. It’s yours.
“Well,” I explained to my husband that night when he spied the wooden contraption in the living room. “The ad did say it was mine!”
Despite having never touched a spinning wheel before (and I don’t knit either), I decided that I simply must rescue this damsel in distress. How, in my heart of hearts, could I possibly leave her in this predicament? I just had to help.
The story I was told was that the spinning wheel was once owned by the grandmother of the person who placed the ad. She was dusty and dirty, and she had some parts that were creaking and shaky. I could totally relate, and knew she had to come home with me. This little beauty needed a loving home, and someone to look after her.
But how do you look after a spinning wheel? I certainly didn’t know. And so began the education as I set about to discover the world of spinning wheels, and of spinning yarn.
It turns out that Katherine, as I now call her, is a Saxon-style Castle Spinning Wheel. I learned that (and much more) during my chat with Larry. Larry is one of the permanent fixtures at a wonderful little yarn shop in Victoria called Knotty By Nature. When I see Larry, I think of Norm in the old TV sitcom Cheers, only different. Anyway, this wise character took one look at Katherine when I brought her in to the shop, and knew exactly what she was, and exactly what she needed.
Katherine went home with Larry that day (lucky girl!) and the next time I saw her, she was as good as new. And though she did not give up her many secrets to Larry, she did tell him one thing. “See this mark here?” Larry pointed at the underside of the single treadle. “That looks like it’s a date.”
To me, it looked like nothing but a scratch on a rough patch of wood. But upon closer inspection, and after making a pencil rubbing, I realized it was a date.
It was ’91. It seems that my Katherine may have been born in 1891!
Not only did I have a spinning wheel (which I had not yet learned to use) but an antique spinning wheel at that!
Now, if you know anything about spinning wheels, you know – as with many things – newer is often better. (Just try reading this post on your Commodore 64.) And in the case of spinning wheels, it just so happens that, unbeknownst to me, newer is also easier. Armed with enough roving to make ten sweaters (remember though, I do not knit) I brought Katherine home that day, set her up, watched several YouTube instructional videos, and began to spin.
I failed miserably.
The next day, I went back to Knotty By Nature and asked the ever-present Larry what I might be doing wrong.
“You need to start with a Drop Spindle,” he responded. “Antique spinning wheels are very difficult to use,” (duh), “so you need to start small.”
Small indeed. A drop spindle is only about 8” in length. Armed with a beautiful new wooden drop spindle, and yet more roving, and after spending three hours in a beginner drop spindling class, I am now totally invested financially in a new hobby. I can’t back out now.
Admittedly, I am in love with spinning. And while Katherine sits quietly in the corner of my spare bedroom, calmly (as only a noblewoman would) waiting as I learn the simple joys of drop spindling, I can sense there might just be a slight bit of resentment towards this new wooden diversion, building up in that corner. Oh, Katherine, please do wait – we will one day enjoy each other’s company.
If you ever happen to stop by Knotty By Nature in Victoria, and there is an elderly gent sitting near the front door with knitting needles in hand, that’s Larry! Please be sure to stop and say hello, and tell him I said thanks.