Tuesday, January 16, 2007

It Followed Me Home. Can I Keep It?

So this weekend a friend and I went on a little road trip out of Chicago and finished up our intended errand earlier than expected. He suggested that as long as we were out, we might stop on the way home at an antiques mall we'd passed earlier. Indeed, I had no objection.

The antiques mall turned out to be more of a multi-dealer junk shop. You know the kind of thing–ugly Venetian glass ashtrays from the 50s, and cartoon lunch boxes from the 70s. I balk at seeing things I owned as a child under the banner of "antiques." It's not quite time for that yet.

We were on the way out, passing the very last stall, when some sort of alarm bell went off in my head. I turned around and, half buried behind country-kitsch tree ornaments and faux-colonial table lamps shaped like Betsy Ross french kissing Benedict Arnold, I spotted...a spinning wheel.

"I need to go look at that," I said.

I fully expected the wheel to be:
  1. fake;
  2. transformed into a lamp or planter;
  3. missing half its vital organs;
  4. ridiculously overpriced; or
  5. all of the above.
I pulled it out from behind the hill of bric-a-brac and gave it a quick once-over, then a slower once-over. Drive wheel, check. Mother-of-all, maidens, flyer, check. Treadle, check. Tension screw, check. Legs, check. Distaff, check, aside from the topmost bar.

There had to be a catch. I swung the treadle, which had been tied back, into position and reconnected the footman to the crank. The wheel was unlubricated but still spun with surprising ease. The wheel itself was still perfectly true. I had no string to make a drive band, but the flyer, which had all its hooks but one, spun easily on the leather bearings.

The frame didn't even wobble. No sign of rot, no cracks, no sloppy repairs on the underside with nails or glue.

Was it a fake? If so, it was a very clever fake. The wood was old, fine-grained stock, and the table was rough-hewn on the underside. All the joins were authentic. The turnings were machine-lathed, but original. There were traces of the orignal red ochre paint on several of the turnings. It obviously had not been cobbled together from a random collection of incomplete wheels.

To my eyes, which I grant are not expert, it seemed to be an intact, nicely-preserved, Eastern European wheel from the last quarter of the 19th century. Or a well-nigh perfect reproduction of the same.

Gritting my teeth, I flipped over the red price ticket. Less than 100 dollars. Much less than 100 dollars.

My vision went all blurry. And then suddenly we were back in the car going home, and I owned two spinning wheels. Because having just one spinning wheel in my high-rise Chicago living room wasn't weird enough.

That night, I felt as though I'd taken in a healthy but neglected puppy off the street. The little thing lapped up half a bottle of lemon oil and quite a bit of wheel oil. When I first put on the drive band, it groaned a bit as the works began to rotate for possibly the first time in years. But I coaxed it, and offered more oil, and fiddled with the tension, moving very slowly. Within two hours, it was purring contentedly. The action was almost as smooth as my Ashford's.

I finally understood why my father got so much satisfaction from fixing cars and stereos. Only took me 35 years, Pop, but hats off to you for showing me the way.

It's missing only one vital part: the bobbin. However, I'm confident I can get a set made without much trouble or expense. I've got good, close-up photographs from similar wheels, I've worked through Alden Amos's detailed formulae for computing double-drive ratios, and my folks know people with lathes. I've already started making measured drawings.

Now, like any new parent, may I present a few photographs?

The New Old Wheel

Flyer Assembly

Drive Wheel

Daddy's so proud. Thank you for indulging me.

102 comments:

Phyllis said...

Mazel tov!
What a great find, happy spinning and knitting.

Joanne said...

What a wonderful find ... and now it's made its way to a good home. If only it could talk. The tales it could tell. I'm very happy for you.

Anonymous said...

Wow Franklin, what a find! I'm glad you understand all that ratio stuff, it is still greek to me, even with the book. Maybe you should explain it?

The Purloined Letter said...

Congratulations! I'd love to see a close-up of that marking with the triangles (?). How exciting!

June said...

Score!!!

Good luck getting new bobbins - if you find someone who is willing to turn bobbins, please share the info - I'd love to have a few more for my Drudik wheel, too.

chris said...

Ohhhh, that is just fabulous! I'm so happy for you that you found the poor puppy . . . without you, it surely would have been made into a plant stand or something.

Sandra said...

Excellent find! Why do I only find crappy repro things at "antique" markets?
The wheel is lucky that you found her/him.

Jenn said...

I'm so jealous! I have fantasies about finding a good spinning wheel in a similar place. Somewhere that doesn't know the value of what they have!

Szarka said...

That's great! I had a similar experience, though my limb was a bit skinnier, since I'm just learning how to spin on my LYS' wheel, and don't know that much about them, so had to choose from about 15 antiques without real knowledge of how they work.
Question: Your driveshaft has an elongated hole where it meets the drivewheel - so does mine, and it seems (on mine) that hole is the result of wear, and now has too much play for the wheel to turn consistently in one direction or the other. Any thoughts on why this is happening? Have you spun anything with yours yet?

elisa said...

Oh my god - it's truly beautiful.

Sigh...

Anonymous said...

I'm so envious, our home is not spinning wheel friendly yet, I need to wait a few more years for the youngest to learn not to touch, and he's only 3 months old, someday.....

Carol said...

It's beautiful! Great coup on your part.

Plus it's Eastern European -- from the land of my peoples.

Elizabeth said...

Amazing how your radar worked - almost as if the wheel called out to you...

Colleen said...

Oh WOW, Franklin. What a find. You must be one of those people who just oozes good karma - if you were to actually shop at a mall - you'd get a first row parking spot. THAT kind of person.

You deserve it!

Anonymous said...

That's the joy of treasure-hunting: sometimes you get skunked, but sometimes you find an old black paper packet of Bucilla size 19 steel double-pointed lace knitting needles. *happy sigh*

Anonymous said...

Congrats!! Excellent find and thank you for taking that beautiful wheel in out of the cold :)

Jessica said...

Oh wow, congrats! It's beautiful. I love it when you come across finds like that where you least expect it. Good luck with the bobbin!

Scoutj said...

Fantastic!!

SueN said...

I'm actually answering a question you left on Jean's blog about circular needles. Addi makes a 12" needle in most sizes if you don't mind spending the money. I don't know whether anyone else still does although I have 25-30 year old plastic ones; probably Susan Bates or Boye.

I also have a solution to the problem of sock needles which you posted about sometime recently. Woolworks Ltd in Putnam, CT has a needle holder holds the needles with the work on them. Check out the Yarn Harlot on April 25, 2006 for pictures and description.

Have been a fan since the beginning of your blog.

Stacy said...

That's a beautiful wheel. Congratulations!

Whichy said...

That is a beautiful wheel. It was clearly calling your name, it was yours you just didn't know it yet.

Anonymous said...

Hey, it's beautiful. Congratulations!
No more antiques though, or you are going to have too move!
S14

Sean said...

What a great story! I love it when good things like this happen to good people like you!

Anonymous said...

Excellent find! Yes, I agree with the healthy puppy analogy. I rescued an Anthony Cardarelle wheel a couple of years ago under similar circumstances (Cardarelle was one of the driving forces in the San Francisco Bay Area spinning community back in the 1950s).

Janice in GA said...

Oh, that rocks! Congratulations on a great find!

Anonymous said...

that is so lovely, what a find. you will find a bobbin in no time.

Anonymous said...

What a sweet little wheel! Good on you for finding such a catch. I love to see the details on it that show that someone had pride in their workmanship.

Anonymous said...

Oh my dog! It's gorgeous. Happy spinning on that beauty.

Anonymous said...

Omyword. That's just lovely and what a find for you - I'd be proud as well!

Anonymous said...

Whoo Hoo! Good Karma at work!

Nancy said...

The wheel is just beautiful! An amazing find.

Anonymous said...

David at the Merlin Tree can make you bobbins for your lovely new wheel.

http://www.themerlintree.com/the_merlin_tree001.htm

Jennifer said...

What a find! What a gorgeous wheel. I'm sure it was calling you, sensing it would be loved and cared for.

Lisa said...

Wuh-ow. wow. Good job! We will expect to see posts on spinning now. Are you taking the ashford out somewhere special to head off new baby syndrome?

Julie said...

I am completely burning with jealousy. (Around here that's considered a compliment.) Congratulatiions on your score.

Ruth said...

This relationship was obviously meant to be.

Janice in GA said...

Oh, and if you can get your hands on a copy of "The Care and Feeding of Spinning Wheels" by Karen Pauli, you might find that it's a good resource for antique wheels too.

enallagma9 said...

Oh, she's adorable! (pardon me for assuming it's a she) And it's nice to know she went to a good home.

Anonymous said...

I am so very happy for you, and yet so very jealous! It's lovely.

Anonymous said...

Oh; beautiful wheel. And I imagine it's so pathetically grateful deep down in its woody grain that it's not destined for life as a lampstand that it will behave well...

trek said...

Oh, my goodness! Wow. Speechless.

When's Delores going to have those two pounds of Romney ready for you?

Anonymous said...

Oh it's wonderful. I absolutely LOVE, and I do mean LOVE the color. and under a $100 at an "antique" mall. Yeah I'll use that word loosely. Now I have this STRONG urge to go antiquing. Too bad I have a 19 month old in my house. Cause I'd love to have an old wheel just a decor. I call it a very nice find a nd a steal.

Sarahfish said...

Oh. Wow. What a find! There's a little parlour wheel at an antiques place near me, which the guy says he'll sell for $95 CDN, but it has been sitting outside under a tarp for goodness knows how long and is missing some bits and pieces. For the time being, that's where it will stay. So... congrats on yours!

TamiW said...

Even after reading your description I was ill prepared....what a beauty!
You were truly blessed to have seen that out of the corner of your eye. Wow~

Anonymous said...

Beautiful! Congratulations. (If it has puppies, put my name on the list for one. ;-)

Anonymous said...

It is beautiful! Congratulations :)

Rachel H said...

She's lovely. Well done, Daddy.

Ryan said...

Why do I have the feeling you're going to name it "Floki?"

aija said...

Beautiful wheel... thanks for sharing the story with us :)

dragon knitter said...

she's beautiful! you lucky stiff! i can't wait to see what you spin on her.

Cindy said...

You lucky dog. What a treasure! What a find!
http://fitterknitter.livejournal.com/

sogalitno said...

GORGEOUS!

truly a great find - good for you!

Now if you OTHER wheel needs a home - I am wheel-less (tee hee)

Rachel said...

Wow, what a beauty!
How did Ashford react to the new addition the the family?

Sarah said...

Congratulations on your new wheel. It is exactly this type of story that keeps my crazy mind fantasizing that I will have a similar experience. Good luck with your bobbin adventure. The wheel is beautiful. You did a wonderful job restoring.

Anonymous said...

Wow!! I don't spin, but I am drooling....it is beautiful to look at, and wonderful to hear it works well too.

David said...

I dream of making little finds like that. Of course, that would involve actually going into an antique shop and having the patience to look around. Bravo. Next time Antiques Road Show comes to town, bring it in and find out what kind of steal you really got.

Anonymous said...

OH! PRETTY! what a find, enjoy!

Sarah said...

Score! What a beauty!

Marcy said...

That is a seriously beautiful wheel, Franklin, and she does look to be in great condition. I love the painted decorations.

The only wheel I ever found in an "antiques mall" was quite a decent Canadian production wheel. But in order to pretty her up, they'd slopped tons of polyurethane (gag) on her to the point where nothing moved any more. So sad.

Anonymous said...

Your new/old wheel is a work of art! What a great find. I'd have bought it and I don't even spin. In fact, I've said I will never spin because it's an art that screams to me "Danger, DANGER! High addiction risk!". But Id have bought that for sure. Could you please take a close up of the rectangular piece in the middle that has some designs on it? Is it inlay? I love antique wood peices and have done some refinishing/restpration in my time, so I'm interested in the joins and details. Cheers!

Anonymous said...

She's LOVELY!!!

ted said...

Frranklin, is it tiny? I'm just trying to put it into my memory of your living room.

It looks tiny. Could be a flax wheel; they were typically small with very narrow orifices.

Anonymous said...

Wow!!!

mira said...

What an awesome find, lucky you--and great rescue job! It's great when things like that happen.

Anonymous said...

Oh my goodness, it's beautiful! Great find!

Signed,
Lurker coming out of hiding

Linda said...

What wonderful luck for you and the orphan wheel.

Anonymous said...

oh in the end or getting older most of us come to realise how similar we are to our parents. that is such a peculiar experience once you realise it.

Julia said...

She's a beaut. Really, congrats on the new little one. What about ebay for bobbins? I bet you could find one or two that would do to test it out, while you have some made.

Anonymous said...

A follow up to SueN. Juat word of warning-I had trouble with those DPN metal storage tubes- it shredded my sock! The workmanship was a bit shoddy too. However, it led me to develop my own DPN holders. www.lunastrixae.etsy.com
I know someplace people sell wooden versions of the metal tube, but I never found a vendor.

That wheel is just fab. You should take the photo around at the next wool fest and see if you can get an ID.

Whaledancer said...

Hi Franklin. I'm new to your blog but am loving it. I used to have an Ashford Traditional wheel. Yay you for such a great antique find!!!It obviously found the perfect home.

knitnzu said...

You lucky man! Next time you are in Maine you must go to "Brass & Friends" in Hallowell. It is very odd, jam-packed (like you can maybe walk through a small path). But the proprieters are not very sociable. One time, my sister in law and I were just STANDING there and a pile of glass globes from a shelf about 15 feet up fell. SIX inches from SIL. One of the proprietors ran up from the basement and demanded "what did you do?". So, I don't give them my money, but they are surely worth a look. And, they have quite the display on the backside of the store along the river... who else do you know with a tonka truck trellis?

marie in florida said...

pretty just as an object;as a funcutional object? blessed!

Riin said...

Oh, she's beautiful! She must have known you were a spinner, so she called out to you!

Anonymous said...

Thank God you rescued her and gave her a wonderful home!

Congratulations, Daddy!

Anonymous said...

Too effing cool! What a find!

NeedleTart said...

Gor-gee-ous! You lucky guy! Have soo much fun with your new toy.

Carol said...

Holy cow! You got the deal of the century! What a beauty!

Dalila said...

Wow, Franklin! What a find! It looks lovely in your photos. And you would have been kicking yourself if you didn't get it.

Anonymous said...

DUDE, you have *got* to stop posting pornographic photos on your blog!

Trope said...

WHOA. Yum, and congratulations.

MonicaPDX said...

Ohhhhhhhh, Franklin - what a magnificent piece of serendipity! Congratulations, may you and your new baby be have a long and happy relationship. I second the rec for "The Care and Feeding" book - used to have it, and it was very thorough. My father who was a woodworker (and made Mom and I each a custom wheel) gave it the thumbs up. With a distaff attached, I'd definitely think it was a flax wheel. My other wheel has a distaff - it's a replica, but supposedly from the early half of the 20th century - and man, that sucker's fast. And almost impossible to spin other than super-fine on it. So watch out for speed when you get your new baby fully back into tip-top condition. I have to consciously remember to treadle really slowly if I don't want the fiber snatched out of my hands, even on a very light tension. If yours is like mine, it'll be great for sock yarn! Or, say, lovely line flax. ;]

Thanks for all the pix, and we really wouldn't mind seeing more. You done good.

Josa Craft said...

Sweeeeet....she's lucky to have you. Keep us posted on the bobbin progress.

I have the addi 12" circulars and I love them. They don't go flying across the room like the DPN's, so more family friendly. Ask my family...they'll tell you. =)

liz said...

what a wonderful find!...'she' is beautiful! absolutely a work of art, all spiffed up and sitting pretty in your living space...congrats!

Anonymous said...

Oh Franklin! Congratulations on so many levels!
A)What a great find!
B)Having there be no real "catch"!
C)Getting such a good deal!
D)Taking in the "wounded puppy"!
E)Understanding "Dad". WOW! That was worth the whole thing in my eyes. lol
F)Having "New baby" pics to show of something wonderful in your life.

Thanks for bringing joy to our lives. Sometimes you pull it out out reality like now, sometimes you pull it from the past. Sometimes you just pull it from the clouds. Thanks a million for the smiles. You don't know what you are truely worth.

Anonymous said...

now you and dolores can spin together!

Anonymous said...

Can you say SCORE????
Wow what a lovely gift of a find! Have fun!

Guro said...

Great story. I really enjoy everything you write (and draw and knit) actually. Congrats on your new wheel.

Ginger said...

Congrats! Your new baby is quite a beauty.

Wendy said...

Franklin, it's absolutely lovely. I've heard tales of a wheel doctor out there (maybe I read it in Spin Off?) that might be able to help with those bobbins.

What a fantastic find!

Kathy said...

My husband made parts for my friend's antique wheel including bobbins. All a woodworker needs are good drawings. You're welcome to ask him any questions.

Hollyeqq said...

You lucky dog you! I am oozing envy all over my clean shirt.
I wanna try it!
Makes me want to go on a fresh round of "find the spinning wheel, antique store hunting".
But I doubt there is another one in this country as pretty as that. You did good.
Congrats
Holly

Anonymous said...

Oh Franklin, what a find. Congratulations on being so sharp-sighted.

Seeing things you recognise in a junk/antique shop is nowhere near as bad as spotting them in a museum by the way. I'm referring to the Science Museum in London which contains all sorts of ephemera in the basement I remember from childhood.

I can't possibly be an antique at 40, can I?

Anonymous said...

Ohmydog that's BEAUTIFUL!!

You know, rescue dogs are the best pets - I bet that a rescue wheel will be your fave for years and years!

Congrats, I love it, with that fancy scrollwork on the ... whatever it's called. Gorgeous, just gorgeous!

(now I want to prowl antique markets, as I don't currently have a wheel.. well under $100??? Loverly!)

Scheherazaad said...

When I saw your photos of the spinning wheel I was gobsmacked. Thank god you rescued that puppy and took him to a safe home.

Sarah said...

What a beauty of a wheel. A great price, and a luck find. Have fun spinning with it when you get some bobbins.

Anonymous said...

Would a Reeves bobbin fit that? It looks like it would to me.

Gorgeous. I have two wheels (one a Reeves, so I already have the classic look one), and I would've bought that, too.

I'll bet it'll spin laceweight really well.

Abigail 1870 pearl said...

Oh, Franklin what a wonderful find.
She is a beauty if you ask me.

But dad, you need to name your wheel:D

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful little wheel! Congratulations.

I see "Katinka" as her name.

CarolineF said...

Very beautiful. And scotch tension is MUCH easier to understand, unless you are 100% sure it's meant to be used double drive...

mad angel said...

Franklin, congrats on the new wheel. It reminds me very much of the little Lithuanian wheel I bought on eBay a couple years ago. I want to replace the leathers on mine so it will accommodate an Ashford flyer. My flyer and bobbin are not in great shape, and someone polyurethaned them into an inseparable unit. But with the right equipment, I think it will spin nicely some day. Best of luck with your treasure! Regards, Paula

sahara said...

Franklin, that wheel is just beautiful! I am undone!

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