A long time ago, Beardsley Sanford (1790-1868) made this spinning wheel, and signed it. This past weekend at the PA Endless Mountains Fiber Festival, I had a chance to spin flax on it. What a challenge! What fun!
Fred Hatton restored this wheel to working condition, and did a beautiful job. The wheel is gorgeous. The first time I tried spinning on it, I was having trouble drawing the flax down.
Another spinner and friend of mine, Freda, had come by to see if we could get it going. I told her that I was having trouble dressing the distaff, and just at that moment, Pam Mawhiney from the Home Textile Tool Museum had stopped by Grace and Fred's Antique Spinning Wheel Booth to drop off some brochures. Freda asked her if she would help us out. Within a few moments she had the flax dressed on the distaff. Freda gave it go first.
Freda gave me some good pointers. She has spun more flax that I have...and she showed me how to spin it wet. Grace gave us a little water cup that she quickly made out of the bottom portion of a water bottle. It is shown sitting in the middle of the table on the wheel. I think it looks like a little crystal bowl!
Freda and I spun for a little while, side by side, "Gossip Wheel" style. We spun our flax wet, dipping our hands in the water from time to time to smooth down the loose ends of the flax before we wound onto the bobbins. We both agreed that it was fun, but most likely, not what the wheel was truly made for.
This wheel was made to spin flax with both hands at the same time- by one person. One hand for each flyer. Oh my!
Thanks to Grace and Fred, and Pam and Freda...I was able to get it going, but I spun the flax dry.
I admit it took some concentration, no "zoning out" for this wheel. It is a mystery to me how one would be able to spin and wet the flax on this wheel. Any suggestions? Any documentation? Oh, if only they could talk!
As a post script to this entry.. Grace made a video of me spinning on the wheel. You can see that there is very little time for hands to dip into a water pot!