Plying on antique spinning wheels

I have only one working wheel, an antique double drive.  She’s got her quirks but she spins what I want to spin.  One of her quirks is that she absolutely despises spinning counter clockwise.  She will throw the drive band every 5 seconds and that’s not an exaggeration. This makes plying….difficult, if not impossible.

I can’t take credit for this solution.  I first saw it on the Ravelry group Antique Spinning Wheels.

I have a special longer plying drive band.  It’s longer, because I have to add twists at the bobbin and whorl to allow them to turn counter clockwise while the wheel spins clockwise.

The first picture is my normal spinning drive band.  The next two are different angles of the plying drive band.  Notice that it is twisted so that the parts that come up and over the top of the wheel are away from me as I sit at the wheel, while the parts that go under the wheel are closer to me. This is how it works for me and the alignment of the whorl/bobbin to the wheel (which is slightly off and the wheel is slightly warped too.)  I don’t think it really matters which way it’s twisted as long as the twist is there.

I use cotton yarn as a drive band, nothing special.  This just happens to be some I dyed and didn’t like the colors.

I do advise moving the MOA as close to the wheel as possible while you put on the drive band.  It’s pretty fiddly to get to sit just right, at least for me.

The drive band that is not in use is just tied up and left to hang from the upright, out of the way but handy for when I want to switch.

Spinning Wheel Spa Day


Today was spa day for my wheels.  I took them out in the backyard and took them apart as much as possible.  Then I applied a generous amount of boiled linseed oil.  The boiled part is very important.  Let them sit at least an hour and wipe off the excess oil and put them back together.

The dark wheel is my working wheel. It’s an antique from the 1850’s (I think), bought at an estate sale. This is the second time I oiled it (I first did it in the Spring) and I actually applied two coats.  It was so dry when I got it that it was grey.  I lemon oiled it then (Summer of 2015) and used it over the Winter before I learned about boiled linseed oil.  Today’s first coat was nearly soaked in after an hour so I did another one.  I’ll probably need to oil this one twice a year for the foreseeable future.

The other two are the broken flyer wheel (Also an antique from the 1850’s , bought on Craigslist) and the baby wheel (Vintage, perhaps 1960-70’s, and another estate sale.)  They both have decent finishes and I’ll probably never oil them again, just dusting with a damp cloth when needed.  My husband swears he can fix the broken flyer and it also needs a few other minor fixes.  The baby wheel is for display only.  It could work if I added hooks to the flyer but I’d have to treadle like mad to get any twist.

I like to do this out in the backyard so I don’t have to be careful with the oil.  I can just slop it on and wipe it over everything and who cares if it drips on the grass.  And I can also throw the rags right in the firepit when I’m done.  I’ve read warnings that the rags are prone to spontaneous combustion so I figure that’s the safest place for them.

Also be aware that the wheels will smell like the oil for awhile and will also be oily to the touch.  Generally it takes a week for both the smell and the oily feeling to go away.  I won’t spin on the working wheel til then.

I have one other wheel, from Craigslist but I don’t count it.  It’s vintage, at best, and very likely someone’s shop class project.  But it’s got parts that my husband can use for one of the wheels he’s promised to build for me. One of these days I need to take it apart so it’s easier to store.  I’ve already got 2 wheel that live in the living room (broken and baby) and I’m going to need room soon for the Christmas tree.  The working wheel lives in my workroom upstairs.

In case anyone’s wondering, I’ve thought about naming my wheels with human names as so many spinners do but nothing’s come to me yet. So descriptive names it is.  Although Baby wheel might just keep that as it’s name.  It’s so adorable.