Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A Quintet of Wheels

So if you follow me on Twitter, you’ll already have a sneak peek about what I’m going to share.  Last Friday, Mister and I road tripped it up to Northern Illinois to pick up a wheel.

Yes, another wheel.

This is a special wheel, one that was on my to get someday list.  The opportunity presented itself and I jumped on it.

Meet Elsie, the Frank Fell/Mayville spinning wheel. 

These wheels were made in Mayville, Wisconsin between mid 1800s until 1935.  There is no way of telling when my wheel is made.  What I do know is that the Mayville Furniture company started making these wheels.  When they stopped, Frank Fell purchased the lathe and continued making them until his death in 1935.

Last fall, I told Tracey a member of my local spinning group about an auction that had four wheels up for sale.  I couldn’t go to the auction that day as I had an art history exam and a critique.  Tracey went and bought two wheels one of which she found out was a Frank Fell wheel.  She cleaned it up and brought it to a spinning group.  I was there with my camera and an assignment for my photography class.  I took pictures of the wheel and just fell in love with it.  The wheel is so lovely with beautiful turnings and gorgeous glow.  There are many people on Ravelry’s various groups that have Frank Fell wheels so I kept my eyes open. 

These wheels are known to be good spinners. I wanted something that looks like a traditional wheel, which would be easy to take to markets and craft fairs.  Elsie is all of these things.  She needs some attention.  Her flyer has an old break that I’d like a wheelwright to look to make sure it is a stable fix.  She needs a spa day with a cleaning and I’d like to remove her old finishes.  Her bobbin & whorl are chipped.  The chips don’t interfere with spinning.  I’d also like to see about getting a few extra bobbins made.

I named her Elsie to honor my maternal grandmother who lived in Wisconsin.  I thought this would be a fitting way to remember her.

The woman that I bought Elsie from is a beginning spinner.  Learning to spin on an antique wheel is problematic.  Spinning has many skills going on at the same time. 

Treadling the wheel in the proper direction
Maintaining a steady treadle
Handling the wool
Drafting the wool
Drafting consistently without the wool getting away from you
Monitoring the tension and adjusting

Older wheels have their quirks and an experienced spinner knows the subtle changes that occur and how to quickly tweak them.  I brought my Schacht Ladybug wheel on the trip to allow the new spinner to try and gave her a mini-lesson.  She loved the Ladybug and was very able to make the kind of yarn that eluded her on Elsie.  Given practice and experience, she will certainly be able to use older wheels.  But to learn a new skill, why make it hard? 

So now I have a family, a flock, a herd of spinning wheels.  I love each and every one of them.  Each has a unique history, use and eye appeal.  They make a lovely group don’t they?

 Roll Call:
Diana – Schacht Ladybug, 2010
Julia – Canada Production Wheel, made sometime between 1850-1920
Trinket – Dutch Gelders Wheel imported from the Netherlands, perhaps 1980s
Saffron – Hallcraft Wheel kit, 1974
Elsie – Frank Fell/Mayville Wheel, made sometime between 1830-1935


  1. Hey, Kiddo! My mother is from Mayville, WI! I spent a lot of time there with my grandmother, aunts, uncles and a boatload of cousins! I still have aunts and uncles who live there! :-)

  2. That is amazing! I love the continued connections that this wheel brings into my life.

  3. I have the same one that you named Elsie do you have any idea what it's worth?

    1. It really depends on the condition of the wheel and where you live.

  4. Mandy, were you able to get bobbins? I believe I have a FF as well or one styled as his. I only have one bobbin for it.