|Great Wheel beside a modern treadle wheel|
The Great Wheel I bought had no lacquer, shellac, or vanish on it. It had been stained and most likely oiled to preserve the wood. According to my research, that dates it pre-1850s. He's an old one, but he spins the same today as he did more than 165 years ago.
Most people mistakenly think the wheel does the spinning, but it doesn't. The actual spinning of fibers into thread or yarn happens in the spinner's hands. The wheel does only two things; it creates the twist, and it stores the spun fibers.
Sound complicated? It's not. It just takes practice. In this age of digital everything, spinning is so basic and simple, it's almost hard to grasp.
|Dark llama fibers being spun on the Great Wheel|
Once the spinner has drawn out a comfortable arm's length of thread, it is wound onto the quill or bobbin (depending on the style of the spinning wheel) and stored there while the spinner continues to draw out more thread. The process is repeated over and over again in a soothing pattern of back and forth.
On the Great Wheel, the spinner turns the large wheel with one hand, while holding the unspun fibers in the other. With a treadle wheel, the spinner has both hands free to work the fibers while their foot - or feet for a double-treadle wheel - turns the wheel.
Once the spinner has filled two quills or bobbins, those threads will be twisted together in the opposite direction to make a 2-ply yarn. Most fibers are spun clockwise and plied counter-clockwise. The 2-ply yarn is then washed, dyed if color is desired, hung to dry, and then it's ready to be woven or knitted into useful items for the spinner's household.
Debut story will release in April 2017 from Barbour