Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Dressing Up Mutton to Look Like Lamb

That phrase is a saying I heard spoken by Australian guy I met in Rome in 1986 and it has stuck with me ever since. I even used it as a the title of a piece I made in which I covered a sitting room in knitwear. But it comes back to me now because of this item:

Isn't it lovely? I thought so too when I saw the ad on craigslist. A spinning wheel for $50! Great!, I thought, I'll buy it and give it away to someone who has been dying for a wheel. I knew it was old and therefore not a great production wheel, but for $50, who cares. Someone out there needs a wheel and I was prepared to give it to them.

I drove out to NJ to pick it up on Saturday morning. The woman who was selling it only knew that it belonged to her grandmother for at least 50 years. She was thrilled it would find a happy home with someone who could use it. She almost forgot to even take the money for it.

It is at this point that a certain surprise registered with me at how light the spinning wheel was. I have two wheels and they both, while not heavyweights, are substantial enough that I don't enjoy carrying them around much further than from my dining room to my living room i.e. about 5 feet. This one I could lift with one hand. Hmmmmm....

Nevertheless, I got the wheel home and excitedly put a drive band on it (there was none), happily noting that it was a double drive. Cool. I eagerly whipped out a bit of roving and sat down. It was squeaky, but no problem, a little oil will fix that in a jiffy. The single treadle was a little fussier than what I am used to, but in a few minutes I had mastered it. Ok, now to thread the leader yarn. There was already yarn on the bobbin so I just hooked it through the first hook and...what a minute.

Take a closer look:

Notice anything missing? No orifice! Nada, niete, none. This was quite baffling to me. There was no evidence that an orifice once existed. It simply never was. Like any good 21st Century spinner, I immediately sent a note to my spinning email list and what I learned has just blown my mind. Apparently, and are you sitting down for this? Apparently, there was a trend popular in the 1950s and 60s for people to buy purely decorative spinning wheels to put in their houses. That's right, spinning wheels that closely resembled the real thing but don't actually work. And all evidence points to this being one of those. What is maddening is that it is thisclose to really functioning.

So much for my good samaritan impulses. Although I also learned in my research that there is someone who has figured out a way to retrofit a working flywheel and bobbin (with orifice) onto these...er...items, I feel my investment in this one is finished. I listed it on freecycle and almost immediately got a response from someone who is sure they can make it work. (I was really clear that it was non-functioning).

Hope springs eternal.

1 comment:

island sweet said...

what a sad story...