Spinning Wheel Displays

Note from the editor, Florence Feldman-Wood

Recently several regular contributors to The Spinning Wheel Sleuth and I organized displays of our spinning wheels in a variety of venues. Sometimes the exhibit was part of a spinning conference, in another case it was in a college library, while others were part of annual state and county fairs. Sometimes the display only lasted for one to three days, another for five weeks, and in one case about a year. The purpose of all of these exhibits was to educate the general public about the many types of spinning wheels developed in many places over the years.

My exhibit was at SOAR, the Spin-Off Autumn Retreat. It is a small three-day conference sponsored by Spin-Off, a national magazine for handspinners. Each year they hold it in a different region of the United States. In October 2011 SOAR was held in Manchester, NH. Since this is just 45 minutes from the my home, I offered to bring some of my rare and unusual spinning wheels for a display. The two tables in the SOAR Market with the vendors provided just enough space for the nine wheels that I brought. There were two categories, simple and elegant, and double components. The simple and elegant were the A-frame wheel, the chair- frame wheel, the Bryce patent wheel, the Swiss upright wheel, and the Danner "cassel" wheel. The double components were a Farnham-style double-wheel and double treadle wheel, a Solomon Plant double-flyer wheel, a Sanford-style double-flyer wheel, and a Turkish, double-wheel spinning wheel.

Simple and elegant
Simple and elegant

Double components
Double components

My main adventure was transporting the wheels. In retrospect I should have rented a van, but I was rescued by my husband, Peter, an artist/engineer. He made special wooden side rails for his small pick-up truck. Each wheel was tied with cloth strips to keep any of the parts from moving. The four wheels that rode in the truck were wrapped in old blankets and mattress pads and placed into very large yellow plastic bags. The bags were tied with rubber bands at the top. Strong rope was stretched across the rails on the sides of the truck to make a "cat’s cradle." One bagged wheel was placed in each sector, and then they were tied around the top to secure them. Peter drove very slowly up the highway.

Tied up
Tied up

Ready to ride
Ready to ride

Wrapped up
Wrapped up

The other five wheels were either in boxes in the passenger seat, or in the back of my Jeep. Everything arrived safely. All the blankets and bags were labeled with the name of the spinning wheel so we were able to pack up everything quickly at the end of the conference with the help of a couple of friends.

Michael Taylor was invited to organize a display in the Legacy Library on the Marietta College campus, in Marietta, OH, where he teaches. The theme of the display, which will be up for about a year, is patented spinning wheels. In most cases they are relatively small and could fit into the locked display cabinet. Michael Taylor is co-author, with David Pennington, of Spinning Wheels and Accessories. [Schiffer Publishing Ltd, 2004.]

Exhibit at Legacy Library
Exhibit at Legacy Library

Top left is a Daniel Read's "Pleasant Spinner," the patent is ca. 1811. Top right is a J.W. Burkhart patent wheel [1868] with a decal calling it a "Burkheart (sic) Patent Wheel" made and sold by the Hawkins Brothers. Bottom right is a Wilson and Fairbanks patent wheel [1866]. The large wheel at the bottom left center is a Skinner patent wheel that is adjustable in height. The patent from 1818 notes that it "is peculiarly adapted for the ease of the feeble, infirm, and children."

Mary Knox presented an exhibit of New Zealand-made spinning wheels as part of the annual spin-in of the Wairarapa Spinners and Weavers Guild held in Masterton in September 2011. Thirty five wheels were displayed, and only wheels no longer made were included. They were arranged by time period, from the 1930s to the 1990s. Most of the wheels were loaned by members of the Guild and some by The Wool Shed, the National Museum of Sheep and Shearing. Its Web site is www.thewoolshednz.com. Visitors were amazed by the number and variety of wheels. More information about all the wheel makers can be found on Mary’s website www.nzspinningwheels.info and in her bookNew Zealand Spinning Wheels and Their Makers.

All photos - read from left to right

Photo 1
Photo 1. 1930s-40s
Harold Martin
John Moore "Karure" 
Guy Wagg
John Moore "Miro"
Unknown maker

Photo 2
Photo 2. 1960-70s
Mecchia
Istvan Nagy
Early Baynes
Kenneth Bartlett

Photo 3
Photo 3. 1960s-70s
Sidney Wing
Sleeping Beauty "Thumbelina"
Nees "Homespinner"
John Beauchamp

Photo 4
Photo 4. 1960s-70s
Dunnachie
I.G. Mathieson
Charles Tyler "Dot"

Photo 5
Photo 5. 1970s-80s
Philip Poore, Pipy "Wendy"
Keneila "Imp"
Derek Kerwood
Rappard "Little Peggy"

Photo 6
Photo 6. 1970s-80s
Rappard "Mitzi"
Graham Collins "Cherub"
Romney
Leo Phelps "Leola"
Camelot

1990s-2000s
Ivan McGreevy "Fleur"
Ron Shearman

Kim Caulfield organized a display of sheep and spinning related items at the Tennessee State Fair in Nashville for ten days in September 2011. The display was set up inside two oversized livestock pens. The spinning wheels were mostly from her own and her mother’s collections, but she also was able to borrow some. She set the wheels out in a semi-logical order to illustrate the history of spinning. The story began in the first pen with a table holding various types and styles of spindles, and three types of charkhas, small spindle wheels. From the charkhas, it scaled up to the three great wheels, also known as high, walking, or wool wheels. General signs explained high wheels and the use of Miner’s heads on them. She also was able to borrow an unusual track wheel from the Falls Mill's Museum of Power and Industry in Belvidere, TN. The next pen was all flyer wheels, both horizontal and vertical, from many countries including a wrought iron parlor wheel and three double-flyer wheels. She created signs to explain how and why spinning-wheel designs changed over the years, as well as individual signs about the history of each wheel. Up front was a table with a spinning wheel from Germany that was donated as a raffle prize. Her aim was public education, as well as the awe and delight of seeing a variety of wheels. The display was indeed a success.

Track wheels
Track wheel

Great wheels
Great wheels

Flyer wheels
Flyer wheels

German spinning wheel for raffle
German spinning wheel for raffle

Susie Henzie was invited to contribute spinning wheels and looms from her extensive collection to an exhibit called Eclections: The Art of Collecting. It was part of the Los Angles County Fair in Pomona, CA, for five weeks in September and October 2011. Curated by Tony Sheets, there were about 30 different collections in the Millard Sheets Art Building. The aim was to teach people to understand arts and crafts. Susie’s spinning wheels, looms, and related tools occupied a long wall under the heading The Henzie Collection. She provided notes for each of the almost 50 items displayed, which were arranged by continent, Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas. Many of the smaller looms and wheels were attached by brackets to the walls. Some of her miniatures were in glass cases. It was an awesome exhibit.

View of wall 1
View of wall 1

View of wall 2
View of wall 2

Asia and Africa
Asia and Africa

Europe and Asia
Europe and Asia

Europe 1
Europe 1

Europe 2
Europe 2

The Americas 1
The Americas 1

The Americas 2
The Americas 2

The Americas 3
The Americas 3


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