30 January 2011

Valerija – the Lithuanian Wheel

Meet Valerija (va-LAIR-ee-ya), my new-to-me Lithuanian wheel.


She is named for the lady who lived next door to my sister, in Lituania – every time I looked at this wheel, I couldn’t help but be reminded of this lady that I have heard so many stories about. My sister says she would think it quite funny to have a wheel named for her. :)

I acquired this wheel through Ravelry, in trade for Bridgit, my Ashford Traveller. Much as I loved the Traveller, after spinning on Jacqueline the Canadian Production Wheel for awhile, I knew I’d fallen hard for the antique wheels, and the Traveller just wasn’t going to see much use at this house. It’s a shame for a wheel to sit unused, and as it turned out, a lady in Calgary who teaches spinning had this old wheel, purchased from an antique dealer, and it needed just a little more work. As her spinning students often need to use wheels borrowed from the instructor, an Ashford was of more use to her – and the antique was of more use to me. With the help of my sister and brother in law in Calgary, and a friend from town who went down to Calgary on a trip (to pick up her own Canadian Production Wheel, actually) the trade was arranged, and this little wheel made it to my house.

One of the great things about the Lithuanian wheels is that they break down into pieces for transport: the story goes that the women would knock down their wheel, stuff it into a sack, and go to a friend’s house to spin for the day … then repeat the process in reverse on the way home! This wheel had been glued together by the antique dealer (gasp) but most of that had been resolved before she came to me. I got a box of parts that looked like this:


It didn’t take long to figure out how they all went together, though, and with a piece of leather shoelace to tie the footman in place and to replace the wooden loop that went over the drive crank, we were in business. The paddle thing that sticks up at the top is called a distaff, and holds the fibre you are spinning. This wheel probably spun mostly flax, but it also works for wool.


If you look closely at the treadle, you can see where the wood has been worn down by the feet of spinners before me.


As soon as I sat at the wheel, my foot settled into exactly the same groove. You can’t begin to imagine how cool that feels.

This is why I love the old wheels. With just a bit of love, oil, and a new piece or two they come back to life, humming along as they fill their bobbins with yarn.

I like knowing that one of the things I’ll leave behind me are these wheels – useful tools, well made and carefully maintained. I’m not the craftsman, just the custodian … but still.

Another century of life.