Antique Flax Wheels
Since posting about my first antique spinning wheel, I have had the good fortune of buying several eBay flax wheels. My little flock now numbers nine. As they are restored and come into use I will tell their individual stories in more detail. For now, I would like to introduce seven of the nine to you, and place them in the context of three great American spinning wheel traditions.
Eastern Pennsylvania style — The area around Philadelphia was a center of spinning wheel manufacturing from the mid-1700s to the mid 1800’s. Wheels from this area have an upright stance; “shotgun shell and olive” spoke turnings; and richly rounded turnings on legs, maidens, and finials. Some makers used vertical braces to support the wheel uprights; some decorated spokes, legs, and maidens with bands of colored paint. As settlers spread into the midwest and mid-south, they brought elements of this style with them, and developed it according to local taste.
Hannah – New Jersey, near Philadelphia.
Lydia – Berks County, Pennsylvania.
Lady Jane – Missouri Ozarks.
Granny – southeastern Michigan. Closely resembles some very old eastern Pennsylvania wheels.
Northern New England style — The flax wheels of Northern New England are vastly different from Pennsylvania wheels. They have an elongated stance; widely splayed legs; broad-rimmed wheels with many spokes; sinuous curves, straight lines, and plain turnings. Their design springs from the Shaker philosophy of simplicity and practicality. It was used by both Shaker and non-Shaker wheel makers in the 1700s and 1800’s. This characteristic Shaker style also spread into the Midwest as new territory was settled.
Sweet Annie…my first wheel – Southeastern Michigan.
H. Thomson wheel (signed) – Southwestern Maine.
Mr. Thomson was a non-Shaker who made fine wheels in the Shaker style.
Roots in the Old Country — Immigrants have come to America from pre-Colonial times right up to the present, bringing their precious possessions and priceless heritage with them. As communities have grown, heirloom wheels brought by settlers and new ones made by kocal craftsmen following the old ways have found a place among America’s spinning wheels. Every locale has its history and its distinctive wheels…whatever their style, however old. They are a treasure.
Liebchen…my Little Sweetheart – Southeastern Missouri. A magnificent Lower Saxony bride’s wheel, tour-de-force of the woodturner’s art and stacked double flyer for an expert spinner. The yellow ruler is twelve inches long.
With “a little love and a lotta oil” my wheels are beginning to spin again. They do beautifully with silk.
Sweet Annie in the morning sun.
Sweet Annie’s skein.
Hannah’s first bobbin.
And in the event that I get too besotted with the wonder of it all, they do not hesitate to pull rank, age and status on me.
Teacher, the dog ate my homework!!