Cowichan Spinner, Cottage Spinning Wheels

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Gloria Patre wrote
on Feb 11, 2009 3:42 PM

I am hoping "Spinning Tools" also means "Spinning Wheels". Maybe the title should be amended because I hesitated before posting about my wheel here.

I have an (apparently) rare Cowichan Spinner made from B.C. cedar that's about 30 years old. (I made the watercolor painting of myself using it that's my avatar). I was fortunate enough to be given it by my mother who gave up on spinning over 25 years ago. It is marvelous for spinning chunky singles but I also use it for plying because it has an almost limitless bobbin capacity. True, the bobbin is fixed (not removeable like most wheels) but when I'm done plying I always wind my yarn off so it's not an issue. If you're considering a cottage spinning wheel of any brand I highly recommend getting one. They have uses beyond making chunky singles!

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on Mar 10, 2009 11:45 AM

i recognize that wheel :) i have a similar one. did your mother use the wheel? was she the first owner, or did she acquire it somehow? 

i know spin-off had an article on these wheels a while back, and would like to run into it without slogging thru the indexes :)

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Gloria Patre wrote
on Mar 12, 2009 12:54 PM

Gosh! Yours shows such fine workmanship! It's lovely! Mine is very plain by comparison, very rustic. It looks like yours has a plastic or nylon bushing too. Mine is all metal-on-wood. My mother tried spinning for a while but found it too time consuming and she was never very proficient. I remember her cleaning and carding wool from our sheep but they were meat breeds and the wool was coarse and rough. I mean, you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear so her yarns were not fluffy-chunky, they were more like lumpy double jute! Everything she made from it weighed a ton - even just a simple hat! The wheel was handcrafted by the spinning teacher's husband and mom bought it when she took a spinning class. I actually think her problem with the wheel was one of simple physics. She used to sit on a regular chair to use it and her leg got unmercifully tired very quickly. When I use it I sit at a bar stool. I find that sitting higher up the angle of my leg is more relaxed and I can sit and spin for hours at it without getting tired or cramps.

I remember the SpinOff article as I know it was fairly recent. Of course I had to run off and check my issues. Needless to say I couldn't find it - arrgghhh!!! I even emailed a comment to SpinOff about it, thanking them for the article. It's an important component of knitting history, even if it's only a Pacific Northwest wheel. When mom gave it to me I couldn't find anything at all on the internet about it.

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sheepspinner wrote
on Mar 15, 2009 12:46 AM

I just purchased one of these wheels today....it is gorgeous.  I can't wait to get started using it.   I bought mine from a gentleman who lives on the Tulalip Indian Reservation in WA, and I believe he said he bought it in BC about 15 years ago.  Mine is solid Maple and is beautiful.  I am super excited about it.  I too was looking for a wheel to spin large yarns and lots of them!!!   I am with the understanding that they are also called Indian Head spinners or Salish spinners.  It is hard to find information on them.

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on Mar 15, 2009 4:53 PM

Hi!! My darling hubby is a gifted woodworker and I have talked him into designing and making these Cottage Spinners out of Mahogany.

My question is ~ do you think there is a market for them? This would be the head ~ with a base in order to use a sewing machine motor or a wheel to make it manually treadled.

 

Michele

Willow.wolf@yahoo.com

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Posts 9
on Mar 16, 2009 9:33 AM

"an important component of knitting history, even if it's only a Pacific Northwest wheel."  don't understand the "only" part :)

i think there are at least 2 spin - off articles that include info on it, actually. will look around and post if i find them. i know one is by priscilla gibson - roberts about native american knitting and the other, i think, is specifically about the wheels. haven't seen either. but i do have information from some other sources. i was glad to have the wheel fall into my lap :)

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sheepspinner wrote
on Mar 16, 2009 9:40 AM

Just to correct my own post.......my wheel is solid black walnut and NOT MAPLE.  I don't know why I said that

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Gloria Patre wrote
on Mar 17, 2009 12:28 PM

I think the "only" slipped in there because these wheels are not common so tend to exist in obscurity. They are not wildly popular like more conventional wheels either. On one hand, they are not picturesque, as one would say, so not in demand as 'parlor pieces'  but they are extrememly functional. They have a rustic charm but I realize it does not appeal to everyone. I absolutely LOVE mine and would never part with it! I will probably use it until it simply falls a part! LOL!

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CarolineA wrote
on Mar 18, 2009 2:24 AM

Living in Australia, I have found the photos here fascinating, as this resembles the set-up on my elderly Ashford Country Spinner - I shall have to try the bar stool suggestion as this wheel is very heavy to treadle. I have also had a similar type flyer and bobbin made so I can put it on a motor. What I find really good about these wheels is that you can spin a large quantity before having to wind off, and its brilliant for plying - lots of lovely long skeins!

I had no idea that these wheels had a history that was so closely aligned with Indian traditions, assuming that someone came up with the idea during the 70s and Ashford thought they could make a go of it. Its nice to know that my wheel has its origins as much more than a commercial decision!

I'm off to Google!

 

There is no such thing as too much fibre, just not enough storage space!

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sheepspinner wrote
on Mar 18, 2009 2:20 PM

If I am not mistaken.....I remember hearing Judith MacKenzie-McCuin say that the Ashford Country spinner was created and based upon a spinning wheel of Judiths that was like this.  She is also from Canada....

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Tina French wrote
on Mar 26, 2009 9:57 PM

Okay, how cool!  I just bought one of these last week and I've been looking for more info on it.  I'd been visiting this wheel at a local antique store for the last 7 years.  It started out at like $750, then dropped to around $550, too rich for me but I would go visit. :o}  Last week was my birthday, and I told my hubby I wanted to see if it was still there.  Imagine my excitement when I saw it'd been marked down to $199, and was 50% off!!  I got it for $99.50 and I totally love it.  The wood is really beautiful, the picture doesn't do it justice.  The bobbin comes off (found out tonight), and it needed a ton of oiling and a shortening of the drive band, but it's awesome.  Mine has "Handcrafted by Sid Sharples", "Handcrafted by Jack Daniels" and the numbers "677" stamped on it.  Can anyone tell me about these makers?  I also wonder what wood it's made out of.  It has a lovely grain.  Anyway, it's great to hear that some other folks have these wheels.  It was an obviously wonderful birthday present, and although it brought my wheel count up to 8, this one is definately a keeper!  I've already been plying like mad on it. :o}

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sheepspinner wrote
on Mar 26, 2009 11:32 PM

Your wheel looks Just like mine....where on it does it say who made it?  I will give you my email address and if you want I will show you pics of mine. ( Id ont' know how to post on here.)  My husband says that mine is black walnut.   I just got mine a couple weeks ago and I am IN LOVE.    You definitely got a deal......I thought I got a deal and I got mine for 250.00

juliebeer@live.com

 

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Hilary29 wrote
on Apr 2, 2009 4:51 AM

The "indian head spinners" or cowichan as they are sometimes called came from the Cowichan Indian sweaters that the First Nations women made on Vancouver Island, BC Canada.  Cowichan, which comes from the word Quw'utsun, which I think means warm land, is the valley just north of Duncan.  These sweaters are typically grey/charcoal and white sheep fibre, thickly spun - thus the spinner used for them.   In the 60's and 70's every good beginning spinner in this area learned on these and they then started to be made in a more stylized manner like yours.  I started on one of these and then moved to New Zealand where everyone thought I was a terrible spinner as their yarns were all based on the "ring shawl", super fine that you could pull through your wedding ring.   I still have one of my big spinners, but haven't used it in years.   Hope this helps...hilary

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OGeezDeb wrote
on Sep 18, 2009 9:52 PM

I have one of these but I truly thought my husband told me it was Danish. He bought it for me sometime between 1974-76, I don't remember. I am selling it on eBay, but Tina kindly set me straight about the origin and I have updated my listing. You can see it (or buy it!) here, and there are plenty of pix. Thanx Tina!

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=260478362317

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