I was browsing through spinning wheel listings in my local area, and I came across what looked like a great deal! I found a vintage Ashford Traditional, and it is a project!
The listing included:
- 1975 Ashford Traditional
- Lazy Kate
- 3 Additional Bobbins
- Hand Cards
- 4 Wooden Bottom Whorl Spindles
My First Wheel was a Vintage Ashford Traditional
The Ashford Traditional was what really caught my eye. My very first wheel was a Traditional from the 1960s. This Traditional is the newer model produced from about 1975-1980. You can view the Ashford Traditional timeline on the Ashford site here. All of the things listed in the listing were being sold for $100!
A Deal for a New Spinner?
In general, I like to leave these great deals for other spinners to snap up. I paid $150 for my first wheel and without stumbling across a deal like that, there would have been no way I could have afforded a spinning wheel. I wouldn’t want to take the chance of a good find from someone else. So why did I buy this wheel?
This Wheel Has Issues
I inquired about it and the prices. As it turns out, it has a few issues. The main issue identified by the seller was that the leather connection between the treadle and the footman had broken. This is a common problem and easy to repair. The deeper issue, was that the wheel had been neglected for several years in a damp basement and had become so rusted, it was almost completely seized up with rust!
Oh no! This wheel isn’t a deal waiting for a new spinner, I thought, it’s a project wheel that needs serious work! I decided to purchase the whole lot and restore this wheel to her former glory!
The Wheel’s Story
I drove over an hour from my home to pick up this wheel, and I had a wonderful chat with the seller. She had lost her mother about four years ago and was still working her way through selling her mother’s things. This wheel belonged to her mother, Gail, who Gail’s daughter described as artsy and a little eccentric.
Gail sounds like a Fiber Friend to me!
The seller told me how Gail loved to sit on a little stool and spin in the living room, where she kept the wheel, but since Gail’s passing, the wheel had languished in storage.
The rust was intriguing to me though because there was so much of it! I asked the seller what Gail enjoyed spinning on the wheel, wool or flax? I have seen many antique flax wheels with rust around the orifice. This happens when flax is wet spun with water.
The seller pulled a book out of the bag of things included with the wheel and it all became clear how the wheel got so rusty! “She spun our border collie’s fur,” the seller said!
Putting on the Dog by Carol Kroll
I’ve been slowly reading my way through all the issues of Spin Off Magazine so I immediately recognized Carol Kroll’s name from an article she wrote for the very first edition of Spin Off Magazine published in 1977 titled “Pet Yarns”. In the article, she explains how she uses her pet dog’s fur to spin and make lovely and warm hats and mittens for her family. Because pet fur is so full of static, she recommends spritzing it with a water oil solution as you spin.
My theory is that as the wheel’s former owner lovingly spun the fur from the family border collie, she spritzed it with water which dampened and rusted the metal of the wheel. Mystery solved!
What Else Came With the Wheel?
In addition to the Vintage Ashford Traditional and the book, “Putting on the Dog,” this find also included a set of hand cards and four bottom whorl drop spindles.
Just like the metal parts of the spinning wheel, the tines of the hand cards were covered in rust. The cards have a curved back and without any markings I’m not sure what make or model they are. However they most closely resemble a set of Clemes and Clemes curved back hand cards. I’m researching ways to clean the rust from the hand cards, and I think I will start by carding with some greasy fleece. It will be a sacrifice of the wool, but if I can clean up the metal tines and save the hand cards, it will be worth it! I’ll document this project so look for an upcoming post about it!
Bottom Whorl Spindles from LeeWard’s
The 4 drop spindles came with the original price tags still attached. These spindles came from a craft store called Leeward’s. Leeward’s was a chain craft store in Midwest America throughout the mid 20th century that was purchased by Michaels in 1994. This price tag shows that these spindles cost a mere $2.99 each back in the days of yester-yore. Judging from the date of the wheel and the book, I would guess they are from the 1970’s.
I thought the spindles might be too heavy for anything but the chunkiest of yarns or for plying. Still, I wanted to test them out a little bit. To my surprise, I was able to spin a lovely and consistent single of pink Blue Faced Leicester wool! I’m looking forward to spinning some future projects with these spindles!
What’s Next for this Wheel?
So, now I have a new-to-me vintage Ashford Traditional restoration project! I have started by taking the wheel entirely apart to clean all the rusted metal. I have also ordered an Ashford spinning wheel maintenance kit as well as an Ashford replacement tension knob from the Woolery.
I’m really looking forward to putting this poor girl back together! Soon, I will have a video tutorial and follow-up blog post when the parts come in. I know I’m not the only spinner who has come across an Ashford Traditional in need of some TLC, so maybe this little adventure can help someone else needing to fix up an old Ashford wheel! I know it will be worth all the elbow grease!
If you would like to see how I gave my first Ashford Traditional a makeover, check out this post next!
Happy spinning friends!