I Painted My Spinning Wheel! (And I Don’t Hate It.)

My first spinning wheel was a vintage Ashford Traditional. I bought it from someone online so I didn’t see it in person first. It wouldn’t have mattered, it spun and the price was right. However, I wasn’t incredibly happy with the wood stain color of it. For years I debated painting my spinning wheel. I saw so many amazing looking wheels on Pinterest. You can check out some of those here. I had a few thoughts after looking at so many beautiful painted wheels.

1) It was easier for me to decide on a tattoo than to paint my wheel.

2) I wanted a wheel that was uniquely ME. After more picture searching and debating I finally bought the paint. Then more than 3 months later I got the courage to paint my wheel. Keep reading to find out what I did and get some ideas for painting your own wheel too!

The vintage Ashford Traditional before painting.

First of all, I had to wash her and prep the wood for paint. As you can see by the treadle dust, she was dirty. I found I was using my Ashford Elizabeth far more than my poor “Traddy.” I used warm water, mild soap, and a soft rag to get all the dust off and clean her up. I also focused on the areas near the wheel hub that had some oil residue because I knew that would prevent the paint from sticking.

After getting the first layer of dust off, I took the wheel apart. If you decide to do this, I have a few tips to save you frustration.

  • Identify which side of each part of the wheel gets decorative paint before you take it all apart. You can skip this step if you are doing the whole wheel one solid color. If you want decorative details though, it is helpful to figure out their location when the wheel is still assembled.
  • Take pictures of every side of the wheel. For complex assembly areas, such as the mother of all and the crank shaft on the drive wheel, take up close pictures. You might think you remember how to put it back together, but after it’s painted, everything looks different.
  • Put all the hardware into a bowl. Label which screws/nuts/bolts go to which part of the wheel. The screws for the front of the side rails on my wheel were shorter than the screws for the back of the rails. I didn’t want to strip out the wood figuring that out by trial and error.
Disassembled vintage Ashford Traditional spinning wheel

When the wheel was taken apart, I sanded it one last time to help the paint adhere to the wood. This is the paint and materials I used to achieve this look:

After the paint dried, I sanded the edges and corners to give it a distressed look.

I first painted the entire wheel with the Rust-oleum Chalked Chiffon Cream paint. I followed the directions for the paint as it said to on the bottle. I ended up doing two coats because the base color of the wheel was much darker than the paint color. However, the paint did cover very well and I didn’t need a primer. After it had dried, I sanded the paint off in different areas to give the wheel a distressed look. I wanted it to appear as if it had fallen off a wagon while traveling out west 150 years ago. Well, maybe not *that* roughed up, but a little roughed up. I focused on the edges, corners and areas of the wheel that looked as if they would be rubbed on through normal use and wear. I sanded a little extra off the side of the treadle and off the spokes of the drive wheel for instance. I sanded until I had a look that I was happy with.

I stenciled details on different parts of the wheel.

Next I used the acrylic paint and the Folk Art Stencil to add painted accents in different places around the wheel. On the drive wheel I painted sparrows in flight. One of my first sparrows had a slip of paint and ended up looking smooshy. One of the nice things about using acrylics on chalk paint is that it is very forgiving. I was able to actually wash the botched bird off the wheel and do it over again. On the mother of all I stenciled a decorative squiggle. I put more decorative squiggles and a bird on the treadle. The side rails got a bird on the side facing out and the side facing the spinner got a nest with eggs. I think of the nest with eggs as a symbol of creative potential. Finally, on the front leg of the spinning wheel, I painted another decorative squiggle and a flower.

And then…I put the wheel back together and realized that my flower and squggle on the front leg were on the wrong side! Oh no! I’m going to paint another flower on the correct side of the leg, but I have so much spinning to do right now that I probably won’t get to that fix for another week. At least I get to see the “pretty” side while I’m spinning. Finally when all the decorative details were done, I sprayed the entire wheel with a protective clear coat to seal in the paint and protect it from chipping off when I use the wheel. I put a new spring on for the Scotch tension system and I waxed and oiled all the moving parts that needed it.

The completed makeover of my vintage Ashford Traditional

Finally, I put my wheel back together and gave everything a good wax and oil and now I have a beautiful custom painted wheel to spin on. I am so glad I finally did this project! Now, I think my wheel needs a new name. Any ideas? Leave me a comment below!

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12 thoughts on “I Painted My Spinning Wheel! (And I Don’t Hate It.)

  1. Darcy

    She’s beautiful! Well done!
    What about calling her Sparrow?

    1. JillianEve

      Oooh, I love that! “Sparrow” would be a perfect name! I’m about to put her to work on an alpaca project I’m spinning. It will be almost a pound and a half of alpaca spun DK weight. I hope Sparrow(?) can fly through all the fiber!

  2. Beverly

    I have an Ashford traditional I bought at a garage sale. I have not touched for years. I found it makes a clunky sound. I have two options, f a clunky wheel kit or a double treacle kit which costs about $200. I cannot afford either. Have you heard of another way to fix the clunk? Thank you! I do enjoy your videos, and find them both informative and entertaining, thank you. Beverly

    1. JillianEve

      I think the clunk could have several causes. Do you know where it is coming from? Sometimes having a second person lean over different parts of the wheel while you treadle can help you pinpoint the sound. Mine was making a clunking sound at the connection between the treadle and the wooden rod that connected it to the crank on the wheel. The connection was leather and it was very soft and pliable so the two wooden parts where clunking on each other. I fixed it by replacing the leather with a piece of an old leather belt. It worked like a charm and now there is no clunk! Maybe that is what is happening to your wheel?

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  5. Teresa Griffith

    It’s so beautiful! Great job!

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  7. Rhonda

    I bought an old traditional wheel at an auction and the previous owner had wood burned in it. I’m not super in love with the butterflies along the wheel, but on the hub between the spokes are letters. After I got it home I spin it around to figure out what it says…”I love you”. So sweet! ♥️

    1. JillianEve

      Aww, what a sweet wheel! Happy spinning!

  8. Steph

    I am looking to purchase a 20-year-old Ashford spinning wheel. Could you tell me where the logo should have been?

    1. JillianEve

      The ones that are older don’t always have a log on them. The Elizabeth will have a plate on the side of the “table” part of the wheel, but the Traditionals and Travelers for instance won’t have a brand mark. You can look on the Ashford website to verify that it is an Ashford wheel and you can see the different models and styles through the years that can help identify when it was made. Happy spinning!

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