Over the winter I learned how to spin fibre into yarn using a drop spindle. Spinning is one of those gloriously tedious activities you can zone out to for hours on end while you unknowingly bust through Netflix’s entire inventory and/or develop chronic, debilitating tendonitis, or at least some pretty calloused fingertips. It’s seriously awesome.
Almost immediately I decided to take my spinning to the next level and buy a wheel. I knew this was the right move for me. I knew it! Knitting runs through my veins! I bleed alpaca fleece and dream about goat-filled meadows at night! Making yarn was about to become a central component of my identity. Barbara: sewer; knitter; spinner; semicolon enthusiast.
A new spinning wheel can cost anywhere from $400 – $1000. Most of them sit around the $800 mark. Pricey, right? Naturally turned to Kijiji, the buy-and-sell underbelly of modern consumerism. I found a seller, arranged a meetup time, and a week later I was on my way to meet a guy named Leon in a racquet club parking garage.
Leon hauled the wheel out of his van and set it on the concrete to give me a quick demo. Push the pedal down like this and the wheel spins like this. No problem! The wheel was missing its drive band, so Leon knocked $20 off the price, loaded it into my car, and my new wheel and I drove off into the sunset.
Another week later I received a drive band in the mail from the fine people at The Fibre Garden and the three pounds of merino and bamboo fibre I ordered from KnitPicks had arrived, so I sourced an instructional video for first time spinners and sat down at my wheel, very eager to get my spin on.
This is roughly the point where my entire world came crashing down on me. As it turned out, what I had was not a spinning wheel, but a spinning wheel-shaped decorative object. These things were apparently popular in the 50s and 60s but have no functionality.
The spinning gods giveth and the spinning gods taketh away, people.
I spent the rest of that afternoon reading about these beguiling pseudo-spinning wheel monstrosities (which will henceforth be referred to as BPSWMs), and learned that they’re actually very common. Like really common. Way, way too common.
So, instead of writing a post about my rousing new life as a spinner, I am writing a helpful little guide so my precious readers can spot BPSWMs in the wild and avoid making my same mistake.
“Made in Canada”
If you are wondering if that super-rustic looking wheel at your local antique shop is the real deal or a BPSWM, take a look at the underside of the bench for a “Made in Canada” stamp. Spinning wheels made in Canada aren’t necessarily BPSWMs, but many BPSWMs that you’ll find in antique shops and on Kijiji/Craigslist were manufactured in this fine land, so keep your eye out for other signs of BPSWMness if you do spot this inscription.
Apparently some wheels are made sans orifice and instead have a hook at the front of the flyer that serves the same purpose as an orifice, but as a general rule, spinning wheels have an orifice. Mine did not. No orifice to feed the fibre through = no yarn for you.
No tension adjustment
No tension adjustment means no drive band tension knob on the top of the wheel, or a tension knob that doesn’t raise/lower the mother-of-all. In the case of my particular BPSWM, the tension knob was a loosely attached component that did nothing when adjusted. Nothing at all.
All-in-one flyer and bobbin
The flyer and the bobbin are two pieces that fit together but can be easily separated when you remove them from the wheel. Unless you have a BPSWM on your hands, in which case the flyer and bobbin are likely an all-in-one component that does not separate.
Too few hooks
My BPSWM had a full row of hooks on its flyer, but my research indicates that a distinct lack of hooks or hooks made of wire is another hallmark of a BPSWM.
I re-listed the BPSWM on Kijiji and Craiglist, but the only replies I got were from spinners looking for an actual, functioning wheel, not a decorative semblance of a one. Shocking, right? So I was pretty much stuck with a big, awkwardly-shaped imposter that took up way too much space in apartment and mocked me with its cruel, soul-crushing fraudulence every time I walked by it. There was only one thing that could be done.
I had to burn that mother down.
(I am SOOO sorry about the image quality.)
I won’t lie and say setting a spinning wheel on fire in an ally wasn’t totally worth the $100 I spent on this BPSWM purchase. I’m still a little heartbroken that I’m not the fleece-spinning wheel wizard I hoped I’d be, but I’m planning to buy one of these super cute Ashford Kiwis, so hope is not lost. And hopefully my misfortune will save someone else from the dangers and perils of second-hand spinning wheel ownership.