Archive for March, 2008

Good Links for Info

March 29, 2008


Distinguishing Characteristics – Spinning Wheels

March 28, 2008

Just as you can tell a time period on antique furniture from the style, turnings, adornments, wood types etc. spinning wheels also show such distinctions.

Sometimes we are lucky enough to come across signed and dated wheels, other times there are no concrete signs of where, when and by whom a wheel was made. Still, some makers are soooo  distinct in their woodworking that certain wheels can be attributed to them with assurance.

Some things that can suggest where a wheel has been made are:

Wool Wheels:

  • wheel diameter
  • number of sections in the drive wheel
  • grooves in the drive wheel, and how many
  • turnings on drive wheel spokes
  • tension devices
  • knob on top of drive wheel post
  • table decorations  ( beading, chip carving )
  • number of legs ( some Wool Wheels have four legs  instead of the usual three )
  • arrangement of legs
  • shape  of foot on legs
  • turning on legs
  • bands of color on legs, spokes, spindle post
  • width of the rim  of drive wheel ( they can vary from 1 ” – 4″  )
  • Whether or not the table  is a hewn plank of equal dimensions or split from a tree with one side wider . The side that comes from the center of the tree  is wedge shaped
  • tool marks on the underside of the table

With saxony wheels, many of the above characteristics apply with a few others:

  • axle post supports between the posts and the table
  • types of tensioning devices
  • double drive bands,single drive
  • double flyers, double treadles, double wheels
  • turnings of the posts, maidens, legs,spokes 

This accounts for the tremendous amout of variation among spinning wheels.

 In looking for a NY Wool Wheel, a barrel tensioning device is indicative(though they have been found elsewhere) A  drive wheel with 5 grooves also indicates a NY wheel, more specifically  – Owego NY.  A double wheel, double treadle chair wheel is a good indicator of NY as well, particularly Greene County.

Pennsylvania Wool Wheels often feature a “sliding table” tensionind device, and are  attributed to Eastern PA.

 Elaborate  Drive Wheel spokes on Wool Wheels indicate a possible connection to Berks County PA.

Early American Textile Tool Registry

March 15, 2008

My consulting business – Early American Textile Tools will have the registry up and ready to document 18th & 19th Century textile tools by April 1, 2008.

The purpose of the registry is to locate and document as many 18th & 19th century spinninng wheels, looms and related tools as possible, providing a data base for scholars, researchers and enthusiasts.

Early American tools are of prime interest, but there will be a separate section for  all others NOT of  American origin.

No personal info on tools or their owners will be divulged without consent. Those tools located in museums will be published (with consent) for anyone wanting to visit and see firsthand.

While there is no cost to register a tool or tools, nor to access the data, there is an annual membership fee of $25.

This will include:

  •  An e-newsletter every quarter ( hardcopies available).
  • Documentation of your tool(s) one copy for EATTR and a copy for your files
  • Information regarding style, type,origin, maker, intended use, conditon, age, provenance and value ( for insurance purposes).

To submit a spinning wheel for registry it must have 3 clear photos with it. Photos should be taken of both sides with another of  the spindle assembly.

Looms should have 3 photos: 1 front, 1 back, 1 side.

For further info on the registry please email me at:

Ask about rates for workshops and lectures- please email me for info.


More on Looms-Again

March 14, 2008

 Here is another eBay link


You see the beater in the center of the photo.

Directly beneath it you see the cloth beam

To the left side of the photo you see a chair and to the right  of it, the breast beam with cloth in progress around the beam leading to the cloth beam.

Something  interesting  here, is the ratchet & pawl setup on the outside of the loom frame. I can’t say I’ve ever seen this before – all  the looms I’ve seen have the ratchet & pawl ( lower right hand corner, just above the watermark) on the inside of the frame.

Behind the beater are four “harnesses” holding string “heddles”. Above that are the pulleys ( counterbalanced loom) hanging from a “roller bar” which allows for the rise & fall of the pulleys which also provide their own rise & fall.

The beater is overslung from the top which provides a nice weighted beat as it’s swung back and forth. It also shows the  characteristic peak in the middle of the top portion.

While it’s tempting to grab the beater at the peak, the beat of the cloth is more even when grabbed by one hand on each side.

I seem to see three treadles, though I’m not really sure, but three treadles is typical of linen looms.

The warp is also on a slight incline, getting higher toward the back of the loom.

I am still trying to work this out. I was always told that you want the warp to run horizonatally from the warp beam, through the heddles to the breast  beam and to ride in the center of the  heddle eye to avoid undue abrasion, and I have seen that often on 100 year old looms.

But lately, the looms I’ve  seen tend to have that incline. While at least one had a unique feature that explained the incline, the rest did not. I wonder if it’s particular to linen looms?



Spinning Wheel Parts

March 12, 2008

Ebay wheel parts:

The first picture shows the parts grouped together, there are a bunch of spinning wheel parts to be sure, but also parts that have nothing to do with spinning wheels.

In the  photo #2  there are five spindles.

The first spindle appears to be a quiller spindle, the next two are Great Wheel spindles, probably used as “direct drives” but could have been used with an accelerated head. Number four is a quiller spindle with it’s bobbin, and five appears to be an incomplete quiller spindle as well.

Quillers are small wheels with longish tables that usually had wooden boxes built into the bench. The drive wheels are typically wide like a Great Wheel and they were used to wind yarn onto bobbins for weavers use.

Photo #3 shows three bobbins ( the type wound by quillers and used by weavers) and quite frankly three parts that could be spinning wheel parts and maybe not. I’m inclined  to think they are but I cannot see well enough to tell what they are.

Photo #4 –  Broken flyer for a saxony wheel. Quite useless because it cannot be repaired. An entirely new flyer would have to be made. Flyers differ in shape and size, so mixing and  matching them  is an “iffy” proposition.  It’s very difficult to match  orphaned flyers to a wheel with any success.  There are also two Great Wheel spindle assemblies,one missing a spindle, the other intact. Both are missing their “capstans” but that is very common. The capstans are little knobs that  sit on the very top of each post. Note the wooden  screws below each  assembly. These raise and lower the posts which will alter the tension on the drive band to some extent. It only works with accelerated heads as the direct drive spindles are held in place with leathers and are immoveable. So it’s safe to say that these type of assemblies with the posts were beyond a doubt made to accomodate an accelerated head. Any time you see one without the accelerated head, your looking  at an incomplete assembly.

 Picture #5 – two Great Wheel assemblies and a non-spinning/weaving related part.

 Picture  #6 Four accelerated heads ( remember not all accelerated heads are “MINORS” heads) one Great Wheel spindle assembly with head but no  spindle, to the left is a GreatWheel hub and spokes ( junk)  and top is a non-related part. 

It is  very common to find miscellaneous parts when looking at spinning wheel parts. Things get thrown in together and of course not a whole bunch of people are able to identify 18th & 19th century tools. It’s fun to find a “box o parts” though.

Like Old Mr. Perdue used to say- Pieces Parts –


Horner Collection – Online Catalogue

March 12, 2008

searchable catalog of the Horner Collection

 Excellent  images of  a  number of different wheels and spinning accessories.

Museum Loom I’m Currently Working With

March 8, 2008

This loom is located in the Chenango County Museum, NY.

It’s  interesting for a few reasons. 


It is a four poster style, well constructed with tight mortise and tenon joints and well shaped wedges that remove any potential for wobble.

A point  of interest is the lower position of the warp beam.   Above  the warp beam is a supplemental not found on most barn frame looms.  This particular warp beam is set in holes in the two back supports – also unlike most barn frame looms which have some type  of cups fitted into the two back supports. The axle of the warp beam would rest ON the cups.

In the case of this loom the axle is fitted INTO the support posts.

The breast beam has a cut-out for the woven fabric  to travel THROUGH as it gets wound onto the cloth beam. Again, not a feature on most barn frame looms.

Clearly these adaptations indicated a specific use for this loom, and it’s my opinion that  the loom was built to weave linen cloth.

Linen thread requires a much higher tension than wool or cotton, necessitating the supplemental beam to provide more distance from warp beam to breast beam and serving  to increase the tension.

For the same purpose of high tension, the warp beam is fitted into the back supports so that it won’t pull up out of the usually cup supports, when the  high tension required for linen is applied.

The extra attention to the tight fitting mortise and tenon joins, and wedges also points to a desire to accomodate that linen tension.

Finally, the cutout in the breast beam to allow the cloth to travel through, rather than over it serves to keep the fine linen cloth from being abraided by the weaver as he or she rests against the breast beam.

Upon close inspection I found evidence of ridges in  the supplemental beam, that may have been left  there by a long gone linen warp under high enough tension that it literally cut the wooden beam.

In support of the linen theory, this loom came from an area of NY where other linen looms have been discovered, among them, the Newark Valley Linen Loom restored by Bill Ralph.

It’s typical that you see a cotton warp and rag rugs on looms of this type and this one is no exception, as most people assume that was what they were used for.

I will be replacing this warp with a linen one and weaving linen cloth on it in the near future.

Please feel free to drop into the Chenango County Museum in Norwhich, NY and see this beautiful example of a wellmade 18th century weaving loom.


Of Further Interest

March 6, 2008

The above is a link to the Norse Folk Museum-there are approximately 200 spinning related tools and wheels. 

And  a link to a nice blog with an excellent photo of what appears to be a complete  “Jacquard ” type loom.

The loom looks period ( 18th or 19th Century ). Take a close look at as many details as you can. It’s not often  you get to see that type of loom here in the U.S.

Please check this one out too – it shows a nice example of a “four-poster” loom, although the underslung beater isn’t original.…/images/loom3.gif

Spinning Wheel Differences

March 4, 2008

While the goal of the Colonial spinner was to expedite the making of yarn so that it could be woven, knit or made into lace, todays’ spinner uses a spinning wheel mostly for relaxation and to express the creative urge that often manifests with a fiber addiction.

Even still we enjoy a variety of wheels to choose from, each with some feature that makes it attractive to a particular spinner. 

Or, if you are like me, you have many wheels in use all at the same time, a luxury I doubt our Early American sisters enjoyed!

Among the many differences in antique spinning wheels are such things as:

  • tensioning devices
  • bobbins
  • flyers
  • drive bands
  • size of the drive wheel
  • # of treadles
  • position of flyer above or below the drive wheel
  • solid drive wheels vs. drive wheels with spokes
  • wheels with distaffs
  • wheels with more than one bobbin and flyer
  • wheels with elaborate turnings
  • plain wheels
  • more than one drive wheel
  • style 

Among all of these features, some were designs for making the wheel more efficient and  some were decorative.

It was common for men to experiment with spinning wheel design and occassionally create a dud. Once in a while we come across one today and thankfully there aren’t too many of them.

Some spinning wheels were patented. 

In the case of Amos Minor only the accelerated head was patented. It proved so popular that there are many “knock  offs” seen today. So, if you see an “accelerated head”  on a spinning wheel, don’t jump to the conclusion that it is a “Minors’  Head” because it may be any one of several others made around the same time.

If you follow the link below, it will take you to Google Images which will display a good variety of wheels just to get an idea of what the world of antique spinning wheels holds.

Among them is a “Patented Wheel” also known as a “Pendulum Wheel“, a modern “Babe” wheel, several Saxonies from different areas and showing regional characteristics. Take time to look at each, they really are quite different.


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For Comparisons Sake – Early American Spinning Wheels

March 1, 2008

Today is a kind  of rest  day for me but here are some links to wheels of different kinds that will give an idea as to how many types and differences there are.

I have put in my comments as to what seems to be the problems either with the wheel  or the seller not being familiar with the topic.

 These are all on eBay.


Link to ebay

Great Wheel missing parts/mixed matched parts: Not  easy to replace, and  costly when you do.



Great Wheel missing spindle post and spindle assembly. Basically a useless whee for spinning.


Nice wheel, telltale  tensioner  – missing spindle assembly – tensioner style gives clues to origin (state)


Parlor wheel declared to be a “travelors wheel’ –


an upright wheel looking as  if the  base  isn’t  original


Spinning  wheel  parts  – good look at Mother of All(s) etc.


Not an old wheel but brand new. Pay attention & make sure you know what your’e buying.


Refers  to “shuttle” having been repaired? No shuttles on spinning wheels or used with them.


Stamped wheel missing bobbin and flyer- can be replaced but must be custom made $$$$$ Too difficult

to replace from another wheel.



These are print postcard images from The Library of Congress. I find them very interesting and informative. Check out the other objects in the photograph for clues to age and  locale.

You can  also look under ‘spinning wheels in art” and you will find paintings with various spinning wheels in them too. Have fun! Test Your Sluething Skills – look for incongruities.



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