I looked through my photos and chose a few spinning wheels for my readers. When I look at my stats, I see that a majority of you are in the US, followed by Finland, and the rest of the world. (That’s why I write in English, and not in my mother tongue Swedish.)
Here’s a bouquet of Finnish spinning wheels for my international readers. They are all from museums, mostly from Ostrobothnia, the middle western coast of Finland where I live. The Saxony wheel was designed to spin short, carded wool in an efficient way using the long draws. It’s not an easy wheel for a beginner, but this is what the young girls still learned to spin on. I love the smooth, wide movements in the long draw as we spin it in Finland: as long as your right arm reaches, drafted to the right without twisting your body backwards as some of the other long draws demand.
First: the proper way to attach spokes. If you look closely, you see that they don’t go in a straight line, but more in a zig zag line. A Norwegian friend told me that this prevents the wood from breaking. There are usually six slightly bent parts in the wheel, forming a perfect circle. You can see a faint line in the wheel where one of the joins is. This wheel is in a museum in Vaasa.
A typical wool flyer has fewer hooks than a flax flyer, and it’s wider. The Saxony wheels in Scandinavia were used for both flax and wool. You can spin both on either of the flyers, but thicker wool yarns tend to catch on the hooks of a flax flyer. Below a wool flyer. There’s also a skein winder with a counting train. Professional spinners always measured their yarns, as there had to be a certain length in each skein. This wheel is in use, and the spinner has secured the drive band because of all the kids that want to spin the wheel and make a mess of the band.
Deep or lighter blue wheels with red details were common in my part of Finland.
This wheel is in a museum in Taivalkoski in north eastern Finland. I don’t know if the colour was common in the Kainuu region, or if the wheel has been brought there from another part of Finland.
A green wheel from Malax in Ostrobothnia. Green wheels can also be found quite often here.
An old wheel from Korsnäs, the home of the famous Korsnäs sweater. There’s no dating, but in my eyes this looks older than the Saxonys from the late 19th-early 20th century that we have seen above.
This is an old wheel. On the other side of the drive wheel there’s a carving “1739”. It seems to have been added later, but it must have some significance. Either it is the year the wheel was made, or the year the spinner got it. I love it, I think it’s very beautiful. The distaff is much newer, and the footman seems to be of later age also. The wheel is in a museum in my municipality. No, I haven’t been permitted to try it – I’ve asked :) But it works, I’ve tested it that much.
This wheel is in a museum in the Finnish speaking part of Ostrobotnia, Vähäkyrö. It’s dated 1611, but that seems to be wrong. No authorities have yet accepted the date, and the reason is that flyer wheels were almost unknown in Finland at that time. Until we know for certain, we just have to admire it. It seems to be a relative of the one from 1739 above. Strong wheel, very steep bench.
The museums have so many spinning wheels, that they can’t display them all. The one above is stuffed away in a barn at a museum in my municipality. I wanted to show it because I believe this kind of wheel must’ve been common. It’s a simple undecorated wheel that has clearly been in use. How many of these have been used as fire wood, as there’s no elaborate wood turning or painted decorations? It’s just simply a tool.
Now here’s a classic: a spinning wheel from Kiikka, a municipality in south western Finland that was so famous for it’s wheel production, that there’s still a spinning wheel in its coat of arms. It’s called “Kiikkalainen” in Finnish, and easy to recognise because of the way it’s decorated. I have one of these, and it’s indeed a very good Saxony. This is from a museum in northern Ostrobothnia, Kokkola.
Upright wheels are very sparse in Finnish museums. There have been upright wheels earlier, but they have disappeared probably before museums became common. This wheel is in a museum in Malax, where you can also find the green Saxony above. It’s history and origin is unknown. A discussion in the Antique Spinning Wheels group on Ravelry couldn’t establish a precise region, but Germany, Netherlands, or Belgium seem to be closest guesses, much because of the wood turning style.
Almost every municipality in Finland had at least one wheel maker, often several. The spinning wheels were of great importance, as industrially made textiles didn’t become common until the end of the 19th century, and in many rural areas even later. All small holders and bigger farms had sheep, and flax was grown until the second world war. All women could spin, some better, some just acceptable for work clothes and blankets.
So what happened? The simple question is: man made fibers. During our last wars against the Soviet Union (1939-1944) all capable men were at war. The women and children took care of everything else. I’ve heard so many of them say that after the war they put away their wheels, because they reminded them of the never ending exhausting work, when spinning was the last task late in the night when everything else had been done. The man made fibers and mill spun wool yarns saved the women from the spinning wheels and looms.
So here you find many of them now: this is from an attic in one of the museums close to where I live:
Sleeping beauties beside their skein winders.
Many wheels also ended up in the grandmas’ attics. Now they are often sold on the second hand market, and luckily there’s a steadily increasing number of spinners who want to use these old treasures.
Here’s what happened next, when the spinning was done: plying yarn, making heddles for the loom. And after a while, doing the laundry and pressing the linen. This is also from my favourite museum here in my municipality.