Friday, March 14, 2014

Sleeping Beauty

We have a new family member, and her name is Sophie-Marie.

I'm not always given to flights of fancy, or to naming my possessions, but she insisted that was her name and that was all there was to that.

The backstory: a good friend recently purchased a spinning wheel off of eBay. It was really pretty, and a bit unusual, and I got curious so I started reading about them. It is of a type known as a Canadian Production Wheel - they were made largely in Quebec, from about 1875 to perhaps as late as the 1950's, by companies that also made farm equipment (wheeled and wheel-powered things: threshers, sawmills, water wheels, spinning wheels - there's a certain logic to it). They were made to produce yarn in quantity at home, which means they are speed demons and workhorses - though they are also pretty. Based on its design and fittings it seems likely this one was made by Compagnie DesJardins - which is still in existence, though out of the spinning wheel business.

They have a distinct look to them, the most obvious of which is they usually have cast iron fittings. And the tension system is pretty unusual, too. I don't know where tilt tension originated but it was used a lot on wheels out of Quebec, and Canada in general - including the Watson wheel I have on order.

I've never used tilt tension before, and I know the Watsons are also built for speed, so I thought it would be a good idea to see what I could find in a CPW for myself as well, so I could get into the swing of things before the Watson arrives. 'Cuz, you know, I need to justify buying the new toy.

Of course, Quebec is a long way from here, and so they're hard to find nearby - the farther away you are from Quebec, the more rare and more expensive they get. They're also old and sometimes a bit fragile, thus expensive and nerve-wracking to ship even if a seller was so inclined.

I've been looking around pretty aggressively for a month or so. And I happened to find one in Bellingham last Sunday night, offered for rather less than it's really worth. I called immediately, hopping up and down in my chair and trying not to sound too excited, and made an appointment to see it Monday morning. Drove like a madwoman to Bellingham, where the seller told me the wheel really didn't work and she wasn't sure what was wrong with it.

Looking over the wheel, I could see that all the major parts were there, intact and mostly in great shape, and apparently original. That in itself is a bit unusual. The issue she described didn't really make much sense, but I could see the footman was all bent out of shape - it's made of a soft metal rod, and apparently she'd let her son use it as a play sword. (Ed. note: Not a good idea. On so many levels.)

After a nice visit, I handed her the relatively small sum of money she was asking for the wheel, and we broke it down and put it in the back of my car.

The wheel was filthy, having sat around in her garage for years, but obviously had been someone's valued tool at some point as it had been well cared for in the past. A good scrub with a strong solution of Murphy's Oil Soap when we got home, and a lot of furniture oil the next day, and she was looking much, much better. It was clear she wanted to spin, she was built to do it, and just needed a boost to wake up and get going again.

I actually got her to spin Monday night after just washing off the dirt and grime, with no further work and not even oiling the moving parts. The bobbin will need some cleaning out so it turns freely, but that's minor.

There are a couple of things I'll need a blacksmith's assistance to repair - they are simple fixes, such as straightening that play sword back into shape, but I can't accomplish them myself. She will work just fine without these fixes, with a bit of improvisation.

The only thing missing is the axle peg, and my husband is working on a replacement, though she'll spin without one - and I've improvised with a pair of Chinese-takeout chopsticks for now. (She is pretty embarrassed by this though, so no photos. We are not the Kardashians here.)

You may note, as I'm writing about her, I am using "her" and not "it." She insisted on a female pronoun from the first time I laid eyes on the Craigslist ad.

And Tuesday morning, Joe was leaving the house early; I woke up just as he was leaving, rolled over in bed and said, "Remember Sophie-Marie is in the laundry room drying off after her bath; don't trip over her as you head to the garage." I have no idea where the name came from, it just came out of my mouth.

And out of Joe's mouth came - "Who on Earth is Sophie-Marie, and why is she in our laundry room?"

Flickr set of photos here - I am documenting the cleanup/restoration as I go.

1 comment:

  1. LMAO!! I bet the look on his face was priceless. Congratulations on your new addition to the family, and I hope you and Sophie-Marie have years of joy together :)