No, not me! I may have had a little too much Thanksgiving dinner, but it’s not THAT bad….
Back in February 2010 I attended spinning camp on Orcas Island with Judith Mackenzie, and the theme was “Ethnic Spinning and Knitting: Cowichan, Aran and Icelandic.” We spun Icelandic fleeces for Icelandic lace or the more bulky Lopi-style knitting yarn. We spun Clun Forest wool to make a 5-ply yarn for traditional Aran sweater knitting. And we spun on an Indian-head spinner to make the loose, thick yarn used for Cowichan sweaters.
Here is a picture of Judith spinning on her Indian-head spinner at that workshop:
Later that year we took a trip to Sacramento, CA to attend my niece’s wedding celebration. On the way down we camped in our pop-up trailer. From Mt. Lassen NP we went through Chico, CA and in an antique mall there I spotted an Indian-head spinner! There had been a fire at the antique mall about a year earlier, and it was sitting forlornly in a back room all covered with ash – they hadn’t even bothered to clean it off. I was tempted but didn’t buy it that day. But it kept calling to me, so on the way back north we stopped into Chico again and the bulky spinner came home with us.
Here is how it looked when we got it home and before it was vacuumed:
Since then it has just sat in my studio. Last week Rick took it down to the shop and really cleaned it up – put on new finish and everything. It is beautiful! Looks like black walnut.
Underneath the treadle he found the maker’s mark.
It turns out these wheels were made by Sid Sharples and another man in California in the 1970’s. They are retired now. They were made from black walnut or dark maple. It was called the California Bulky Spinning Wheel and also known as a “Cowichan Spinner”. I have found a few pictured on blogs or Flickr on the web – and one was listed on eBay last January, but the guy didn’t get any bids on it. As an added surprise, I was talking to my friend Sara down in Twisp last week, and it turns out she used to have one of these – it was the very first spinning wheel she owned!
So now it is going to live with Judith Mackenzie. Why? Because my teacher and mentor in all things spinning, weaving and generally fiber-related suffered the loss of her ENTIRE STUDIO due to a catastrophic fire in Forks, WA in late October. I mean everything (it was a teaching as well as a personal studio). Looms, spinning wheels, all kinds of related equipment, not to mention all her fiber (fleeces, yarn, etc). Due to the age and nature of construction of the building she was unable to get an insurance rider.
Three of her friends immediately put together a website and are spearheading an effort to raise money and donated equipment to help her rebuild her studio and continue with her career as a fiber artist and nationally known teacher:
Check it out – and donate a little if you feel so inclined, to help this wonderful woman recover from a real blow.