A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I owned this car.
In fact, I truly, deeply, loved this car which still surprises me because I am not a car person. I was (alot) younger, newly single, holding down a mortgage on an old house that needed a ton of work. I thought I needed a useful car that wasn’t expensive. I could have bought a hatchback or a station wagon but I was set on a ute and so I came to be the proud though somewhat bemused owner of a 1971 Ford XY Utility with a big six cylinder petrol engine. Whilst I straight away converted the car to LPG gas and stuck a wildlife sticker on the back, this was still a petrol head’s car and blokes, big tough blokes would ask me actual questions about engine stuff. A dear friend schooled me in the right answers which I cannot recall at all now. That car, sometimes know as The Beaut or The Ute/rus made me feel capable and strong. I can still recall the sensation of the kickback pushing me back into the seat as I accelerated from second to third. I wrote songs about that car. I made artworks of homage (I did say I was younger then).
It wasn’t an easy car though. It had been poorly restored and rust came through the paintwork. It leaked and smelled musty which made me smell musty when I drove it. I had to sit on a cushion to see over the wheel and have the bench seat pushed as far forward as I could to reach the foot pedals. Even then I had to strain a little. It didn’t have power steering and turning the vehicle in a carpark was like turning an ocean liner except using your own muscle. But it was my car, I was in love and I didn’t really notice these things. In fact, I didn’t realise just how difficult this car was until I sold it and drove its replacement, a second hand Nissan Pulsar Hatchback.
The Pulsar was so light and easy that at first I kept stalling it and over correcting my steering. It moved effortlessly around corners using its own mechanics rather than my brute force, it was dry, could demist without the windows down and even had cooling. The seat and the steering wheel and the distance between them were my size but also fully adjustable. It certainly didn’t have the enigmatic charm of the Falcon, but its ease of function was a wonder to me.
When I first learned to spin, I waited some time to find a wheel. Then, the late Joy Dove, former President of the Handweavers and Spinners Guild of Victoria, took me in hand and literally led me to my first wheel. It looked a bit odd, a bit spindly, dusty and dirty but on Joy’s advice I bought it. This double drive, upright wheel became my beautiful, beloved Esther. It was made by Philip Poore, in New Zealand in 1972 of Rimu timber, one of his Wendy wheels. Straight from a small workshop in the early years of the spinning revival, the Wendy wheels have hand tooled metal components, leather hinges and chiseled out timber fittings. They are exceptionally light and portable.
My Esther cleaned up to reveal an elegant spinner, somewhat frail and autumnal but a game companion over the next six years. I loved her deeply. She guided me through my first fleece and my first forays into working with ratios and different spinning styles. She spun my first prizes. I even managed to find a craftsperson in New Zealand who was selling bobbins and whorls to fit the old Wendys.
We didn’t fall out of love exactly but I realised she was too fragile to take to classes especially on a bike. So I started looking for a robust wheel. I trialed a Majacraft Rose and the experience was akin to moving from the old Falcon to the newish Pulsar. It was a revelation that the Rose sat as still as a well trained dog instead of moving surreptitiously across the floor during spinning. I found that spinning could be a silent thing, devoid of clattering and whirring. The double treadle action was smooth and ergonomic, I wasn’t hunching anymore.
I took that kind, efficient Rose home with me. She treadled effortlessly, plied effortlessly, had minute control over take up and multiple whorl options. She is steady and sturdy, can be strapped onto my bike. She is able to be converted to a production wheel if necessary, replacement parts are easy to order and made to fit. Without the laser decoration, she is my dear Naked Rose.
I admire my Naked Rose greatly, she is capable and reliable but we are not quite in love yet. She doesn’t have the charisma and mileage of my Esther but I have a sense that my esteem and regard will only grow.
Postscript: Just after I first drafted this post, I listened to Fibertrek’s podcast episode 50: A Paddler and a Spinner Walk into a Bar… and found to my delight Sarah exploring her new wheel through the metaphor of canoes! I had intended to post this last week but the school holidays had other plans for me. Thank you for bearing with me.