Wheels

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I owned this car.

IMG_2685In 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).

IMG_2683It 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.

IMG_3950When 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.

IMG_6717We 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.

IMG_2664I 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.

IMG_2665I 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.

08. April 2016 by Rebecca
Categories: spin | Tags: , , , , , | 20 comments

Comments (20)

  1. Loved this! I could totally relate, having had a quirky VW Beetle for a period of time. I loved it, it was a bonza little car. But there were challenges. When I finally changed to the Corona, I felt like money!!

    So pleased you’ve found your next wheel. Here’s to long happy hours spinning and getting to know each other 🙂

    • I see you do understand Kylie! Cars with character are always challenging. Funny how we come to appreciate the modest, efficient little beasties as mature!

  2. Delightful post, Rebecca – I never thought of you with a car like your Ute/rus! But I know, we’ve all had experiments when we’re young that are somewhat surprising when you look back in older life – and thank goodness that we do. Interesting about the wheels. I toyed with the idea of buying a Majacraft wheel too when I knew I wanted to move on from my old Ashford (for much the same reasons as you with your Esther), and only decided not to get it because I found a local wheel maker (Innerleithen Spinning Wheels) who was developing his own ideas and making excellent wheels – of course, I had to go for the local man …. and generally I have no regrets …. until I hear stories like how happy you are with your Naked Rose! Just a small twinge 🙂

  3. I love your story about the car! All of our vehicles have been rather … er … special too 😉

    Congratulations on your new wheel. I wish you many, many hours of happy spinning!

  4. My favourite post so far. What an awesome car and I love the photo of you looking like a hot feminist tradie. :0)

    • Thanks Heather! That photo dates from a time my chesticles and core held themselves up, now everything leans a little southerly. Still femo, just softer edges.

  5. I learned to drive, back in the Jurassic Era, on a 1966 Chrysler New Yorker, which had the same size, bench seat (yes, I needed a cushion) and handling characteristics of your old beast. Parallel parking by a kerb in town was an ordeal.

    Now I drive a Mini Cooper (which will be 10 years old this year- I have owned dear Hafpint for that long). Together we are like one of those cartoon tiny cars, zipping and cornering effortlessly about.

    My one and only wheel is approximately 10 years old, a “new to me” Ashford Traveller, who I named Manuka. I bought her in late 2013. She, some Shetland, BFL, and Romney fiber and a couple of YouTube videos, taught me how to spin (although I’m very much a beginner – no longdraw). When she chats, I know where she would like a bit of oil. She likes to have her feet warm, on a carpet, or she will walk a bit. She will fit in my Mini. I’ve toyed with the idea that if I had more money and space at home, I’d buy a great big saxony Elizabeth (and spin straw into gold?) but then I would feel badly for my little Manuka. So I am glad to have money only for fiber and space enough for her.

    • Dear Sophy, phew! I am so glad I am not the only cushion user! Manuka is a dear name, so suitable for a New Zealand wheel. Those Travellers are really intrepid and hardy. How delightful and she talks and you listen, she walks and you give her a solid base to spin on. It is like Elaine says, all these wheels have their different personalities and it really is a question of coming to know each other. I wonder if our naming is part of this process?

  6. Oh fun, enjoy your new wheel! When I was shopping around for mine I tried a Majacraft Aura (I think) and it was a top contender until I tried my Lendrum, I really just preferred the orifice style and height of one over the other. The Majacrafts are really wonderful wheels.

    • Dear Alicia, I remember your adventures shopping around for a wheel. Your reflections were certainly part of my assessment in considering a new wheel. We don’t have as much choice in Australia unfortunately but I feel I have made a good investment in the Rose.

  7. It’s really funny how we remember certain things. My first car was a 1955 Ford Convertible. What a hot little car!! My first wheel was a Canadian Production Wheel that proved to be too fragile and too big to cart to meetings. I did sell it and got a Louet S 17 which I still have and use mostly for plying. My go-to wheel for almost everything, though, is my Lendrum. Her name is Fong Mo Seen (Spinning Threads) . I think wheels spin better when they have names and have named all of mine. Each one behaves differently, just like children!!

    • Dear Elaine, What a brilliant name for your wheel! I have heard that folks often have a wheel they keep for plying. Is it because they are particularly suited for plying or that it is easier to have one wheel set up for singles and one for plying if you spin alot?

  8. What a lovely post Rebecca, as previous comments, it brings back memories of cars over the years that have been very special. My one and only wheel has the design of an Ashford but I am certain it is home made. It has the most beautiful carvings and the name Arnold Llomas. I have not been able to find anything out about him so if anyone has any knowledge I would love to hear it. I am looking for a portable wheel to protect my Llomas so if anyone has any favourites, again I would love to hear. Love the stories. Cheers Sue

  9. Your comparison of cars to your spinning wheels is so fun! Enjoy your travels with Naked Rose.

    • Thank you Rachael, it was a fun look back. Dear Esther was much kinder to me than the Beaut though…I still have foot troubles in my right leg from hyperextending for the accelerator!

  10. Dearest Rebecca…….are you aware of what a time waster you have ‘made’ me into 🙂 haha All the gal from Maine, Fibertrek, had to say was she was into grey/brown/black wool (NO bling) and I knew I was in!! Nice that you found a wheel that calls your name and you called it a name also 🙂 I learned to drive on a jeep in the mountains of KY, literally up and down mountains and creek beds.
    Liked your car stories.

    • Dear Susan, creek beds! wow! what a place to learn to drive but I guess you covered all conditions! Yes, Sarah from FiberTrek is a wonderful calming port in the rainbow wheel of contemporary knitting, lots of undyed colours, low processing and sheepy goodness, glad you have enjoyed your visit with her.

  11. I believe I really can feel you on this, having had as my first car a 1974 Kombi and as my second, a 1996 Toyota Corolla sedan I still own. The revelation of a car that starts when you turn the ignition! Without holes in the floor. Where services that do not refer to CV joints and $1000 repairs can be had… though, no three way fridge or stove and no bed for those times you’re stuck in a state forest in NSW and the rain is coming down! and then my first wheel, an Ashford traveller with some problems, the main one of which was the oddly shaped bones in my back which did not take to one treadle spinning with the enthusiasm the rest of me did. Now, Majacraft Suzie. Whirr! My friend has a Wendy and they are lovely wheels… Hoping you are feeling the love soon! What a lovely post, as always…

    • Dear Mary, I learned to drive in a Combi van between Melbourne and Sydney, all along those NSW forests! For all the crazy difference between first wheels and second wheels of both kinds, I am grateful to have learned on what I had. It would have been so much harder to have started with the heavy responsibility of choosing a new wheel as a beginner. We take up our opportunities when we are ready I guess.

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