Build Your Own Spinning Wheel

At long last the plans for the Indian Head spinning wheel are now in store. Crikey, they’ve convert old sewing machine treadle to spinning wheelbeen a long time in coming!

With twenty nine detailed drawings , together with numerous close-up photographs and an informative description of the project, this package contains all you need to know in order to convert an old cast iron sewing machine treadle into an heirloom spinning wheel.

Download Your Set of Spinning Wheel Plans

spinning wheel plans, build your own

The treadle-mounted Indian Head spinning wheel is ideally suited to turn out heavy/chunky yarns, however, that does not mean it cannot also produce the finest of yarns.  The heavy flywheel and huge orifice though, allow the lumps and bumps of art yarns to easily draw through.

To the best of my knowledge, these machines have never been commercially produced and yet there are dozens, if not hundreds of them in daily use.  Each machine is unique and these plans guide the home builder to select the features they like and incorporate them easily into their own versatile  spinning wheel.

As usual, the many hours spent in creating these plans have all been dedicated to the rescued llamas and alpacas in the Llama Sanctuary and all proceeds from the sale of these plans go directly to supporting these wonderful creatures.  Thank you for helping them!

Download the full package of plans, photographs and detailed information to build your own spinning wheel

Summer Fibre Activities

children learning to spin, teaching fibre arts

If I have nightmares about drowning in an ocean of alpaca and llama fibre, crested with roving  of pure white sheep wool, it wouldn’t surprise me; that’s almost how it has felt every day for the past month.  We have a lot of fibre that needs cleaning and we really want to have it processed before the winter; taking advantage of the warm and breezy washing sheep wool, scouring fleecedays to dry the washed fleeces.  We also need as much fibre as possible for the workshops and exhibitions that have crammed themselves into the summer season.  How did we let ourselves in for this punishment?

Most people simply send the fibre away for processing at a mill and have it all done for them, but if you really want to learn everything you can about a subject, then total immersion is the only the way to do it and immersion is just what it feels like!  However, the picker design has been improved and the job has become much easier, simply by understanding more about the nature of the animal fibre as well as the animals.

fibre arts bootcamp, art yarns

Fibre Arts Bootcamp kicked off the season with an invitation to Enderby Arts Festival, where we encouraged visitors to try their hands at carding art batts on the drum carder.  Just like the Pick-and-Mix sweet stalls on market day in England, people could dip into the numerous bags of colourful fibre swag and blend them as they pleased.  Visitors of all drum carder, create art battsages had a go and I’m very pleased to say we even had men tapping into the pool of creative genius. The art batts were then spun into some delightful yarns and the faithful old Indian Head treadle clattered out its rhythm to the accompaniment of one of the bands playing up on stage…a little too loudly sometimes!

The next show is the IPE at Armstrong, in the North Okanagan, BC between 29th August and 2nd September.  Five long days of demonstrating and selling is a bit gruelling, but thankfully we abandoned our original plans to have a two or three of the llamas accompany us.  A few of our camelid colleagues will be there covering that aspect, but you can still come along and see some of the photographs we have prepared of our own troop.  I do hope you’ll come along and say hello and perhaps take advantage of the special show prices for Mega Knitting Hooks, art children learning to spin, teaching fibre artsyarns and ready-to-spin camelid fibre.

Workshops are taking place at the Kingfisher Community School this year and we’re covering all manner of subjects including: how to create artistic fibre batts for spinning, Freeform crochet and colourful soap felting.  Contact us for a full itinerary and prices.

So if I’ve been a bit quiet on the blogging front recently ….that’s why!

More Tips for Long Draw Spinning

indian head spinning wheel, cowichan spinning wheel, salish spinning

The weather over the Easter weekend was so lovely, that as I sat at the spinning wheel outside, I decided to capture it on camera as a casual lesson in long draw spinning.

Sewing Machine Treadle Mounted Spinning Wheel

indian head spinning wheel, cowichan spinning wheel, salish spinningThere was a lot of interest in the long draw spinning article and video we published in February this year and we also had several comments and questions relating to the old Indian Head spinning wheel.  Where to buy a machine like this?  I would suggest keeping your eye on Ebay or placing an ad in your local newspapers.  The nearest comparable machine is the Ashford Country Spinner.  It has the super large orifice and an enormous bobbin for holding the bulky mega yarns and art yarns, but it is mounted on a wooden frame and wheel, rather than a sewing machine treadle.

I have heard this machine called variously Country Spinner, Cowichan Wheel, Salish spinning Wheel and Indian Head spinning wheel.  I call it an Indian Head, which might not be the most politically correct, but it was referred to by that name when talking to a Native of Vancouver Island, which is the home of the well known, heavy Cowichan Knit sweaters, and so the title has stuck.

Due to lack of identifying marks, I have made the assumption that my own machine was hand crafted.  If you have an old treadle sewing machine, it is possible to make it dual purpose, with the addition of a spinning head, but you will have to find a local craftsman with a lathe to make one for you …unless you’re also handy on a lathe!

The large orifice makes it perfectly suited to spinning mega yarns, but it is a misconception that it cannot be used to produce fine yarns.  To produce fine, consistent yarn on a Country Spinner, keep it clean and well oiled and then carefully adjust the flyer brake.  Perhaps ultra fine yarns are easier to spin on a machine that isn’t propelled by a heavy cast iron fly-wheel, but the skill of the spinner and the preparation of the fibre are still the most important elements to spinning fine yarns.  The size of the orifice and bobbin do not determine the size of the yarn being spun.  However, I do use it almost exclusively for spinning art yarns, since it is heavy and not easily picked up and moved outside.  My little Spin Well spinning wheel can be picked up in one hand and carried outside, where I prefer to work and I have the tensions set up for fine yarns.

In this spinning session, I am using some quite poor grade sheep wool.  The fibres are mega knitting, mega yarn, cowichan knitshort and it is full of neps.  It is perfectly suited to the chunky, lumpy fringe yarn that I want to create to finish off yet another Throw I making for someone.


Neps, by the way, are small wads of short fibres that result either from carding problems or wool fuzz that tangles around tiny bits of debris in the fleece.  If you pull a nep apart, you will probably find a tiny piece of grass or other vegetable matter or even a bit of grit in the center.  Most often, the relatively small number of neps can be removed while carding, but if there are a great fringe, chunky yarn, mega, art yarn spinningnumber, I’ve found it just doesn’t warrant the time spent picking them all out and I use the fibre for something that doesn’t require strength or good looks …like a chunky fringe!

Of course, this doesn’t make for a perfect spinning demonstration, but art yarn spinning is very forgiving and the large orifice on the spinning wheel happily sucks up the thick neps and thin fibres without a murmur.

Today’s spinning session differs from the last one we produced on video, by demanding a lot more fibre control to produce a somewhat more consistent chunky yarn using short fibre wool, rather than the deliciously long llama fibre used in the thick and thin demonstration.

As always, if you have any questions or comments, don’t be shy.

Long Draw Spinning – Making a Thick and Thin Art Yarn

indian head spinning wheel, cast iron treadle, long draw spinning

Today I’m spinning a very chunky, thick-and-thin art yarn, using long draw technique. It’s a beautiful sunny winter’s day, so I’ve dragged onto the porch, the old Indian Head spinning wheel. This Indian head spinning wheel is mounted on a cast iron treadle, making it very heavy and not the sort of wheel you want to pick up and move around the house.  However, it does have the largest orifice of all the spinning wheels I have seen, which makes it perfect for creating chunky art yarns.

indian head spinning wheel, cast iron treadle, long draw spinning

I’m working with pure llama fibre locks from Talluleh, which I’ve dyed a gorgeous shocking pink colour. The dyed locks have been roughly carded with some of Talluleh’s undyed locks to create a variety of pinks in the finished yarn . This is a wonderful yarn for high speed mega knitting.  I’ve also left the guard hair in the fibre to give it the appearance of mohair.  Most hairy and woolly animals have a protective layer of guard hair, which is much coarser than the soft undercoat and if I were making something to be worn next to the skin,.I would want to remove as much of it as possible,   In this case though, I’m making yarn for another big throw, so I don’t mind the guard hair.

I apologise for keeping my head down, but the sun is so bright today, glaring off the snow, that I can barely see anything when I look up; I’m not complaining about the sunshine though, I absolutely love this kind of day!