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Abigail’s Debut

As I’m sure you noticed from yesterday’s photos, I brought Abigail – my Canadian Production Wheel – with me to our living history event. Now, I bought Abigail last summer and she came with one bobbin and a teeny tiny orifice opening – not really a set up conducive to lots of spinning.

So, I brought her flyer assembly to Dave at Rhinebeck and ordered 3 more bobbins from him. I got the extra bobbins at SPA and Dave also drilled that orifice opening to be a bit bigger. All of this went a long way towards making Abigail a more pleasurable wheel for spinning. And yet I still avoided her. I think it’s partly because I’m so comfortable with the Reeves and the Lendrum and I just didn’t want to take the time to really get to know a new wheel. However, Saturday’s event forced me to do just that and I’m so glad I did!


I was spinning some Shetland lamb that I bought from Spirit Trail at last year’s New Hampshire Sheep and Wool. I know I bought it there because the label was completely smudged and practically erased due to all the rain we had! This fiber was a perfect match for Abigail and I had no trouble spinning a pretty fine yarn. And boy is she fast. It seemed like I had one bobbin filled in no time at all.


The spectators really enjoyed seeing the spinning, too. I was surprised at how many people had never seen anyone spinning before. Most of them had no idea how the wheel works and quite a few thought that the fiber I was spinning was actually going around the drive wheel. It was fun to explain the process and tell people about the history of spinning. I passed on the information I have gleaned from Dave about the use of CPWs here in New England, including the fact that women weren’t spinning much by the 1860s since textile mills were so widely present in the area. Nevertheless, I’m confident that women in rural areas would have still been spinning at home and I feel okay about offering this impression at a Civil War event.


I actually enjoyed it more than knitting at an event. It was much easier to stop and start with the wheel than pick up and put down knitting all day long. Dale was thrilled that I brought the wheel and I know he’ll be encouraging me to do this more often. Who knows? Maybe the enticement of lots of spinning time will get me to give up more fiber festivals in favor of reenactments.

But I doubt it.

This Post Has 57 Comments

  1. Abigail is one beautiful wheel. Sounds like you had a great time with her on Saturday. I spun on one of Dave’s CPW for the first time — you need some strong calf muscles to keep them going!

  2. Abigail is a beauty and looks so at home at the reeanactment. Love your singles. What’s the other wheel way in the background? Is it Sharon’s?

  3. Until I stalked… er… joined the local weaver’s guild this past November, I had never seen anyone spin in person either. I also thought the spinning fiber went around the drive wheel. I was quite surprised to see that it stayed in one small area of the wheel.

    I visited my mother-in-law in her retirement complex last weekend, and brought my drop spindle as we walked around the lake. None of the older folks we encountered had ever seen spinning either, and were fascinated.

  4. Lucia and I did a spinning (her)/wool prep (me) demonstration at last year’s Patriot’s Day celebration, and it was a huge hit. People are fascinated by spinning.

  5. i’d never seen anyone spin either until i met you guys. so i’m not at all surprised that people were intrigued.

    and if joe even wants to come to fiber festivals it’s totally because of the wheels. he just wants to attach a motor to all of them.

  6. What a great way to spend time time together too! It’s a gift in life when a couple’s interests blend together so well:) Your yarn looks really nice!

  7. She’s a beautiful wheel! I just love spinning on CPW’s; so fast and you can spin so much so quickly!

    Nice job on the yarn!

  8. Very cool! But hey, at fiber festivals, you don’t have to wear those “authentic” (and warm looking) clothes.

  9. What a gorgeous wheel! I love spinning at reenactments/living histories…the response is amazing. Jennifer (Spirit Trail) has such beautiful fibers!

  10. I haven’t tried a CPW yet. I’m afraid to because I might like it, and I don’t have room for one.

  11. Count me among those who thought the fiber went around the wheel. Duh. I love the idea of you spinning at the reenactments, and I love the image of you doing it. Abigail looks to my untrained eye to be a big larger than most of the wheels I’ve seen. Somehow that makes her more authentic for a reenactment to me.

  12. I love those Civil War events. My oldest son loves anything to do with Civil War history. He has a huge collection of books and information. We try to attend the events in our area. I have seen reenactors with spinning wheels around here. I’m sure that, as you mention, in other parts of the country women were using spinning wheels. Maybe it’s just the “Confederate” reenactors that I’ve seen with the wheels.

    Interesting post, Carole.

  13. Our guild does demos at the arts fest downtown and we got all sorts of weird questions. The most popular one was people trying to figure out where on the wheel Rapunzel had pricked her finger. Sorta funny…we always try to have one person out there spinning cotton Acadian style so they can get an idea of the pricking (although the Acadians used old corn cobs).

  14. Give up more fibre festivals

    Sorry – couldn’t type there for a few minutes as I was doubled over with laughter. Very cool that you took Abigail with you. I love watching people spin. I definitely need to do less of the watching and more of the spinning myself, but I really do just love watching other people do it.

  15. I agree with the others who thought yours is a lovely spinning tableau — there in your dress in the shade with a lovely wheel. It makes me think that women might have been just a teesny bit sad to loose that meditation/still time to some factory and been left wtih what chores couldn’t be mechanized — laundry and dishes.

  16. I’m a bit ashamed to admit that I still don’t know how a spinning wheel works. Or even a drop spindle. I keep myself intentionally clueless so as not to succumb to the temptation of spinning.

    I’m guessing that you’re right that people were still spinning after the advent of textile mills. After all, if they already had the wheels, why wouldn’t some of them keep using them? I bet some people enjoyed it and didn’t WANT to give it up. So I think you’re probably pretty safe.

  17. That looks like a very nice way to spend the day. And I don’t know how a spinning wheel works either, though I’d love to learn. But the spinning classes here just fill up far too quickly!

  18. Two thoughts: I have never actually seen anybody spin fiber and is it “normal” to give spinning wheel human names. Everyone I read seems to have names for there wheels, mostly female names.

  19. Kathy’s right, the CRW that Dave had in his booth was a real workout. It had some wheel wobble and when the wheel would slide over treadling became so hard. Good way to burn calories.

    Yours is in way better shape though, looks like you’ve got it making good yarn!

  20. I think spinning on a wheel is a good thing to do a fiber festival. Knitting does take concentration, while spinning is more of a rythmn thing, at least it has become that for me. Once you get into a groove, you can have light conversation.

    Abigail is a gorgeous wheel!

  21. What an auspicious first outing for the 2 of you! And great-looking fiber right off the bat (batt? heh). Here’s to many more re-enactments together. 🙂

  22. I’m so glad you had good weather this past weekend! And I love seeing all the pictures. But give up fiber festivals – wait, you’re just joking, right???

  23. I’m so glad the weather held out for you guys. We tried to make it up there, but my daughter was exhausted and had a late morning call for her show. Do you do any other local events?

    Abigail is absolutely beautiful! She looks like a dream to spin with. I am sure you will get lots of soft yarn from her!


  24. I was going to ask about the wheel yesterday…she’s a beauty! I have a very old oak Connecticut “gossip” wheel with two heads that I probably should send up to visit Dave. My husband has certainly shown no interest in fixing the thing up!

  25. What blasphemy is this? Give up more fiber fests for living history events? No way! Not happening! ;o))

    Glad to see Abigail get some attention! I tried Dave’s CPW too and the treadling wasn’t so much a problem as was the way the thing yanked the fiber out of my hands. Apparently I need more practice with a double drive setup…

  26. I have to admit, I thought (way back when) that the fiber went around the wheel too. It seemed much more complicated than it really is!

  27. I can definitely understand how the average person wouldn’t have a clue how the wheel works – I barely know myself! And most people who see me knitting don’t know whether it’s knit or crochet. We have a lot of educating to do, huh?! heh You look great there Carole and I’m so glad that you finally got your groove on with Abigail. 🙂

  28. Abigail is a beautiful wheel. You were fortunate to find someone to make the adjustments to her that you needed. My daughter has Medieval Day coming up at her school and wants me to come and bring my wheel. It’s not really authentic to the time though so I don’t know.

  29. I thought is was interesting that people thought you were making thread instead of yarn and they weren’t quite certain of what to do with it after!

  30. Carole, Abigail is a beauty and I’m glad you’ve finally had a chance to bond with her.

    Spinning in public is an interesting experience. I did it first at the Duchess County Fair shortly after learning to spin. I was astounded by how many people assumed that the driveband was the wool, not to mention the person (or two or three) who told their youngin’s that I was weaving.

  31. You look so perfect spinning with Abigail – thanks for sharing this photo (and thanks to Dale for snapping it)
    Give up fiber fairs more often?? no way.. although, the idea of spinning for an entire day does sound very appealing!

  32. I’m still snickering over Dave drilling the orifice. Hee! (Yes, yes I am very very bad. It’s better to have a dirty mind than no mind at all.)

  33. When I spin for kids, most of them (and a lot of the adults with them) do think that about the drive wheel. I tell them the drive band is just like the chain on their bike. This segues nicely into telling them as I’m getting ready to let them try the wheel that in fact spinning is a lot like riding a bike in many ways, including that you probably won’t do it well the first time you try.

  34. It is a beautiful wheel. Our knitting guild did a knitting and spinning day at the local library and the spinners were all set up in the front and we had tons of people ask all sorts of questions about it. Men and boys always seem so much more interested in it than the women and girls – maybe it has something to do with the engineering or maybe women pass by because of the negative connotations sometimes associated with “women’s work”.

  35. I know Dave and Kathy of the Merlin Tree! We met last fall when we bought a boat from them and drove to Vermont to pick it up! They were so gracious and wonderful, invited us to spend the night, and I got my very first spinning lesson the next morning! We just loved them, and look forward to seeing them again in the future.

  36. It looks perfect. It doesn’t suprise me that people are fascinated with spinning. It does surprise me that all of us have ancestors who spun a lot. We just don’t think back that far very often. Good for you for bringing it into people’s consciousness!

  37. Fast is why they were called “production wheels.” You can really produce on those babies.

    I had to laugh, because I ALSO used to think the fiber on a spinning wheel went around the drive wheel. I NEVER could understand how they could work, when the only spinning wheels I ever saw were as country decorations on people’s porches.

  38. You’re a great ambassador for the craft. No wonder so many people were interested in what you were doing. 🙂

  39. Give up fiber fests? Blasphemy!!!

    What a gorgeous picture-you look positively authentic! I wish I had made it over this weekend.

  40. I think it’s great that you brought your wheel to the re-enactment. I’m sure that lots of people were interested in watching you spin. Personally, I would have been staring at the wheel with envy, because it’s gorgeous. I’ve found that even people who I would have never thought would have any interest (my husband, my father) were fascinated with watching me spin. Maybe it’s the big wheel going around? Who knows!

  41. First time I saw a wheel when I was little, I thought the same thing–that the fiber went around the drive wheel . . . Of course, when you see someone spinning undyed fiber on a wheel tied with a cotton string, it CAN be a little confusing for a minute or two! I’m glad to hear that you and Abigail are getting along so well! She’s a beauty.

  42. Look at you go! Combining two things you love to do! I dated somebody years ago who did revolutionary war reinactments, we did a weekend at Fort Niagra. I had a ball on the first day when I got to be a boy, dressed in buckskins and lighting the canon. By the next day they found/bought me some woman clothes. Not so much fun. You should see the pics, day 1, totally happy, day 2, uncomfortable in my own skin!

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