Shetland Sheep: Rich in History, Rich in Textiles

Shetland Sheep: Rich in History, Rich in Textiles! Our farm mission is to enjoy and promote the wonderful diversity of the Shetland breed by fully utilizing to the best of our ability all they have to offer historically. We believe the best preservation and management of this breed includes it's full spectrum of history. We encourage old and new shepherds alike to join in the fun by engaging in fiber arts, especially spinning and knitting, as this breed is so intimately linked with those aspects of the arts.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Wheel Maintenance

Keep your wheel in good order, like this one.

If you love to spin, you've probably come across little problems with the ease of spinning on your wheel.  Squeaks pop up, things seem jiggly, the wheel slips, take up might not be what you think it should be, and so on.  When we get into the deep cold, like what's coming for so many in our country, the wood of your wheel can go through some changes, and other things can happen that affect the performance of your wheel.  Here is a quick, but certainly not comprehensive run through of how you can give your wheel a good check up and get it back to dreamy, low resistance spinning.

First, find the tools you need to tighten things up.  Check all spindles, posts, and attachments to make sure everything is fitting snuggly.  You'll be amazed at how upright spindles and support posts can get loose in the deep freeze of winter, without you realizing it unless you pick up your wheel to carry it off somewhere.   As cold, dry air replaces the more humid, warm air of other seasons, wood contracts, which can loosen up your wheel.  This looseness makes for jiggly spinning.  Nothing seems tight.  The wheel might be shaking a little, or clattering.  So tighten everything you can find.  Put your wheel up on a well-light table and give it a good check up.  The difference in spinning performance will amaze you!

Second, check your drive band.  Is it dirty from oil?  Too stretchy?  Frayed?  Put a new one on.  Just the cleanliness of that bright white spinning around can make you feel good! lol  Then check your brake band.  Does it, too, need replacing?  Check your spring or rubber band.  Is it stretched out?  Replace it.  Then hold on!  You'll be amazed at how your take up has faded over time as these things stretched out, and you just didn't realize it.  Instead of a rubber band or spring, use a kid's hairband.  Works great!

Get your dust cloth out and dust spray.  Clean off your wheel...every spindle, nook, and cranny.  Remove oil splatters, wipe off the footmen, the tips of treadles, arms of the flyer, everything.  You'd be amazed at how dirty everything is!  If the wood appears dry, recondition it.  Bringing sparkle back to the wood will make you feel really good, and ready to spin for many more hours!  It'll give your wheel a nice glow, too!

Get a tweezers.  Then clean out all those little fuzzies that have fallen around the drive shaft of your drive wheel, or any other area that turns.  Check front and back.  Getting rid of the gunk there will bring smooth, effortless spinning back to your treadling.

Go buy yourself a little paintbrush, about one inch across...the kind used for painting walls around trim.  Get one that has a little hole in the handle for hanging.  I love those!  I always tie some yarn through the handle, and have the brush hanging on my wheel at all times.  It's amazing how often I slip it off and use it as a little 'broom' to sweep fuzzies or tiny bits of VM off the wood of the wheel and flyer!  Spinning makes things fly around, and the brush gives you a fast and easy way to brush it away, so it doesn't get in any new fiber your spinning.  Later, you can vacuum it up...piece of cake.

Last, get your oil out and give all things that move a good drink.  Check the hinges on your treadles, or joints where treadle support boards meet the legs of the wheel.  Check where the footmen attach to the treadles.  Don't forget the flyer.  There are lots of places where squeaks might evolve.  Oil the rod before slipping a bobbin on, oil the back where the rear of the bobbin is supported, and of course, the orifice.  Getting things oiled up nicely makes for hours of good spinning.

This is not a comprehensive list.  Rather, one just as a reminder of giving your wheel a good tune up in the depths of winter cold!  If you have any other great suggestions, leave a comment!  We'd love to hear how you baby your wheel.  I would imagine that since this cold snap is covering so much of the country, lots of people will be spinning to pass the time stuck in the house.  So give your wheel some tender loving care, and enjoy!

Sometimes, I just need some relief of the winter drearies! :)  Love these perky faces!


  1. A very good reminder! Are you spinning in the blizzard-like weather tonight?

  2. Thank you! We haven't had any new snow, unlike so many other states but it has been terribly cold. Our nightly lows have been at least 20 degrees below zero with day time highs not getting above zero. So I have been spinning a lot! It's such a nice thing to do while waiting out the cold snap isn't it?