Thursday, April 24, 2014

My friend Elora

I love my spinning wheel. Her name is Elora. For those of you familiar with the movie Willow, the savior of the movie is a tiny curly red-headed baby named Elora Danan. My spinning wheel is not named for her. I found my spinning wheel on Craig's List listed among various household items in a moving sale ad. "refrigerator, sofa, dressers, bookshelves, spinning wheel, bicycle, ..." I contacted the seller and asked if I could see the spinning wheel prior to the sale and what kind of wheel it was and the price. The woman was enthusiastic about it and said that it was a Canadian Production Wheel and she was asking $100.  I considered it was worth a look and CPW can mean everything from a really nice single treadle upright to a ghastly falling apart worm-eaten "living room antique." I had $100 cash in my pocket but was willing to walk away if it was the latter.

The woman's house was in a very nice neighborhood with perfectly manicured lawns and not a single pink flamingo in sight. Each cookie-cutter house with their matching driveways and brick encased mailboxes looked the same. And it was one of those neighborhoods that all have the same street name. I was looking for Hidden Oaks Lane amongst Hidden Oak Drive, Boulevard, Circle, Court, Road, Parkway, and Street. I spent more time turning around and meandering down the winding roads and parkways before I finally found Lane. I started thinking perhaps I should go home. It was looking more and more like this was going to be some show piece that was glued together so it wouldn't move. I took a deep breath and knocked on the door anyway. A well-dressed woman opened the door and introduced herself a Laura.

And there she sat. I knew the moment I saw her that she was not in anyway a Canadian Production Wheel. This, my friends, was a genuine Ashford Traditional. I knew it the moment I saw it. My heart started pounding. I repeated to myself, "Don't say a word. Don't say a word."  I hemmed and hawed. Gave the wheel a slight push (it turned). Asked if I could sit down and try it (I took some roving with me.). As I played with the wheel I asked if the woman could tell me anything about the wheel. Where she got it, where it had been stored, etc. 

"Well, I bought in Canada, so it's a Canadian Production Wheel (I apologize Canadians for that assumption) and I've kept it mostly in my classroom where I taught. See, I taught third grade and we would do a session in literature on fairy tales and I would show the children how Cinderella pricked her finger on the spinning wheel. I always called the spinning wheel Ella because of the story."

That's when I stopped spinning. And had to give this retired third grade teacher a lesson in spinning wheels.  I asked her where she thought Sleeping Beauty (I refrained from correcting her that Sleeping Beauty's name was not Cinderella) pricked her finger and she pointed to the maidens (the two upright spools that hold the bobbin and fly and is part of an assembly called the "mother of all"). I then told her about the kind of spinning wheels that Sleeping Beauty would have had when her story was first written and about spindles and how they were sharp, and that she did not prick her finger on a Canadian Production Wheel.  I told the woman that I thought the spinning wheel was nice and accepted the $100 price. I clasped the spinning wheel to my chest and almost ran to my car with it, afraid she might change her mind.

I then giggled all the way home. I knew right away that her name would be Elora. El for the many years of being called the wrong princess and -lora for the woman who owned her all those years. The only things I had to do was replace the footman joint (the footman is the rod that connects the treadle to the wheel drive) at the treadle and put a new drive band on her. About a year later I had to reglue the hub as it had come loose and was wobbling.

She's a lovely wheel. She spins beautifully and she sings several different things as we spin together. Her treadle keeps beat with a soft whump-whump-whump and the wheel whirrs and gives a soft swoosh, the bobbin clippity-claps as it turns and the orifice hook tings as it hits the front support leg in rhythm. It's quite soothing and most of the time when I am spinning I don't like to listen to any music or podcasts. I do sometimes, but most of the time I like being lost in the soft song that Elora sings and I let my thoughts wonder off in various directions. It's lovely to have this active meditation and I truly enjoy the days that Elora and I spend in the attic. She's taught me about patience (especially in the early days when I was just learning and thought it was a huge mistake for having bought a used wheel) and she's taught me about love (like after I finally worked out the coordination and got my hands and feet working in different rhythms to create lovely yarn). When we moved from Florida to Ohio, the only thing in my car other than our overnight bags and the cats was Elora. I was so afraid that if I put her in the moving van she would get crushed.

If my house were ever on fire and I was told I could only go back in for two things (assuming my children and cats were safe), I would grab my laptop and my spinning wheel. Let's hope it never comes to that, but Elora is on the top of my list after my children and cats.

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