Mr McDonald and his Spinning Wheels

Mr William McDonald of Lyall Bay, Wellington, first became interested in spinning in 1959. By 1965, when the photograph at right was taken, he was a valued member of the Eastbourne Spinners, helping with teaching and maintaining their collection of wheels. Here he is at one of the Tuesday evening classes (Miss Stace is at the extreme right helping two eight-year-olds with their spinning). He had also begun to make spinning wheels.

A frustratingly undated newspaper clipping says he made two models of wheel, and part of one of his little upright wheels can be seen at the lower right of the photograph.

The wheel shown in the picture at left may have been one of his earlier ones. It surfaced in 2019, and was thought to be a one off by the owner. It is a Saxony wheel made of oak, which is rather unusual in NZ. There are exceptional turnings throughout and the most elaborate turnings are on the maidens. The curved flyer and the bobbin are much like his upright wheels. In consistent with his other wheels, his name is stamped under the bench.

The upright wheel pictured here is dated 23 February 1963, and in 1964 there is a reference to Mr McDonald beginning to make a new, small wheel. His upright wheels seem to have been based partly on the Schofield but it seems likely that the idea for the plywood drive wheel came from the Karure by John Moore, with which he was familiar: he is spinning on one in the picture at the top of this page.

By the age of 80 he had made more than 40 wheels, and could make one in a week. By then he was looking for a change, and said his next ambition was to spin, weave and sew a suit of clothes for himself. He admitted that he “liked the horses” and remarked that he got his last trip to London from the TAB!

He also had fun making a wheel from an old treadle sewing machine, and this was his favourite for his own use. He could rest his arms while spinning. He died in late 1968.