Philip Poore used to tell how the Pipy spinning wheel was born of a little Irish flax wheel salvaged from the ruins of a house bombed in the London blitz. His aunt saw it standing alone and unwanted in a sale and bought it on impulse. After the war, Jenny Poore (Philip’s wife, who has since become a noted spinner and teacher of spinning in New Zealand) was given the wheel, brought it back to New Zealand, and learned to use it. The family named it, appropriately, Britannia (picture above).
In 1962 they were asked to make spinning wheels for a shop in Auckland which was already selling their looms. He describes how they took the little Irish wheel as a guide, increasing the size of the wheel, enlarging the bobbins and flyer, and using modern bearings and a metal threaded screw for the tension handle.
“We hit on a very good design and never needed to alter it very much” he says, though changing to metric was a curse and the bobbins remained imperial size since these are the hardest part to change without causing real problems.
The picture at left shows a Pipy and a Wendy, the Pipy sporting its rare optional distaff.
The Wendy wheel was designed for easy transport, by taking the essential parts of the Pipy sloping table wheel and arranging them into the smallest possible space. Unlike the Pipy saxony, it has a rigid footman, necessary with a toe and heel movement. The Poly was an upright wheel designed for making bulky and unusual yarns, and was of particular interest to weavers who found they could make yarns on it that they could not buy.
“Jenny would test every one before it was sent away, usually in our living room before we moved into a factory” remembers Philip. “We exported to Australia and America, and a few to UK.”
Pipy products were coded, in hand writing under the table or treadle – M.A. (+ some numbers) is the Pipy saxony, M.B. the Wendy, M.C. the Poly, and M.D. the metal-wheeled Sprite of which only a small number were made. A few early Polys have a metal wheel also, but can be identified for certain by the code.
The numbers on most Pipy wheels (apparently a few at the beginning were not numbered) indicate the year and month they were made. The spinners of the Pipy Owners group on Ravelry figured this out and it was confirmed by Philip Poore.
In 1982 Pipy was taken over by Ray Chisholm, who redesigned the Wendy with a wooden mother-of-all instead of the characteristic metal flyer frame and sold it under the name Cleopatra. Eventually the patterns and jigs were sold to Ashford.
Many Pipy wheels, spinning accessories and other woolcraft products have the Tekoteko stamp. There are instructions and a catalogue of Pipy wheels and spinning products here.