Click on a little photograph to see it full size
These “A-line” wheels were made by M.D. Johnson of Christchurch, maker of Easycraft wheels and also of a little upright model. They were available from Brewers Mail Orders at a Christchurch box number, and one owner bought hers from them in August 1966 for 15 pounds 17 shillings and sixpence. An earlier leaflet has them priced at 15 pounds 14 shillings and sixpence.
Many have no maker’s marks but one is known that is stamped with the maker’s name and address. They appear to be double treadle but in fact one of the “treadles” is fixed.
Adam wheels were made by Harry Rees’s company Woodcraft Industries at Spring Grove, Wakefield (near Nelson). They show his distinctive turning on the legs, like his double table wheels. The wheel shown here has his “unique, unbreakable brass flyer (registered design) with no hooks to snarl fibres” but earlier examples have a normal wooden flyer.
Tom Alexander of Christchurch made upright as well as saxony-style wheels, notable for the attractive carving around the table. The flyer is in one with the whorl and has a sliding hook on each arm.
Jack Arnst of Kaiapoi near Christchurch made a number of these. They are somewhat similar to the Johnson A-Line, but have a sewing-machine wheel and an Ashford mother-of-all. The front edges of the uprights are shaped with a couple of shoulders along their length, though this is hard to see in the front view. Mr Arnst used to collect the sewing machine wheels from the local rubbish tip so his wheel-making was limited by the number of wheels he could find.
Norman Aston of Levin made several of these in the 1970s and 80s. They are said to have been modelled on the English-made Dryad wheels. This one is made from recycled kauri and has no maker’s mark.
He made Norwegian-styled wheels too.
Baynes Colonial upright wheels were designed and made by Ian Baynes of Ashburton, and were first advertised in The Web in 1978. They were sold as kitsets for $76. About 250 of the first model (photographs at right) were made. Like all Baynes wheels they had the distinctive hole in the whorl, but as the back view shows they also had a most unusually shaped table. According to an advertisement in the Woman’s Weekly, you could buy (as an extra) a turned rod that fitted on the back of the table so that the wheel became a standard lamp!
By November 1979 the wheel was redesigned and the Baynes Colonial wheel has looked very much the same since then. It was later available with a double treadle, and from 1993 the business was owned by Murray Bebbington. It has now closed down.
More on Ian Baynes and his wheels
John Beauchamp used to spin in his navy days, as well as make spinning wheels. He made a varied range, but his upright wheels were particularly popular. Neither of these two have any markings but the owner of the first one remembered buying it from the maker before 1979.
More on Beauchamp wheels
Beulah was the name given to his later wheels by Les Peacock as Peacock wheels had been taken over by K. Fomotor. This Beulah, still in constant use, was bought from Mr Peacock about 1984.
There is no slot in the back leg, and the connector rod runs beside (not through) the leg. The flywheel is the same size as in Peacock’s originals, and the turning is as fine as before though the face of the wheel is a little simpler. The balance weights are hidden in the wheel.
More on Peacock wheels
Alan Brenkley (1912-2001) was the son of well-known folk artist Jane Brenkley. A farmer in Hawkes Bay and later near Gisborne, he also made many things including furniture and a number of spinning wheels for family and friends. I have seen three of his wheels, each one different and unusual. They have some metal parts, including their whorls.
These two wheels show a love of colourful decoration. The second, particularly elaborate (and apparently a very good spinner) was made for his wife and is now in the CHB Settlers Museum, Waipawa, Central Hawkes Bay. A horizontal Brenkley wheel is here.
There is a more detailed account of his life and work in The Spinning Wheel Sleuth #92, April 2016.
Bressay wheels were made from 1971 to 1975 by Rotorua Woodcraft Ltd, makers of all kinds of small wooden items. These double drive wheels were based on a 100-year-old wheel brought from Shetland. They are made from Fijian kauri (dakua) with a veneer wheel. About 2000 were exported to the UK, Canada, Australia, and a few to the USA.
Some are unmarked or have lost their identifications but this one has a plate on the front of the table which says “BRESSAY by Rotorua Woodcraft Ltd”.
The original information that would have come with a Bressay wheel can be downloaded here. The company also made the saxony Kintyre.
P. Burtenshaw of Cambridge (Waikato) has signed this wheel and dated it December 1983. Nothing further is known about him. The table appears to be made of 2 layers of MDF and is an unusual shape, with a curve to accommodate the footman.
The second example has travelled to the USA via Britain. It has an inscription under the treadle showing that it was also made in 1983, and describing it as “Mary’s Dream”. There is a little sheep on the treadle. Horizontal maidens are unusual in New Zealand wheels, though seen more often in Australia.
Alan Callister of Masterton made 12 of these wheels, starting with one for his wife in 1995. This one is dated 1998 and bears the initials AC. It is made from New Zealand native rimu but he sometimes used oak. The design is basically similar to the Beulah and it can be dismantled in the same way, but the knobs on the screws are plastic not brass, and some of the turning is different.
The Camelot wheel in the first picture was bought in 1979 (the year after their production began) direct from the factory of the makers Sharp and Page, in Mt Roskill, Auckland. Sharp and Page exported most of their Camelots to Australia, the UK and the USA. The Camelot on the right is a little different, with no front maiden and the orifice just resting on a piece of leather. Unlike the first wheel, it has bobbin-holder spikes at the back of the table instead of a kate in front, and does not have provision for scotch tension.
The wheel in the lower pictures resides in the USA. It has a more shapely flyer with an attractive inlay of light wood. It turns out that this inlay is not just decorative: its grain runs the opposite way from the grain of the flyer, thus strengthening a vulnerable weak point.
See also Crofter.
Canterbury wheels were made for Blis Export Ltd of Ashburton, from the late 1970s to about 1982. The drive wheel is set down into a cut in the table, and there is a separate cut in the table which the footman passes through. The flyer is laminated, and the yarn is threaded through the whorl and the orifice with a single pass of the hook.
Carlisle wheels were made by Commander Edward Adams (Ted) Wildy of Carlisle Road, Browns Bay, Auckland. They were made of pine, and this one was purchased new in the 70s. The mother-of-all can slide left or right to adjust drive band tension.There appear to be two front maidens, but the one on the right houses a craftily disguised orifice hook.
Cherub wheels are made in Lower Hutt, near Wellington, by Graham Collins – initially he made just one for his wife. Like many makers in the Wellington region, he was advised by Miss Stace, who on seeing his first attempt told him of many things wrong with it. However, she approved his second wheel and suggested he make more.
Cherub wheels are made of NZ native kauri, usually recycled. Earlier ones have no markings (recent ones are signed) but they are easily identified because the tip of the front maiden can be lifted off and reveals itself as the handle of a threader hook.
The original information that would have come with a Cherub wheel can be downloaded here
Cleopatra spinning wheels were developed from the Wendy by Ray Chisholm after he took over Pipy from Philip Poore. He substituted a large wooden mother-of-all for the metal flyer frame. Like the Wendy, it is a double drive wheel, but the tension mechanism is different. It has no markings.
E.R. Cole of Glendowie, Auckland, made these wheels. This one dates back at least to 1978, and is stamped “ER Cole Auckland” on the end of the table.
The wheel came with a skeiner which can be attached to the extension of the axle and turned by a handle. The second photograph shows a Cole wheel with its skeiner.
The original information that would have come with a Cole upright wheel can be downloaded here.
Mr Colthart of Fendalton, Christchurch made quite a few of these. As with his norwegian-style wheels, the tips of the maidens are brass.
Tom Couper of Gisborne, on the East Coast of the North Island, made about 6 of these. They were copied from his mother’s wheel which came from Shetland. On this one the footman is a leather strap.
This Crofter wheel was bought in 1981 from Carnaby Wools of Otahuhu, Auckland. An advertisement by Carnaby in The Web (March 1980) claimed that they featured the longest bobbin on the New Zealand market! However, the inside length of this wheel’s bobbins is 8cm – long but not exceptionally so.
It is very hard to distinguish a Crofter from a Camelot, almost the only difference being the slightly wider treadle on the Crofter. It seems they may have been made at the same factory: a leaflet sent out in 1981 from Carnaby Wools Ltd, “sole NZ distributor for the Carnaby “Crofter” spinning wheel,” speaks of it being designed by Ted Crawford, and of “the marriage of the designer with Sharp and Page Ltd of Auckland, known for their engineering excellence.” The complete leaflet can be downloaded here.
Mr Dunnachie (pronounced Dunshee) of Christchurch made about 40 or 50 of these between the mid 1960s and 1975 – this one was bought in 1971 or 1972. It was then the most economical wheel available in Christchurch and at that time there were about 15 in use by members of the Christchurch Guild of Weavers and Spinners. Purchasers had to supply their own flywheel from a treadle sewing machine.
Mr Dunnachie’s designs were influenced by Walter Morrison’s wheels; Mr Dunnachie’s daughter learned to spin from Walter Morrison, who lent her a wheel.
This little Easycraft upright wheel was bought in Christchurch about 1983. It is labelled “Easycraft Manufacturer M.D. Johnson Major Hornbrook Rd Christchurch 8.” Mr Johnson also made the A-line upright and two saxony styles.
The Eclipse, like the saxony Homespinner, was made by “Nees, The Furniture People” at a factory in Hanover St, Dunedin, in the 1970s. Made from Southland beech, it was sold as a kitset. It was intended for medium to bulky spinning, and is a bobbin-lead wheel: that is, the drive band drives the bobbin and a brake tension cord slows the flyer (the opposite of the more usual scotch tension).
Malcolm Ferguson, from the Nelson area, made about 10 wheels. Structurally they are rather similar to the Grace wheels, but they are very different in style. This one is made of totara.
Frank Field of Hawkes Bay made well over 100 wheels in the 1960s and 70s, and the one pictured is no. 11. The owner says “These wheels are not the prettiest, but one of the most functional designs I’ve come across.” Uncle Frank, as he was known locally, first made the wheels for the Hastings Hospital Occupational Therapy Department.
Fleur folding wheels were made in Torbay, Auckland by Ivan McGreevy. The first one was made for a customer who wanted a wheel that was easier than the Marion to get in and out of a car. He then produced more to satisfy a demand. Fleur is very light and easy to carry, with its convenient handle.
This wheel was bought new from Mr McGreevy in late 1992. It has a paper label stuck on near the top of the wheel which reads “FLEUR FOLDING SPINNING WHEEL Designed and made by Ivan McGreevy” and gives his Torbay address and telephone number.
Mr McGreevy also made the Marion and Jane wheels.
Mr Fraser of Dunedin developed this design during the 1939-1945 war. The cast iron drive wheels were made in a Dunedin foundry. Very many were sold, for 4 pounds 5 shillings each, including a number to the ladies of the Navy League.
These ladies spun fleece (donated by farmers) into yarn which was used to knit into sea boot stockings, jerseys and hats for men of the merchant navy working in the North Sea. The wool was left unwashed as it was believed that this gave better protection from the weather. Petrol rationing was in force at the time, making car journeys out of the question. Most of the ladies kept their wheels at the Navy League rooms and travelled there by tramcar from all over Dunedin. There is a good photograph of these wartime spinners on page 10 of Spin a Yarn, Weave a Dream (Jean Abbott and Shirley Bourke).
The wheel pictured here is signed by hand A (or perhaps P) Fraser Dunedin 1943. It also has R X stamped into the wood on both sides of the flyer. The meaning of this is a mystery – if there are any other Fraser owners out there, it would be good to know whether their wheels also have letters stamped on the flyer. The indentation visible between the initials is a pin to hold the flyer on the spindle.
Mr N. Frizzell, a farmer near Kirwee west of Christchurch, made about 12 of these double drive wheels of mahogany, and one in teak for his wife. He called them all “Catherines”. They have brass bands binding the ends of the treadle bar, and a sliding hook on one arm of the flyer balanced by a brass rod attached to the other arm. This one was made in 1975. The second photograph is a closeup of the latch that secures the back end of the spindle, and the bearings at top and bottom of the footman.
Leo Garrett, a woodworker in Cheviot, made these wheels, mainly of elm which he mills himself from windblown trees in the Cheviot Domain.
Genesis wheels were made by Hans Schouten of Hokitika, on the West Coast of the South Island. The first one shown was made in 1980 from macrocarpa and Southland beech. He made many more after this, improving on the original.
The wheel on the right was made in 1989, by which time Genesis wheels came in two varieties. This is “Justus”, which is carved into the front of the table.
The other Genesis model is “Arnon”. Like “Justus” it is carved with its name and a motif, but the table is a more rounded shape and there are holders for more bobbins.
The original information that would have come with a Genesis wheel can be downloaded here.
Joe Gibson of Seatoun, Wellington, made a variety of upright wheels, three of which are shown here, as well as some norwegian-style. The one at right is one of the very few without a visible thistle motif somewhere. It has no markings but some are stamped with his name or initials. The other wheels have both the thistles and the ledge at the heel end of the treadle.
More on Joe Gibson and his wheels
Grace is the original one of several upright styles made by Mike and Maggie Keeves in Wakefield near Nelson, since 1977. They spin well and are much loved by their owners. They have a twin treadle, so that both feet can be used, but not an alternating double treadle. There is a brass plate on the bar between the two halves of the treadle, with the wheel model and its number. The buyer’s name could also be put on the plate.
The Grace was supplied with a clip-on treadle-driven skeiner.
More on Grace wheels
Grace Imp was another smaller, simpler model, made from 1992.
At first it was made with a metal wheel. The spinner in the picture is Maggie Keeves.
More on Grace wheels
Gypsy Grace arose from a need for a simpler, less expensive, but still mechanically high quality wheel. It has an oiled finish, unlike the polyurethane of the Grace and Little Grace. About 30 were made.
More on Grace wheels
Little Grace soon developed into Little Grace Special as more bobbin-holders were added. Lighter than the Grace and very versatile, it has proved the most popular model. The flyer assembly is easily adjusted to suit right or left handed spinners.
The manual for the Little Grace Special can be downloaded here.
More on Grace wheels