Where Have I Been?
I know that it appears to have been a quiet summer around Peace Flag House but let me assure you that it was just the opposite.
For five glorious weeks this summer I was out in the country farm-sitting. “Farm-sitting” might be a little bit of an exaggeration since there was just one horse and a dog.
I was settling into a routine of morning horseback rides and chatting with the farm dog when an article from the local paper in St Marys crossed my desktop. A fixer of spinning wheels, known as a Wheelwright, had taken up residence in the historic train station of St Marys, the closest village to my country retreat. I was, naturally, intrigued.
The shop’s name was, rather appropriately, Wheelwright and the artisan was Reed Needles. The next time I was in St Marys I dropped in for a quick look. Two hours later and my summer itinerary changed completely.
Reed Needles is a skilled maker and fixer of spinning wheels and clocks, with an impressive collection of both. He’s also a brilliant storyteller and excellent teacher. He welcomed me into his shop with tea and biscuits and I settled in to absorb as much knowledge as possible over the next four weeks.
Take a Spin
Reed must have noticed me eyeing the collection of wheels situated around the room because he pulled out some roving and suggested I give them all a try. Honestly, I was excited and terrified. I’m not a fabulous hand spinner and I knew that antique wheels can be a little tough for the unskilled, but I also have a deep sense of curiosity that generally overruns my fear.
I made, in Reed’s words, a lot of “barbed wire” yarn. He stood over my shoulder explaining how to hold the roving lightly, (“like you have an egg in your hand that you can’t drop or crush”) and encouraging me to “draft, girl, draft!” Needless to say, my spinning improved significantly as I worked away on a Paradis, Borduas, an Early CPW, and a Bisson to start.
Investing in Craft
As a maker myself, I value fine artisanal work, skilled craft and local investment. Spending my summer afternoons observing and listening to Reed confirmed for me the significance of his contribution to our fibreshed. Not only do we need local fibre producers, we need skilled local craftspeople that can fix and make our tools with the same integrity we put into a hand spun yarn or hand knit sweater.
This summer has left me with a commitment to sourcing locally produced tools to go with my local fibres. When I finally left the train station a beautiful little Joseph Adair wheel from mid-19th century Nova Scotia also came home with me (“for your parlour” according to Reed). I am also the proud owner of a few Wheelwright drop spindles, a small, handheld distaff (which you must try because it is brilliant with a drop spindle), as well as a handmade orifice hook that I am tempted to use a jewelry.
Now if I could just convince Reed to make some wool combs…
Location: St Marys Train Station, Corner of James St North and Queen St East, St Marys, Ontario
Services: Spinning Wheel Restoration and Repair
Products: Spinning Wheels, Antique and Used, Handmade Drop Spindles and Distaffs, Custom Orifice Hooks
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