What a Gift!

A friend arrived at the door this morning with a plastic bag in her hand.  “For you.”

I couldn’t believe my eyes.  It was a half-size ORKNEY spinney – yes, not just a half sized wheel, but one with the three Orkney features.

It was made by Arnie Rendall – the name W A Rendall is stamped on the table – in about 1970.  Karen and her husband Marcus had moved in to a place where there was a built-in unit which needed something in one space.  She saw another wheel Arnie had made and got him to make her one.  It has stood in all their houses over the years, but now they are preparing to move from the big farm house to a smaller one, and she is clearing out.  She wondered whether I might like it…!!

She apologised for its condition, but I don’t know why!  OK, there was some rust on the steel bits, but this is Orkney – everything rusts as soon as you look at it!  It has lived recently in their porch, in full view of all the mud etc from a diary farm.

Everything works, but the bobbin is tight on the flyer.  So I am sending it down to Mike Williams (of drop spindle fame) for some TLC.  A couple of the hooks have rusted off, and the others are bent.  The steel rod at the centre of the flyer is a bit rusty where it meets the wood and it is this which is stopping the bobbin running smoothly.  I have also asked Mike to make a couple more bobbins and a swearie box…

As to scale, the wheel is 8 ins across and the whole thing is 17.5 ins tall.  The bobbin is about 2.5 ins long.  It really is a thing of a huge amount of interest.  Mr Rendall may still be alive – Karen wasn’t sure – and I will be finding out that one from a relative of his, hopefully on Sunday.


9 thoughts on “What a Gift!

    1. It was as common practise for people to make haf sized wheels when they were trying to work out how to make one – usually copied from an old wheel – remember spinning wheels were tools and were made by the local wood worker, not a specialised thing! In this case, Arnie had made one for someone else – no idea why – and Karen asked him to make one the same as an ornament….

      Karen wasn’t sure if Arnie also made full sized wheels – we are hoping the relative (Robert Rosie) will be in church on Sunday to ask!!


  1. A wonderful gift. Lucky you.
    Janet, who thought of moving her Louet downstairs today but with aching shoulders I thought it was too heavy!

  2. I love this pretty little thing, although I do not spin. It looks to me like the half circle thing on top is made from a horseshoe?

  3. Liz, that is a wonderful gift! You are most deserving of this as you would truly appreciate it and its full meaning to the history of Orkney.

    Can you tell me what features make it Orkney? You mentioned it had 3. I have reproduction (made in 1800’s) of a wheel (reported to be 1500’s style) that looks similar to this. It is a flax wheel because it has a distaff. Just curious as to where it could be copied from. I don’t even know if all the dates are accurate, but the gal I got it from is a very good antiques dealer of spinning wheels and seems to really know her stuff.

    1. Uprights like this only came to Orkney at the beginning of the 20th Century, give or take a year or two. Before that they were sloping bed. The upright design (known as a spinney) came from Shetland about 1900.

      There was little flax spinning in Orkney – flax was grown and shipped out. One land lord brought in a few flax wheels, but the girls could make more money plaiting straw for bonnets. 10 wheels were brought in, but he was only able to find 5 to take away. No one knows where the other 5 went…!!

      Orkney built wheels have usually have a chamfered treadle, dumbell shaped spokes and a distinctive wheel rim. Some Shetland wheels have the same type of spokes too. There was and is a lot of tooing and froing between the island groups.


  4. I am charmed! I visited the Orkney Islands last summer and fell in love with the beauty, the purity, the people! I am a spinner (still working on her skills) and brought home to Texas some lovely North Ronaldsay wool, which I am entirely spinning on my drop spindle…I also purchased two ram’s horn buttons which will decorate the handwarmers I intend to knit from the Ronaldsay. Best “souvenir” ever! I had no idea there was such a spinning wheel as the Orkney. I would love to find an old one and refurbish it. Any ideas you can give me would send me reeling! I will be following your web site now…I love the beautiful hand dyed wools that reflect your lovely islands.
    Nancy Duncan
    Grapevine, TX

    1. Well a friend of mine in California found one on Ebay a while back! But that is rare.. They tend only to come up in the local auctions at the Mart…

      But you never know what will come up wehere or when!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s