Jessie Raymond: She's not just spinning her wheels

Confession: I now own three spinning wheels.

Mark isn’t thrilled.

He says it would be like if he bought three table saws. But it’s not the same; I have an emotional attachment to my wheels. And anyway, what do I care how many tables saws he has? Unlike him, I don’t judge.

I bought my first wheel, new, around 2004. And Mark himself surprised me with the second one, an antique “walking wheel,” the big kind you see at history museums. He thinks that because it’s very old — 200 years, with its original blue paint — and is the most thoughtful Christmas gift he’s ever given me, I should be all set in the spinning wheel department.

I thought I was.

But in July, I attended a “spin-in,” where I tried several antique wheels. One was so worn its wooden treadle bore the contour of a long-ago spinner’s foot. That got to me.

Sure, I’ve got my modern wheel, which turns out consistent yarn without a fuss. And I’ve got the walking wheel, which is fun when I’m in the mood to slip into a calico dress and test my old-school spinning chops by the dim light of a tallow candle.

But I kept thinking of all the unique, still-functional wheels out there that sit unused and unloved or, worse, are destined for the dump. I had to save one.

When I first told Mark, he looked from the wheel behind the loveseat to the wheel next to the couch.

“That’s the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard,” he explained.

We talked it over for a couple of days, with him insisting that the house was already at maximum occupancy in terms of spinning wheels and me saying nothing because I was too busy scouring the web for one to buy.

I studied the various styles. I made a list of what to look out for when buying an old wheel. I learned the right vocabulary, so if someone said “mother-of-all,” I’d know it was a part of the wheel and not an insult.

And then one day I found it, in a Facebook garage sale post: a Canadian production wheel, or CPW. This type of wheel, manufactured in Quebec from about 1850 to 1940, produced a fine yarn at a factory-worthy clip.

A young woman from Barre was selling the wheel for her grandparents, who had moved away and left it behind (the poor baby). We made arrangements to meet at their old house, somewhere between East Randolph and the middle of nowhere.

Mark, oozing anti-wheel negativity, said he bet the seller wouldn’t even show. But he couldn’t blunt my enthusiasm.

That happened later.

I arrived at the given address on time but found no seller — and no cell service. I waited 45 minutes (or, in internet-deprived terms, nine hours) before giving up all hope.

In summary: the seller had bailed; I wouldn’t be getting a wheel; I’d wasted a long drive; and, by far the worst of all, Mark had been right.

I started back toward home, crushed. But then, a few miles down the road, my phone dinged. A notification!

I pulled over. I had one bar and a Facebook message from the seller saying, “Sorry! I gave you the wrong house number.”

Whooping like a rodeo rider, I whipped the car around and headed back up the road to the new address. The woman met me at the door and apologized for the mix-up.

“Fine, whatever,” I said, shoving her out of the way in my eagerness to get to the wheel.

And there it was: a classic CPW, well-used but beautiful and in full working order.

“Sold,” I said in a reverent whisper.

Arriving home two hours later, I carried the wheel into the house past Mark and gave him my smuggest smile. He harrumphed.

That evening I started spinning. The wheel made old-fashioned whirring noises as I treadled away. Pure joy.

I could see that Mark was torn. On the one hand, he didn’t like our house filling up with spinning wheels. On the other, he hadn’t seen me this happy since the last Ben & Jerry’s buy-two-get-two-free sale.

Still, he couldn’t resist a dig.

“I’ve got an idea,” he said. “Why don’t you buy a few more wheels, and then we won’t even be able to walk through here?”

I stuck out my tongue and kept spinning.

I didn’t have the heart to tell him it is probably only a matter of time.

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Addison County Independent

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Middlebury, VT 05753

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