I Found Love in a Pawn Shop: A Spinning Wheel Romance

Written up as a curiosity in the weekend paper, the little antique wheel seemed destined to become my first spinning wheel.

Jeannine Glaves Mar 30, 2022 - 4 min read

I Found Love in a Pawn Shop: A Spinning Wheel Romance Primary Image

With ivory turnings, porcelain buttons, and delicate woodworking, Jeannine's first wheel looked like a fancy lady waiting to be rescued by an adventurous handspinner. Now she spins fine silk for demonstrations. Photos by Lynn Tedder

Many (many) years back, I sat down to Sunday breakfast, opened the paper to the “Around Town” section, and fell in love. An article about pawn shops included a picture, in full color, of a delicate castle wheel with porcelain buttons and ivory turnings. This lovely wheel was listed as just one of many oddities that can be found in a pawn shop.

After a sleepless night, I was waiting when their door opened Monday morning. I wanted to know if it was a working wheel or just a decoration, so I asked to see the spinning wheel. It was on a counter, and the owner proceeded to show me how you take your hand and pump this “thing” up and down to make it work. I borrowed a chair, put the wheel on the floor, and opened my purse. I had a tin of wool, candle wicking for a drive band, oil, and a rag. A bit of cleaning, an adjustment here, a tweak there, oil in a number of places, and the wheel and I were off spinning.

The shop owner just about fell over the counter. He began shouting to his staff to come see the wheel work. Soon I had an audience, and he had a sale.

My husband loved to tell this story. He never got over the surprise of what I carried in my purse when I met my first wheel.

Jeannine-s-Victorian-Wheel new-background-cropped

The drive band drives the wheel's bobbin, making it bobbin-lead or Irish tension. The flyer is very light, which may explain the fine yarn Jeannine can spin on it. Instead of screwed-in hooks on both arms, the flyer features holes along each arm; Jeannine had one hook custom made to move between the holes as needed. A peg to the right of the orifice adjusts the brake band, which slows the flyer.

Life with Victoria

And this is how I found my first spinning wheel. Although she is bobbin-led (or Irish tension), which is generally good at spinning thicker yarns, I can spin fine yarn easily. When I first encountered her, though, I was happy to find a wheel that could spin yarn at all.

I named her Victoria for her fancy appearance, and I imagine her as a lady’s parlor wheel. I have several spinning wheels now, but Victoria is the one I take to window-sit in nineteenth-century costume during the holiday season.

Before you go in search of spinning wheels in a pawn shop, antique shop, or flea market, check out “Become a Spinning-Wheel Detective: Tips for Buying Vintage Wheels” by Heavenly Bresser.

Jeannine Glaves is a lifelong student and teacher. With a broad craft background and over 45 years of spinning and weaving experience, she feels you can never have too many good tools and always makes room for one more spindle.