2006-10-10: The Wee Peggy

In which the author wanders into the world of spinning with spinning wheels.

That's right, my friends. I've finally gone over to the dark side. No longer is my simple drop spindle enough for creating yarn. I finally decided to learn to use a spinning wheel.

I went to spinning class with great anticipation this month. So much anticipation, in fact, that I went a week early. No one was there, of course, so I sat on the steps, finished knitting a sample swatch of cotton I had spun on the Turkish spindle, and then went back home.

Next week was much more exciting. My spinning teacher had promised to bring a wheel she was planning to sell. When she had finished helping and answering questions for other students, I got her to come over and introduce me to Wee Peggy.

A photo of my new Wee Peggy spinning wheel

Someone at the Pixie Purls spinning forum provided me with a link that had a bit of background information on the wheel. They were made in New Zealand and are not manufactured anymore. I'm not sure how old exactly this one is, but it's in good condition, although it's clearly not new.

I sat down at the wheel and the first thing I needed to get used to were all its working parts. A spinning wheel is basically a foot-powered flywheel that turns a smaller assembly called a flyer. The flyer goes around a bobbin and winds twisted yarn onto it. The yarn is threaded through an orifice and gets fed in by the spinner as the fibre is twisted up.

A close up photo of the Wee Peggy's flyer and bobbin.

The main thing I really needed to master was the concept of using my feet to spin. Although some spindles can be kicked to rotate, I have always used my hands only. With spinning wheels, you need to co-ordinate to some degree how fast you treadle with how fast you feed in the fibre. Treadle slower and you have loose fluffy yarn with not a lot of twist. Treadle faster and your yarn is tighter and twistier.

Spinning wheels often have a dead spot where the treadle will get stuck and you won't be able to spin the wheel. When this happens you need to push the wheel a little with your hand to get it going. The Wee Peggy was no exception here and on my first lesson I struggled to get past the dead spot a lot, and sometimes managed to spin the wheel the wrong way. Forgive the bad framing in the video below, but you can definitely see all of my stops and starts.

I decided to take the Wee Peggy home and got a nice used wheel for a price I could afford (at least, when you compare it to the price tag of most brand new spinning wheels). I think it will serve me well, and I already immensely enjoy using it. Here's hoping my spinning projects will roll along a little more quickly. But I'll still always have time for my drop spindles too.

Nice video Roceal! Wishing you many happy wheelspun skeins with your new baby!

Spindleknits taboo1@chartermi.net 11 Oct 2006

Lovely little wheel you have there! Nice that it seems to be fairly small - it's nice to be able to tuck your wheel off in a corner outta the way when you're not using it.

I didn't see any video :-( Oh - it looks like I need to install additional plugins - I'll get to that later!

I'm planning on spinning up some yarn for socks too - for the Twisted Knitter along... I've never knit socks out of my own handspun.

Have fun!

Abigale abiknits@yahoo.com 11 Oct 2006

I was interested in your experience with your Wee Peggy. I just bought one, so am playing around with it a bit. Do you use the Scotch Tension more or use it with the double drive band? I see in the pic you are using the scotch tension. I saw on one Web Page that they sold new (30 years ago) for $300 to $323 new, unfinished and unassembled. That sounds pretty pricy. Do you have any idea what they are worth now? Any comments on your experience with this adorable little wheel would be appreciated. Thanks. Betty

Betty tedandbetty@comcast.net 31 Jan 2007

Hi Betty,

I have stuck with Scotch tension thus far; I find it simpler since I'm still learning.

I paid $250 for this wheel and I feel like it was a pretty worthy investment. It's used but certainly in good working order, although I think I will need to tighten the drive band-- the warm weather seems to have messed about with the tension-- and I have a couple of bobbins that came with it that are too big & need to be either replaced or resized.

Once I get going it's a very smooth, pleasant spinning experience, although if I don't take the time to test/adjust the tension, position myself correctly, and get a good treadling rhythm going I end up all flustered in a mess, so it's a little unforgiving that way. But it teaches me good habits ;-)

ARJ roceal@jngm.net 06 Feb 2007

Hello, I just bought one of these babies myself and I'm a bit confused but your video helps me. So have anyone tried to get parts from Ashford for the Wee Peggy? I have no brake system and I'd really like to get the larger flyer set with bobbins. I read that the bobbins have a nylon piece to them that falls out easily, I can't see any nylon piece! I pais $250.00 for mine on ebay, it was advertised as a Baynes! Baynes quickly corrected me. I don't know if I should insist the seller take it back, I guess if I can get parts I'd keep it because it is a beautiful little thing! Thanks for any info you can share. LeAnn

LeAnn therunges@yahoo.com 10 Feb 2007

Hi LeAnn-- as far as I know, Ashford do supply bobbins for the Wee Peggy, but I don't know if they supply other parts or if there are any additional flyers that are compatible. I would recommend talking to the closest maker/supplier of spinning wheels near you for information, as well as contacting Ashford directly. You may be able to get custom parts made for it as well.

ARJ roceal@jngm.net 12 Feb 2007

Well it's me again, Ashford does not carry parts for the "original" wee peggy, just for the ones they made. Makes no sense to me, if they bought the company and continued to make them.??...so they refered my e-mail inquiry to a man who does repair and he says he works for Ashford also. He has a few parts I need (brake knob and standard bobbins) but he wants me to send cash. I just don't know about this...I really want the parts but maybe I can get a dowel that fits into the hole where the brake knob goes. Looking at yours, do you think that's reasonable?

LeAnn therunges@yahoo.com 20 Feb 2007

Hi LeAnn, sorry for the late reply-- I've been really busy.

I think a dowel would be fine to use in place of the brake knob, but you will probably need to modify it a bit to work. Mine is slightly narrower on one end to help it really wedge in tightly (there can be a lot of tension on it!) and it has a groove at the other end so the brake wire doesn't slip off as it gets wound tighter, with a hole through it to securely knot the end of the brake wire. I think it would be easy enough to make these modifications with a bit of care & patience and a good sharp knife, a simple power drill, & some sandpaper. I can provide a close-up photo if that'd be helpful.

ARJ roceal@jngm.net 26 Mar 2007

Hi - I'm thinking of buying this wheel as well and I was thrilled to find your comments on it. I have a question re: the ratios. I've seen them listed as 5 & 6.5 to 1. Do you find that limiting? I want to spin pretty fine, as that's what I like to knit with.

Thanks,
Lynn

Lynn in Tucson unpastis 12 Jun 2007

Hi - I'm thinking of buying this wheel as well and I was thrilled to find your comments on it. I have a question re: the ratios. I've seen them listed as 5 & 6.5 to 1. Do you find that limiting? I want to spin pretty fine, as that's what I like to knit with.

Thanks,
Lynn

Lynn in Tucson unpastis 12 Jun 2007

Hi, we sold quite a few of these wheels in Germany 1978-1985. We sold many of the top quality wheels from NZ for about DM750-DM1200. That's $A750-1200. There were Nagy, Pipy, Wendy,Poly, Wee Peggy, Etc. Still got 2 working Polys in my collection. Great wheels. Can do anything on them. Perfect for teaching anyone to spin. Got some spare parts left too for the Pipys, Wendys and the Polys. I can spin too so if you want any tips please E-mail. E-mails over 1MB won't download so be warned!
Max

Max maxnoble@bigpond.com.au 20 Jun 2007