Spinninglizzy's Weblog

Falling down the slippery fibre slope

Indian Head Spinning Wheel

I came across an ad for an Indian Head spinning wheel; an Indian Head wheel mounted on an old cast-iron Singer treadle.  Cursory research did not show many pictures, so I was curious enough to go take a look.  I did not purchase the wheel, but I thought it important enough to take some pictures for others who may be interested.

  • This wheel is primarily for bulky and novelty yarns, and produced lovely thick singles (think Noro worsted merino Malabrigo singles) that won awards at local fairs in the 1970s.

The bobbin is an enormous monster — ten or more inches long!

Closeup of the orifice:

Closeup of the treadle:

I heard that a buyer, who owns many spinning wheels, from one of the nearby islands was coming to collect the wheel, so it have a good home.

8 September 2008 - Posted by | Spinning | , , ,

40 Comments »

  1. Hi SpinningLizzy,

    I have heard of this type of spinning machine but haven’t seen any photos or drawing of one. It seems it would be awkward because you are treadling to the ‘front’ but you have to draw the yarn to the ‘front’ of the device.

    it seems it would make more sense to have another gear or wheel in line so you could turn the spinner unit to face the same way as you are treadling. I’m still working on ideas…

    thanks suzanne whitty

    Comment by suzanne | 7 November 2008 | Reply

  2. Hi, I am the person who purchased this wheel. I was disappointed because it wasn’t quite what I had in mind (didn’t see a picture first) and it is awkward that the treadle and orifice don’t face the same direction….you almost need 2 people to use it. My husband is working on making some adjustments to make to it. In the mean time if anyone is interested in purchasing it……let me know.

    Comment by Julie Beer | 22 January 2009 | Reply

    • This is a little late in coming, but I am looking for just such a wheel. Do you still want to sell it?

      Comment by Christi Wagner | 17 October 2011 | Reply

      • No….I am sorry that I don’t……it has been taken apart and used as parts….

        Comment by Julie Beer | 17 October 2011

  3. Julie,

    I’m sorry to hear of your trouble with this wheel! Have you oiled all the moving metal parts and the wood parts that turn? It seems to me that it would need lots of oil, as it’s been sitting unused for quite a while. While many modern wheels are castle style, the orifice really doesn’t have to face towards the spinner to work. In this case, would it work if you use a very long leader to start, and bring the leader forward to you (spin as if the orifice faces you)? I think if you can tackle the treadling issue (oil until everything moves easily), the spinning may be easier? Just a thought. Do let us know of your progress!

    Comment by SpinningLizzy | 24 January 2009 | Reply

  4. I really was desperate for an indian head spinner and should have known that for 75 dollars….I wasn’t going to get a deal….but I was hoping. It does have some other issues and I may use parts of it to make something completely different. My husband is an engineer and he loves challenges like this. I will keep you informed….PS…I am waaaaayyyyyyy too impatient to try and treadle that thing and use it that way…..the kind of yarns I wanted it for just won’t work like that. Thanks for the thought.

    Comment by Julie Beer | 25 January 2009 | Reply

  5. Hi–I bought an Indian Head flyer, (ebay) and attached it to a sewing machine base and HATED it. So, the left side “leg” was unscrewed and removed, and it was replaced with a 1″ dowel rod. Now I face the orifice and treadle side to side–different but not that bad. Just did this 2 days ago, today I’m fooling with the tension to prevent overspinning. Since the orifice is wood on wood it doesn’t glide as easily as I would like, even with oil. I cut a strip of plastic from a soda bottle and tacked it into the “cradle”. Oiled it well and it turns much more easily.
    In addition mine is a lovely home-made flyer assembly with carving on it BUT the orifice is way too small so I’ll be working on it with a drill bit or small hole cutter to enlarge it. The smiling sunflower on the base hooked me. If I hadn’t gotten that I was prepared to look at buying just the flyer on an Ashford Country spinner and put it together with a sewing machine base.

    Comment by Hilly Jacklin | 13 February 2009 | Reply

  6. I would love to see your wheel Hilly….how interesting

    Comment by Julie Beer | 25 February 2009 | Reply

  7. Lizzy….wanted to let you know I am selling the wheel on Craigslist as I have had someone contact me about a Indian Head wheel I am more interested in…..I will email you a pic of the new one if you are interested. I also wanted to let you know….if you don’t mind…that I am using the pics you took of mine as the pics I will email anyone who is interested in buying it…..Let me know if you have any problems with that….thanks..Julie

    Comment by Julie Beer | 25 February 2009 | Reply

  8. Julie–Where do I send pictures? Tomorrow I go to get a spade bit or small hole cutter to make the orifice bigger. The hole is relativly small so the yarn is only worsted weight, not a super chunky rug yarn. I’m hoping a bigger orifice will make the wind-on rate better with less overtwist.

    Comment by Hilly Jacklin | 2 March 2009 | Reply

  9. Hilly…..My husband has done something with that wheel and now I can’t find it….but I KNOW the orifice is plenty big to make large yarns……I am betting it is at least an inch in diameter if not larger…..hubby may have put it in a shed…..I’ve gotta go hunting…..

    Comment by Julie Beer | 2 March 2009 | Reply

  10. Hi yall
    I had two of these miserable assembleies, I had a boon fire and burn them both.

    Comment by chuck | 24 February 2010 | Reply

    • Hi Chuck, I’m very curious to know what you didn’t like about these wheels?! Was it having to deal with the old sewing-machine treadles?

      Comment by SpinningLizzy | 24 February 2010 | Reply

  11. some of the parts may have been worth saving…..I sent my flyer to Hilly and I hope she has been able to use it…..it turned out to be pretty wood once it was cleaned up.

    Comment by Julie Beer | 24 February 2010 | Reply

    • A spinning friend of mine was gifted with a flyer assembly. She took it to a woodworking friend to make the treadle and stand for it. I haven’t seen it all yet, but I hear it’s beautiful.

      Comment by SpinningLizzy | 24 February 2010 | Reply

  12. I Have had a few beers. So my thought is all the Indian head spinners should be put into a pile and set a fire

    Comment by chuck | 3 March 2010 | Reply

  13. I am sorry maybe the bobbins can be set bon end and used as candle holders

    Comment by chuck | 3 March 2010 | Reply

  14. These are relatively easy to use, but there is not much similarity to other types of wheels. It is a creature onto its own. Whether the orifice is on the side or front makes no difference at all. But you do need to have all the parts very well oiled and smooth. If it won’t draw in, be sure you have the Scotch tension adjusted properly. It is not meant to make fine high twist yarns! It does do thick rug yarns very well.

    It is what it is. Don’t try to make it into something else. And to those that have burned their old ones — you would earn more points in heaven if you gave it to someone that would love it rather than destroy something so valuable. That is so very selfish and short-sighted.

    Comment by Tallguy | 10 June 2010 | Reply

    • Now Now,that’s a little harsh. I can understand the frustration. Like you said it is a creature unto it’s own and not for everyone. We have burned many things over the centuries that have annoyed us and I don’t think heaven really cares about material things, (I’m a youth minister, trust me on this). But I do agree with you, don’t try to make it something it isn’t, it is meant to make heavier yarns and when you try to do something else with it, and especially if you are not a very experienced spinner, you are setting yourself up for disaster and that is when we light the bon fires.

      I was wondering though, is there any information out there on the history of this type of wheel, I can document almost every type and style out there but this is one of the ones that there seems very little written history on, the only thing I seem to be able to find is that it came from British Columbia, but even that is not reliable info. Do you know of any books that talk about the history of this type of wheel??

      Comment by Bernadette Fowler | 26 October 2010 | Reply

  15. Well, I just know this wheel isn’t for everyone with the sewing machine base. I am much happier with the Indian Head spinner I have now…..and it doesn’t have one. Chuck has his opinion…..I do know it is of historical interest…but I still hope that Hilly enjoys the flyer I sent her and I am not sad that mine is now in pieces…..not set on fire though…

    Comment by Julie Beer | 10 June 2010 | Reply

    • I’m looking to buy one of these wheels, but have no idea what a reasonable price would be. It needs a few repairs, the one I’m looking at, but nothing that we cannot fix. Any suggestions?

      Comment by Chris | 8 September 2010 | Reply

      • Are you looking for the kind on a Singer sewing machine or one that looks more like an Ashford Country Spinner?
        I got mine on the Singer for 75 dollars and that was too much for what I got….in my opinion. I got a gorgeous handmade one that is black walnut and I got it for 250.00. I was happy with that price.

        Comment by Julie | 8 September 2010

  16. I just bought an Indian head spinning wheel on it’s original base not on a sewing machine base and while it works just fine in the plying direction it comes unbolted in the spinning direction. It has a nut on the rod just inside the hole the yarn goes throught to the flyer hooks then the bobbin. It is easy to tighten but won’t stay that way. Does anyone have a picture or manual that I can see to find out about this I take it the company is not around anymore. It is in great condition, hardly used,very light weight and I just got the last squeak oiled out of it. Thanks CA spinner.

    Comment by Barbara Fiorica | 5 August 2010 | Reply

  17. I have my indian head spinner and I can send you a picture of it if you email me. I don’t think I can post it here, but I will try. My email address is juliebeer@live.com

    Comment by Julie Beer. | 6 August 2010 | Reply

  18. I have a spinning wheel from Indian Valley Spinner. It’s an Indian Head Spinner from what I understand; black walnut with a cast iron wheel. Does anyone know of this? I am having trouble with my wheel. There doesn’t appear to be anything wrong with it so I think it’s me. Everytime I try to spin on it the thread pulls through so fast that I can’t even attach more roving onto it to spin. If anyone has any info on this type of country wheel, I’d be most appreciative!

    Comment by Evelyn | 14 September 2010 | Reply

    • Evelyn……these spinning wheels are wheel driven…….they are made to make thick yarns and not thin ones…….they do have a very quick take up. I don’t know how your hook are placed on the flyer……but mine has hooks on both sides. If you lace it across both sides back and forth, it will slow down the take up considerably…. let me know if I am not making sense. If you don’t have hooks on both sides…..adding them will help.

      Comment by Julie | 14 September 2010 | Reply

    • Many years ago someone suggested that I was feeding into the orifice at an angle which was causing drag on the lip of the opening which then slowed the winding on…a problem if you want fast take up but maybe a solution to too fast a take up…(i.e.: don’t feed straight on but off to the side…)

      Comment by Marlene | 4 February 2012 | Reply

  19. I wrote in August about my Indian Head it has no maker name but it does have teflon in the bobbin so it is not that old. I did manage to fix it and it runs fine now just a matter of changing washers and getting things tightened. These are bobbin driven wheels and the only control of tension is the brake. I just attended a workshop with Judith MacKenzie-McCuin and she gave me some good advice on it. I got this for art yarn and that is what they are for. Mine draws fast too so I just let the brake tension off and can adjust to it just fine. I am using a rubber type belt and it may be too tight. Most wheels of any kind can run on pretty loose drive belts and you get a better result and it doesn’t drag.

    Comment by Barbara Fiorica | 15 September 2010 | Reply

  20. I have a Quebec wheel as well as an Indian Head wheel and I love them both. The indian head wheel is great for my novelty and rug yarns, it works like a charm and I believe is made of solid walnut and completely hand made, ie it was not made in a factory. It is not very old, maybe 50/60 years at most, it does not draw really fast and it uses an old sewing machine belt for a drive band. I have never seen one quite like it. Had a disagreement with a woman last weekend about it’s ability to make lace weight yarn, she insisted that it could if I really tried, she just didn’t get that it was not meant for that, although you can make a decent light weight yarn, it takes more effort than it does on my Quebec wheel, so why would I frustrate myself trying to get an indian head wheel to do something it is not suppose to. Still, I love it and would not part with it.

    Comment by Bernadette Fowler | 25 October 2010 | Reply

    • Hi Bernadette, I’m in agreement with you that while one might be able to make all kinds of yarn on every spinning wheel, some kinds of yarn are not much fun on certain wheels! We need the right tool to do the right job, which is why it’s necessary to have more than one wheel, don’tcha think?! :-)

      Comment by SpinningLizzy | 25 October 2010 | Reply

      • I agree completely. I don’t like to cause more work for myself than necessary. So like everything I try to have the proper tools and the indian head spinner is definitely the best tool for heavier yarns, it also creates a lot of attention where I live as I am on of the few people who has one and most people have no clue that it is a spinning wheel, everyone is use to the tradition wheel, even my quebec wheel creates a lot of attention. But it is fun to educate people that have limited exposure to something that I find so interesting.

        Comment by Bernadette Fowler | 25 October 2010

  21. I am not a spinner, therefore need your assistance understanding how a hand spinner uses the indian head spinner. If I understand correctly, the spinner sits at the machine same as for sewing, so as to treadle. Does the orifice opening turn and if so, how does the spinner succeed in getting the yarn onto the spindle at that sitting position?

    Thanks,
    Grey

    Comment by Grey | 7 February 2011 | Reply

    • Hi Grey,
      Are you referring to the fact that the spinner sits 90-degrees from the orifice rather than directly in front of it? I know it’s counter to the way one sits at most other wheels, but the winding-on the wheel happens in the same way as with the other wheels. The difference is that draw-in of the yarn also happens at 90-degrees from the opening of the orifice, and there’s more friction involved, so yarn singles must needs be bulky enough to withstand the extra tension.

      There are several spinners who watch this thread, so I hope they’ll jump in with more information for you!

      Comment by SpinningLizzy | 7 February 2011 | Reply

    • I sit to the left of the orifice and treadle with my right foot (it can be done…), seems to work just fine.

      Comment by Marlene | 4 February 2012 | Reply

  22. Julie,
    did you say your indian head spinner is broken down now? Or are you selling it?
    val

    Comment by Valerie | 5 April 2011 | Reply

    • Val,
      My older one on the singer sewing machine is now been parted out and is no longer in working order. I gave the flyer to a friend. I still have my other one….and she is well loved!! If I run across one I will keep people in this thread in mind who might be interested… Julie

      Comment by Julie Beer | 9 April 2011 | Reply

      • I have mine up and running but it walks and I can’t control it if anyone is interested it’s up for sale for $250.00. I can send a picture to any one interested.

        Comment by Barbara Fiorica | 9 April 2011

  23. hello….i know this is an old thread but i’m searching high and low for one of these spinners. anyone out there wanting to part with their indian head:)
    my email is quitemarycontrary at gmail dot com

    Comment by Mary Quite Contrary | 15 June 2013 | Reply

    • Hi Mary! I highly recommend getting a Ravelry account if you haven’t already done so. I do see these spinning wheels for sale every 2 or 3 months or so. Good luck with your search!

      Comment by SpinningLizzy | 15 June 2013 | Reply


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