The Newest Arrival

Okay, so first off, yes, I needed another spinning wheel like a hole in the head. I can’t spin on more than one at a time. They take up room. I don’t have time to refurbish the ones on my workbench. Etc., etc.

However, every so often something comes along that just won’t be ignored. This was the case with the newest arrival, a Hemlock Hill Handspinner.

She may not be a beauty, but she sure can spin!

Several years ago, before I knew what this wheel was, I purchased a similar one on Ebay. I received an e-mail from a woman who had been watching the sale. Her father had been the wheel’s designer and she let me know that the wheel I had won was a prototype. Of course, ever since then, that made me want to see what the final version turned out to be and here it is.

The wheel was designed and built by retired engineer John Woodward of Maryland. Woodward and his wife ran the Hemlock Hill Farm for many years. They raised Romney sheep. Additionally, Woodward is credited with being one of the people instrumental in founding the Maryland Sheep and Wool Show. In the mid-70s, Woodward took on the challenge of building an affordable, sturdy wheel and the result was the Hemlock Hill Handspinner. One feature is the extra-wide treadle which allows the spinner to comfortable treadle with both feet and which, I was told, accomodated his daughter’s size 10 feet.

Another feature is the reversible bobbin.

As the wheel came to me, the smaller pulley end of the bobbin is near the orifice.

The larger end and the tensioning screw.

But the most interesting feature is the flyer.

No, that is not a Woolee Winder. Woodward’s daughter explained that her father never thought to patent this flyer design. He was just looking to build a better mousetrap, as it were. It was not until later that another maker introduced a similar device.

Overall, the wheel is in good shape. The connector for the treadle and footman is a piece of leather similar to what the older Ashfords have and it is snapped, so I will replace that. The tensioning screw appears to be a bit warped; the bottom is not seated straight and I will need to examine this a little closer. Other than that, it spins fine and just needs a little clean up. It came from an estate sale in Clarksburg, Maryland; the former owner’s son was not sure if his mother knew the Woodwards or not. She raised angora goats and attended the Maryland Sheep and Wool Show, so she may well have gotten the wheel there.

If anyone else has one of these spinners, I’d love to hear from you, especially where you found it geographically. Both of mine came from Maryland within 50 miles of each other. I’m wondering if there are others out there that found themselves further afield.

11 Responses to The Newest Arrival

  1. Robin says:

    I’ve just purchased a Hemlock Hill Handspinner in terrific shape from a wonderful former spinner here in the Seattle area.

    She purchased it new directly from Hemlock Hill Farm when she was taking spinning lessons from Paula Simmons many years ago here in the PNW, and it was Paula who recommended the wheel to her as an excellent choice for a first wheel.

    I purchased this wheel for our fifteen-year-old son, who is just learning to spin — and he loves his new Hemlock Hill Handspinner.

    I have a Louet, and had a little trouble adapting to the Hemlock Hill wheel, but Stafford sat right down and was off and running with it immediately. Now I just have to stay ahead of him with a steady supply of roving. Preparing his own will be the next lesson!

  2. Judy says:

    I own a Hemlock Hill Handspinner, I purchased it direct back in 1978. I was my first and only wheel. I loved it then and love it now. I am thinking of selling it though because I hurt my back a few years ago and cant sit and spin like I use to.. This ia a sturdy fun wheel and anyone can spin on it.

  3. Dora Owens says:

    I, too, got my Hemlock Hill Handspinner in 1978, and it is the only treadle wheel I have ever owned. It is a workhorse, and all I ever have to do to it is oil it occasionally! I have never been able to spin fine, short fibers (like cotton or angora) with it, which may my, rather than the wheel’s, problem, but it has done everything else I have ever asked it to do. 🙂

  4. fotyc says:

    Hey Kat! Someone is about to GIVE me one of these. I will probably not keep it, as my collection runs to Quebec antiques, but if you want I will photograph it thoroughly before I pass it on… thanks for the history, I googled it and found your post….

  5. They are nice wheels. When you get your’s, let me know what the back leg looks like — there are prototype models floating around out there. These also have the forerunner of the Woolee Winder on them. Nice wheels, just a little heavy!

  6. fotyc says:

    I have to look at the leg, I don’t remember what it looks like! And I thought the flyer looked like what they have on Majacraft wheels. It’s one huge bobbin! You could ply all day on that! the wheel is definitely made of a nice wood, it’s not plywood. I think it’s too finished looking to be a prototype.

  7. Kris says:

    I bought a HHH from Jean Woodward in 1978 and found it it be a fantastic wheel. Huge bobbin and it could just be hooked over your shoulder by the maiden leaving your hands free. Used it for over 20 years but sold it when we down sized. Loved the sliding eye…actually wore groves in all the brass fittings.

  8. Joanne Woodward says:

    Wow – how nice to be googling pics of Dad’s wheel and come across this! It’s nice to see an appreciation for my family’s endeavors and to also see that a lot of the wheels that we produced in our garage in Damascus and later in our barn in Mt. Airy have stood the test of time. One thing I want to remind anyone who is using a Hemlock Hill Handspinner – the bobbin was designed so that you could flip it… the bobbin set one way allows you to spin standard size yarns, while the other way allows you to spin novelty yarns. Dad looked high and low to find someone who could make the orfice large enough to accomodate the larger slubby yarns and multi-plys.

    I will let my mom know about this site and your kind words. She is still spinning, weaving and teaching today.

    Happy Spinning!

  9. rosemary mcgovern says:

    I am a friend of Jean’s
    She is currently teaching me to spin.
    I am in awe of her talent and her humility.
    If i had not read these testimonies, I would never have known of her expertise.
    She is a friend, above all, and has taught me more than I can say.
    Fate made us friends.. I am so thankful for that!

  10. Kathleen A Jordan says:

    I have this wheel also. It is in great condition, I purchased it from the Woodwards at the Dutches County Wool and Sheep Sale. Dutches County NY in the 1980s. I am just starting back into spinning and weaving and very happy that this wheel is up to the task even though I am rusty. It does need a new string.

  11. I, too, have one of these wheels! I purchased it for $25 from a man near Pikesville, MD. It had belonged to his wife, who had passed away. She had bought it from the Woodwards in the late 70’s, I believe, when she was learning to spin. I offered him more money, but I think he just wanted to find a home for it. I cleaned it up, replaced the leather on the footman, and gave it a new drive band. It even has the Hemlock Hill sticker on it, which I went over with a dab of modge podge to make sure it stays. It is a fantastic plying wheel with that great big bobbin.

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