A Tale of Two Wheels, Chapter 1

Well, it started with my lovely Joe Jorgensen myrtlewood spinning wheel, which I bought from my spinning teacher. I’d always wanted a myrtlewood wheel and she wanted to sell hers. So. It became mine.

Then Ravelry happened. And through it, I learned of a few other owners of Jorgensen wheels. Joe Jorgensen was a man who, till he was quite elderly, made wonderful spinning wheels from myrtlewood. He stamped and numbered (thank goodness!) each one of his wheels. Joe had a shop in Grants Pass, Oregon, and I found out that his wheels were highly cherished by their owners.

I decided to start a group on Ravelry, where people who owned, admired, or lusted after Jorgensen wheels could get together. This has led to some wonderful friendships, support, and a real sense of community, and every once in awhile someone new who’s heard about us will join our little group. This has led to the discovery of more of Joe’s wheels. Our goal is to locate as many of Joe’s wheels as we can; a daunting task, because he made over 400 of them!

My wheel is #40. We have learned that Joe did something a little different to each one of his wheels, perhaps in the shape of the treadle, or a couple of decorations he added, or the turnings of the spokes. So far, mine seems to be the only one with double turnings on the spokes; I’m hoping we can find more of them.

Okay, so that’s the back story.

Someone posted in our Ravelry group that he has a friend with two Jorgensen wheels that she wanted to sell, and because she lives only about 45 minutes from me, I decided to go take a look at them. One of the goals in our group is to rescue and/or restore as many of these unique wheels as possible, so I really wanted to see them.

I asked Nolemana to come along with me, and off we went. When we got to the seller’s house, this is what we saw:

Well wowzie! I’d never seen a Jorgensen wheel with a distaff before (that’s the tall thing sticking up on the right end of the one in back). I was immediately very interested. J, the seller, had told me the day before that the wheels had been stored in a barn for over twenty years, and when she turned the first one over to show me that it really was a Jorgensen wheel, I could see the evidence of that.

The wheel was oh, so dirty; she’d warned me about that. The treadle wasn’t attached, and the mother of all was turned around backwards. But it looked structurally sound, with the exception of some small gaps in the drive wheel. This wheel was stamped #20.

The leather was stiff and old, the tension knob didn’t want to turn, the mother of all (that’s the piece that holds the flyer and the bobbin) didn’t want to stay put. There was no drive band on it and no connecting leather for the footman and treadle. And oh my goodness, the grime!

Nolemana started cleaning up a little bit to make sure that #20 could, in fact, be cleaned. In the meantime, I decided to see if I could get #32 to spin. I had to add a drive band (I’d brought along a box of supplies), but the flyer didn’t want to turn and it took a little bit to make that happen. And ho da HOT! 95 degrees that afternoon! But I managed to get everything working after a fashion. This wheel wasn’t nearly as dirty as #20.

The grain in the wood was lovely.

All the while this was going on, I was sending photos my Ravelry friend Miranda, who also owns a Jorgensen wheel and who knows a lot about wheel restoration. My thought was to maybe get these wheels, clean them up, and sell them (I sure don’t need three Jorgensen wheels!), but I didn’t want to make that investment if the wheels weren’t worth it. Miranda and I ultimately ended up on the phone, and after talking with her and then with Nolemana, I decided to get the wheels. Yep. Both of them.

The seller was getting upset as I was putting a drive band on #32 and trying to get it to spin. She just wanted to me buy the wheels and take them away. I didn’t want to spend all that money on wheels that couldn’t be restored, but the thing is that I didn’t want these wheels ending up in a barn again for another twenty years or more. I didn’t want them to be sold to someone who’d never use them or, perish the thought, turn them into planters! (Yes, it’s been known to happen.)

So in the end, I decided to chance it.  Nolemana loaded them into our van, I paid J, and off we went. When we got them home, I took more photos.

Number 32:

Number 20:

More tomorrow. Can Mokihana get the wheels to spin well? At all? Wat wen happen????

This entry was posted in Da Kine: Sometimes Full-on Pidgin, Handspinning. Bookmark the permalink.

25 Responses to A Tale of Two Wheels, Chapter 1

  1. AFK says:

    Oooh, one advencha! Dis is how you hold a babooze in suspense!

  2. ARGH – none of the photos are showing but the first one!
    Desperate to look as well.

    Sounds super exciting – look forward to the next installment!

  3. Mokihana says:

    Can you try again? I’m seeing the photos just fine.

  4. Jean Barry says:

    I have a Joe Jorgensen wheel that I bought at a garage sale over 20years ago. It’s number 66. It’s in great shape. Have always had it in my house. I am trying to find out more information about it…. etc. Any suggestions?

  5. So nice to see grandpa’s spinning wheel creations appreciated in this way! Missed deeply, but not forgotten through his gorgeous woodwork. Very cool Mokihana!

  6. Mike says:

    I bought my wife a #71 on a household sale a couple years ago. Beautiful condition. It has the double turns on the spokes. She is conquering her loom now. The spinning wheel is next.

    • Mokihana says:

      Hi Mike… thank you so much for letting me know. We’re trying to track down all the Jorgensen wheels; is your wife on Ravelry.com? It’s a free knitting, spinning, weaving community. I’ll add your wife’s wheel to our roster there. They are such lovely wheels!

      When she’s ready, I’ll give her all the help I can with spinning on these wonderful wheels. Please feel free to contact me.


  7. Will Watt says:

    I would love to buy one of these beautiful spinning wheels but they are so hard to find. Lyvon

  8. Katya says:

    I’ve seen your ad on Craigslist before…and so wanted to buy your wheel. Currently without a spinning wheel for years now after my Louet broke. Loved that wheel…but times are hard and ‘hobbies’ are expensive. Thanks for the backround regarding Joe Jorgensen’s beautiful wheels.

    If I strike it rich I’ll look you up.:) Will have to been soon tho, eh?

    • Mokihana says:

      I already sold the one wheel, but I know of several others for sale. I’m so sorry your Louet broke.. can it be fixed?

  9. Hi there, I was just gifted a Jorgensen wheel. The number is 296. I would love to find out more information about this artist/ craftsman and the community of spinners that for his wheels. Any response much appreciated.

    • Mokihana says:

      Hi Kate! I’m so excited about your wheel and saw that you’ve posted in our Ravelry group. Your wheel is absolutely beautiful and I know you’re going to love it. If you have any more questions, you can ask me here or in our Ravelry group.

  10. I was also gifted a Joe Jorgensen wheel. It’s #340. Purchased by my friend’s father for his wife. She never really learned to spin and after she passed away, the wheel was given to me. My other wheel is an Ashford Traditional, so I’m not very familiar with double drive wheels. Not quite sure how to adjust the tension.

    • Mokihana says:

      Hi Beverly! How exciting about your wheel. Adjusting the tension is quite easy: look for the square piece of wood right under the bobbin. Turn it to loosen it, and then use the knob at the end of the table to adjust the tension either tighter or looser. Once you’re satisfied with that, tighten the square wood piece again.

      I’d love to see you join our Jorgensen group on Ravelry; are you familiar with that website? I started our group some years ago, and we’re trying to track down all of Joe’s wheels. We’d love to have you join us there. Interestingly enough, your new wheel is already registered there.

      Thanks so much for posting!


      • Beverly Winchester says:

        Yes,I found that group and registered. Then…life is always busy. I loaned it to some friends who wanted to learn to spin and just recently got it back. Yesterday afternoon I sat down and eventually figured out how to make the adjustment (that you explained so clearly here – thank you). I think I’m off and running now. After I “practice” a bit, I should pick some of my lovely fiber and spin something beautiful.

  11. Mokihana says:

    Oh, wonderful! I’m sorry I didn’t recognize your name. I love that you’re off and running, and I know you’ll spinning something beautiful. Please post photos of your wheel and yarn anytime!

  12. Rosemary Meiser says:

    I am just learning that the old spinning wheel in my garage that was gifted to me many years ago is stamped by Joe Jorgensen from Grants Pass, Ore. and the number 48. I was thinking about selling it because It’s beautiful and should be appreciated and used.

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