Blooming spinning wheel and castle wheel

I was in my old home town Vaasa yesterday with hubby. While waiting for him when he did some errands, I went to the Ostrobothnian Museum to see if an old spinning wheel I’d heard of would be on display. It was, but I also saw this one:


Absolutely awesome! I couldn’t believe my eyes! I’ve never seen anything like it, except some new wheels that are also resplendently made and painted. The wheel is from the island Björkö in the Baltic Sea.


The light was bad for taking photos (but very good for just looking at the objects), but I still hope you can see the year that’s painted on it: 1854. It’s in very good condition, so must’ve been appreciated also after it’s no longer been used.



The bobbin is dark blue. Hard to say whether it’s original, but it did look as if it belongs to the wheel.

The furniture and the textiles are typical for the island: rich, bright colors, much red, green, blue and yellow.


And here sits the man in the house mending fishing nets amongst all this beauty! The bed is special: in Björkö shelves for plates were built onto the headboards. I didn’t see the reflexion of the glass cabinet facing the bed until I downloaded the photo, but I think you still can see the plates and bowls. The walls are sprinkled with red paint, very decorative and effective.

This is the wheel I went to look for. It also was behind glass, like so many of of the other objects in the museums nowadays, and therefore camera stands usually are forbidden. That makes me a bit grouchy, even if I can understand why I’m not allowed to mess around with sticks.


What you see is an upright wheel from the early 18th century, found in Karijoki in southern Ostrobothnia, now in the museum in Vaasa. The flyer and bobbin assembly is missing, which of course is a pity. This is one of the few old castle wheels there are in Finnish museums. I don’t know if the flax distaff is original, but it’s plausible the wheel once has been equipped with one of the same type.

Next week: distaves, lazy kates, and other goodies! A teaser: this lazy kate is from Toholampi in northern Ostrobothnia.



  1. Marilyn F.

    Blooming spinning wheel! That is exactly what it looks like, as if it had just sprung up from a blossoming flower garden. The paint has aged so beautifully. Perhaps it was much brighter at one time? It seems to be very sturdily built (meant to last a long time) and I see a hole for a distaff. Is that really is an old Lazy Kate? Wouldn’t it be fun to actually use one? Maybe have a good woodworker make a reproduction? You’d have to visually figure out the approximate dimensions. I’ve heard that castle wheels originated in Ireland. I wonder about that since you have shared some very old examples in your blog. Thank you Barbro for sharing these bits of historical life in your country. It is wonderful to see and learn from them.

  2. Susan

    I agree with Marilyn…blooming is right! I was interested to see hooks on both sides of the flyers like on my Canadian Production Wheel. What a room, a sight for sore eyes! Thank you.

    • Barbro Heikinmatti

      Yes, the hooks are usually on both sides on Finnish Saxony flyers. CPW – I still haven’t understood what the difference is between a CPW and a high quality Saxony. It so irritates me that I can’t see for myself!

      • Susan

        Actually I said that wrong…….There are hooks along one arm on the front and one arm on the back…odd. You cannot pull the wool off the bobbin easily as they keep getting caught in these hooks. I take the bobbin off after plying (I have 4 bobbins) and then one hears you should Never take the bobbins off. Each wheel had only ONE bobbin and this was not a wheel for plying. It was for warp and weft, singles for weaving, one of the whorls being a little more deeply carved than the other. That still doesn’t explain to me why there are 2 sets of hooks Not facing each other. I can take a picture if this doesn’t make any sense 🙂

        • Barbro Heikinmatti

          Yes, I understood what you ment. But are you sure the wheel wasn’t used for plying also? I have no problems plying with mine. You can wind of the singles from your bobbin onto something else. I do that all the time as I had only one bobbin also. I’ve had new bobbins made for our way of spinning: knitting yarns that need to be plied.

        • Barbro Heikinmatti

          New information: I asked in the FB-group Spinnare, and two experts in Sweden and Norway says it has to do with the balance of the wing: if you always spin on one side of the flyer, it’ll become lopsided with time. If the hooks are all on the same side, it’s likely that you use one side more than the other (habit!) which is more unlikely when the hooks are on both sides. Hope that helps, and thanks for your reflexion. I’ve thought about it myself many times, but never got to asking. So now I know also!

          • Susan

            Now that is very interesting because all of these old wheels ‘chatter’ which drive some people Crazy and do not bother me at all. I have 3 new bobbins and they do not make any noise! Looking down the bore of both, the old one is not smooth and that may be from using only one side of the flyer! Another mystery solved. great, thanks for asking the FB-group. I have been told by Norman Kennedy that these women never plyed, spun like mad, pulled it off and wove with it! Must go and do some spinning myself……Lincoln/Corriedale, not my favourite. Corriedale yes, Lincoln not so much.

            • Barbro Heikinmatti

              Norman is right of course, as long as you stay in the early 19th century. Towards the end of the century, and when you enter the 20th, knitting yarns become more and more important also in Norman’s home country Scotland. The cottage knitting industry was of great importance in many parts of Great Britain, in Yorkshire as early as the 17th century.

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