Meet the Mazurka

Among the work, and the starting school, and the work, and the preschool stuff, and the work…

I got a new wheel.

But you just SOLD one! I hear some of you cry. Yes, I did. I sold the Baynes castle wheel I got in May 2013 to Cats this past Easter. And then I discovered that I really missed having a small upright I could move around with me. This was painfully obvious in August when I had the kids home full-time and had to be downstairs with Owlet if she was watching a movie and Sparky didn’t want to. I have to be doing something with my hands, apparently, and knitting doesn’t fully work in that respect because I need undivided attention to knit. And this summer also demonstrated to me that spindles are nice, but frustrating in their slowness and their physical requirements. (I’m looking into supported spindles to combat that latter issue; we’ll see what happens.)

This summer my fellow spinners and I in the Kromski group at Ravelry got into discussing the very first spinning wheel produced by Kromski, pre-1999. We tend to call it the Mazurka prototype, because the design was overhauled and then presented as their first mass-production spinning wheel, the Mazurka. It’s a single-treadle, double-drive castle wheel. The prototype has a different flyer and bobbin, but it’s fully operational. You just can’t use the modern bobbins. (FWIW, the redesigned Mazurka was retired in 2011 and is out of production.)

We were trying to problem solve for a spinner who owned one, and whose flyer had broken in two. Now, it’s not generally a good idea to repair a broken flyer; a repaired wooden unit revolving at high speed under tension runs the risk of becoming a dangerous high-speed projectile (with pointy hooks made from nails sticking out!). We started trying to figure out the differences between the old and the new Mazurkas, and got measurements of the new flyers, trying to figure out if they’d fit on the prototype’s mother-of-all (for reference, if you’re a collector looking to upgrade your prototype: they won’t fit at all; the new flyers are almost two inches longer than the prototype’s flyer, and the clearance between the shaft and the arms is different, too. Also, modern whorls won’t fit because the threaded part on the prototype’s shaft is too short to allow the modern double whorls to screw fully on. You’re welcome.) And as we asked questions of one another, someone in the Netherlands popped up and said she had a prototype, and didn’t use it; she was willing to sell it, and at a ridiculously low price.

Well, yes, of course I was interested. I gave someone in the UK first rights of refusal, and then started negotiating. We were both busy, and I was waiting on one of the freelance cheques for a crazy project I’d done in late spring. She was worried I’d balk at the cost of shipping, but as others in the group agreed, her price for the wheel was so low that even taking international shipping of a spinning-wheel-shaped object into account, it was an awesome deal.

So then my cheque was late, and the safest and cheapest way to pay her was by bank transfer so I did an international money transfer via my bank to her bank, and then there was no news about the transfer resolving at the other end, and there were health issues… but it all worked out. Then I got to track my parcel from NL to CAN, which was very exciting. And then, a day or two before I expected it, my friendly parcel guy rang my doorbell at ten in the morning and gave me this:

I couldn’t let myself open it right away, because I had so much work to do that day! I let myself open it half an hour before I had to go get the kids. So I unpacked and assembled it into this:

The first couple of days were frustrating. A couple of the hooks are a bit rough and the single would break on them. It only runs in double drive, and the difference in circumference between the bobbin groove and the whorl/pulley isn’t very big, so the take-up/draw-in wasn’t as strong as I like for the spinning I do. On a double-drive wheel, that’s adjusted via raising or lowering the entire MOA assembly to put more tension on the doubled drive band, and even moving it incrementally I couldn’t get a setting I liked. I rigged a weighted line scotch brake to run over the bobbin groove to spin in single drive/scotch tension, but even that ended up being frustrating. I finally changed the drive band from the fuzzy hemp to the nice waxed cotton I bought to replace the drive band on my Symphony, and everything clicked.

She doesn’t have a maker’s mark, which is a bit disappointing, but not unexpected; in the five-ish wheels from our discussion board sample, only one does. She has a distaff, which is exciting; I’ve never had a wheel with a distaff before. I was excited for one afternoon, after which I took it off, since it was in the way of replacing drive and brake bands and going up and down stairs with it. And it’s so light! I can carry it around with a couple of fingers of one hand! The Baynes was much heavier.

Now, having been deep in discussion about other people’s Mazurka prototypes, I was already in the right headspace to carry on thinking about updating this one so that I could switch bobbins between the two Kromski wheels. HRH took a good look at the mother of all, and comparing my modern flyer from the Symphony with it, we could see that it would be too short. So I’ve ordered a modern unfinished flyer and front maiden, and HRH is working on a cap for the current MOA to extend it. It would be difficult to replace it entirely, because the MOA has a threaded hole at the back for the wooden tension screw that raises or lowers it. Reproducing that threaded wooden hole to match the screw would be harder to do, and HRH doesn’t have the tools to do it. And since it will accept the new double flyer whorls, I can use my extra Symphony ones. I’ll put in some eye hooks for a proper scotch tension brake, too.

She is quite charming, and I like her very much, even before the upgrade. I’m currently spinning dark green Corriedale top on her to make a worsted yarn to knit Sparky a Link hat.

3 thoughts on “Meet the Mazurka

  1. Ceri

    Tangentially related, and I could be wrong on this but I think the distaff is actually the part of the wheel that is normally depicted as the sharp bit that Sleeping Beauty pricks her finger on (ie. the story says ‘spindle’ but most pictures show a spinning wheel and sharp distaff).

    I’m curious about this particular bit of mythology, actually. Because I’ve never seen a spindle that was sharp enough to cut, but my experience of spindles is limited.

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  2. Autumn Post author

    Ooh ooh ooh! I know this one!

    Before flyer wheels, there were spindle wheels, which were wheel-driven spindles in a bracket. They were essentially great/walking wheels, like the one in your sunroom, but they had a spindle sticking out the front with a sharpened tip for spinning off. That’s what Sleeping Beauty pricked her finger on. Except modern illustrators and artists don’t know the history of the wheel, so they show the tall thing sticking up being what she pricks her finger on. Distaffs aren’t sharp, though; there’s not point to that (no pun intended).

    Here’s a video of one in use, so you get the idea: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mniyuJhUvY8

    HOWEVER, and I discussed this with Paze once… there’s a theory out there that the distaff used to be a crude abortion tool. Which, if you think about the original story, has all sorts of interesting parallels and open up all sorts of possibilities.

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  3. Ceri

    See! How did I know you’d know that?

    It’s been confusing me, because I didn’t think distaffs were sharp (and in the pictures they aren’t) and I didn’t see any reason for spindles to be sharp (especially not drop spindles!), but the video clears it up!

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