Spinning through Time with Val Bryant

March 2017

Spinning through Time with Val Bryant

We were very pleased to welcome one of our members as our speaker for March 2017. Val Bryant and her husband David are recognised nationally as experts on spinning wheels, David as a member of the Regional Furniture Society, Cheshire Woodturners and as a maker of wheels. Val shared with us their experiences recording and restoring wheels the length and breadth of the country.

Val explained that she had been born into a textile family (a handloom weaver, a dyer and finisher) and she had been taught to spin at a very young age. After a career of almost three decades as textile co- ordinator at Quarry Bank Mill Val applied for and won a Pasold research grant http://www.pasold.co.uk/index and was able to ’retire’ and concentrate on her passion…spinning wheels.

Val March 2017ii

Between the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries spinning progressed from drop spindling with the advent of great or walking wheels and advanced further with the invention of the bobbin and flyer (Leonardo da Vinci) and the addition of the treadle.

Val and David record their research on a data base which lists the source, wheel type, dimensions, a maker’s name where possible and ranges from the early, plain and practical cottage wheels to the elaborate and beautifully decorated ‘boudoir’ wheels enjoyed by the wealthier classes. The arrival of ‘exotic’ woods, like mahogany, from abroad and embellishment with silver and ivory facilitated those with the money to do it to display their wealth. Their investigations have taken them into castles and palaces, stately homes and museums and have involved extensive work with the National Trust. http://www.nationaltrustcollections.org.uk/object/1332084

Val insists that wheels should be displayed in a working condition and ensures, where possible, that this is the case. Her own collection numbers fifteen and she is shown spinning flax on one of her wheels. The distaff is dressed with blue ribbon as befits the status of a married woman!

More articles about Val and David and their work may be found in the Knutsford Guardian

and INCheshire magazine:

Spinning an expert yarn

We were also pleased to welcome Dorothy Lumb who published Yarnmaker, Dorothy referred us to her spinning wheel research which is work in progress: http://www.ukspinningwheels.info/