This is a Spin-Well

Click on any of these photos to embiggen them. 

Spin-Well wheel

Front view

This Spin-Well wheel was made by the Sifton Wool Products Company in Sifton, Manitoba. These wheels were first designed in the 1930’s by a local blacksmith named John Weselowski. He later partnered with Willard McPhedrain in building a mill – Spin-Well Woolen Mills Co. Ltd – making all the mill equipment from scratch, looking at photos and drawings to figure out his designs. Aside from marketing the wool from the mill, the company offered spinning wheels and drum carders.

The wheels and carders were sold locally and by mail order throughout Canada and the USA. They were very popular during the Depression years; at one point in 1938, the company was shipping 20 wheels a day, a mind-boggling number for that place and time. The Spin-Well label on my wheel indicates that it was made sometime between the mid-1930’s and 1946; after that, they were marketed by the Make-Well Manufacturing Co., which continued in business until sometime in the 1970’s.

Spin-Well label

Spin-Well label

Side View

Side view

The Spin-Well’s boxy, chair-frame form makes it easily recognizable when you spot one in the wild. The drive wheel (diameter: 38 cm) is made from solid wood slabs laminated together with the grain oriented crosswise to prevent warping; the hub is cast aluminum. It’s a single-treadle design, but the plank is wide enough to get both feet on for comfort and efficiency.

metal flyer

Cast Aluminum Flyer

The metal flyer has hooks on only one side. The generous arm-width allows you to pack an astonishing amount of yarn onto the over-sized bobbins. Did I mention that the bobbins are huge? They easily hold twice the amount of yarn as other wheels of that era, and most modern wheels don’t even come close.


Tablet tensioner

The wheel is designed for double drive. Tension is controlled by a clever little sliding tablet on the rear maiden. The available range is very wide.

lazy kate

Clamp-on Lazy Kate

The wheel originally came with a clamp-on lazy kate that could be attached on the front of the wheel (or anywhere else convenient) for plying. Three bobbins were supplied: two regular ones, and a high-speed. The difference between them is in the bobbin whorl diameter – the regular ones have a whorl diameter of 4.8 cm and the high-speed one has a diameter of 3.8 cm. The high-speed bobbin is very useful for plying.

Flyer pulley

Flyer pulley

Note the widely-disparate diameters of the two grooves on the flyer pulley – the bigger one is 5.5 cm in diameter, and the smaller one is 2.5 cm. Wow! This means is that the wheel can be set up to run either flyer-lead or bobbin-lead. Combining this feature with the different bobbin whorl diameters gives you an operating range wider than any other vintage or modern wheel that I know of, with a spindle/bobbin ratio between 1:16 and 1:0.71.

The Spin-Well is a very cool example of clever and flexible wheel design. Its modestly simple and funky appearance hides some truly imaginative engineering that stands up well against anything manufactured today.

Historical Note: John Weselowski’s partner in the woolen mill, Willard McPhedrain, was in charge of the marketing side of the business. In an effort to sell the bulky, fluffy woolen yarn produced by the mill, he founded the Mary Maxim Company – the mail-order source of all those Cowichan sweater kits and iconic picture-sweater kits fondly remembered by Canadian curlers, hockey players, and little girls lucky enough to have someone knit them the one with the figure skater on the back. (I was not one of those little girls, and I’m still a little bitter about it.)  

13 thoughts on “This is a Spin-Well

  1. OMG! I had one of those sweaters! Not the figure skater…I had flowers or something. But my grandmother made it just for me.

  2. I bought one of these and thought it was a Mason Wheel from Oregon.
    They are very much the same then eh? How much should I expect to pay for
    one in good condition with two good bobbins etc. I cannot find out any information about this?

  3. Wow! Im so glad I came across this page. I picked up a spinning wheel at an auction for around $120 and I couldnt find out what it was, but this it definately it! Thanks for the write-up!

  4. I just bought a Spin Well wheel as my first wheel. It only came with the two bobbins so I will be looking to get a high speed bobbin in the future. As a newby I am wondering how you shift from flyer drive to bobbin drive on this workhorse.

    Any advice you can share would be most appreciated.



  5. My husband, Ray Ogella, is now retired, and restoring spinning wheels. He has made several different replacement flyers, and dozens of bobbins.

    He has repaired a number of wheels in Southern and Central California. If anyone is interested in bobbins or accessories for wheels, they may contact me, and I will pass on your information.

  6. Thanks for this post! I just picked up one of these this weekend and had no hot clue how to make it work. (I feared that I picked up a really ugly plant stand). But if the info I gleaned from this post is as good as I think, I will be able to do a quick clean up, a bit of glue on two joints, some oiling and a new drive belt (to be ordered asap!) and be well on my way to spinning! The drive belt and tension photos were especially helpful! I bought it with a belt only on the “cog” of the fly thingy with the teeth and not on the bobbin as well. I would have no idea that the tension thingy was a tension thingy and I never would have tried to move it. As you can see, moving up from a drop spindle has not helped me with terminology!

  7. Just got one! Never used a double drive before, so that’s a whole learning curve (I have been spinning on an Ashford Tradi since April, but have a couple of master spinners to consult)
    Does anyone have an idea of valuation? Mine has a horizontal kate, and no stickers.

  8. Oh, how bizarre! Two Dawns, two SpinWells, four days apart! I have so many wheel questions! (maybe we need to form a SpinWell group (or is there one??)

    • No Spin Well group that I can find. I’m in Winnipeg Manitoba (not to far from the birth place of the Spin Well). i’d be game to join such a group…especially if there is a pro leading it and passing on tips! Does anyone know how to ply the strands once you’ve spun them? I know you are supposed to spin in the opposite direction but there doesn’t seem to be hooks on that side of the flyer to guide the wool. I also only have one bobbin so that might prove to be a bit of a challenge!

      • Spinwell group now started on Ravelry, and would love for everyone on this thread to come on over!!

        You don’t need hooks on the opposite side to ply, but you will need to have two singles or wind off the one bobbin into a plying bracelet or centre pull ball . Some people wind off the bobbin onto a temporary storage bobbin (which can be as fancy as a roll of paper or a thick straw) so it can be set into a lazy kate. Check out the spinning videos and come on over to Ravelry!

  9. My grandparents Ann and Michael Weselowski worked in that mill. My grandfather honed his carpentry skills making the spin wells in the factory.

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