by Keryn G.
I have always thought the notion of spinning to be romantic and magical. Is it the calmness of the user being transported to another era in time; is it the natural fibres being effortlessly guided through creative fingertips; or is it the almost silent whirr of the wheel telling its own story of days gone by? It is all of these and more ….
In 1963, when I was four, my family moved to Penrith. In those days it was very rural and everyone went to church on a Sunday. It was here that we became friends with an English family (Mary & Edwin Parnell) who had just immigrated and were acclimatising themselves to the heat. They had 3 young sons, who my sister and I would grow up with through school and church activities until our late teens. Their youngest son was Philip and I was 15 days older.
Eventually we all grew up, moved away and went on with our own lives and sadly lost touch.
A few years ago and some 40 years later, with the invention of Facebook, the Parnell’s began to surface. I discovered that Philip had returned to and was living in London for the past 20 years and that Mary (sadly Edwin had passed away) had retired to Green Point here on the Central Coast. Philip was moving back to Australia to care for Mary as she was now in her mid 80’s.
We have since had many visits, with Philip bringing Mary to our little farm. She adores our alpacas and my bags of fleeces and I recently discovered why. Mary was quite the crafter, and in particular a spinner. In fact, I discovered her maiden name was indeed Craft and she had always dreamed of opening her own craft store. Mary is always very interested in my latest projects and on one of her recent visits, I was very proud to show her my new purpose-built craft room. It was then that Mary asked “Would you like my two spinning wheels. I can’t use them anymore, and I would love for you to have them?” It was a beautiful gesture. I offered to buy them from her, but she would not hear of it. I was so excited as not only had learning to spin been on my bucket list, but the sentimentality of being caretaker of and learning to spin on Mary’s wheels made me feel so blessed.
True to their word, Mary and Philip arrived with the two precious wheels, together with their Lazy Kates and all the bits and bobs that went along with them. Wanting to know the hopefully romantic history and stories behind these wheels, I started with the interrogation. Mary described the first wheel as being purchased here in Australia at Coffs Harbour, made by German Craftsman Sickener. The other she had described as her Welsh wheel. I had already written a romantic story in my mind of the Welsh wheel travelling for six weeks across the ocean from Wales/London with Mary in the early 1960’s, as it had once belonged to the Queen of England and she couldn’t possibly leave it behind … yeh … no!! The Welsh wheel belonged to a spinning friend of Mary’s by the name of Wendy. Wendy lived at Green Point too and when Wendy passed away, her husband thought Mary might like it. Mary had no knowledge of its history beyond that. Lovely story, but not quite what I had imagined and I thought that was all I was ever going to know … until …
… A few days later I was dusting my newly acquired treasures. Leaning over the bench, as if guided by fate, I knocked the Welsh Wheel’s Lazy Kate with my elbow. As it teetered, I lunged to grasp it, but to no avail, as it fell flat on the bench exposing to me the underneath of its base. As I went to stand it back up to its rightful position, I could see that underneath had a few written words. As I lifted it to my eyes, I read those few, but meaningful, words over and over and over again, blinking with each pass, as my brain was trying to compute what my eyes were seeing … “A. A. Craven, Stanton Road Mosman”. With Lazy Kate in hand I made a dash for the phone, knowing there was only one person that could help me make sense of these words … my mother!
For you see, after I was born in March, 1959 at the Royal North Shore Hospital, my parents brought me home … home to none other than Stanton Road, Mosman.
As my mother answered her phone and I blurted out what I had just discovered, her response came “Oh yes, old Mrs Craven lived next door!” Of all the roads in all the world, of all the moments in time and of all the decades that have passed … Mrs A. A. Craven was our next door neighbour.
Mum recalls, over those next four years, speaking with Mrs Craven over the fence from time to time as I played in the garden. Her first name Mum could not be certain of, but Alma came to mind instantly. In those days anyone older was respectfully known as Mr or Mrs. Mrs Craven moved at some stage over those few years and why and to where we do not know. Mrs Craven was elderly then, so I imagine long gone now, but I am determined to do some research and find out more.
So, for now, as my Welsh wheel spins, it does indeed tell its own magical story; the story of an old lady spinning whilst a baby girl slept in her crib right next door and of how, by some kind of destiny, that baby girl would one day, almost 60 years later, come to be in possession of that wheel .. and sometimes … if I listen carefully … I can even hear the lilt of a lullaby.