Roy and Ailsa McKnight – Redlands (Brisbane) Spinning History

If you’re a spinner and you’re familiar with what is known as ‘the Roy McKnight Suitcase spinning wheel’, this story will be of real interest to you.

Ever since I first got my hands on a Roy McKnight Suitcase Spinning Wheel, I’ve been intrigued and fascinated by the fact Roy lived not far from me and was a member of the Redlands Spinners & Weavers, along with his wife Ailsa.

Well, in November this year (2016), I was lucky enough to meet his widow, Ailsa as one of our members brought her along to one of our spinners’ meetings. I really wanted to have a chat to Ailsa about one of my unidentified spinning wheels which I believe is a McKnight wheel because of the finishes on the wheel.

spinning-wheel-01Here’s a picture of the above wheel (left) and the suitcase wheel (right).

spinning-wheel-05-tileSee the similarities of the parts used? Ailsa could definitely see some similarities but she believes it’s probably made by another wheel maker who maybe copied some of Roy’s techniques. So, at this stage, my wheel’s maker is still an enigma!

I feel quite fortunate to have met Ailsa. I believe it’s so important to try and capture some of the history of Roy’s wheels as they are quite sought after today and this is an important part of Redlands’ history which I believe should be captured for future generations to enjoy.

Here’s a picture of Ailsa using her upright wheel made by her husband, Roy. She was demonstrating at the Woolshed (Brisbane) in June 1990.

ailsa-mcknight-aus-woolshed-june-1990The similarities are astounding. I think the actual piggy tail orifice/hook is different from what I can see in the photo above.

spinning-wheel-02Ailsa is now 94 and incredibly sharp-minded and interesting and I just felt quite privileged chatting to her as she told me about Roy and his wheels. Apparently, the suitcase wheel is actually called the brief wheel! So we need to now start referring to it as ‘the Roy McKnight Brief wheel’!

Ailsa and me with my unidentified wheel.

ailsa-mc-knight-with-melanie-22-11-2016Ailsa brought along a couple of her old photo albums which she kindly allowed me to take home so I could scan some of the pictures. I felt so excited to be able to capture a piece of the McKnight’s spinning history and to share it with everyone!

Roy was a salesman and spent some time on the road and it was during these periods that Ailsa took up spinning to fill in her days. Once Roy had retired, he taught himself woodturning and started making wheels, bobbins and accessories for Ailsa and other club members. Roy also made beautiful furniture and woodturned bowls.

Here is the man himself: Roy McKnight (6-1-1920 – 6-3-2011) at the Redlands Spinners & Weavers Open Day in 1991. Look at all those stunning wood turned spinners’ goodies. Ailsa had the suggestions and Roy made them! Apparently if it wasn’t quite right Ailsa would ask Roy to refine it until she was happy 🙂

I can see a squirrel cage swift, a brief wheel, a skeiner, bobbins, niddy noddies and other bits and pieces.

roy-ailsa-mcknight-open-day-1991Roy McKnight at the Redlands Spinners & Weavers Open Day in 1989 with a display of his woodturned goods: a brief wheel (I wonder what number this one is?), squirrel cage swift, spinning chair, skeiner, niddy noddies and other wooden items.

roy-mcknight-rsw-open-day-1989Ailsa McKnight at Marburg 1984. Note the upright wheel for sale.

ailsa-mcknight-marburg-1984Redcliffe September 1988 – Ailsa McKnight is second from the right spinning on one of Roy’s upright spinning wheels.

redcliffe-sep-1988An article in the Redlands’ local paper regarding the Open Day in 1988. Note the upright wheel on the left hand side.

ailsa-mcknight-open-day-19881984 article from the local Redlands’ newspaper.

1984-landscapeAn article in the local Redlands’ newspaper from April 1987 regarding the upcoming Open Day. Ailsa is on the far right.

rsw-open-day-1987An article in the local Redlands’ newspaper from 1987. Ailsa is third from the left (standing). There’s a clearer photo directly below this article.

rsw-1987-farewellrsw-1987a

What makes this story really exciting for me is that when I chatted to Ailsa she mentioned that she wanted to sell her remaining spinning equipment. I immediately knew that I wanted everything she had so I could keep Roy’s legacy alive among the local and online spinning fraternities.

Today (5/12/2016) I visited Ailsa’s son and daughter-in-law who live quite nearby to collect her gorgeous collection. I am so excited to be able to own this lovely package.

dsc09768_resizeI am now the extremely proud owner of the very first Brief Wheel made by Roy. I can say it has been well and truly ‘road tested’ by Ailsa 🙂

dsc09761_resizedsc09762_resizeI love the nifty in-built lazy kate 🙂

dsc09763_resizeAnd what makes it even more special is that Ailsa hand painted this beautiful picture on the lid of the case. Now that is certainly unique!

dsc09760_resizeI just adore this stunning upright wheel made by Roy. As you can see, it is quite different from the one Ailsa is spinning on in the pictures above and to the ones sold at the various Open Days so I can safely say that Roy made two styles of upright spinning wheels.

roy-mcknight-upright-01The flyer screws off completely (just like the Brief Wheel) and is stored behind the middle bobbin holder on the in-built lazy kate (you can see the hole in the picture above).

roy-mcknight-upright-02This is the connection where the flyer is screwed on.

roy-mcknight-upright-09It’s a scotch tension wheel…

roy-mcknight-upright-11The driveband tension knob…

roy-mcknight-upright-10This really is a beautiful piece of craftsmanship…

roy-mcknight-upright-03 roy-mcknight-upright-04 roy-mcknight-upright-05 roy-mcknight-upright-06 roy-mcknight-upright-07 roy-mcknight-upright-08And lastly, my own Roy McKnight spinning chair 🙂

roy-mcknight-spinning-chair-01 roy-mcknight-spinning-chair-02 roy-mcknight-spinning-chair-03I must thank Ailsa for taking the time to talk to me and for giving me the opportunity to own these lovely pieces of spinning history and to Ailsa’s son, Ron and his wife, Carolyn for chatting to me and sharing some of Roy’s story with me.

I would encourage anyone in Australia who has knowledge of Aussie wheelmakers to record their history by contacting the administrator of the Australian Spinning Wheels website. It is so important this history is not lost but kept alive for future generations.

Roy’s suitcase (brief) wheel is also featured on the Australian Spinning Wheels website.

Ailsa has given her permission for me to publish these photos and newspaper articles online so I will also contact the Australian Spinning Wheels website to see whether they’d like to link to this story or use some of the photos of Roy’s upright wheel and chair.

I hope you have enjoyed this glimpse into Redlands’ spinning history as much as I have had putting it together for everyone to access.

A BIG thank you to Roy, Ailsa, Ron and Carolyn 🙂

5 December 2016

 

 

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Summer Spinning Camp Frolics!

What do you get when you add a few women in their 50s, 60s, 70s and one in her 30s, a lot of spinning wheels, looms, fibre and wool and five days at Bribie Island?

You get a lot of laughing, fun, spinning, weaving, knitting, eating, drinking, sharing knowledge, renewing friendships and making new friendships 🙂

The Redlands Spinners & Weavers held their January camp at the House of Happiness, Woorim,  Bribie Island from 25-29 January. The weather was overcast at times, humid at times, with sun and also a bit of rain.

On the first morning I took a visit to the beach at around 5.30am and had a quick dip in the ocean, which I hadn’t done in many years 🙂 It was surprisingly warm and so quiet at that time of the day.

Bribie Surf BeachThere were about 22 of us with some day visitors as well. Our spinning room was lovely and large with plenty of space for all.

Spinning room 01I’m going to have to get back to my daily 5-7km walks as we were fed so well! Six meals a day!! Breakfast – morning tea – lunch – afternoon tea – cheese and biscuits – dinner!

We did some more solar dyeing and I elected to dye some sock blanks.

Solar Dyeing Melanie 02Solar Dyeing socksAs usual, we had some lovely raffle prizes. I was lucky enough to win this prize in the red and white bag.

Raffles 02And inside the bag was this gorgeous ram.

Raffle sheepPlus this gorgeous hand towel as well as many other bits and pieces.

Raffle hand towelCatherine, one of our more experienced weavers, was kind enough to guide me through the process of warping the Ashford SampleIt loom. I’m so glad I took these photos as they’ll guide me when I want to warp again 🙂

Weaving Melanie 01Weaving Melanie 02As I had already had some practise on the Inkle loom, it made the process that little bit easier. This is the scarf I made which I am quite proud of 🙂

Weaving Melanie 03Weaving Melanie 04Weaving Melanie 06Lindy, our wonderful Ashford agent also showed me how to make the twisted fringe 🙂

Weaving Melanie 05I also met Pam, one of the Redcliffe spinners, who has a collection of over 60 spindles. Pam brought along a handful for us to admire 🙂

Spindles 16Weaving was quite popular at this camp.

Weaving BettyWeaving Catherine 03Weaving Lindy 01Weaving Lindy 02The humidity has finally hit Brisbane and it’s awful! It’s a real battle for me to use the air conditioning as I hate it when my home is all closed up; I love the windows and doors open and the breeze coming through. I hope wherever you are and whatever you’re doing, you’re having fun!

Until next time…

Melanie

The BEST Open Day!

Oh my gosh I don’t know where to start. It was the most amazingly successful Open Day at a terrific venue. We had an increase in over 75% attendance. The event was simply buzzing with so many people. 99% of the publications I approached to print our Open Day notice obliged so word got around Brisbane-wide! Spencer Howson even mentioned it on his radio show on 612 ABC Brisbane.

Busy buying 02Busy buying 04Owen, who’s known as Wheelsmith on Ravelry brought along some of his antique spinning wheels (that’s a wheel that is 100 years or over in age!).

Antique Wheels 02-tileAntique Wheels 04-tileAntique Wheels 06-tileAntique Wheels 09-tileI was still not 100% well but as I am part of the Open Day Committee I had my duties to attend to. I couldn’t do too much talking as I’d nearly lost my voice but I did manage to re-acquaint myself with Owen and told him about my recent trip to New Zealand where I met Mary Knox who’s the ultimate guru when it comes to New Zealand spinning wheels. Owen’s face lit up as he knew exactly who I was talking about. So, Mary if your ears were burning on Tuesday morning that’s why 🙂

We had some amazing traders at the event. These are the gorgeous pottery sheep mugs made by Kimberly from Earth & Stone Creations. I know you’ve heard me talk about Kimberly’s work quite a bit but trust me, it is beautiful. If you’re after a present for a knitter, why not consider a pottery yarn bowl? You’d be loved forever!!

Kimberly pottery 08I am the proud owner of these three little beauties. Kimberly very kindly gave me one of the coloured ones.

Sheep Mugs 04-tileNow this photo is a little blurry but I’m trying to show you that under the coloured mugs Kimberly has engraved “Mels Mug” and under the white mug there is a number as only 20 were made; this is 1/20.

Sheep Mugs 05-tileKimberly’s pottery yarn bowls were selling like hotcakes. I believe she brought along two of these huge three-ball bowls and they both sold!

Kimberly Pottery 03Vivianne was there with her gorgeous soaps.

VivianneK Soaps 01One of our members was also selling her soaps so we’re all going to be smelling like roses!

Judy soap 02One of our members is in her mid 90s and made these two knitted blankets and entered them into the fashion parade. They are simply amazing! Well done Grace.

Grace blanket 01Grace blanket 02Our members had their own table where we sold our wares. I sold some mug hugs and spinning/yarn/sheep charm keyrings as well as my Cream Leftie. I won’t despair as I have enough yarn to make another one exactly the same!

Members table 03What made the day really interactive is that, as well as three of our members demonstrating spinning, one also had a little workshop teaching others the traditional craft of ragmatting. This table was never empty!

Ragmatting 04Ragmatting 05We were also lucky enough to have Carly Kotynski, a local weaver of natural fibres holding a small workshop too.

Basket weaving 01Basket weaving 02Basket weaving 04Honestly, there was so much happening that I was in a constant whirl! I was taking as many photos as I could, whilst shopping, trying to talk, having a quick coffee and something to eat. It really was the best day.

Desley had a table filled with her gorgeous had sewn goodies.

Desleys table 02We also had our Ashford distributor who is also a member of our club.

Lindys table 04Contemplating this Ashford Traditional before the crowds arrived!

Before the rush 01dThe eating area was packed…no spare seats to be seen.

Eating area 03This is just a snapshot of the traders that attended on the day but if I uploaded all my photos you’d be here all day reading this post 🙂 You can see more photos on the Redlands Spinners & Weavers website here.

Next week I’ll show you what I bought from those traders!

A couple more pics of those happy people shopping for a bargain!

Our gratitude goes to our local Council who provided the venue for our Open Day. It is so much larger than our previous venue and traders were able to really spread out and show their wares to full advantage. We received so much positive feedback from our visitors about the venue and the actual day. Congratulations Redlands Spinners & Weavers! What a mammoth team effort!

Before the rush 03Busy buying 05Until next time…

Melanie