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.


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



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…


Redlands Spinners & Weavers Open Day 2014 Wrap Up

What a big day it was yesterday….Redlands Spinners & Weavers Open Day for 2014. A few of us arrived at 7am to set up the venue. It was beautifully cool and crisp which helped to give us the energy to move around trestle tables and chairs!.

17-6-14 Setting up 01

17-6-14 Setting up 02

17-6-14 Setting up 03

We had some great signage around the venue that really brightened the place up…

17-6-14 Signs 01

17-6-14 Signs 02

17-6-14 Signs 07

17-6-14 Signs 09

17-6-14 Signs 11

And of course a very sheepish welcome as you entered the venue…

17-6-14 Signs 12

No one went hungry as there was a great selection of cakes and slices followed by sandwiches at lunch time…

17-6-14 Cakes 02

Owen brought along some of his numerous antique spinning wheels…

17-6-14 Antique wheels 01

17-6-14 Antique wheels 05

We had some gorgeous skeins of yarn that tempted us …

17-6-14 Skeins 01

17-6-14 Skeins 02

17-6-14 Skeins 04

And some alpaca fleece too…

17-6-14 Alpaca fleece 01

The Gold Coast and Hinterland Spinners & Weavers didn’t disappoint with their array of colourfully dyed wool…

17-6-14 GC goodies 01

17-6-14 GC goodies 02

Our own members had some beautiful garments and items for sale too…

17-6-14 Desleys stall 01

17-6-14 Arthurs stall 01

17-6-14 Members staff 01

17-6-14 Members staff 06

17-6-14 Members staff 08

17-6-14 Sandra 01

And more importantly, lots of visitors arrived and enjoyed every moment!

17-6-14 Seated visitors 01

17-6-14 Seated visitors 2

17-6-14 Seated visitors 3

All in all it was a wonderfully successful Open Day. I spent about eight hours walking around and standing taking photos and needless to say, I was exhausted when I got home. I’m still in recovery mode but wanted to get this post out so others could see all the hard work club members do to make such a great event happen.

I will also be loading more photos on the Redlands Spinners & Weavers website in the few days.

It was such an enjoyable day; I can’t wait until next year’s Open Day!

I did buy quite a bit of stash however I’ll show that to you a bit later once I’ve taken more photos.

Until next time…


Sunset Shawlette

I purchased one skein of this yarn from Angela’s Shorn Fibers’ Etsy shop quite a while ago. I had no idea what I’d knit, I just knew I loved the colourway which is called ‘Sunset’. A few months later I bought another skein, however, Angela advised me it was a bit lighter than the one I’d previously purchased.

Shorn Fibers Sunset 03-tile

Firstly, I was quite chuffed that she’d either checked or recalled what I’d previously purchased and was kind enough to advise me the skeins were slightly different. I decided to go ahead with the second skein.

Now sometimes I immediately have in mind what I want to knit when I purchase some yarn. Other times I have no idea at all; I simply pack the yarn away and await for some pattern inspiration. The latter scenario is what happened with these two skeins of yarn.

A month or so ago I bought a few knitting pattern books from a local charity stall for 50 cents each. I flicked though one of the magazines and was instantly drawn to this pattern called Stripey Shawlette. This magazine is no longer available and I can’t find a date on it anywhere so I’m not sure what year it was published but what did catch my eye is that the pattern writer also happens to be the owner/operator of another one of my favourite Brisbane online yarn shops called ‘Yay for Yarn’. What a coincidence!

Lets go knitting mag

Stripey Shawlette pic

Here is my Sunset Shawlette which is made a bit larger than the pattern stipulated.

Sunset Shawlette 01

It blocked beautifully and drapes like a dream.

Sunset Shawlette 02

Can you notice the slight difference in ‘brightness’ between the shawl and the ruffle on the edge? I thought this would be the perfect yarn to use as the edge frill is a natural demarcation point where a slight difference in colour wouldn’t matter.

Sunset Shawlette 09

As mentioned, the yarn is Shorn Fibers’ High Twist Singles Fingering which is a 4ply, 100% merino yarn. I used size 4.5mm needles to knit the shawlette. I should probably call it a shawl as it’s a lot larger than a shawlette!

That’s what I love about yarn; sometimes it beckons to be used straight away on a specific knitting project and at other times it is quite happy to nestle warmly with my other stashed yarn until it decides what it would like to be made into J

Sunset Shawlette 03

Sunset Shawlette 04

Here’s a picture of the shawl that shows its unusual construction.

Sunset Shawlette 06

Sunset Shawlette 05

Sunset Shawlette 07

Sunset Shawlette 08

I have also been very busy building a website for the Redlands Spinners & Weavers Inc and I must say I’m very happy with the finished product!

I’ve also just finished blocking two more shawls….just waiting for them to dry off now.

I hope you’re having a wonderful weekend. Time for a cup of coffee and a snack for me!

Until next time…