“Just what do you do with a nonfunctional spinning wheel? Where do you find quality help for repairs?” I asked myself these questions when I bought a beautiful lateral treadle spinning wheel at a garage sale several years ago. Obviously handmade, the wheel showcased master woodturning features such as captive rings and lavish chip carving. Unfortunately, it was missing the flyer assembly, mini wheel spokes, footman, and treadle. Nevertheless, it was so beautiful I bought the wheel thinking it could sit around and look pretty. I named her “Fancy.

At the 2019 Shepherd’s Harvest Festival, I met John and Kathy Sturtevant of Spiritwood Spinning Wheel Restoration (Woodward, Iowa). I showed them pictures of Fancy and John expressed an interest in restoring such an unusual wheel. I was unfamiliar with lateral treadle wheels, but John told me about a wheel he had repaired for the Iowa Mennonite Museum in Kalona, Iowa. This spurred on my interest in both the wheel and in John’s expertise. I kept the Spiritwood card for future reference.

Late spring of 2021, I contacted John and we began the process of restoration negotiation. I explained what I needed, and he explained what he could provide. We agreed the goal was to restore the wheel to working condition while maintaining its visual integrity. John was clear in his recommendations and how much it would cost. I made arrangements to deliver the wheel to Spiritwood in July.

John’s home and shop were filled with wheels and other equipment. It was clear that John and Kathy are committed to the fiber arts. In late September, Fancy reached the front of the “fix it” queue. John was in frequent communication as he worked on Fancy to clean up the old parts and construct the needed new parts. Kathy provided quality control with a goal of both beauty and total usability.

Mid-October, the work was complete. With excitement, I invited Char Forste and Neal Goman to go with me to pick up the finished wheel. We marveled at how John’s work blended seamlessly with the original craftsmanship. We all tried the “new Fancy” and I had my first experience spinning on a lateral treadle spinning wheel. John did a beautiful job of restoration and Kathy had made sure that the wheel functioned properly.

The great news for Weavers Guild members is that John and Kathy will be at Shepherd’s Harvest Festival this year in May. They are willing to offer a first-hand assessment of what’s needed for your equipment. John may be able to make adjustments on the spot. Another option is to bring pictures for consultation. I hope to have Fancy in the Spiritwood booth so you can see first-hand the amazing work that John and Kathy provide. If you wish to consult with John prior to the fair, he can be reached at (515) 450-4215 or jbsturtevant@gmail.com. 

Our equipment means a lot to us.  It’s good to know there are quality craftspeople to help us keep spinning.

–Karen B Lehman, spinner and member

Left to right: Fancy before, work in progress, after!