Family heirloom – The Great Wheel

My Uncle David has offered me his Great Wheel to have for keeps. I am thrilled and honoured. I remember his Great Wheel from  my childhood and it is an awesome creation. Here is a picture of it from many years ago, with my cousin Libby demonstrating:

great wheel007

My Uncle, David Barnett, is an amazing engineer, carpenter and woodturner and he has designed and built all sorts of looms and spinning equipment over the years, in his spare time, as a hobby. He has made all of my giant knitting needles for my extreme knitting projects. He is best known for the Barnett Drum Carder, which was very sought-after by the spinning community for its superior design. Now he’s retired and he doesn’t make them any more, although they occasionally come up for sale on ebay and he can still supply spare parts.

I have wonderful childhood memories of family visits when I was encouraged to have a go at spinning, weaving, knitting, rug making, and embroidery. Obviously knitting became my thing and it’s never left me. But with my family history of old-time creative textile arts, I have always wanted to learn to spin. One of my Aunts was an expert spinner and weaver, and she used to teach spinning classes. She taught me to spin as a child, but that lesson is a distant memory now and sadly she is no longer here to teach me. But I’m sure my Uncle will show me how to get started.

As the only knitter in the family, they would like the Great Wheel to have a good home. It’s a very large thing so gawd knows where I’ll put it, but I will find a spot for it. My OH is fascinated and thinks it’s a wonderful thing to accommodate, and anyway, he has a nine and a half foot piano in the living room so is hardly in a position to object!

I found this video on YouTube showing a Great Wheel in action. It’s rather lovely…

Till next time,

L x


10 thoughts on “Family heirloom – The Great Wheel

  1. That’s a really elegant wheel! You’re really fortunate to have it.

    I have a David Barnett Carder I bought years ago and I’ve tried to contact your uncle off and on for the last few years. I couldn’t find an e-address, the # on the plate is no longer in service, and I’m in the US now.

    Its a great machine and I’ve kept it well. I’d like to get some advice from him about adjustments and function that I could make to be able to continue to use it.


      • Hello again. RE” my carder; I’ve never been ab;e to keep the licker in drum completely parallel with the carding drumand i need to keep adjusting the angle of address. Also, I bought a spare belt last time I was in the UK, but I lost the label and since David has retired, I was wondering if there is a specification for that as the local auto supply dealer only has parts listed by auto make and model. And, he’s somewnat dim. . . I’m unable to drive or even leave the house without a companion following a brain injury which has also affedctd me physically. In consequence, i have also explored the possibility of motorizing my carder. I’m not really in a position to purchase a new carder and in any event, I really don’t want to part with the carding machine I have now. I’ve taken really good care of it all these years and it looks almost new. As my grandfathers (both engineers). always told me “don’t fix it if it ain’t broke” so, under other circumstances I wouldn’t think of motorizing it, but my range of motion and physical capacity is impaired to the degree that it takes me a couple of days to make a batt. And spinning has become my mode pf physiotherapy and focus for my attention. Sop, your uncle Dave is indirectly part of my support team, and I’d like to continue the relationship. As such, if he has ever motorized one of his carders or has any recommendations about that, I’d like to know what he thinks. I’m not asking him to put himself out, but I thought a clever guy such as himself might have done or considered that.

        Here’s a couple of photos of my carder.

        Thank you for your help! Ann


  2. Hi Ann, here is the reply from my uncle: “First the belt on my machine is a standard light duty timing belt which is sure to be available in the US… Its designation is 180XL037. 180 is the length in Inches (18) and 037 is the width in inches (3/8)

    The second part is more difficult to answer: Over the years I have had lots of queries about motorising my machines. My standard answer is, do it if you wish, but I cannot recommend it and cannot give instructions for doing so. i.e. I cannot take any responsibility as the machine would be inherently dangerous.

    ‘I know this does not help your enquirer and I have every sympathy for her plight but I must stick to my standard ‘don’t do it’ advice. Perhaps her ‘grandfathers’ would help or at least see the problem and agree.”

    Best wishes


    • Hi Louisa- Many thanks to Uncle David for the information. I understand why he discourages altering the mechanism and his view of it being unsafe , that he wouldn’t be keen on advising someone how to do it. i appreciate his remarks. . As to what my Grandfathers might say, David and I are of an age; the grandfathers are long gone.. However, their influence was by way of encouragement, I was always advised that with effort and consideration, I could accomplish anything I set out to do. I don’t normally think of inherent danger in terms beyond what safety precautions must be observed, but I realize that many people don’t lt see it that way. I .don’t know if you know what a “mangle” is, though surely David would; its a machine that got a lot of use back when sheets were made of linen or cotton; long before the advent of permanent press. a mangle is for ironing flat things like sheets and tablecloths, by passing them between opposing heated rollers I was about 6 YO when I started helping Mam with the household ironing, using the mangle. I was cautioned to keep my fingers away lest my arm get drawn in with a pillow case. as a precaution, my grandfather installed a foot pedal “kill switch” on it for me. I look back now and ask myself “what were they thinking? As children my siblings and I had access to a workshop full of tools for everything from Smithing to fine woodwork and auto mechanics. Dad had the foresight to remove the band & blades to all the saws when not in use, but there was still that one time when my youngest brother got his hair caught on a power drill. . . good thing he had the presence of mind to jump away, yanking the plug out of the receptacle; and he was just lucky that it wasn’t running off an extension. But that never would have happened to me. I always had a rubber band in my pocket or on my wrist.

      Thanks again to your uncle for his lovely machine and for his recent attention. I will keep it in mind.



  3. I have a David Barnett drum carder I bought in the UK serial number 74884 The drive band broke and I need a replacement part Can you help me find another?


  4. Hi Rita, apologies for the late reply, I have been unable to access this site for a while due to a technical problem which I’ve finally managed to resolve. If you are still in need of a drive band I will see what I can do. Best wishes, Louisa


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