Ontario Handspinning Seminar
Grant Betzner's Antique Spinning Wheel Collection
Grant Betzner was an early Ontario Handspinning Seminar attendee, later a committee member and workshop leader. In 1979 Ted Carson and Grant retired leaving a huge gap but trusting that we would continue. (See Ontario Handspinning Seminar 1963-1983 booklet page 7- Grant breaking flax 1973 – Guild Inn - located here ).
Grant was a high school teacher, church organist and an avid collector of vintage spinning equipment, pendulum and lever action wheels. Grant had the understanding and skill to repair any wheel including a double flyer wheel in a shopping bag. His wheel collection was extensive as was the associated history , primarily of Ontario wheel manufacturing. Museum worthy. He welcomed many guild groups for a hands-on session with his extensive collection. Unfortunately poor health in recent years curtailed such visits. Harriet Boon, 2021.
Remembering Grant Betzner from Gordon Moat of Chesterville, Ontario (Ottawa Valley Weaving and Spinning Guild), 2021.
In late 2014, I acquired a Solomon Dell patented moving spindle wheel lacking a spindle. Grant actually had a similar wheel which he used for demonstrations. On emailing Grant with questions I received several very helpful responses including a referral to a photo of Dorothy Kirk spinning on an identical wheel. Grant actually had a similar wheel which he used for demonstrations.
Unfortunately I live near Ottawa and Grant was near Hamilton. I did not get to meet him in person and only saw his wheels this June after he had passed. We did correspond occasionally by email. I would like to share some of his thoughts from the emails.
“I am not aware of how many of my wheels about which you are aware, but my Lever wheels (7) and my double flyer wheels (6) are my most unusual. None in either case is of the same mode for spinning. When I did some spinning and demonstrating I would use the lever wheels both mine and theirs at Westfield Pioneer Village which is within walking distance of home. This is where the George Potts Spinning wheel factory was moved to from Simcoe, In the loft above the shop I found enough parts that I was able to construct a Doolittle Wheel for which Potts purchased (for $150) the right from Doolittle to create wheels in the surrounding counties. I have demonstrated double flyer spinning in Barrie. I enjoy the double flyer and usually refer the hand motion to milking a cow. I prefer to use the double flyer to spin the flax to linen for which I have raised the flax and processed it as I have all the breaks, hackles and wheels for the processing. I enclose a Photo of one of my double flyer wheels.”
“I mention the cow milking comment as, being raised on a dairy farm, it was my responsibility to do the milking while even at McMaster University. Until my start at the graduate school there, where time limits compelled me to spend time to work on my MSC. and PHD degrees in physics (crystallography). This required moving into Hamilton. “
“Upper Canada Village is my connection to spinning, when in 1969 I visited and since, in the back of our farm house, was one of my earlier great grandmother's walking wheel. I spent quite a bit of time questioning one of the demonstrators how it worked, came home, got the wheel, some wool and haven't looked back."
Black Creek Village in Toronto wanted my help there in spinning and weaving, but as a church organist and choir director time limits suggested that there would not be practical especially on weekends.”
Gordon had a double flyer wheel with fully dressed flax distaff in his dining room where he could simply sit down to spin when the urge struck. His flyer wheels lived primarily on the ground floor but the larger spindle wheels and looms had their own dedicated studio in his basement. From his basement workshop he produced a fully functional clavichord (harpsichord) in addition to much of his flax processing equipment. He also wrote informative articles for the Spinning Wheel Sleuth, a newsletter in the United States devoted to spinning.
One of the dressed wheels for spinning flax that Grant had in his dining room.
Photograph Credit: Gordon Moat