May 2009 Archives

Be Still, My Metal Pot


I've been incompetently building a steam distillation rig this last week or so. I started with this pile of stuff, some scrounged from neighbors or junk piles, some bought at thrift stores. The squirrel was Goldie's contribution.

Still materials

First up was drilling a hole in the pot lid, which Noel did for me with a fine step bit. I won't say how I attempted the job but I will say it involved that ball-peen hammer there and made quite a racket if no progress whatsoever.

The hole in the lid allowed me to put a compression fitting there to hold the condenser coil in place. Then I could move on to making a rack to go inside the pot and hold my material to be steamed above the water bath.

So we have a weird metal plate thing from the Sally Am, some long bolts, some washers, and some high-temperature adhesive intended for making copper coloured gaskets. Good stuff.

Material rack pieces

I glued it all together like this and with any luck, tomorrow morning it will be a usable rack that sits just far enough up in the pot to stay out of the water bath.

Glued-up material rack

This afternoon's fun was making a water bath for the condenser. I used the old bucket from the chicken waterers, and spent a good half hour wrestling with the copper tubing to get it in there. Some aquarium silicone around the hole for the drip-out, and 24 hours to sit and ponder its sins, and we will be ready for a test run.

Assembled still

Now to decide what to distill first. I'm thinking roses, since we're sort of all overloaded with roses out front right now.

Of Spinning and Wheels

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I've been plowing away at my latest spinning almost without incident, although this time I'm trying for as thin as possible so there's been a lot of broken yarn and angry putting away of the project until it behaves.

Today's milestone is that I hit the halfway point on this fiber, which I want to 2-ply, so it's time to start another copp (and not a moment too soon as this one was starting to get unstable).

Here we are this afternoon. From the left: a 100ml separatory funnel for scale, the roughly 2 oz of single, my new spindle (more on that in a sec), and the remaining fiber (merino/tussah by Ashland Bay).

Halfway through the merino/tussah

I'm pretty happy with how this single has spun up. I've been paying a lot of attention to getting a consistent amount of fiber in my drafting triangle, and working hard on staying as thin as feels stable. I'm still working out good copp shape; as you can see I had a bit of a collapse at the bottom on this one, so for the next half I'm going to try criss-crossing the single as I wind it on.

Nice single, eh?

So, the new spindle. A Bosworth midi, purchased this afternoon at Carolina Homespun, where the charming and efficient Morgaine showed me an endless stream of wheels (well, about six of them) while handling customers, friends, and a cat who was doing laps around the house. Her shop is amazing and if you ever get a chance to see it, you must.

Anyway, I felt the need for a nicer spindle then either of my two (heavier) Schacht spindles, and this was sort of in the middle of what I felt was a nice weight/shape range. Also, it means I now have enough spindles to make a 2-ply yarn without winding off onto skewers.

The new Bosworth

As far as the wheel tryout went, I'm down to three. I loooooooved the Reeves 30". It spins like fricking buttah. I could spin on that puppy forever. I felt moisturized when I got up. That was how nice it was. However, it is also $1600 in the configuration I tried (cherry wood; it's cheaper to get ash, but not, like, I'll take two cheaper).

Somewhat less expensive was the Lendrum folding wheel. It spun really nicely and reacted to me just the way I expected. An awesome wheel, and it has a bunch of additional ratios to allow me to spin faster (and thus finer). Or the Schacht Matchless, which spun equally as well (but doesn't have the option of such high ratios). But if I were going to (ahem) have two wheels, one being the Reeves Buttah, it would make more sense to have the other be a folding wheel that would be more portable.


So I think I'm going to dither over this for a while, mostly deciding whether to get the Lendrum with high-speed kit or just the plain Lendrum.

In the meantime, I'm not totally without resources. I have this "placeholder" wheel to tide me over until I know what I really want (and one thing I really want is to have the orifice on the other side of the wheel). It's a Clemes & Clemes from the 70's, double-drive, single treadle. (Clemes & Clemes is a Bay Area wheel maker, and they just recently re-started making wheels.) It needed some repair but nothing not obvious (the drive band had inexplicably been attached in such a way that it could not work and no sensible person would expect it to, one of the bobbins was unglued, and there was a ridiculous amount of fiber wedged into the wheel hub). My main job lately has been oiling it, endlessly.

Spinning wheel

It's working OK. Morgaine gave me some good pointers about how to arrange myself in front of it to make it work better, and suggested I use a heavier oil. In the meantime, I admit that I find it so frustrating that I often find myself just using the spindle because it is so much easier and less of a hassle.

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Revised Lace Design


The AIA convention last week ironically made me incredibly busy while also affording me a lot of time to knit. So during many many hours of sessions, I did this test swatch of the lace patterns I've been revising for my design project.

I work out stitch patterns in crochet cotton, because it is a) cheap, and b) generic enough to let me see what I am doing. I usually ravel a swatch like this and re-use the cotton many times (I've been using the same bit of cotton for all six of the swatches I did for this project, for example). There's a value to saving a swatch of a yarn you actually use for the pattern, but very little to saving sketchy swatches of stitch patterns when you're working out what kind of decreases you want to use.

The first three lace patterns

I spent a lot of time working out how to get the patterns to flow into each other, and I think I mostly have it (there's one funky area there where a pattern starts out a bit too soon, but that's easy to fix). The drawback to doing this test in crochet cotton is that it looks terrible, even more so because I don't generally wash and block my swatches at this stage, but I'll live.

Anyway, I'm mostly done with the lace pattern designs for this except the really hard parts, which are the edgings. I've got some sketches of what I want for the neckline, and a whole chart plotted out for the bottom edging, but the exact mechanics of how to do it were a bit beyond me by the last day of the convention, so no progress there so far.

Once I get the edgings worked out, I will knit a couple of samples in the real yarn, so see what size needle I want. I'd like something a bit denser than this fabric, so I can see possibly having to buy some needles (this was done on a size 3). I have a good selection of smaller needles, but not a full gradation in the range I'm dealing with.

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This page is an archive of entries from May 2009 listed from newest to oldest.

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