June 2009 Archives

Finnish Wheel Finishing

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The Finnish spinning wheel arrived by Fedex on Friday, and we unpacked it to great interest from the dogs. I spent some time cleaning it as it had been in a house with two smokers for a very long time and needed something to smell less smoky.

Then Noel took apart the flyer that was broken and cleaned it out, and put it back together with glue and a couple of wooden pins (sometimes known as toothpicks).

Repaired flyer

Once the pins were trimmed down, the flyer was as solid as it could be. We had a few more things to fuss with to get the bobbin to spin smoothly, but soon enough I put a drive band on the wheel and spun up some Dorset wool I had left over from a class. One of the hooks broke off; they're all kind of right on the edge of breaking in half so it might be time to just replace them all. But the thing works. See:

First wool on the wheel in decades

We figure that's the first wool spun on this wheel in 50 years.

In short: this wheel wants to go fast. It does not like being treadled slowly and handled cautiously. It likes to be on its fastest ratio and treadled like a bandit. Also, it eats fiber for lunch. Not a beginner wheel. But it's going to be a lot of fun.

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Law of Magnetic Attraction

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There's got to be some kind of law somewhere that says that when you have an [obscure item] you are more likely to be offered additional [obscure items]. So we end up with Noel owning 29 accordions, and now I have 2 spinning wheels.

A week ago Noel's grandmother died, and when we went out for the funeral we also spent some time dealing with her possessions, among which was this very nice spinning wheel.:

Finnish wheel

She never used it: I asked her about spinning on our recent trip to see her, and she said it was her grandmother's wheel, and that several families shared it. This is a wheel that has been used and broken and worn down and repaired and used some more. Here's the flyer: the part that adds twist to the fiber and then winds it onto the bobbin. You can see from this that it's a double-drive wheel with two ratios available (I didn't measure them). At some point the flyer broken in half and was repaired with brass wire. That repair is suffering now, so we will repair it again, with dowels and glue this time.

Broken flyer

When I tried out treadling the wheel, it ran like a dream despite having spent decades in an attic. One reason was that the place where the wheel axle rests on the uprights has a sliver of metal as a bearing point: no wood to get gunked up or wear out. A nice touch. (This photo taken with the wheel partially disassembled, so the decorative finials that cover the ends of the supports were off.)

Where the axle rests: metal bearing points

Here's my favourite part of the wheel: the treadle. Worn with time and use. A little damaged. This is where people interact with the wheel, and this is where you see how this was a valued and well-used tool.

Worn treadle

On the bottom of the treadle it says "No. 28"; Grandma thought they'd brought the wheel from Finland, but this is the only thing that gives me pause about that. In several other places on the wheel we found "No. 28" written in pencil. That could have been done by the maker, in which case it was made in the US. Or it could have been done in the course of a repair job.

No. 28 on treadle bottom

On the bottom of the bench it says, "New York Mills, Otter Tail County, Minnesota," which could again be written on there well after building or by the maker.

New York Mills, Otter Tail County, Minnesota on bench bottom

Wherever this came from, it's an honour that I get to have it. Noel and I disassembled it and packed it carefully for shipping. It will arrive later this week.

Disassembling the wheel for shipping

So that's wheel #2.

In the meantime, I've been doing an extensive teardown and rebuild of the first wheel, mostly to deal with a bit of stiffness in the treadling. I took it all the way apart, cleaned it, and greased it. Then it popped right back together. It's spinning better now.

Teardown and rebuild of Clemes and Clemes wheel

I also did some spindle sampling of the Teeswater fleece I picked up at Retzlaff. I tried a semi-carding technique (left) and a sorta-combing (right) technique, and I liked the carding results much better. I will need to try real wool combs on this, though.

Sampling the Teeswater

And I also did some quickie sewing, whipping up a pair of drawstring bags to store the alpaca fleeces in. I got some more fabric to make more of these, and actually spent some time figuring out what it would cost to make them, but unless I got the fabric basically for free and paid myself minimum wage, nobody would buy them for what it cost to make them.

Two fine new fabric bags

And finally, a sneak peek at a little project I have going. I'm still working out some details, but I hope to have something bloggable in the next couple of weeks.

Fiber project

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Spinning Day at the Winery

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I spent most of today out in Livermore at Retzlaff Winery with my awe-inspiring fiber-shopping buddy. It was good times from beginning to end. Starting with getting to park down the rows of the vineyard:

Parking between the rows

I had been to the winery before and was curious about how they would handle parking.

We got there right at the beginning, because the shopping buddy wanted to get some fleeces from Janet Heppler, and the best ones were sure to go fast. Sure enough, she snatched up two really lovely fleeces -- one of them one the sort of fleece that even people who don't know how to check a fleece look at and know is good stuff. That's Janet in the blue shirt, shopping buddy kneeling down (to write a check, not to be knighted), with the two fleeces beside her.

Paying homage to the shepherd

As she was dropping the fleeces off with a processor to get them cleaned and into a spinnable form, I noticed this:

My wonderful new Teeswater

4 lbs. of Teeswater wool, washed and ready to prep. So I bought it. That's enough for a couple of sweaters.

There were many many kinds of fiber there, some less tempting than others. I know wool spins up to look quite different from how it looks as fiber, but there was something about this one that was less than inspiring. It did make me kind of want some cotton candy, though.

Um, pink? and purple?

Also represented were some vendors with stuff other than wool, like the ubiquitous Carolina Homespun. I had thought I might look at spindles and maybe get some carders, but I'm happy with the spindle I'm working with now and I'm still dithering over carders since I don't know how to judge them except by weight.

I also tried the Schacht Ladybug wheel there, and it was nice. Not, like, save me a couple hundred bucks on a spinning wheel nice, but I'd spin on that nice.

At Carolina Homespun's booth

After a while most people slowed down on hitting the booths (and the very best fleeces sold out), and we settled into a large group of spinners.

The event in full swing

I decided against lugging my wheel along, and brought the merino/silk I've been working on. I've been being all anal about cop formation on this spindleful, and it's very gratifying. A layer of parallel wrapping all nice and tight, then a layer of criss-crossing to lock it into place. It's working very nicely for me, with only one small collapse that I could have avoided (I unwound the cop onto my hand to the point of collapse, then fixed it). I admit that most of this spinning was done on Thursday at a class about solar water heating, but I did make some progress today.

My spinning progress

At the end of the day, the shopping buddy finally decided to get one of those nifty sheepskins she'd been ogling all day. She really wanted the goat, but it was not washable because of how it had been processed. So sheepskin it was. She loves it. Her cats will loooooooove it.

Partner in crime with sheep hide

She and I also split a grey Pygora fleece. This is my half, about 17 oz. It's marvellous stuff, soft and lush and curly.

Grey Pygora

And I got a couple of alpaca second cuts (not the same as sheep second cuts; they're shorter but still workable). In all I brought home the Pygora plus these:

The haul

Clockwise from upper left, that's 16 oz. of white alpaca, 16 oz. of black alpaca, and the Teeswater.

I think I'm set for fiber for a while now.

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