Category Archives: Fiber Artistry and Equipment

OK, I’m fickle or picky, maybe both- 5/14/2018

Over the years since I started knitting again in earnest and spinning, I have bought and sold much equipment trying to find the perfect fit for my pleasure.  Everyone eventually finds the equipment that pleases them the most and everyone’s favorite is equally disliked by others, or just indifferent to it.  It would be great if everything could be tried out for a while first, but like with cars, furniture, appliances, etc. sales are the goal.  With spinning, in some areas, you can find a local store or fiber fest that may have several manufacturers and models of wheels, but trying one for a few minutes in a store doesn’t really give you the knowledge you need to fall in love or dislike with it.

I have learned that I don’t like metal knitting needles and crochet hooks.  Most of the metal needles react with my skin chemistry and produce a mild odor that I find unpleasant.  Carbon fiber and wood suit me better.  I only use circular knitting needles and whether they have fixed tips or are interchangeable, the flexibility of the cable is important.  I have tried many brands and have settled on Lykke and Karbonz as my favorites.

With spindles, I have tried wood top whorl, bottom whorl, Turkish, Russian support, and Daelgan (Scottish) style again from many craftsmen.  Some I liked okay, the Turkish I have kept for the longest, though it is usually just used for plying.  Since I started spinning and went to my first fiber festival, I have desired to own a drop spindle crafted by Tom Golding.  A few weeks ago, I ordered one off of Etsy, a large spindle with the whorl looking like a flock of sheep faces with a bright bronze ring.

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I liked that it spun for a long time, but found it a tad too heavy for my use and sold it quickly for what it cost.  But I wanted a Golding and went directly to his website and ordered one that is a bit smaller and lighter.  It came today.

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The slightly smaller whorl, solid top, and lighter weight appeal to me more and allow me to spin the finer yarn that I like to spin on spindles, plus it came with some delightfully playful fiber to sample. My two spindles are here to stay, the rest have found new homes.

In the decade that I have been spinning, I used only spindles at first, then met a group of spinners and fell into the rabbit hole of spinning wheels.  Like needles and drop spindles, they have pluses and minuses.  My first wheel was a wonky old wheel that had been repaired by a friend who learned to spin on it and sold it to me to learn on.  It was a decent little wheel, but the bobbins were very small and the wheel itself slightly warped.   It went on to a friend to learn on and I bought a travel wheel, actually a large wheel that folded somewhat and fit in a huge backpack.  I liked that wheel for it’s appearance, it fit in well when re-enacting,  but there were some things I wasn’t really thrilled with and it was loaned to the friend who bought the wonky wheel which came back to me when she bought the folding wheel.  I used it long enough to find a used wheel I liked and it was probably one of my favorites, but it didn’t fit in when I was at the historic house and I didn’t want too many wheels, but I bought a 200+ year old wheel to take there and tried to make it a functional wheel.  I got it working with the help of a spinning wheel restorer, but it was hard on my knees and hips and I sold it, sold the non historic wheel, and sold the wonky wheel to a local teen that wanted to learn, and bought another that required me to assemble and finish it.  That wheel goes with me to historic events, but has very small bobbins.  Somewhere along the way, Jim bought me an old Great or Walking Wheel.  That one stays at home because of it size and is still being made totally functional.

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And a month or so ago, I tried and fell in love with a tiny little wheel that fits in a large canvas tote, has huge bobbins, and is probably the favorite wheel I have owned.

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I am done.  I have my perfect spindles, needles, hooks, and more wheels than I need, but one that fits the historic spinning venues, one that looks awesome in our log home that is fun to play with, and one that travels well and that I just love.  Plus enough fluff and yarn to keep me busy for quite a while.

It is time to be satisfied with the knitting and spinning toys, uh tools that I own and spin and knit on.  IMG_20180420_124357

Away, back, away, and back again 3/2/2018

Finally settled back home from a couple of weeks of flurried activity, first with our cruise and as soon as the laundry was done and the dust settled, I was off to the winter version of the spinning retreat. We enjoyed a couple of weeks of very nice weather, enjoying the western Caribbean toward the end of their rainy season, so not too hot and only a few random showers. There were two nights of heavier rain, but it occurred after we had settled for the night. For the most part the seas were calm, though I tend to motion sickness and had one bad evening when I had failed to take Bonine in the morning, did a water excursion and back on the ship just as we were about to leave port. The ship store sold motion sick bands and a couple of Bonine and I was okay after a few hours. We had a great time on a much needed vacation.  And we returned to spring like weather at home.

The spinning retreat is an event that I look forward to, rejoining friends that I see infrequently, laughing, eating, spinning and knitting. The motel at Hawk’s Nest State Park lacks a restaurant at this time, but Tudor’s Biscuit World is just down the road and Pies and Pints Pizza is only a short drive away, so many of us go out for breakfast and lunch. Dinner started as happy hour and morphed over the years to a grand pot luck. This year the pot luck was so immense that one night we had 5 or 6 crockpot dishes, plus salads, crackers, cheese, dips, and desserts. Though I had not asked prior to the event to vend as I was unsure having been away, I took some soaps, salves, yarn, and knitwear and because there were few vendors, I did get to set up and was able to sell enough to pay for the weekend which is my goal.

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This retreat did take a negative twist though as I awoke each day with a few more itchy spots, unsure if I was reacting to their detergent or if I was being bitten. Sunday morning, I was pretty sure that they were bites, notified the office as I left, washed my bag and clothing in hot water as soon as I arrived home. By Monday, it was apparent, that I had had a bed bug encounter, something I have feared in hotels, but not expected there. I have always been over reactive to insect bites and have broad itchy bands surrounding the rows of bites, characteristic of bed bugs. Now a week out, I am still on antihistamines, anti itch creams, and trying not to scratch. I am hoping that I did not bring them home with me. My spinning, knitting, and vending items remained in the tiled conference room for the weekend, but traveled home in the back of my car with my suitcase, though in a plastic box crate and in trays strapped to the top of the crate.

The week remained delightfully spring like until last night. We have howling wind and woke to snow flurries. The upcoming forecast is more seasonal. We lost our power briefly last night and again this afternoon for a couple of hours. Fires have been lit in the wood stove and fireplace in case of another failure. It is supposed to go down into the twenties tonight and we want the house to stay warm.

I am continuing to knit on the new shawl that is a design on the fly that I will probably never write down.  The yarns are lovely though.  It is a mitered shawl of a Freia Ombre Shawl ball and a craveyarn Santa Fe solid.

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I am nearly to a point where I need to make sure I have a multiple of the number of stitches needed for the fancier lace that will be the bottom lace band.

Also on the needles are Log Cabin squares for a gift blanket in the works.

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The warmer weather and longer days have the hens producing generously again.  My egg buying friends were all grateful today when I was able to bring them the quantities they desire.  Each day gathering 8 to a dozen from the 16 hens.  I’m still unsure whether the two with the pale combs are laying, so I may be getting them from just 14 hens.

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The power has been restored and flickered off and back on again, so I should get our dinner going in case it goes out again.  Until next time.

Olio – January 3, 2018

Olio: a miscellaneous collection of things

The holidays are over, the decorations packed away, but the cold has really settled in.  Cold is relative.  There are parts of the world, even the USA that have the temperatures we are experiencing every winter and are prepared for it.  There are parts of the US that are used to very mild winters that are experiencing temperatures that we consider normal for this time of year, but they aren’t equipped for it.  It is cold here.  Our nights for the past couple of weeks have all been single digits.  The days in the teens, low 20’s if we are lucky.  But it has been dry.  There is some light snow expected tomorrow as another Arctic blast hits us, but no other real precipitation due as far as I can see in the forecast.  There is a light at the end of the tunnel though, if the forecast holds true, we will climb back up into the 30’s with mid 20’s at night in a few more days.

With the frigid weather, the dogs run out and back in.  The chickens have remained cooped some days and if it is sunny and calm, let out to free range on other days.  If it snows tomorrow, they won’t come out of their coop, no white stuff for them.  The shortened days and extreme cold have seriously curtailed egg laying.  Instead of 6 dozen or so a week, the 16 ten month old hens are providing less than half that a week.  The days are beginning to lengthen and the cold will abate, so hopefully they will begin to lay again soon.

We rarely go out for New Year’s Eve, but this fall, we saw a billboard for a New Year’s Eve event at Mountain Lake Lodge, the site of the filming of “Dirty Dancing.”  As soon as they were taking reservations, we booked one.  This lodge is 5 miles further up the road  our road descends from, an elevation change of about 2000 more feet and we were greeting with snow and frosted trees, a veritable winter wonderland, where though we are cold, we have no snow.

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The event included a stellar buffet dinner, a room for the night, a grand party with live band, favors, and champagne toast, and topped off with breakfast on New Year’s Day.  We met some wonderful folks, enjoyed their company, danced and partied, then walked upstairs to our lovely room for the night.  Such a great event we will probably repeat it next year.

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We got home on New Year’s Day to discover that the dripping faucet in the utility room had been turned off and the hot water line frozen.  We have kept the cold dripping, the heat turned up in there and a hot fire burning in the wood stove in the basement near where the pipe enters the utility room slab.  After three days of this treatment, the pipe finally thawed this afternoon and now both hot and cold are running at a slow trickle to prevent a recurrence.  The washing machine drain is still frozen though the sink drain is not.

I was knitting a Hitchhiker scarf and hoping to wear it last weekend as my last project for 2017, but ended up taking it with me with only 8 rows to complete.  Sitting in the tavern before dinner in front of a fire with a glass of wine, I saw an error a few rows back and had to rip those rows out to fix it.  It ended up being my first finished project of 2018.

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Knit with Freia Fibers Shawl ball

To get out of chronological order here, the past couple of weeks have been busy.  Daughter’s family has been moving into their new house a trunk full or our 5 X 8′ open trailer full at a time.  They have cleared the storage units that have held most of their belonging for the past three years that they shared our home with us, have moved toys, books, games, and shelving that held some of that in our rec room, and this past weekend, their master bedroom returning our furniture that they have stored.  They are still staying here until some flooring is laid, then they will move the kids dressers and part of the bunk bed and a few more smaller items and their pets.  The house is going to seem so empty after having the kids here.  They are close enough for us to still help out when needed, but in a different school district and closer to work.

The month of December had us on the road a lot.  We went to the coast to visit son the younger and his family one weekend, home the next for the second Holiday Market, then north to son the elder and his family, returning home on Christmas eve.  Son in law is from an Italian family and their tradition is pasta and antipasto on the eve and we arrived home to a delicious meal.  Christmas Day after gift exchange with daughter’s family and watching the children with all of their new things, I prepared a turkey and ham meal with all the trimmings.

The week after Christmas, our local yarn store closed for a week to relocate much closer to where I live and our spinning group that usually meets there on that Thursday of each month chipped in with other volunteers to help them with packing and actually moving so that they didn’t have to rent a truck.  A friend volunteered her pickup, I volunteered our larger SUV and the trailer and with a couple of other vehicles and two days, all of the fabric, yarn, and fixtures were moved in sub freezing temperatures.  They reopen on Friday and I am excited to see how all of the stuff we helped move will be displayed and so that I can purchase another Freia Fiber Shawl ball in another color way for my cruise knitting.  Our cruise is only a bit more than a month off.

I hope my readers have a very happy and prosperous New Year.

Sometimes We Need Luxury

Over the weekend, I began spinning a part of my Tailfeathers subscription from last year from Unplanned Peacock.  It was a generous 100 grams (actually more like 125 grams) of pure silk top.  The gorgeous colorway was called Sequoia, greens, a little yellow, some white.  I took my time spinning it, I wanted a thin, even, well balanced yarn.

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I started by dividing the top in half, hoping to get fairly equal bobbins of singles to ply.

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Once it was all spun, I was concerned that it wasn’t going to ply onto only one bobbin, but I spent the afternoon plying.  It was a soft as butter as it spun, a delight to handle.

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It was a full bobbin, very full and this is a truer representation of the color.  It is very even, fingering to baby weight and so soft.

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I ended up with 335 yards of delightful yarn.  It doesn’t have a plan, maybe it will go in the shop, maybe knit into a small shawl or cowl.  This was the second time I have spun silk, the first time was totally on one of my drop spindles.  Another lovely skein of yarn.

 

For the Love of Other Fiber Artists

Each day in the fiber arts brings new challenges.  Some of these challenges I can tackle on my own. Some I can toss out to local friends and be rewarded with answers. Sometimes, the challenge requires me to cast the net farther out into the world for advice and solutions.

My knitting guru moved back to Ohio, but she taught many of us in this area tricks we didn’t know and introduced me to many others in this area that are in the know.  My knitting needs are always met, if I can’t work it out on my own.

The spinning group members are all far better spinners than I and I am never wanting for help in that area either.  They each have their own styles and their own equipment preferences.  This group is further expanded through the 3 retreats that I attend each year.  It was one of those retreats that I learned to card fiber, thus allowing me to start blending my own colors and fibers.  One of the members of this group is also a spinning wheel dealer and can get the equipment for us, or help us with minor repairs.

One of the challenges that I have had to cast out into the world is help with the antique Amable Paradis spinning wheel that I purchased just before Christmas.  As I have mentioned in prior posts, it arrived Christmas eve and eldest son was here.  He and I tackled trying to put it back together based on the photo that was on Ebay as it came shipped in pieces.  We figured it out, but there were some problems.  The legs were loose, solved by using the waxed hemp and the video from Bobbin Boy.  The chips in the whorl and bobbin that would affect it’s ability to spin.  That is also being handled by Bobbin Boy and a second bobbin being made so I will be able to spin two bobbins and then ply them on my Louet.  Once the wheel was put together and stable, I realized that the footman, the peddle assembly that makes the wheel turn, hit the ground and prevented the wheel from continuing to turn.  This assembly is in two pieces, the horizontal part that the foot treadles on that pivots on two metal pins inserted into the front two legs, and the vertical rod that attached to the treadle by leather and to the wheel on a forged metal piece with a pin.

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The leather that held the vertical rod to the treadle was huge loose loop.  The leather was pretty dried out, but with some effort, I was able to work the knot free breaking off one end that was very dry and retying it as tightly as the two pieces of wood could be together.  This improved, but did not cure the problem.  It looked to me, that I needed about an inch or inch and a half more clearance for the mechanism to work properly.  I toyed with various ideas on how to raise the legs of the wheel that much without doing any damage or permanent change to the wheel and finally today, tossed the problem out to two forums on Ravelry, an international online social network of other fiber lovers.  I quickly got several responses to just cut off as much of the bottom of the rod as needed, redrill the hole, retie the leather and voila, it worked.  But . . .  Isn’t there always a but?  This lead to me realize another problem with this wheel, but one that I felt that I could manage a solution for myself.  When I treadled and the wheel turned as it was supposed to, the top of the rod would fall off of the pin in the forged metal part.

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This piece had a warp in it that causes the pin on which the rod rides to point slightly upward at the top and slightly downward at the bottom of its rotation.  Being forged, it isn’t going to bend, so a solution was needed to keep the rod in place.  The rod has a piece of leather tacked to the back side that may have taken care of this problem at some point, but the wear has caused the hole in the leather to become too large to hold on to the pin.  I have a thick leather belt that was a bit too long for me, so I cut the end off, drilled a hole a bit smaller than the pin and forced it on as a leather washer.  Problem solved for now.

Next up, the wheel is going to get a good cleaning and some lubrication and await the return of the parts from Bobbin Boy.  Each challenge gets me closer to thinking that I made a good purchase to use for spinning at the 17th century home or just for my own use here when I want something different.  I still need to get a handle on tying on the double drive belt and learning to spin with a double drive wheel.  Always something new to learn.