Saturday, March 31, 2012

Meet Fred, the Opossum

Earlier this week I had an impromptu “fire sale” to generate some much needed money.  I put on sale some of my handspun yarns, my knitting patterns, and some finished knitted and woven pieces.  It worked.  I did make some money, and those who made purchases got great deals.

But better than money, I did make one trade.  My friend, Sally C., is a talented fiber artist.  She does wonderful weaving, and she also does magnificent needle felting.  For the past few years, I have admired the delightful birds and woodland creatures that she needle felts.  Recently, she created an opossum.

I had to have it.

So, Sally and I made a fiber trade.  She got some yarn (a merino and cormo yarn I called “Curried Eggplant”) and I got the opossum.  I call him Fred.  This morning I took pictures of Fred in various locations of the front garden and back yard.  Isn’t he just adorable?

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Rag is Mightier Than the Oil

So, last week I wrote about drive bands and brake bands:  let them rest in a relaxed length, not stretched. 

Another important spinning wheel maintenance tip has to do with friction.  Friction is a force that resists the sliding of two contact surfaces.

For spinning, there are times when friction is good, and times when friction is bad.  When it comes to wheel maintenance, friction is generally bad.  It’s important that many of the moving parts of a spinning wheel are able to move freely, without the resistance of friction.  Minimizing this sort of friction with lubrication will not only make your wheel last longer, but it will make spinning easier, less effortful.

Here are my “rules” for lubricating your wheel:

Rule #1.  Follow the manufacturer’s maintenance/lubricating advice.  Many wheels made today have “enclosed bearings” for the drive wheel and those bearings do not need to be oiled.  Some manufacturers suggest specific lubrication; for example, Louet recommends Vaseline for lubricaion.  That’s what I use on my S-10.  Some spinners are very particular about which type of oil they use.  I’m not so picky.  I’m more picky about my Rule #2…

Rule #2.  Wipe off all the old oil.  Over time, oil – or whatever lubrication you use – will collect grit, dust, fiber, pet hair, whatever.  When that happens you effectively increase friction.  That’s a bad thing.  I keep a cotton rag handy, and before I oil my wheel I use the rag to thoroughly wipe off the old oil.  Always.  So, keep a rag handy.

Rule #3.  Oil the parts associated with the bobbin and flyer more often.  Oil the parts associated with the drive wheel and treadles less often.  For many wheels, each time you treadle once, the drive wheel rotates once.  But the bobbin and flyer rotate many more times (the number of times depends on the drive ratio), thus they need more frequent oiling than the drive wheel or treadles.  I apply new oil – and wipe off the old oil – to the bobbin/flyer/maidens every time I change bobbins.  I apply new oil – and wipe off old oil  – to the drive wheel axle (on my Reeves, but not on my Louet or Lendrum) and crank/footman contact and treadle/legs contact every few months, or when I start a new project.

To determine where to apply oil, you will need to analyze where parts come in contact and where you want to minimize friction of that contact.

The bobbin comes in contact with the shaft of the flyer.  So you will want to apply oil to the bushings of the bobbin or the points on the shaft where the bobbin touches the shaft of the flyer.

On many wheels, the flyer is held in place by the front and/or rear maidens.  So you will want to apply oil at those contact points.  Some flyers are held in place by leather bearings on the maidens.  If these leathers are new, they will need to be oiled frequently until they get infused with the oil.

If your wheel does not have enclosed bearings at the axle of the drive wheel, you will want to oil the axle.  And you’ll want to oil the point of contact between the crank and the footman.

Most spinners forget all about the treadles.  But they need to move smoothly and without friction at the place where the treadles contact the legs or base of the wheel.  Some wheels have pegs that connect the treadle to the legs.  Some wheels have hinges.  These contact points are potential points of friction and can be lubricated.

Your wheel is a machine that requires minimal maintenance.  But that maintenance is important to the longevity of the wheel, the smooth working of the wheel, and the ease with which you use the wheel.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Whales and Weaving, or Destiny and Chance

I’ve been working my way slowly through Moby Dick or the Whale by Herman Melville.  Last night, I read this in chapter 47, “The Mat-Maker”:

“I was the attendant or page of Queequeg, while busy at the mat.  As I kept passing and repassing the filling or woof of marline between the long yarns of the warp, using my own hand for the shuttle, and as Queequeg, standing sidways, ever and anon slid his heavy oaken sword between the threads, and idly looking off upon the water, carelessly an unthinkingly drove home every yarn: I say so strange a dreaminess did there then reign all over the ship and all over the sea, only broken by the intermittingly dull sound of the sword, that it seemed as if this were the Loom of Time, and I myself were a shuttle mechanically weaving and weaving away at the Fates.  There lay the fixed threads of the warp subject to but one single, ever returning, unchanigng vibration, and that vibration merely enough to admit of the crosswise interblending of the other threads with its own.  This warp seemed necessity; and here, thought I, with my own hand I ply my own shuttle and weave my own destiny into these unalterable threads.  Meantime, Queequeg’s impulsive, indifferent sword, sometimes hitting the woof slantingly, or crookedly, or strongly, or weakly, as the case might be; and by this difference in the concluding blow producing a corresponding contrast in the final aspect of the completed fabric; this savage’s sword, thought I, which thus finally shapes and fashions both warp and woof; this easy, indifferent sword must be chance – aye, chance, free will, and necessity – no wise incompatible – all interweavingly working together.  The straight warp of necessity, not to be swerved from its ultimate course – its every alternating vibration, indeed, only tending to that; free will still free to ply her shuttle betwwen given threads; and chance, though restrained in its play within the right lines of necessity, and sideways in its motions directed by free will, though thus prescribed to by both, chance by turns rules either, and has the last featuring blow at events.”

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

New Wheel and Advice on Maintenance

I’ve got a new spinning wheel.  It’s a Lendrum double treadle“complete”.  I’ve been needing a new wheel that I can use for teaching at venues to which I need to fly.  My sisters, Meg and Jo, bought it for me from The Woolery.  I’ll be paying them back as I can.  Thanks Jo!  Thanks Meg!

I’ll be taking this wheel with me when I teach at Spin-Off Autumn Retreat  in October.  One of the classes I’m teaching is “The Mechanics of Your Wheel”.  This new wheel is making me think a lot about the mechanics associated with wheel maintenance … because I want my new wheel to work well, and I want my new wheel to last!

Wheel maintenance can largely be considered in terms of the mechanical concepts of friction, elasticity, and plasticity.  When it comes to maintenance of your drive bands and brake bands, the issues of elasticity and plasticity are important.

Drive bands (and most brake bands) are typically made from cotton (or linen) or from some synthetic substance that is stretchy.  Both of these types of bands have some elasticity (meaning that when you pull on them they stretch and when you let go they go back to their original length) and some plasticity (meaning that if you pull on them for an extended period of time they will stretch but will not return to their original length when that pull is removed).

The elasticity of these bands is a good thing and makes your spinning go smoothly.  The plasticity is not really helpful.  For example, I’ve seen a lot of wheels with synthetic drive bands that have been held under stretch for so long that they no longer spring back to a short enough length to be used for the wheel’s smallest whorl size.

This problem is avoidable.

My advice:  when you are not using your wheel, take the tension off your drive band and your brake band.  These bands will last much longer and will work much better if you do.

I’ll address the wheel maintenance issues associated with friction in a later blog entry.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Dreaming Dancing Spinning Knitting

Tuesday night I had a dream that I taught a man to waltz and he then asked me to marry him.  (The man in question is a B television actor who shall remain nameless … and blameless.)  That is the extent of the dream.

On Wednesday I told my students in my “Knit Fingerless Mitts” class at Interquilten  this dream.  It got a chuckle.  I added, “Everyone should know how to waltz!”  To which Pat replied, “And everyone should know how to polka!”

Too true!  I often use the waltz and the polka to explain the concept of take-up tension on spinning wheels.  A low take-up tension is like a waltz; a strong take-up tension is more like a polka.

Wednesday night as I was falling asleep, I was thinking about waltzes and polkas.  My mind started to see different knit stitch patterns for the two dances.  Doesn’t the traditional “Feather and Fan” stitch make you think of a waltz?  And I think of bobbles when I think of polkas.

Then my mind really got revved up with this stitch-dance pairing.  Here are some more dance forms that I would like to, someday, translate into knitting:

Tango, Contra, Minuet, Morris, Square, Fox Trot,  Rumba, Danz√≥n, Swing, Jig, Strathspey, Schottische...

I could go on….

One more note about the Wednesday knitting class.  I had three students:  Pat, Claudia, and Julia.  Julia is eleven, about to turn twelve.  And she is crazy about knitting.  What a treat!  I got everyone started with the mitt pattern last week, and I told them to go as far as they want to before the second session.  At that second session on Wednesday, Julia stunned everyone by bringing in two finished mitts (nearly) and a third one started!  Now that’s precociousness defined!  Tawni, the owner of Interquilten, took a picture of Julia with her mitts:

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Reincarnation of Bonnie & Clyde

Last month, my roommate went to a conference in San Antonio.  She then stayed there for a few extra days as vacation.  While she was gone, I took care of her cats, Tigger & Blacky.

Last week, she gave me a gift as a “thank you” for cat sitting:  an adorable salt and pepper shaker set that she picked up at Shay Station in Cadillac, Michigan.

Aren’t they cute cute cute!?  The coolest thing is that they have magnets on the side so they click smartly together!  Of course I felt compelled to come up with names for these adorable sheepy shakers.  It didn’t take long.  They reminded me strongly of two cats that I once had, Bonnie & Clyde.

I got Clyde first, when I was a student in TucsonClyde was what you might call “a pill”.  As a kitten he seemed to take glee in being bad.  I am happy to report that he did mellow as he aged.  I miss Clyde the Cat.

Later, when I was working in Omaha, I adopted Bonnie.  She was already an adult cat when I got her.  She, unlike Clyde, was so very sweet.  I miss Miss Bonnie.

You see the resemblance to the salt and pepper sheep, don’t you?  Clyde was white with a few black spots.  Bonnie was black with a few white spots.  After these two spotted kitties and my two Dalmatians, I’ve become rather partial to spotted pets.  Some may say crazy, addicted, obsessed, fanatical …

Monday, March 12, 2012

2012 Spring Fiber Fling

Yesterday I saw my first robin of the season.  So, despite the heaps of snow – dirty, crusty, feels-like-styrofoam snow – spring is just around the corner.  And with spring come the fiber events!

One such event in which I’ve participated for a couple years is 2012 Spring Fiber Fling.  It’s a weekend fiber retreat held at a church camp in Pickford, Michigan.  That’s in the Upper Peninsula, about halfway between the Bridge and Sault Ste Marie.  This event is sponsored by the Country Spinners and Bridge Shuttlers.  There are 2 contact folks:  Lois Robbins, 906-632-3689,, and Jeremy Ripley, 906-253-1565,

The fun begins on Friday evening, May 18, and continues through lunch time on Sunday, May 20.  There are plenty of half-day workshops on Saturday and Sunday.  This year, I’m teaching “Plying for Texture” on Saturday morning and “I Heart Duplicate Stitch” on Sunday morning.  Other workshop topics include:  soap making, needle felting, spindle spinning, embroidery, knitting, basketry, drum carding, quilting, naalbinding, and more!

And there are vendors too, usually about a dozen or so.  I’m thinking I might snag a nice Corriedale fleece this year; they have looked enticing in the past….

Pre-registration is necessary, and the registration deadline is April 27, 2012.

You can find the brochure with all the details either at my website, Stone Sock Fibers, or on Facebook at their event site.

Join the fun!  A trip to the UP alone is worth it!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Out of the Dog House

I got home yesterday from my dog sitting sabbatical.  You may be wondering what on my long ambitious list did I actually accomplish.  Even if you’re not wondering….

I am a list maker.  I make a list every day of what I hope to do that day.  I almost always make the list way too long to actually finish in one day.  So, I’m used to not checking everything off the list, as was the case while dog sitting.

I did spin, but not much.  I only finished one skein from the Coopworth-Mohair roving.  Here it is.

Knitting went better….after a fashion.  I was making impressive progress on the Brick Road Afghan.  This afghan is knitted from three colors, with some striping.  Here are the colors I’m using.

The first time I knitted this afghan, the overall color/shade order was medium – light – dark- light – medium.  So, I started this current afghan with the same order.  I got nearly half way done (and this is a BIG afghan, using 3 pounds of yarn) before I decided I really really didn’t like the sequence of color stripes.  I decided to undo the whole thing and re-knit.  Now it’s light – medium – dark – medium – light.  And I got about 1/3 done:

I have to say that my rigid heddle loom compelled me the most.  I got four scarves finished.  Here’s a picture of the scarves.

Perhaps you noticed there are five scarves.  The one on the left I wove just before I did dog duty.  But they’re all made from the same cluster of bamboo yarns….except for the two on the right.  They have a warp from the bamboo yarns but the weft is a thin cotton textured yarn that is a creamy white color.

I’ve still got enough bamboo yarn for perhaps two more scarves.  To be done soon.

But today, my spinning wheel is calling me.