Saturday, December 31, 2011

Isn't this a lovely sight?

Matchless and Traditional

I must say, I had forgotten that the Traditional has a larger drive wheel than the Matchless.  It's only a 2.5" difference (22" vs 19.5"), but that combined with the inherently larger footprint of a Saxony wheel makes the Matchless seem so much smaller by comparison.

I finished the first bobbin of superfine merino I started spinning after I repaired my wheel, and decided to spin one of my Christmas bundles of fiber.  This is some gray wool that my dad got for me- he and Emma took a drive down to the yarn store in Baker City (45 minutes south) the first day he was here, and picked out this wool from him and some raw alpaca fiber from Emma.  (This was completely unprompted by me!)

The wool came in a 250 gram bump of carded roving, and I think it had been in that form for a while.  I could tell that it was nice wool, but it was sticky, very compacted, and didn't draft well.  It wasn't felted, but it wasn't really spinnable as is.

I divided the roving into 50 gram pieces (one carder load), and washed them in mesh bags.  A little hot water, soap, and rinsing, and the roving came out unstickified and much easier to draft.  I sent it through the carder once, and it became beautiful and puffy and delicious.

gray mystery wool

Then I stripped each batt into four pieces, wound them up into nests to avoid flyaways, and I'm ready to spin!

gray mystery wool

I was not at all disappointed that I had to go through the extra steps of washing and re-carding this roving.  It gave me a chance to use my carder!

I don't know for sure what kind of wool it is. The tag that came with it said "New Zealand carded sliver- light gray", so that wasn't terribly helpful.  It definitely isn't Merino, which is the first thing most handspinners think of when faced with something labeled "New Zealand wool";  I'm thinking it's something more along the lines of Romney, which is another very common New Zealand breed.  This isn't next-to-the-skin-soft wool, but it will make great sweater yarn. It has a nice luster, and as long as I don't overtwist it, it's reasonably soft.

I spun 8 of the 20 nests this afternoon, about 100 grams and a mostly full bobbin.  I'm loving my newly repaired wheel- it's so quiet now.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

So the stage was set...

setting the stage

And then it was Christmas morning!

first look on Christmas morning

Going in for a closer look...She likes it!

a closer look...

Later that morning, after all the other presents were opened, we sat down to spin!

first spin on her own wheel!

This just makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. Sigh.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Today I got the final permit for a project that I've been working on for three and a half years.  It's been a long road, with many bumps and detours. 


Sunday, December 18, 2011

Well, I got a lot of my to-do list accomplished this weekend.  The house is well on the way to being in order, the presents I have are wrapped, I ordered a birthday present for my dad, and I should be finished knitting his Christmas present by Christmas. (Last minute knitting? Who, me?) Emma's room is ready for my dad- Emma was a champ at getting everything on her to-do list checked off as well.

In addition to the "Have-To" tasks this weekend, I also found myself taking on a lengthy, involved, fun project. I repaired, cleaned and oiled my Schacht spinning wheel.

I had intended to do the cleaning and oiling in the spring when the weather warmed up, but when I sat down to spin on Friday night, I couldn't take the clunking anymore.  This is a result of the worn rear bearing that carries the drive wheel axle.  The piece that carries the bearing is held in place by two screws on the walnut insert in the back legs.  On my wheel, the bearing itself was corroded and didn't allow the crank to rotate freely.  In addition, the lower of the two screws had stripped its hole in the wood, and the piece with the bearing wobbled, causing the drive wheel to wobble.  For the past couple years (years? has it really been years?), I've had a jury-rigged fix with a piece of packing tape- not ideal.

I've actually had the replacement part for three years, bought when I replaced the tension knob.  I knew the bearing also needed to be replaced, and I knew exactly how I wanted to do it, but there was one problem.  I couldn't get the pin out of the drive wheel so that I could get the crank out of the hub and the bearing off the crank.

Then on Friday, I was finally fed up with the wheel bossing me around and resisting this very much needed upgrade. I got serious with it and gave the pin several good whacks, and finally, TA-DA!

the difficult hub pin

The pin is out! Spring pins are a pain in the neck.  Sturdy: yes. Tight-fitting: oh my goodness yes. Easy to remove: NO.

So here are the old parts and the new parts. The walnut original is on the left, the maple replacement is on the right.

replacement parts

The problem is that I won't give up the walnut insert in the rear legs of my wheel.  I think that's a key piece that gives the older Schacht Matchless wheels their beauty. So even though the Schacht people recommended using the maple piece instead of the potentially brittle walnut piece, I took the new maple bearing piece and attached it to the old walnut insert.  My walnut piece isn't cracked, and I modified it by drilling the upper hole all the way through the piece instead of leaving it only halfway.  This way I can use a bolt and a nut to hold the piece in alignment, rather than relying on the strength of the wood itself to hold a screw in place.

Drilling into my spinning wheel = EEK!  But it worked and the piece is now held solidly.

In the process of getting the crank out of the hub, I had to partially disassemble the wheel.  Note, please, the extremely dirty treadle.

got the drive wheel off!

Once the bearing had been replaced, I was going to just put it back together and SPIN! but then I looked at the wheel and was suddenly aware of how very dirty my wheel is.  I spun outdoors at almost every Farmer's Market this summer and fall, and it took its toll.  The contrast with Emma's lovely wheel was obvious, and I didn't want my wheel to feel neglected and sad when I bring in Emma's wheel to put in front of the Christmas tree after she's asleep on Christmas eve.

Since the wheel was already mostly disassembled, I decided to go ahead and completely deconstruct it.

deconstructed wheel

There really aren't that many parts to a spinning wheel.  And the hardware inventory isn't that bad, either.

wheel hardware

So everything got scrubbed, and the treadle got sanded.  The rest of the parts didn't need sanding, just a wash.  I gave all the parts a coat of oil, then put it all back together, discovering along the way that spring pins are as much of a pain to put back in as they are to take out.  I ended up having to drill a chamfer onto the hole through the crank that the pin fits into, as a guide for starting the pin, since I couldn't get the pin seated when the crank was in the hub.

Again, drilling my wheel = EEK!  But it worked and the pin finally went in.

Since the treadle had been sanded, it needed a lot more oil than the rest.  After I reconstructed the wheel, I gave everything one more coat, then just kept applying oil to the treadle as needed for the next six hours.  Whenever one coat absorbed, I applied another.  It was at least a dozen coats.  As with the Ashford, when the last coat was still glisteny after an hour I called it good, buffed it out, and let it dry.

So now my wheel can proudly sit next to the tree on Christmas morning with the Ashford.  I do love a freshly cleaned wheel.  I spun for several hours today, making merino singles that will ply to a very light laceweight.

Note, please, the vast difference in the look of the treadle.  Ahhh, much better.

Schacht Matchless

To close, I absolutely have to show you this.  Emma wrote this note to me while I was applying the last few coats of oil to the treadle.

Emma's note

Ha! Little does she know what's in store for next Sunday!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Today I had a startling realization.  When this realization hit, at about 1:00 this afternoon while I was at work wrestling with a boring document I'm trying to write, I had to stop for a moment and think about whether it was really, really true.

Christmas is nine days away.

How did this happen?  How did I miss this, despite having an excited 8-year-old in the house and getting a Christmas tree last weekend, and spending the past three weeks refinishing a spinning wheel for that 8-year-old's CHRISTMAS PRESENT?

My dad is arriving in five days. I haven't cleaned the house sufficiently to have a house guest.  I haven't wrapped any presents.  I haven't even gotten the stocking stuffers or anything for my dad or the cats (of course I get a present for the cats!).  And while I do have presents for my sister, brother-in-law, and niece, the fact that I just realized today that there are only NINE DAYS until Christmas means that their package probably won't arrive in time.  Sigh.  And I was feeling so on top of things and organized when I planned ahead and got their presents all pulled together in October.  Sorry, sis.

It seems like we just had Thanksgiving.  Heck, it seems like we just had Fourth of July.  Why is it the middle of December already?

This year has been so disjointed.  I feel like I've lost entire months while I've been wandering around in a dreary grey fog.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

How this for a pretty picture?  I really like the simpler, cleaner lines of the older model Ashford Traditional wheels. They're so much more elegant than the new ones that have the fussier turnings.

Emma's Ashford

Emma's new old wheel cleaned up beautifully- finally.  It was a long road.  Sadly, I neglected to take any "during" pictures.  Sorry.

Its spa treatment included complete disassembly (except for the drive wheel; I didn't take the spokes out), then a good hard scrubbing with hot soapy water and a green kitchen scrubbie. This took two evenings.  I doubt this poor wheel had ever been cleaned since it was first put together 35 years ago.  The water in the dishpan turned black. It was disgusting.

The scrubbing helped a lot, but there was still a remnant layer of varnish or polyurethane or something that had embedded dirt and had gone somewhat sticky.  Whether the stickiness was from age or from the hot soapy water I don't know, but either way, it had to go.  So the next step was sanding.  I used three grades of sandpaper: 220, 320, and 400.  I used a light  hand and didn't take it down to completely raw wood, just enough to get the dirt and varnish off but keep some of the patina.  Sanding took two long afternoons and an evening.  Sanding all the spokes and curves of the drive wheel was a royal pain!

And then...then came the oil.  I love Danish oil as a finish.  The wood was so beautiful after it was sanded, all velvety and smooth, and I almost hated to do anything else to it.  But I've seen the oil transformation before and in any case, the wood needed to be protected.  Danish oil penetrates the wood and hardens, and makes a beautiful satin finish.  The silver beech wood is gorgeous, and several pieces on this wheel show a lovely wavy grain pattern.  I tried to take pictures of this, but it was overcast today and nothing showed up well in the photos.  I'll try again when the light is better.

I put six coats of Danish oil on the wood, and it sucked it right up.  I just kept adding more oil every half hour until it finally stopped soaking in right away.  When the last coat still showed a bit of an oil sheen on the surface after an hour, I called it good and gave all the parts a hard buffing with a piece of an old towel.  I let everything dry for two days, then put the pieces back together and let it sit for another couple days to make sure the oil was completely cured.

Tonight I tied on a drive band and a brake band, lubricated all the moving parts well, and spun a test skein.  It's lovely to spin on, and almost silent;  just a bit of whirring from the brake band. I spun and plied 70 grams of Corriedale, and after I adjusted to the slow ratio and remembered to spin thicker than my laceweight default yarn, it was effortless and relaxing. It's a different feel than spinning on my Schacht, but wonderful.


I think this 200 yards of yarn is going to become dark green fingerless mitts.


I really hope Emma is as excited about her wheel as I am.  I'm thrilled with this purchase, and can't wait to give it to her.

Friday, December 09, 2011

A list:
  • Headache.
  • Tired.
  • So tired.
  • Itchy-eyed tired.
  • Weights-on-my-shoulders tired.
  • Total of 10 hours sleep since Sunday.
  • Depressing monkey mind that won't shut up.
  • Can't. Fall. Asleeeep!
  • Taking a Tylenol PM now and will listen to my meditation CD.
That is all.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Pssst!  Don't tell Emma what Santa is packing in his sleigh for her this year!

This is an older Ashford Traditional wheel, made sometime between 1975 and 1980 according to the timeline on the Ashford website.  It's very dirty but otherwise in great condition.  The drive wheel runs absolutely true, and there aren't any cracks or even any major dings in the wood.  It's currently in pieces in my garage, being cleaned up.  A little scrubbing, light sanding, and a couple coats of Danish oil, and it will glow.

The flyer only has one speed, but that will be fine for Emma for a while.  Her biggest problem with spinning on my Schacht is that sometimes the twist gets ahead of her.  When she's ready, I'll upgrade her to the triple-speed flyer.

This wheel is the same vintage as the Traditional that was my first wheel, which I regretted selling almost as soon as I did it.  I think it was about three months from when I sold it until Emma started showing an off-and-on interest in spinning.  I bought that wheel for $300 in 2002, and sold it in 2008 for $300, after I bought my Schacht Matchless for $300 (also off Craigslist). I bought this wheel last weekend for $100.  I am the queen of Craigslist.

Now, for $100, a day trip to Portland, and some loving elbow grease, I get to spin with my girl.  Priceless.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Friday afternoon.  End of the work week.  Two whole days ahead that I can spend (almost) any way I want.


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Why is it that almost every day, I look at a clock at exactly 12:34, 2:34, or 11:11?  I can go for hours without checking the time, and have no idea what time it is.  Then when I do check the clock, it's one of those "fancy" times. It doesn't matter if it's a.m. or p.m. (although I seem to see 2:34 a.m. more than 2:34 p.m., thank you so much, insomnia), and it's never one of the other consecutive-number times like 4:56.  I see either 12:34, 2:34, or 11:11 on a digital clock nearly every day.  Today, just now, I looked at my computer clock and it was 12:34.

This happens way more often than random chance would seem to indicate.  Why exactly 12:34?  Why don't I happen to look when it's 12:33?  Why 11:11 instead of 11:12?  What is it about 2:34 draws me to check the time?  It seems like if this were just an subconscious awareness that "that time" is approaching, I wouldn't hit it so exactly.

One of life's little mysteries, or a devious plot to defy statistics?  Am I a focus for some kind of energy paths that govern probability?  Should I be worried, or am I in the early stages in developing superpowers?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

“Life can either be accepted or changed. If it is not accepted, it must be changed. If it cannot be changed, then it must be accepted."
-Winston Churchill

Monday, November 14, 2011

Here's a sweet look at a sweet kitty,

who never fails to give me a cuddle and a purr whenever needed.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.

Bene Gesserit Litany against Fear
--from Dune, by Frank Herbert

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Here's a radical thought- how about some pictures?  And maybe a post that's crafty instead of me wallowing in self-pity?
I took a 2-day class last May, through the local arts center, on how to make lampworked glass beads.  This is something I've always wanted to try, so I jumped at the chance when my friend showed the beads she had made at the previous session.

It's so much fun!

These are formed on a steel mandrel, using glass rods melted in a torch clamped to the table in front of you.  You wind the molten glass around the mandrel, and can layer colors, shape the glass, poke it, press it, drag it, encase bubbles, almost anything!

I used a pretty matched pair of sparkly green dot beads to make earrings:

and some others to make a necklace and earring set:

and put others on cords for simple necklaces:

I had one blobby mistake bead that detached itself from the mandrel and tried to self-destruct. I pulled off a heroic save and turned it into a pendant, and it ended up one of my favorites:

I think it looks like a field of daffodils.  All in all, a fantastic way to spend a weekend.

Last weekend, I took another glass workshop from the same instructor, this time blowing glass ornaments.  This was the real deal glassblowing, with the scary big furnaces and kilns and cauldrons of molten glass, and 6-foot-long blowpipes.

The instructors did the dangerous parts like dipping out the molten glass and manipulating it into shape as it was blown, which was fine since it was just a half-hour workshop and not really a full class with instruction.  I did get to choose the design, roll the frit (colored crushed glass) onto the gather (blob) of clear glass,

heat it in the glory hole (scary big furnace),

and actually blow the bubble.

Then the instructors knocked the ornament off the blowpipe, added another blob of clear glass to the top, and shaped a loop for a hanger. 

Then it went immediately into the kiln to anneal (slowly cool overnight), so it wouldn't crack.

I did two of the workshop sessions, and so came away with two ornaments.  My first one is very subtle, just streaks of pale green on clear.

I think it will be so pretty on the tree, reflecting all the other colors around it.

My second ornament is a deep, deep cobalt blue.

It has bronzy-copper spots on the bottom that were dragged upward while the glass was molten, to spread the color and give it some texture.

For now I have them hanging in my living room window.  The blue, especially, is beautiful as the light shines through it.  I can't believe I helped make these!

Working with glass and seeing what it does is so fun.  It's as magical as watching fiber turn into yarn.  It's a good thing that getting a torch setup going is expensive.  Beadmaking is fun, but I do not need another hobby.

But I will be taking the bead class when they offer it again!

Monday, November 07, 2011

Dear co-worker,

Is it really entirely necessary to conduct every phone conversation on speakerphone, with your office door open?  Yes, I have my door closed.  Yes, I am now constantly wearing my ipod. Yes, I can still hear you, loud and clear.


Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Hyperbole and a Half is a blog of funny stories told through quirky pictures.  When I read the most recent post and saw this picture, though, it quite literally brought tears to my eyes.

Picture by Allie at Hyperbole and a Half.

See that miserable person crumpled in a ball behind the couch?

This picture perfectly captures the essence of depression, of feeling like you are worthless, that nothing is worth doing, and no one will miss you anyway, so why even bother coming out of the corner.

I don't feel like this all the time any more, but that dark imp is always hiding at the edge of my peripheral vision, waiting to drag me back down into the shadows behind the couch.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Today I am thankful...
  • that I have Emma to remind me that I am neither as held-together as the face I present to the world, nor as falling-apart as I seem to myself
  • that I have a sister who gets me
  • that I have good friends to go knit and spin with every week
  • that I have a job
  • that I have a roof over my head and food in the fridge
  • that cats only require a lap, a food bowl, and a clean litterbox to return copious purring, kneading, and comfort
  • that I am crafty and will always have something to amuse myself with, even if I sometimes only feel like surfing the internet about those interests

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Today was the kind of day when the question "How's it goin'?", asked just-in-passing in the hallway at work, feels like a trick question.

It's a conversation filler, really, the same as saying "Hey!" or "Good morning!" (another trick question, by the way- maybe your morning is good...), and while I know the socially acceptable response is "Fine", I really struggle with it lately.

Things are so completely Not Fine with me right now that when the "How's it goin'?" is tossed my way I have to stop myself from giving a true answer, which would be Too Much Information and not what the passing coworker wants to know in any case.  They are just saying good morning, not really asking how things in my life are going today.

I suppose I could say something to the effect of "Well, I got out of bed this morning, so I guess that's one point to me."

Instead I just say "Fine."

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Lately, this song speaks to me:

"The scars of your love, they leave me breathless..."

Oh yes.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

It is almost impossible to remain entirely unhappy when weaving a fancy twill.

woven bookmark

This is another warp of bookmarks.  I dyed the warp green and am using straight white for the weft in all the bookmarks.  All I have to think about is the treadling sequence, and that's just enough to keep my mind busy and unwanted thoughts at bay, without taxing it too much.

woven bookmark

It's my standard bookmark formula: 20/2 silk, 34 epi, in a twill threading and tie-up, with various treadlings.

woven bookmark

I just love watching the pattern emerge, pick by pick.  There's something very satisfying about it.

Everything is very orderly and tidy in a two-color twill.  The lines match up and follow a logical, step by step progression.  Every thread has a place and they all work together to make a harmonious whole.  If you make a mistake, it's easy to see where things went off kilter.  You can go back and fix it and then everything is OK.

My life is not a two-color twill.

woven bookmark

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Emma and I had a fun day today, in between the normal weekend housecleaning and after a mysterious 103° fever that she developed in the space of 15 minutes yesterday morning. We were at the Farmer's Market, and one minute she was running around with her friends, then she was back sitting with me at my table, then 10 minutes later she was shivering and goosebumpy because she was so cold (it was 90° out), and crying because her head hurt so much. It was very strange. Luckily Shaun stopped by the market and held Emma while she slept until the market was over, then I tucked her into bed when we got home. She was fine by this morning, and was Little Miss Chatty when she crawled into bed with me at 4:00 am. Childhood fevers are strange.

Anyway, she was rarin' to go this morning, so after we did chores, we dyed some wool for her. This was Emma's first time using acid dyes.

Emma dyeing wool

She picked out seven colors, and I did the mixing and she did the pouring. I think she did a great job.

Emma's dyed wool

Into the microwave for steaming, then out into the hot sunny day to dry by dinnertime.

Emma's dyed wool

This is 50 grams of corriedale top, and I love the way it came out. I may have to get her to make a batch for me.

Emma dyeing wool!

The motivation behind dyeing some wool FOR EMMA was an event yesterday at the market (before the rapid-onset fever...). I bring my wheel to the market since it attracts attention to my table, the kids (and grownups) are fascinated by watching me, and it gives me something to do during slow times. Emma wandered over at one point, plopped herself down on my lap, pushed my feet off the treadle, put her feet on the treadle, took the wool out of my hands, and just started spinning. It was amazing.

She has a drop spindle, but gets frustrated with it easily since it backspins and she finds it awkward to keep it going and draft at the same time. We've done park and draft, but she never really thoroughly got the hang of drafting. She would do OK for a minute or so, but then the twist would get away from her and either run into the fiber mass or the singles would drift apart. She found the spindle very frustrating. She has practiced treadling on my wheel, but has never done drafting at the wheel, and certainly NEVER at the same time as treadling.

Emma spinning!

The most amazing thing is, I don't think she has even picked up her spindle in over a year, except for one time after I got back from Sock Summit and was so excited about my new spindles. She hasn't tried or even seemed interested in spinning in a year.

Yesterday she just sat down and started spinning. I was flabbergasted. I guess something just clicked after all those years of watching me, and her fits and starts of practicing. Her yarn is lumpy in spots and somewhat overspun, but so is everyone's first yarn. It just amazes me that she sat down and commenced spinning- no fanfare, no struggling, she just did it.

So here, for your viewing pleasure, is Emma spinning on a Schacht wheel:

I'm so proud of her I could burst.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

I'm still completely smitten with my Kuchulu.  I started another bundle of Sock Summit fiber yesterday.  It is gorgeous...

start of the first batch

This is top from Fiber Optic Yarns, 50% superwash merino / 50% bamboo (rayon).  It's beautiful stuff, that shimmers and sparkles and fairly glows.  It's spinning up wonderfully, and should make beautiful laceweight.  I have 4 ounces (115 grams), so it will also make a LOT of laceweight. 

lovely fiber

And also, here's another super happy fun factoid about turkish spindles:  Even the pattern on the underside of the spindle is pretty, especially with color shifts.

under the Kuchulu