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.