Posted tagged ‘wool’

Kick Spindle

January 2, 2012

Later this month I’m teaching a two week introduction to spinning course. Here is one of the spinning tools I’ve built recently, a kick spindle.

As a starting point for my design I read this post by Layne Brosius, a.k.a. AFrayedKnotter. My kick spindle is pretty similar to hers. There are two major differences. The first is that I used a 1″ thick piece of poplar with feet, as you can see in the pictures. The weight of the flywheel (a furniture bun foot from Lowe’s) seems to give the device sufficient inertia both to spin for a while and to not slide across the floor during use.  I’ve only used the kick spindle on carpeting and outdoor cement, but I think if I put some rubber feet on the bottom it would stay in place on wood or tile, too.

The second significant change I made is in the bearing design. Most kick spindles I’ve seen use roller bearings, like you’d find in a roller skate. That would make the spindle turn longer between kicks, but nice bearings are expensive (especially if I’m looking to build ten of these in a class), and I don’t really mind kicking in a rhythm, since I’m used to treadling on a wheel anyway. Instead of a $4 skate bearing, I came up with something that costs a dime, namely an actual dime:

I drilled into the base at a 45° angle with a ¾” spade bit then super glued a dime onto the floor of the angled hole. I put a divot in the dime with a 1/16″ metal bit.

In the divot rests the sharpened metal point of the spindle. To point the spindle end, I nailed a small finishing nail into the center of the 1/2″ dowel that I used for the spindle (I used 1/2″ dowel because I have a 1/2″ in drill bit but not a 3/8″ one. If I had the 3/8″ bit, I’d probably go with the 3/8″ dowel).  Next I sharpened the end of the spindle by cutting away excess wood with a knife. This leaves the small nail head sticking out the end like a pencil lead. I sharpened the head with a file:

The photo doesn’t really do justice to the sharpness of the tip. (but yes, that is a dvd of Flash Dance behind my hand. I’m a spinning maniac, maniac, and I’m spinning like I’ve never done before…) The spindle will go through twelve to twenty rotations per kick:

I spun a few ounces of wool from rolags in a hotel room while watching Elf over thanksgiving weekend.  The kick spindle works pretty well.It fits in car much more easily than a spinning wheel–with a convertible car seat in the back of my Corolla, there’s no way my Saxony wheel would fit anywhere in the car anymore. It’s fairly lightweight, but heavy enough to stay in place. It isn’t as portable as a drop spindle, but the winding on procedure is a bit more efficient. Also I’m still not very good at long draws on a drop spindle, but it’s easy to spin short or long draw on the kick spindle. The kick spindle can  accommodate a very large cop of yarn, So I can spin more yarn before winding balls for plying. Winding directly off the kick spindle is also very easy.  Total cost for the whole thing was about $12. If you wanted something a bit more aesthetic, you could use a plaque with a routed edge for the base and stain the whole thing.

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Rogers-esqe Cardigan Progress

October 28, 2010

I’ve fallen behind in my series of planned Ireland vacation posts, but I’ll finish them up one of these days. In the meantime, I’ve been making surprisingly (to me anyway) rapid progress on my “Rogers-esque” golden curry cardigan. I swatched for the sweater on my birthday (August 28th). I had finished the back and half of the front by October 4th:

The most interesting thing about this pattern is the way the collar band goes together. Notice how it sticks up above the left front half? There will be an analogous tab on the right half of the front, and the ends of the two tabs will be grafted at the center-back of the neck to make for a seamless band.

I had the unexpected experience of seeing one of Mr. Rogers’ actual cardigans two weeks ago when I was walking through the Pittsburgh airport!

Here are some detail shots of the collar and pockets:

Do you think this sweater was hand knit?  The sleeves feature some ribs along the outside of the arm, which I think look kind of cool as they reach the raglan seam at the shoulder. For your sight singing pleasure, here’s a little ditty of a well known Mr. Rogers jingle that he included in his autograph:

This actual Rogers cardigan was a little bit tighter gauge than mine (but only a little), but I think that the slightly uneven texture of the Harrisville Orchid yarn is pretty similar to the texture of the genuine Rogers.  I’m glad that I am doing buttons (which I haven’t chosen yet) rather than a zipper, but I’m kind of jealous of the slit pockets that Fred had on his sweater.

Last night I finished the second half of the front, and there was much rejoicing by the feline contingent in our apartment.

Cats love wool for some reason; they love to walk on it, knead it, smell it, bury their faces in it. It’s pretty funny to watch, especially if you’re wearing the wool at the time. Unless I’m really slow, the sleeves may be done before we even get any snow.

Handspun Hat

May 27, 2010

I’ve finished my first hand-spun project–a ribbed tuque. Here’s a visual tour of the evolution from wool to hat:

Here’s what the wool looked like to start with:

This is about 1oz of scoured, uncarded light grey New Zealand Romney, which we got from the R. H. Lindsay Company in Boston ($7/pound). We got a few pounds.

Here it is after hand carding, spinning and plying on the wheel:

Here’s a close-up detail:

You can see that the weight varies from around DK to somewhat more than worsted, but that seemed to make surprisingly little difference in the finished hat:

It has a “hand-spun” type of lumpiness about it, that I actually like,  although I tend not to like that kind of stuff when it’s emulated in machine spun yarn. The hat contains 1.875 oz of wool–about twice the amount of wool shown in the top picture. Total cost of material in the hat is about 82¢! This is of course neglecting the shipping costs and my valuable hours of labor. Overall, a pretty affordable hobby, though.

The tuque wearing Sullivans!

First Spinning!

December 1, 2009

I might have a few more posts in my Cameroon journal series, but I think I’m going to be shifting gears for a week or so to posts about making stuff. To begin with: making yarn!

A couple of weeks ago Beth and I just each got an ounce or two of hand painted roving at the farmer’s market in Portsmouth, NH. Roving is wool that has been cleaned and smoothed and  is ready to be spun into yarn. If it has been hand painted, it looks like this:

One Ounce of Hand Painted Roving

One Ounce of Hand Painted Roving

One way to make yarn is using a spinning wheel, like you see in fairy tale illustrations. But a far older method is to use a device called a drop spindle. This is just a stick with a ball or disk on it, and a hook at one end.  We built our own drop spindles out of dowelrods, 2” wooden toy cartwheels, and 1/2” brass cup hooks. (Mine also involves some surgical tape because my dowel split a bit when I was screwing in the cup hook).

Home made drop spindle

Recent archaeological evidence has suggested that humans may have been spinning using simple tools like these as long as 30,000 years ago! To use this device, you basically tie on a teased-out bit of roving, spin the spindle like a top, and let the twist come into a little bit of the roving at a time, as you tease out more and more fiber. Periodically you have to stop and wind the newly formed yarn onto your stick, because—earning it’s name—the drop spindle reaches the floor when you’ve created about two meters of yarn.

The Spinner, William Adolphe Bouguereau, oil on canvas, 1873

Beth caught on to the technique a bit faster than I did, so at the end of our first spinning evening. She had some nice, fairly uniform, possibly-thin-enough yarn on her spindle:

spindle in action: Beth demonstrates her technique

I, however, had become the proud creator several yards of coiled purple muppet dredlock:

"yarn"

My muppet dreadlock...er..."yarn."

But we took the spindles with us to the laundromat the following week, and I finally got the hang of it. While we were doing laundry, I  produced some purplish single-ply yarn comparable to Beth’sfirst blue/green stuff, which she had already plied and set.

“Plying?” you may ask. Well, most yarn is actually made up of several strands that have been twisted together. The strands we made above are called “singles,” and they are held together by their twist. If the individual wool fibers weren’t twisted they’d just slide past each other and the yarn would fall apart when you pulled on it.

So this twist is very useful, but if you’ve ever twisted up a yo-yo string, or kite string or rubber band, you know that highly twisted things like to kink up and coil around themselves. Because of this, a single ply yarn, or “single,” is sort of hard to work with. The yarn may kink when you’re trying to knit it or weave it. This problem of kinking can be solved by taking two singles that twist to the right, and twisting them around each other to the left. The result is yarn that is strong, but doesn’t kink:

Plied yarn still on the spindle

Finally, I unwound this plied yarn off the spindle and coiled it around a chair back to make a skein. This is only about 15 meters of yarn, but I’m pretty happy with it for my first attempt, (i.e. first attempt after the muppet dreadlock incident).

the finished skein

My First Sweater Knitting Project

October 9, 2009
BethModelLook2_medium

Beth models her Aran pullover

This was my first sweater, actually my first knitting “project” of any kind. (I’d knit swatches before with no end goal in mind other than seeing how knitting was done.) It only took about two years to finish… (more…)


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