Posted tagged ‘yarn’

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.

New Spinning Tool: The Nøstepinne

February 22, 2010

We’ve been spinning for a couple of months now. Having produced a few hundred yards of plied yarn, we began to fall prey to a plague of twisted hanks hanging around our home. In case you’re reading this and you don’t know a hank from a ball from a skein (knitters, bear with me), a hank looks like this:

A “ball” can be shaped like, well a ball, or like a round flat-topped cake:

and skein refers to the sausage-like blob of yarn that you’ll get if you buy yarn in a department store or a big craft store like Jo-Ann’s. Ball-shaped balls tend to roll around, to the great amusement of cats and the great frustration of knitters. So I like the cake shape, which doesn’t roll, and also has the advantage of stackability.

Hanks serve well to “set the twist” in your newly plied yarn, and the hank making process also presents an opportunity to count yardage. However,  hanks are nearly impossible to knit from. I would never try. We realized that we needed of a tool for turning our hanks into nice, center-pull balls, like the green cake above. The (cheap) answer: a nøstepinne. This tool’s name comes from Norwegian, and literally means something like “nest stick.” Makes sense. (Spinning tools have the best names in general: distaff, scutching knife, heckles, niddy noddy, weasel. Sounds like midæval torture arsenal to me, and some of these things look like torture implements, too.)

One night Beth and I were talking about what to do about all our nice looking  but inconvenient hanks. Ball winders work great, but they also cost quite a bit, and we’d just dropped a fair bit of coin on our wheel and hand carders. So I said, “We need a nøstepinne!” I don’t know where I learned what a nostepinne is, but I’d heard of them, and I knew they could be used to wind a center pull ball.

I went to work the next day, and when I was eating lunch in the cafeteria, I heard harpsichord and recorder music. We are never treated to early music performances at lunch, so I followed the sound to investigate. Turned out the harpsichord was being played by the man who built it, and he was stationed at the entrance of a craft fair. I wandered through the craft fair, and discovered that one booth sold wood turnings: bowls, rolling pins, and…NØSTEPINNES! I couldn’t believe it. I went into the booth and said, “I’d like that black walnut nøstepinne.”

They seemed surprised that anyone knew was the nøstepinnes were for, let alone a little bearded dude. I asked the man and woman in the booth if they were spinners or knitters, but neither one was. Apparently, the turner had had some requests for the winding sticks at a fair in Maine. So he started turning and selling them.

Check out the excellent ball that Beth spun and wound:

I learned to wind flat stackable yarn balls via some youtube videos and showed Beth the technique, but she is definitely the master now.

2nd Anniversary Spinning Adventure!

December 7, 2009

(Click to view larger) Our route from Dover, NH, USA to West Jeddore, NS, Canada (and back). For scenic reasons, we took the southern route on the way there, and the northern route on the way back.

Last week, for our second anniversary, Beth and I took a trip to Nova Scotia to take a textile spinning workshop. During the trip we stayed in two very nice Canadian B&B’s. We packed up after thanksgiving dinner and hit the road for St. Stephen, New Brunswick just over the US/Canada border to stay at the Blair House Heritage Inn.

Beth researches activities for Saturday in New Brunswick

The breakfast of pancakes and fruit was delicious. David, our host, made excellent tea. David hails originally from England, and worked as a hunting and fishing guide before taking over the bed and breakfast a few years ago. I really liked our room’s hand-shaped light fixtures:

From St. Stephen, we traveled to St. John, the capital of New Brunswick, which is on the coast. Apparently they really like their Saint names in the Canadian maritime provinces. The downtown area of St. John is populated by these stocky wooden sculptures of pedestrians:

can you spot Beth?

The wooden people even walk around in the mall!

After escaping the wooden Canadians we checked out the New Brunswick Museum for a few hours. We weren’t allowed to take pictures in the museum, but my favorite parts were the exhibits on ship building (New Brunswick was a major ship building center during the age of sail), and the Hall of Great Whales, where there were complete skeletons of several kinds of whale, and a 90% scale model of a North Atlantic Right Whale (like those we saw live in August).

From St. John we continued on to Musquodoboit Harbor  on the southern coast of Nova Scotia, where we were taking the weekend-long spinning workshop. There was going to be one other student, but she canceled due to swine flu. So, Beth and I had the entire workshop to ourselves!

I should explain how we ended up going to Nova Scotia for a spinning workshop. Having practiced drop spindle spinning for a few weeks, we decided we’d like to learn to spin with a wheel. We found the Spinner’s Loft online, and thought a weekend spinning workshop vacation in Nova Scotia would be a fun way to celebrate our anniversary. So we called up Leslie, the proprietor of the Spinner’s Loft, and found as luck would have it that she was available for the weekend of American Thanksgiving.

There were many wheels in the spinner's loft.

Leslie has been spinning for about 30 years, and has spun an amazing variety of fibers: wool, silk, flax (linen), horse hair, musk ox, dog hair, cat hair, organic cotton from tampons, and lion’s mane to name a few! Don’t worry, the lion was not sheared. The lion’s mane hairs were gathered from tree branches where they’d become stuck when the lion rubbed against the tree.

We began on the first day by learning about washing, picking and carding of fleece. I passed some Cotswold fleece through the triple picker, which was definitely the device most closely resembling a medieval torture implement. A triple picker consists of a cradle shaped bed of nails, and a nail studded pendulum that swings just above the bed. You feed the locks of wool in one end while swinging the pendulum-of-death, and an airy cloud of wool magically comes out the other end.

Cotswold fleece and the triple picker (right). Cotswold are cool looking dredlock rasta sheep (see photo).

We took the cloud over to the drum carder and learned to use it. This is basically a pair of giant round hairbrushes with a crank to drive them around. The drum carder produces a moderately tenuous bat of fiber, which can either be torn into strips along the “grain” to make roving or it can be rolled perpendicular to the grain to make little logs called rolags.

Next we did some drop spindle spinning “in the grease.” This means spinning wool that still has a fair amount of  lanolin in it. In our case, there was also some vegetable matter and maybe an occasional trace of sheep poo in it, too. The spindling was much easier with Leslie’s spindles than our tiny-whorled homemade ones. (The whorl is the disc shaped part of the spindle). After the drop spindling warm-up, we moved on to learning to use the wheel. I think this post is long enough, so I’ll save the wheel stuff for another post.

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


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