Monday, June 27, 2011

Trip Report: Farmers' Museum

I took a wee road trip to Cooperstown, NY, over the weekend, and it's a fun place, I must say. In addition to visiting the Farmers' Museum, we went to Brewery Ommegang and of course the Baseball Hall of Fame. We did not get to the Petrified Creatures Museum of Natural History, sadly. I'll have to save that roadside attraction for another day.

So listen, y'all: the Farmers' Museum is a blast. Yes, there are lots of old farm tools sitting around waiting for visitors to care, but there's lots of stuff happening as well. There's a carousel!


Noah was on the chicken and I was on a frog.

There's a Historical Hoax! The Cardiff Giant!


There was a country fair tent full of fun olde timey games to play. As is our way, we got rather competitive over the bean bag toss. They have a barn full of baby animals. I'm a sucker for baby animals every single time.


There are also lots of people doing historical reenactments of things. mostly people making stuff that gets used around the farm. There were blacksmiths, a guy doing letterpress printing, a woman baking biscuits without running water or gas/electricity, and a kind gentleman who stopped chopping wood to demonstrate several of the fiber-related things they have going on, including spinning wool on this great wheel.


Note those beautiful naturally-dyed yarns behind him. He was chopping wood to keep the fires going for his dyepot that day. He also did some weaving on this here giant loom. The weft is handspun flax, which is also a demonstration, but I didn't see that.


Like I said, there's lots of old tools to look at, which includes both looms and spinning wheels.


I regrettably cropped it out of the picture, but check out the distaff on that wheel. They are traditionally used for flax spinning.


Noah is in there for scale. These are big looms!

We only stayed at the museum for about two hours because we had to keep moving with our busy itinerary (read: we had beer to drink), so I missed a lot, including meeting the full grown sheep. I hope I can make it back another day!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Tour de Fleece and the Ghosts of Spinning Projects Future

If, by some miracle, I finish all of the spinning in my previous post, I've got a couple of future projects planned. The first is rather simple, and will be done on my wheel. I'll probably start this one during the Tour de Fleece, since my wheel is currently untenanted and a spindle-only Tour isn't a goal of mine. I have these two semisolid merino rovings from Fiber Optic that are screaming at me to be spun into a 3 ply fingering weight and then made into colorwork mittens.


The other project is the doozy. In the most recent issue of Spin Off magazine, there's an article written by someone who spun enough yarn on a drop spindle to weave into a blanket on a rigid heddle loom--here's the ravelry project page. I was completely inspired by this. I think having such a great project would get me out of the weaving slump I'm in, and I've got enough fiber stashed to get a good jump on it. Have a look.


I got those three bumps of teal roving from Pigeonroof Studios in a blowout sale when an online store was shutting down, and so these will be the base of my color theme. I love teal! Teal is a theme I can get behind! The rest of the fiber is samples and other freebies acquired over the years, plus one purchase from my recent Midwest adventure. I love the challenge of spinning thicker singles on a spindle, and I love the idea of weaving with those singles, so this will be the project I start up when I've finished at least two or three (yikes) of my other spindle projects.

Isn't daydreaming about future projects the best? What have you been dreaming up lately?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Tour de Fleece and Ghosts of Spinning Projects Past

I love spinning, and I love spindles. I continue to acquire spindles in the name of Trying New Things, and, well, it can create a bit of an unfinished project problem. Fittingly, I've joined Team Hopelessly Overcommited on Ravelry for the annual Tour de Fleece, a challenge for spinners to spin every day the cyclists are competing in the Tour de France, July 2 through July 24.

This year I'm going to work on finishing some things that have been on the spindle/charkha for a while. In a fit of organization (I'll admit it, Hoarders came on TV after some wedding show I was watching and I couldn't look away), I went through my spinning stash and organized it into ongoing and future projects.

Here are the ongoing projects, in reverse chronological order from when I bought the fiber:
* My most recent fiber purchase, the Loop batt from MDSW 2011. I'm working on this one currently, so it may actually be finished by the Tour, if I can figure out how I'm going to ply it.


* This wool/mohair blend in a graduated colorway, purchased at Rhinebeck 2010. This one presents a similar challenge regarding plying, but I'm thinking this one would actually be good for a crocheted singles project.


* The plying of this cashgora fiber (seriously, it just needs to be plied!), also purchased at Rhinebeck 2010. It's part of a larger spindling project in which my various and sundry exotic fibers get spun on the Orenburg spindle, plied with that cone of silk, and knit into some big graduated color doodad at the end.


* This purple BFL from Fiber Optic, purchased at MDSW 2010. I wish the camera could capture just how amazing this shade of purple is.


* This naturally colored cotton on my charkha. I've had this cotton for a couple of years. I'm going to spin one or two more bobbins before I ply.


My next post will be on my future spinning plans. Who else is planning on doing the Tour de Fleece this year. Jenny Jo?

Monday, June 6, 2011

Spinning Wheel Charkha Mod

This is a pretty technical post, but I figure there are probably some other people out there trying to get by with an Ashford Traditional as their one and only all-purpose spinning wheel. This is a fun little trick to try to get a little more diversity out of it.

For a long time I've had in my fiber stash a newspaper-wrapped bundle of cotton punis from India. These are dense little rolags shaped like cigars, intended for long-draw spinning on a charkha.

Srsly dude, from India.

Every now and then, I pull them out of cold storage and have a go at spinning them on my wheel, a single-drive Ashford Traditional with scotch tension. I have a high-ratio flyer, so theoretically this should be possible. (Cotton yarn needs a lot of twist because of its fine, short fibers.) However, I find that the main problem with my wheel is not that it isn't fast enough, but that I just can't get the tension right. Too much tension, and the yarn simply pulls free of the puni rather than drafting smoothly. But the light tension that works for drafting is not sufficient for winding on; the yarn kinks and snarls on its way into the orifice. This is why these punis have languished at the bottom of the fiber pile for so many years.

A proper charkha has a quill spindle which is pretty much directly hooked up to the wheel via a drive band. There is no intermediating tension like you have with a flyer and bobbin setup. You are either spinning off the tip of the spindle, or you are winding on. I began to wonder if I could set up my spinning wheel to work in this way.

Enter a 14-inch straight knitting needle, electrical tape, and a rubber grommet.

These are all the materials you need to convert an Ahsford Traddy into a pretty functional, foot-driven spindle wheel! Note that you need to have a snap-down style rear maiden bearing (introduced on the wheel in 1991) rather than a closed loop, so that you can install and remove the spindle.

From left to right, the purposes of the three "corks" of wrapped electrical tape are: 1. To keep the spindle from moving backward in the bearings. 2. To make a thick spot for the rubber electrical grommet. 3. To make a thicker and less noisy spot for the spindle to rest in the front bearing. There is also a thinly stretched single layer of tape just beneath the head of the needle, to reduce noise and hopefully prevent a bit of wear on the rear maiden bearing. The rubber electrical grommet is there to provide a track for the driveband. These grommets are a bit hard to find; you could substitute a pair of tape wraps with a groove between them.

Here is the spindle in place on the wheel.

And here is the wheel all set up to go.

Notice anything funny?

Yep! I have turned the wheel around backwards, with the drive wheel on the left. The maidens have switched places and been turned around. I did this because I needed to be able to reach out and move the drive wheel with my left hand, while drafting with my right. This is because you need to be able to spin the wheel a short distance backwards to wind the thread down from the spindle tip before winding onto the cop. However, looking at photos of people using actual charkhas, it seems more common to draft with the left hand and work the wheel with the right, so perhaps I just need to work on my left-hand drafting!

In any case, here's a short (and noisy!) video of me spinning on this crazy setup. The backwards treadling is surprisingly easy.

I'm not sure I'd want to regularly spin large amounts of cotton this way, but for a bit of quill-tip spinning practice, it does the job.

(Note to self: observe spinning posture in this video. Consider headaches. Hmm.)

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

On the virtues of plain stockinette socks

I was just in Seattle, and here's a photo of what I was up to on the ferry from Bainbridge Island.


Get it? Knitting needles? Space Needle? But here's the question: do you designate which of your projects goes where?

I myself like to have three projects going. First, a complicated project that isn't going to leave the house unless I expect to have some serious time and space to devote to it in another location. I have an Orenberg shawl with a ginormous chart going now that fits that description.

Second, a medium complicated project that is appropriate to take to a knit night, or have on a plane, things like that. My current project that fits that description is my pair of snail mittens, which only need thumbs completed and ends woven in at this point. (Weaving in ends has become a favorite knit night activity of mine because the act of being at knit night has an ameliorative effect on the perfect torture of end weaving.)

The third is stockinette socks. It's a new policy as of this year to always have a pair of these on the go, but it's quite effective. Three pairs completed so far this year and into my fourth. I finished a pair at a Yankee game last week.


Between the rather lengthy bus ride between the school I work in and my office, time spent waiting for the subway, and time spent riding the subway, there's quite a bit of sock knitting time in a week. Add in an Audible subscription, and it's pretty much awesome.