Guest Post at The Woolery

Scotch tension system on my Lendrum DT

This is just a quick note to let you know that I’ve written a guest post for The Woolery on their blog all about my hunt for the perfect wheel: Spinning Wheel Matchmaking. Check it out! 🙂

WIPWed #77: Counting Down!

The holidays are creeping ever closer, aren’t they? Happy Hanukkah to those who celebrate it, and there’s only just about a week left until Christmas! Even though I’m not knitting many presents this year, I was still up into the wee hours putting together gifts.

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Photo project!

With all the digital photography these days, I forget how much I like to play around with actual printed photos. Back in high school, I worked in a CVS photo lab and made piles and piles of carefully curated albums of my friends and family. While digital photos are fun in their own right, I don’t get the same pleasure from scrolling on a screen as I do from flipping through a book. (Although I have been known to spend an ungodly amount of hours putting together digital photo albums. Blurb is awesome for that, btw.) While making some wedding photo collages, I was reminded that I should print pictures more often… you know, when I have spare time (hah!). Onto the WIPs!

Overdyed Cypress:

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Motoring along on my vest. Click for project page.

I found some time to work on my Cypress vest again! I have revised my original goal (finishing by the end of November) to finishing by my birthday, near the end of January. I’m determined to wear a handknit garment when I turn 30. I think I can do it!

Big Purple Cowl:

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Malabrigo Mecha, colorway Whales Road. No project page as of yet.

After several days of waffling over a few bulky cowl patterns for my fashionable, pre-teen Christmas giftee, I started a completely different one than the others I had listed: Millwater. I really adore this pattern, and have knit it before, but I think it might be better suited to thinner yarns like the DK for which it was written. It’s simple enough that it should work in any yarn, but the scale of things gets thrown off with bigger yarn and needles. For instance, in the bit I started above, I modified the garter stitch counts and changed the cable from 24 stitches of *k2,p2* rib to 16 stitches of *k1,p1* rib to make it less gigantic. While that’s fine, I’m feeling like it’s missing a bit of oomph and the garter is a little denser and less smooth than I think this yarn wants to be. Back to the drawing board…

Petrol BFL:

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Countess Ablaze BFL/firestar/silk in Petrol.

I am this close to finishing the singles for this spin. I cannot wait for it to be over. While the Babe is a perfectly serviceable wheel, after spinning on my new Lendrum it just feels clunky and somewhat coarse, instead of smooth and relaxing. Nearly there, though, nearly there. That bit of fiber is all I have left, and the plying should go quickly enough.

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Review & Giveaway!

 

Finally, check out the Knitting Sarah blog for a wonderful review of my Sweet Sheep lotion bars. Sarah is hosting a giveaway you can enter through the comments (winner will be picked on Monday) and there’s a special coupon code for readers of her blog! Thanks for the lovely review, Sarah!

P.S. This is my 500th blog post! That sounds insane! Apparently, I’m quite verbose. Thanks for reading, friends!

WIPWed #75: New Wheel In The House

After a mildly soul-crushing shipping mishap last Wednesday which resulted in a delivery of whatever this thing is, instead of my wheel:

Nobody wants you, squirrel cage swift thing!

I finally received my brand new Lendrum DT! (Previous posts in my search for a new wheel are here and here.) As evidenced in the photos below, I didn’t even remove my knitwear after walking in the door before sitting down to spin on it. Guys, it’s so lovely to work with.

The treadles are extremely comfortable, it was simple to put together and seems easy to maintain (I’ve only oiled the flyer shaft, everything else is contained), the wood is gorgeous in person and it is spinning up my free pound of Falkland wool nice and smoothly. I’m unreasonably excited to try out all the different drive ratios the complete package came with (the regular flyer, fast flyer, and jumbo flyer each have 3) and I’m kind of enthralled with the little sliding hook mechanism (rather than individual hooks on the flyer). The Majacraft Pioneer I tried had a slidey bit and was lovely to treadle as well, but I couldn’t get over the delta orifice on that wheel, and much prefer the wood used in the Lendrum anyway.

After a weekend that involved an obnoxious amount of verbal and quantitative reasoning questions (yay GREs!), staying-up-until-3am-statement-of-purpose-essay-writing, copious grad school application activities, and general brain fatigue, I’m really looking forward to spending some free time chillaxin’ with my new spinning buddy. (I’m barely resisting giving a name to this new spinning buddy. I’ve always thought that naming wheels and spindles was sort of odd, but for some reason I’m feeling the urge. Please stop me.) Due to all of the craziness around here lately and a yoga-induced strained back muscle (really!), I haven’t been doing much knitting, but I’ll document the little WIP progress I did manage to make this week anyway.

Overdyed Cypress:

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Blurry pic, sorry! Click for project page.

Just a couple more rows added to my (former) #NaKniSweMo sweater. I’ll get there, eventually! Slow and steady with this one.

Chai Tea Latte:

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Foxfire Fibre Upland Wool & Alpaca. Click for project page.

The texture of this cowl reminds me of a nice, frothy chai tea latte drink. I started this on Thanksgiving so I’d have something smaller than a sweater to carry with me on our holiday travels. The yarn is a natural tan wool, spun woolen for optimal loft and fuzziness. It reminds me of an even airier Malabrigo worsted, it is a thick yet lightweight singles yarn. My skein is untagged, but I purchased it at my knitting guild when Barbara from Foxfire Fiber & Designs (who wrote an excellent book, Adventures in Yarn Farming) came to give a talk. I believe this yarn is her Upland Wool & Alpaca blend, technically a DK weight but I’m knitting it on size 9’s for a loftier fabric. I’m designing as I go, using a variation of the stitch I explored in the baby hat I finished last week. We’ll see how it turns out!

Petrol BFL:

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Countess Ablaze Pertrol BFL. Click for handspun page.

Just because I have a new wheel, doesn’t mean I’m going to completely ignore my old one! The Babe is still great for spinning longwools, plying, and any art yarns that require strong pull or special techniques. Besides, I intend to use a bunch of random skeins of BFL handspun in one project, so I should probably continue to use the same tool when spinning them up.

Tropical Merino:

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Wooldancer 19.5 Micron Merino. Click for handspun page.

I finished the little sample skein I was spinning on my Jenkins Finch (pics later, I forgot!) and started this shockingly pink braid of ultra fine Merino wool. I’m surprised by how much I love this wee spindle and this unabashedly pink fiber. It’s so far outside my normal color palette, but it’s really gorgeous in person. Since the singles are very thin, I split the braid into four equal bits and am planning to spin a 4-ply. Since the colors are not distinct and will undoubtedly jumble up with plying, I’m picturing the finished yarn to have a nicely heathered effect.

What have you been working on lately? Am I the only one in the middle of crazy deadlines? I’m hoping they let up soon so I can actually relax a little and get in the holiday spirit before Christmas comes!

And Now We Wait

I had quite the exciting (and productive!) weekend, which is always a nice way to start off a new and busy week. I missed my Inspiration Saturday post this weekend because the Fiasco and I were off hunting for spinning wheels at the knitter’s mecca: Webs!

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And with a well-placed sunbeam, no less.

If you remember from last week, I was having an internal debate over whether to make the 4-hr drive there and back twice in one week: once on Thursday to try the wheels out (when they are open late) and again over the weekend to pick up the wheel. The goal of this plan would’ve been to insure that I got my wheel order in before they sold out, since they were having a big 20% off a single item sale. In the end, I decided that making two trips was too crazy, even for me, and that I’d have to leave it up to fate and see what was left when I got there.

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Trying to try a Matchless.

Everybody in the store was super helpful, even though they were totally mobbed with customers. The extremely sweet store manager, Stephanie, helped me try out the wheels. The Schacht Matchless was a gorgeous wheel: large and solid, with an attractive shape. The treadles were large and very comfortable to work. Unfortunately, we had quite a bit of trouble getting the double drive tension system set up so I didn’t get a chance to really try it out. I could see the Fiasco’s face start to fall as he watched a couple different ladies come by and fiddle with it for several minutes to try get it to work: he knew that since I’m crap with machines, he’d be the one who would have to fiddle with it at home. I didn’t want something that was a pain to set up or work with so we decided that at this time, the Matchless was not for me. (Disclaimer: this could have been this particular wheel or my general inexperience with double drive, I’ve heard wonderful things about the wheel from people who own them.)

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Trying a Ladybug, with the Lendrum behind me.

The other wheels I went to try where the Schacht Sidekick, the Schacht Ladybug, and the Lendrum DT. (Note: the Lendrum link is an affiliate link to The Woolery, I could not find a company website for Lendrum.) I wasn’t interested in purchasing a travel wheel, but I tried the Sidekick anyway while I was there. You can just see one of its treadles in the back behind the fiber. It’s a tiny wheel, quite adorable really, and I like the look of the teal drive wheel (obviously). The sideways wheel was surprising to spin on, I often use my foot in a rung of the drive wheel to start it spinning and its not possible to do that on the Sidekick. I think that would bother me a bit at first but is likely something I could adjust to. The Ladybug was also a cute wheel, and seemed much smaller in person than it looked online. It was definitely much smaller than the Babe I currently own, so I felt a bit hunched over as I tried to work with it. There were some tension system issues with this wheel as well, the takeup wasn’t working properly, so it was difficult to get a good feel of how it would spin in tip top condition. Many people are very happy with their Ladybugs, but I wanted something a little larger and more solid (it is made with lightweight MDF, not wood) since I already own a lightweight, plastic wheel.

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Lendrum Original DT. Photo from The Woolery.

I was so caught up in spinning on the Lendrum, that I didn’t even take a picture! I loved this wheel the moment I treadled it. It’s much more attractive in person than I thought, the maple wood is lovely and the wheel has a nice, solid feel. It’s a tall wheel that is tilted at a bit of an angle so the orifice is closer to you than it would be if it were perpendicular to the floor. It seemed very simple to set up and use, and I appreciated small details like the slot where the orifice hook resides. I was already biased towards this wheel when I went in since I love that the complete package came with a lazy kate and three different flyers (regular, fast, and jumbo) that allow you to spin at 9 different ratios from 5:1 to 17:1, making it a very versatile wheel from the get-go, for which you won’t need to purchase many accessories right away. When I tried it, the spinning was smooth and effortless, and the store manager couldn’t say enough good things about the wheel — basically everyone who spins at Webs owns a Lendrum, and she was very excited to welcome me to ‘the cult’. Stephanie was so excited that even though they didn’t have any more in stock (they thought they did, but they couldn’t find them, even though the system said there was 1 left, but then it said there were 5 left, which was just crazy) she ordered a wheel for me and still allowed me to purchase it at the sale price. Huzzah!

And now we wait. I had mentally prepared myself for not even being able to purchase a wheel, so I thought I would be cool with not getting to take one home, and even bragged to the Fiasco about how I cool I was about the whole thing and that it was better this way since the wheel is supposed to be my Christmas gift so if I wait for it, I’ll get it closer to Christmas. I thought I’d be cool, but I’m so not! I want my new wheel! The more I think about it, the more excited I get! Also a little nervous, since that was the fastest I’d ever made a decision about a large purchase. But I think I did enough research and should trust my instincts anyway, right? Right! And of course, I didn’t come home from Webs empty-handed.

With the purchase of a wheel, you get a pound of fiber so I took home some Ashland Bay Falkland, which I think I’ll use to break in my new wheel. Even with a pound of new fiber, I couldn’t resist that blue-green braid of SweetGeorgia superwash BFL. I’ve admired Felicia’s colorways for a long time but had not yet purchased any. And even though I know I said I wasn’t knitting any Christmas presents this year, it turns out that someone on my list really wants some winter accessories and I think a chunky blue/purple cowl made out of Malabrigo Mecha will be just the thing. Finally, we went to a nearby gift shop in Northampton and found the coolest literary-themed candles ever. Aren’t they awesome?

What do you do to help yourself wait patiently for something really exciting? Help a knitter out!

 

 

How To Find A Spinning Wheel

I’ve been on a whirlwind search for a new spinning wheel because A) I’m a compulsive researcher and B) timing. Here’s how it’s been going.

Step 1. Realize that for one reason or another, your current equipment is no longer meeting all of your needs. Man, this merino is being a major pain in the ass to spin. I’m kind of hating it. Isn’t this supposed to be fun?

Singles of frustration.

Step 2. Understand why your current equipment isn’t cutting it anymore. Use these reasons as guidelines for your search. Ahha! Irish (bobbin-lead) tension systems often have strong takeup and are not the best for fine spinning (thought they’re great for longwools and plying). I need a Scotch (flyer-lead) or double drive (some kind of physics magic) tension system.

Step 3. Research, research, research.

Step 4. Start a spreadsheet. Totally not joking, it’ll help sort through all the information out there. Here is a list of all the info I compiled for the wheels that I was interested in (where it was available) so I could better compare between them:

dataStep 5. Narrow it down! I looked into about 15 wheels, but narrowed it down to only 5 that I’d like to seek out and try.

Step 6. Seek out and try! (Hover over photos below for captions, click to enbiggen.)

The Fiasco and I made an impromptu visit to Madison Wool (in Madison, CT) over the weekend to give a few wheels a try. I cannot stress enough the importance of trying out wheels in person! They are all so different and there’s no better way to get a sense of what you want than to actually feel how the wheels work. The main reason I visited was to try the Majacraft Pioneer. Majacraft wheels have outstanding reputations and the Pioneer is supposed to be the ‘entry-level’ version of their more high-end wheels and it is the one the shop owner herself uses. I really, really liked the way the Pioneer treadled. It was smooth and effortless and ‘zippy’. I was not a big fan of the delta orifice (see the triangular metal piece at the front of the flyer). This shape made for a weird skip/bump with every rotation since I tend to hold my fiber supply off to the side when I spin. I could probably adapt my spinning style if I end up with this wheel, and I do believe the company offers a more typical orifice in their lace flyer, but it’s an important thing to know about the wheel nonetheless. I was pleasantly surprised with how nicely the Ashford Traveller spun, but have decided that I do not want a wheel designed for travel since some concessions must be made in sturdiness to allow for easy portability (usually). I also tried a Louet S10, and we did not get along. Part of it was likely because that model was a single treadle wheel, while I’m used to double treadle, and the wheel also has an Irish tension system, which I know I do not want.

Step 7. Find an incredibly good sale with an inconveniently short deadline that you absolutely cannot resist. Ok, this step is optional, and probably counterproductive.

Copyright Webs.

Webs yarn store is participating in the Northampton Bag Day event this coming weekend (22-23) during which they are offering 20% off a single item (spinning wheels included). The kicker is that orders for large items (like equipment) need to be placed by Friday for in-store pickup over the weekend. Since the store only has so many wheels, they could feasibly be all sold out by the weekend, which could mean no wheels for me to try if I waited until the weekend to head up. I am now debating whether or not I should make two 3-hour-roundtrip drives: one to visit the wheels earlier in the week to give them a try and decide on one in time for the sale, and another to pick it up over the weekend. Sigh. I don’t want to be pressured into making a decision just for this sale, but 20% is a lot of cash to pass up! The wheels I’d like to try at Webs are the Lendrum DT, Schacht Ladybug, Schacht Matchless, and Louet Julia (if they have it, the site says backordered).

And that’s how you find yourself in a spinning wheel conundrum… wait, that wasn’t the title of this post, was it? Woops.