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:

Woolen Diversions

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:

Woolen Diversions

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:

Woolen Dirersions

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:

Woolen Diversions

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!

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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.