The Knit Knack's Blog

Better living through fibre


Leave a comment

The footnote, and the flax that brought us here

There is a footnote to my last post on the Wm MacDonald Saxony spinning wheel.  Since posting she continued to impress me through 4 bobbins of BFL/silk top.

BFL wool/silk handspun yarn by irieknit on antique Nova Scotia spinning wheel maker William MacDonald

Four bobbins’ worth from the antique MacDonald wheel

As she ran, I cleaned and oiled and spoke to the twitter.  A wool lock shim came to the front maiden & I had an eye out for any signs of trouble.  Towards the end of the fourth bobbin, I felt a slight shift.  All of a sudden, I discovered an old repair to the right of the front treadle support – and not in a good way.

R. Needles, “Wheelwright” from London, Ontario spoke at the 2013 Ontario Handspinning Seminar.  He writes succinctly in his paper for the seminar:

Function matters if you’re going to use it.

This named wheel functions beautifully, and is an important historical artifact.  We are going to seek professional assistance to restore this old fix.  It’s actually still holding because I recognized the change in feel, applied a non-invasive brace (hello, leather tag from that purse!), and caught it before real damage happened.  As a solid piece it can take glue you know from a pro.

More than anything else there is a simple fact.  I love this wheel.  So, stick a pin – we’ll get to that 5th bobbin spun yet!

Blame the flax

This tipping point from “wheels” to “wheel collection” is all because of flax.  Yes, that’s right, I blame the flax.

A lot of line flax spread for my distaff

Pennsylvania flax

You should watch out for this sneaky fibre called flax.  It wants you to have specialized wheels, and takes its own sweet time to whisper sweet nothings in your ear as you go.

Antique Pennsylvania line flax dressed on small distaff for spinning

My glorified stick distaff

See the twisted fingers of flax to the lower left of the distaff?  This is the finest from the antique Pennsylvania flax that I combed last October. I brought it out last month for a group fibre study on Ravelry.com.

Flax boon waste during handspinning on denim but it's antique!

Flax boon fallen away from the fibre in spinning

Even after last fall’s hackling, the best of this flax has a ton of boon & straw!  Out came a bandana, in fact.  It was that much dust as I drafted from the distaff.  The flax varied wildly.  One minute I had soft, fine lengths, and the next I was waving the straw along!  I just went with the texture, and kept up with wet spinning to smooth it all over.

My jeans were soaked.  I looked a sight.  Still there I was, hooked all over again on the linen.  Having a virtual spin-along was also really cool.

About the wet spinning – it wasn’t plain water this time.  I gave a lot of flax seeds a generous splash of boiling water.  Steeping & stirring happened but I was really halfway to the wheel before long.  There was a good difference.  In the future, I’ll boil the seeds, and use the flax-slurry.

Book - Reflections from a Flaxen Past by Kati Reeder Meek and handspun linen single yarns

Learning the linen

This fibre varied from fine to feeling almost like tow flax.  I hope there was enough twist in this linen yarn.  It was spun wet, and felt fairly textured when I wound it from my drying tin (holes are punched in the sides of the tin) to the rolls for storage.

Alongside my singles is a birthday present – Kati Reeder Meek’s, “Reflections from a Flaxen Past for love of Lithuanian Weaving.”  A fantastic first flax reference for my shelves!  It was Camilla Valley’s last copy, and is blowing me away.  The Lithuanian linen tradition far more complex than I ever dreamed.  Most of all, I am thrilled to have a spinners’ insights on making linen weaving yarn.  It is so well reasoned, and accessible.

Handwoven linen Swedish lace sample by weaver Jette Vandermeiden

Handwoven lace samples in linen by Jette Vandermeiden

Also inspiring this push is the samples of handwoven linen lace that Jette Vandermeiden brought for our guild class last month.

Handwoven lace samples by weaver Jette Vandermeiden

More samples from Jette’s class

All of the samples were interesting but I was so drawn to Jette’s discussion of the linen laces in particular.  My goal is to practice weaving first, and build my skills but with an eye towards learning to weave my own linen textiles.

First year bloom on Clematis vine

Happy Canada Day!

Happy Canada Day to all Canadians near & far!  Like the Clematis, this is my first year with roots in the Canadian soil for this day, and that means something!

 


4 Comments

From their heart: The Ramer spinning wheel collection

Last Thursday, after a big detour of the Mapquest misdirection kind, I arrived in one piece at the Ramers’ home for my appointment.  It was a fantastic visit starting with the warm greeting from Rev. Barbara Anne at her front door to me, the previously lost spinner.

The well-lit room contained the most spinning wheels that I have ever seen much less beautiful antique spinning wheels.  My friend was spot-on when she confirmed for me that the Ramer collection still had flax wheels!

William McDonald antique saxony Canadian spinning wheel Alvin Ramer collection

Wheel number thirteen

Having walked the room and gathered my thoughts, she was the first wheel that I took down to sit at.  Wheel number thirteen was included in the collection catalogue, and the note under, ‘Spinning Comments,’ rang true:

This is a smooth spinning wheel.

When I later mentioned this to Barbara Anne, she laughed saying, “Those are the words straight from my mouth!”  I am lucky to have this wheel, and a copy of her 3 pages from the collection’s catalogue.  The note under ‘Distinguishing Features‘ also landed squarely in my brain.  It says, in order of the image captions:

Treadle of William McDonald antique Canadian saxony spinning wheel Alvin Ramer collection

“The footpiece is fastened to the treadle with wooden pegs.”

In taking this photo, I noticed the etched star motif on the back support of the treadle.  It looks like simple lines from a penknife, and the rest of the wheel is elegantly turned and constructed.   The feel of the broad, worn treadle is fantastic underfoot.

Drive wheel of antique Nova Scotia saxony spinning wheel maker William McDonald Alvin Ramer collection

“The Wheel sections are fastened together with wooden pegs.”

The drive wheel is 20 ¼” in diameter with 14 spokes in 4 rim segments.  It has one wide rim groove and spins true.  The heft of this hardwood drive wheel is exactly what I was hoping for in a flax wheel.  In comparison, my P. Cadorette CPW has a 29 ½” wheel diameter.

Table, audience-view antique Nova Scotia saxony spinning wheel maker William McDonald Ramer collection

“There is a decorative bead around two sides and rear of the table. The front of the table is bevelled.”

Provenance in short form for wheel number thirteen

We know from her makers mark that she was made by a Scottish settler in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia in the 1820s – 1830s.

Makers mark William McDonald antique saxony Nova Scotia spinning wheel

Makers mark: W. M.Dld. (McDonald)

The presumed maker is William McDonald as identified in the catalogue sheets by Keith MacGillivary.  In searching, I discovered that Mr. Ramer’s Nova Scotia wheels were featured in the July 2004 issue of Spinning Wheel Sleuth magazine.  I would love a copy of this issue!  The sheet simply says that it was purchased in August 2001 from Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia.

Flyer detail antique saxony Nova Scotia spinning wheel maker William McDonald

Pie-crust orifice fluting

One frustration in spinning flax on my small Eastern European flax wheel has been its large orifice.  This wheel controls the fine single, and I was thrilled to see the fluting on the inside of the orifice.

That screw-tension double drive wheels were even being made by several wheelwrights in Nova Scotia in this period is remarkable.  The report, “Selected Canadian Spinning Wheels in Perspective:  an Analytical Approach”  says that the 1759 expulsion of the Acadians from Atlantic Canada, “curtailed most of the early spinning traditions of Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia…” (p. 265).

Ontario was not producing any wheels of this type at the time (ibid, p. 275).  This wheel must have stayed in Nova Scotia until the turn of this century.  Now nearing 200 years of age she is restored, oiled, and in another immigrant spinner’s home.

Antique saxony Nova Scotia spinning wheel spinner's view William McDonald maker Alvin Ramer collection

Beautiful twin maidens!

Click reel for the new weaver in me

Around the time of helping me select this working click reel from the collection, Barbara Anne answered my deep thanks for the sale being open for us spinners.  It was a moment of being alone in the collection, and she met my eyes saying simply, “It is what we wanted.  We had offers to buy the collection whole.  It is our heart. ”

 

Blue painted antique wood click reel yarn winder weasel

Pop! goes the weasel!

The vertical reel stood out among her peers from across the room.  It is all 1 piece with a handle for winding the yarn.  The wound skein is removed by bending the knee of the one jointed windmill arm.

Painted blue wood antique click reel winding yarn gear detail

Inner workings

Behind her pretty front blue skirt is the also-painted wood gear and worm mechanism.  Once the metal pin on the small lower gear rotates fully, it slaps a long piece of thin wood & pop!  I jump every time.

Chip carved edging of table on antique blue painted wood click reel yarn winding weasel

Pretty as a pie-crust, chip carved reel table

As if this is not enough excitement for one humble tool, her tripod platform has even pie-crust chip carving and a front bead.  Also overflowing with excitement was me last week!

Best cakes from lovely cousins!

Coded candles  

The sale has been precipitated by family issues for the Ramers.  I was very happy to meet Alvin, Barbara Anne, and their friend, Rosemary.  It is a big transition but Barbara Anne asked me to let spinners know that Alvin wants to resume his wheel repair work as soon as possible.

My hopes for the awesome circa 1820s Atlantic Canada wheel are simple – I want to spin flax.

Antique Pennsylvania line flax dressed on a distaff

A flaxen future perhaps

These are more than tools for that goal though.  They come in my 5th year as a spinner, my 1st year as a weaver, and shortly after becoming Canadian.  I am honoured to have such well restored artifacts to work with, and the good wishes of an expert flax spinner, Rev. Barbara Anne Ramer.

Bloodgood Japanese maple sapling crown

Also setting down roots

Well, friends, 5 years makes a habit and that is my new answer for, “How many spinning wheels do you have now?”


2 Comments

Plumage, a juried exhibition

In a month already full with home renovation work & gardening, I have been bowled over by the positive response that my two pieces received in the Burlington Handweavers & Spinners Guild 2014 exhibit at the (then-called) Burlington Art Centre.

The Juror, Sheila Perry, selected 20 pieces from 16 fibre artists for the Exhibit.  Each artist’s interpretation of the theme was different but the presentation was balanced and cohesive in the space.

 

Knitted lace shawl in handspun Muga silk: On Eagle's Wings

Best in Show award!

My goal was simple:  to be selected for inclusion!  Everything else was pretty unexpected even after I heard that I was 1 of 4 members chosen for awards.  The exhibition was May 4 – June 1, 2014.

Elation not being optimal for bloggy work, I enjoyed the moment and juggled house upheaval vs. garden upheaval.   The creative breaks poured towards a fantastic, challenging lace weaving workshop with Jette Vandermeiden at the guild.  Jette was good enough to attend the opening reception with us too, so it was all rolled into one!

With the shawls back home now, I have worn the Muga silk for the first time.  It is so very light on the shoulders yet warm – everything that I imagined it would be.

2014 Annual Juried Exhibition best in show handspun knit lace shawl in Muga silk - On Eagle's Wings

On Eagle’s Wings, displayed

On Eagle’s Wings was introduced to the right of the gallery entrance.  You can see the guest book, and the exhibit catalogue on the table in the corner.  Not shown in this picture was that heady award label with my name on it!

This black fabric-covered dress form was very good for showing the triangle’s drape, and the stitch patterns with beads.  It would have been straightforward for the audience to read this lace as a textile with real-world function.  You know, as opposed to froth.

Plumage Juried Show, On Eagle's Wings, back of triangle shawl

All along, I had worried that my Tibetan Phoenix Beaded Stole would be a problem child in this gallery.  It took my breath away to see the Juror’s solution for its 82″ expanse.

Entering the Plumage 2014 juried exhibition, Burlington Handweavers and Spinners Guild

The knitted lace stole, among friends

This brought home to me the difference between showing lace in blog form (pattern; movement; technical aspects; natural light) and showing lace for its effect.  The impact of the presentation was something that I literally felt.

Tibetan Beaded Lace Shawl handspun and knit by Irieknit in Plumage Exhibition, Burlington, Ontario

A warm welcome, for me at least!

Hearing excitement and new ways of understanding this making of an oversize lace object is an unexpected joy.  It draws away any residual sting from wearing it to a New England wedding last fall.  As I type, a dear relative who helped host that very wedding is congratulating me on my new accomplishment in knitting!

Tibetan Phoenix Beaded Lace Shawl handspun and knit by Irieknit in Plumage Juried Exhibition, Burlington, Ontario

Guild members have been super kind.  Yes, all made on drop spindles!  Professional fibre artists also tell me that the stole in particular was a strong submission.

Presenting work publicly is tough.  I heard that during the exchange at the end of the Juror’s review.  Now I have experienced the rewards of this rigour, and am totally glad that I tried.  Being able to say, “Dear (non-fibre person in my life), I got an award.  It was from an art gallery director, and came with a cheque,” also rocks.  It makes way more sense to them than the 82″ of shawl over my petite LBD ever could.  That’s just life.

Some but not all of the other works from Plumage are below. Let me know if you caught the show!

Plumage 2014 Juried Burlington Handweavers and Spinners Show Margaret Burns handwoven soft sculptures

Handwoven ‘Duck’ and ‘Owl’, Margaret Burns

Best Interpretation of Theme was awarded for this stunning red handwoven shawl.

Best Interpretation of Theme, Plumage 2014 Juried Show Burlington Handweavers and Spinners Guild

Cardinal in Flight, Rosemarie Anich-Erickson

Three works by Diane Woods were included in this show.  I love the sharpness, and colour in her wall hanging.

Handwoven wall hanging, Mexican Eagle in Plumage 2014 Juried Exhibition Burlington Handweavers and Spinners

Mexican Eagle, Diane Woods

One of my teachers, MargaretJane Wallace, inspired me as she wove her scarf in the studio this fall.  MJ also encouraged me to go ahead with my plans for the Muga silk when it was still a ball of lace yarn.

Handwoven beaded tencel scarf by MargaretJane Wallace, Phoenix Rising from Ash 2014 Juried Exhibition Burlington Handweavers and Spinners Guild

Phoenix Rising from Ash, handdyed tencel, MargaretJane Wallace

Hung to the left of MJ’s scarf was the winner of the Past Presidents’ Award.  The weaver is a Level 4 student, and the Juror was very excited about this lovely piece!

Award winning handwoven scarf, Snowy Owl 2014 Juried Exhibition  Burlington Handweavers and Spinners

Snowy Owl, Leslie Cooke-Bithrey

These and other images of  works included in the Plumage show are here.