The Knit Knack's Blog

my handspinning, knitting, natural dye, weaving fibre home


Not Child’s Play, it’s a Flax Wheel!

A few weeks ago, I stumbled across a Kijiji ad:  Antique Child’s Spinning Wheel.  Just 2 pics but it looked doable in terms of price, and location.

After lots of searching, I decided that it is a flax saxony spinning wheel, probably brought here by an Eastern European family.  The Antique Spinning Wheels Ravelry group also helped calm my fears that she was going to turn out to be a sad little Frankenwheel.

Naturally, I was doing this all in secret.  DH’s first reaction?  He may have asked, “Where will you put it?” but he soon rallied.

That Saturday we braved the snow & headed out to Uxbridge.  The seller was unconvinced that the wheel was used by grown women but she did like that I wanted to get her spinning again.  Even I was stunned by the tiny size when we walked in.  It’s just 2′ high at the maidens, and fits this place mat exactly:

Even Melvin fits!  The hinges are leather, and the treadle is practically made for my size 7 foot.  I worked on the wheel that first weekend, and gave her a Murphy’s Soap bath followed by plenty of tung oil, a new front leather, and pegs for everywhere.  The spa treatment went fairly quickly but I sought help on Ravelry to get her fully functional.

See the massive chip in the bobbin?  It unscrewed easily but the flyer shaft was very rusty.  WD-40 scoured and left overnight did help… a bit.

This flyer probably never had hooks or nails but the spinner would move an eyelet peg along the holes.  The back holes show much more wear.

The ‘Proof of Spin’ pic also shows my fix for the pegs.  Like the steam punk?  Reed Needles aka Wheelwright on Rav does too!

Woodworms made their mark in the mother-of-all housing.  I worried it would need shoring up but all has been well through spinning 1.5 bobbins of BFL wool.

The important thing is that the screw tension is totally undamaged and moves well.

Is it rude to look under a slanty’s skirts?

Don’t carve leather with a buck knife and expect to come away unscathed.  It took some shaving but now the flyer moves freely.  I kept the old leather… it was very badly worn wide.

The drive wheel crank is one of my favourite things about this wheel.  Small but perfectly formed.

Maybe the nail got hammered in after the top of the distaff went missing?

Melvin has been positively doting about the wheel.  It’s not just that he wants to get in on the action.

I named the wheel Chella because it reminds me so much of my Grandmother’s older sister who never married but loved crafts.  It took a few tries to get the right drive band – the purple Hempathy.  I absolutely love this wheel.  She’s a good spinner, and the low profile is ace for tv watching.  The paint on all sides is adorable & I am dying to try to spin line flax with her.

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Super Secret’s Reveal!

Wherein I pause from wall-to-wall Tour de Fleecing to share a special gift.

The most adorable Murray the world has ever seen was born last Friday, July 15th in Oxford, England.  The happy parents are my artist-Cuz and her DH.  Apart from initial fatigue in her 1st trimester, Cuz was radiant throughout.  I am so, so happy for them.  This was the super secret baby gift, a Baby Shane blanket: 


As it was at our house while blocking:

The pattern is by Canadian indie-dyer, Tanis Lavallée, and came as a kit with the Yellow Label dk yarns by Tanis Fibre Arts.  Just to give the baby a taste of home!

Surprisingly, the pattern gave no suggested colour combos for this kit.  I spent many an hour shifting the skeins around and squinting hard.  Colour theory books were dusted off, and pored over in between shifts & squints.  The pattern for the border was easier to hit because I had a much better idea of how the yarns’ variegation played to the eye at that stage.

I added little starfish appliques.   The pattern for these is from Sue Flanders’ Sandcastle & Starfish Beach Tunic in America Knits.  Giving the kiddo some Caribbean flavour!

The ends were a bit of a chore.  As was picking-up stitches on the diagonal.

Cuz got the package, today.  They are thrilled & sent me the sweetest email ever!  Love knitting for the knit-worthy, I really do.

All of the day-lilies have been in full bloom this week.  Susie’s just round out the spread, beautifully.

[I edited for good reason – Cuz sent the pic of Murray with his blankie!]

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Some wins, and a fail(ish)

July has been crazy.  Life got reshuffled once I said yes to the job (see: about page for that minor detail), and DH sprained that right ankle of his – twice.  It’s taken me a good 2 weeks to adjust to sitting behind a desk all day but as Kurt Vonnegut lets you know in Slaughterhouse 5:  so it goes.  Hamilton is as colourful as ever, and I know & respect the people that I work with.

How is Toby you ask?  Well.  Fine, actually.  In fact, he seems to think that all is well with his world again.  Routine it seems, trumps company.  The wretch!

The one thing I had to let go of was the Tour de Fleece 2010.  It was beautiful when I had the energy to spin, take pics, and post everything on Ravelry.  That 1st week of work did me in though.  It was rough.  Each night I was searching & searching for all that stuff I never thought I’d need again.  Trying to find my court tabs?  Like finding a needle in a haystack.  I did break down & get a new pair but even now I’m itching to find them…  So, yeah.  I watched & spun through the whole tour (to DH’s great amusement) but not posting made it feel pointless.

Being a rookie fail in the TdF10 you can imagine my excitement when JessaLu told me I had won a SbJL bucket bag from her birthday blog contest!  This is her post on the winners, and I have ordered her lovely Frolic bag.  It will be brightening my days at the office with a spindle & fibre for sure!

This was a June knit made for the Ontario Handspinning Seminar.  It’s an Anthropologie Shrug in yarn that I just love, Colinette Iona.

Am a sucker for top-town raglan:

With just 2 skeins, I had just enough to get the width (with coughnegative easecough) & the less I say about the length the better…

Judging from the mad compliments, it’s all good!

This shawlette was comfort knitting from start to finish.  The yarn is my own handspun BFL wool 2-ply from Fleece Artist roving.  I only had 300 yds, and made a Three-cornered Scarf by Ruth Hollowell from JMM’s The Intentional Spinner.

I’m going to block this one out for more size.  My mods were to use the rick rib lace from Barbara Walker’s Second Treasury of Knitting Patterns, and to only have 4 rows of garter in between each 2 row lace repeat.  The border is a series of the rick rib rows + garter + a YO edge.  I also single crocheted the raw top edge.  I have a purple wood button that may be the closure on this one.  Destined to keep me warm at the office!

Have a great long weekend, y’all!  Happy Emancipation Day when it comes to my Jamaican friends!


Act of kindness

I experienced the most amazing act of kindness this week, and have been bursting to tell!  There is good in this world, and really, this town.

It all started 2 weeks ago when I went out for a Sunday spin-in at the Fibre Garden in Jordan Village.  Life had been incredibly hectic straight up to the night before but really very little comes between me & these spin-ins.  Jordan is in wine country & is quite the tourist town, so the shop is open on the Sundays when we go out to spin.

The shop is a charming, brightly painted historic home that really stands out.  The freshly painted spinning wheels on the front porch apparently drew an Oakville family indoors on their way to lunch.  I was facing the front door, spinning on Wee Peggy & happily caffeinated.  We chatted about Oakville’s spinning guild, and I raved about the daytime knitting group at the Wool Bin.  They were all very nice, and then left.  On his way out the man cracked a joke about us having painted toe-nails.  Pleasant and par for the course at the FG…

Well, the next Saturday, Jane from the Wool Bin wrote me.  The older lady came in for some yarn, and wanted to get in touch with the “young spinner in Jordan.”  Jane was sure that was me (35 y.o. & called young at every turn!).  The lady wanted to give me her unused spinning wheel!  I was excited but fully prepared to be presented with a dud…

This is a beauty.  Not a dud.  Can you imagine my joy when I walked in, and saw this in the lady’s living room?!!

Pristine working condition.  A Canadian Production Wheel.  Could I contain myself?  Um, no!  Thirty years ago, her husband has business dealings in Quebec.  It was a gift, packed and sent to her from a grateful businessman.  She made 3 moves with this wheel, always taking excellent care of it, and now she wanted to see it go straight to a spinner.  Her family had researched the wheel on-line, and she knew it had value.  Even so, she declined my offer to pay.  She said that it was a gift, and none of her children would use it.  The family agreed with her wish to give it to me, a perfect stranger.

I must have hugged her 5 times.  I explained that never in my wildest dreams did I hope for such a wheel (seriously, I thought a Lendrum at best!).  That I am a self-taught lace spinner on spindles, and that the CPWs are built for that type of spinning.  That I have secretly wanted one but never knew how I could find a good one.  I told her about Ravelry & the following these wheels have is not in auction houses but in the spinning community.  I even told her about how spinners will pass these wheels along like an underground railroad to get them safely cross-country.

She helped me get this into the car, and I have promised her a skein of handspun wool.  Heck, she can have a lifetime supply of handspun from me!  I told her how much this means to me because I am returning to work shortly after 1 ½ years, and it’s been a total wrench to think I am dropping out of the spinning world.  “Heaven sent” were my exact words.  She has my promise that this won’t ever see a garage sale if I can help it.  And that, friends, is a fact.

So, what do I have?  The maker’s stamp is on the wheel bed, Philias Cadorette from St. Hyacinthe, province of Québec:

It would have been made circa 1922.  The Spinning Wheel Sleuth has some information about these wheels here.  For current market price & another happy owner this blog post was cool.

There is no wobble in the 30″ diameter drive wheel.  It runs true, and the wheel joins look good to me:

The wheel has the usual 12 spokes with the lovely turnings.  The footman is a hooked iron rod that goes over a superb C-shaped crank:

The drive band is chunky, came with the wheel, and is still going strong…

The wheel has beautiful patina, and bears the yarn-etchings of a well-used flyer assembly:

The orifice is so narrow that I had to use an unbent paper clip to thread the wool through!

By yet another stroke of serendipity, I found out that this is a sub-set of the CPWs that has the Canadian innovation of tilt-tensioning.  I have been working through 8 or so old copies of Spin-off magazine from my guild, and just stumbled on William Ralph’s article “Canadian Tilt-Tension Production Wheels” in the Fall ’94 issue.  So, 16 years ago he wrote:

If you find one in good condition you are really in luck.  These wheels are still relatively inexpensive and are among the finest tools ever made for spinning wool.  They are remnants of a unique cottage industry which flourished in Québec Province, beginning about the turn of the century and ending shortly after World War II.

Instead of a screw that is turned to move the whole flyer assembly (Mother of All) forward & backward to add or remove tension from the drive band, the maidens are tapped and tilted in an arc.  You just loosen the wing-nuts, and tap until they are adjusted to the right point.  When William Ralph wrote that these wheels are, “exceptionally fast, with a strong pull & rapid wind-on,”  he wasn’t kidding.

Thanks to KnitMe’s post about her Philias Cadorette here, I got a clue about how to remove the whorl & bobbin.  I was scratching my head on that one!

I am still on cloud 9, and probably not liked very much at the moment by the other spinners.  Ah, well!  The previous owner is a Very Good Person in my books, and I am forever grateful for her act of kindness.  Such generosity is rare but not extinct!

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Be it resolved

… that the Spinolution Mach II is the 2nd wheel.  I gave my final answer to the DyeGuy this afternoon!

There were, as I said, major second thoughts.  After looking at all of the angles, I was down to either that wheel or a Majacraft Rose.  Could I have chosen 2 wheels that were more opposite?!  That’s the gemini in me!  So, thanks to everyone who listened to me go on & on about this dilema…

Let me just do a quick run-down on the Rose.  Majacraft caught my interest with their full-page/ full-colour ad in the winter ’09 Spin-Off.  Inside of 2 months I was very much smitten with my Wee Peggy, and so naturally the Rose fell to the background.  Why then was I test spinning it?  Ha!  So as to properly assess the Pioneer, which of course makes zero sense!  I could accessorize into the production realm, love the true double treadle, the wood & the portability.  Not to mention the resale value.

As much as I could love the Rose, it’s not my ideal wheel.  That would be a Schacht Matchless or another wheel with double drive capability, and heft.  In the end the heftily solid workhorse with everything on 1 flyer at a good price is what I have chosen.  With a side resolution to free-form knit it some prettiness.

It’s name?  Earl, I think.  For a crazy reason that I’ll keep to myself.  His specs?  To quote the Bellwether:

Height: 32 inches
Width: 24 inches
Depth: 12 inches
Wheel Size: 20 inch diameter, 1.5 in thick
Bobbin: The standard 3 bobbins + 2.
See her blog review for more dimensions.

Number of Speeds: 5
Ratio: 1:3, 1:5, 1:10, 1:15, 1:21 (Approximately)

Material: Furniture grade Birch Plywood

Yes, I didn’t quote his weight.  Earl’s a little touchy about his weight.  I think a set of wheels is in his future, actually.  To show-off Earl’s latest… this is Fleece Artist BFL roving that I got on Monday:

… inside of my (coughSperry Top-Sider shoeboxcough) bobbin kate.  I spun the singles on the 1:15, effortlessly and in no time.  It’s my 1st stab at spinning a colourway, and boy did I love it!  My idea is to make this into 2-ply yarn, and use this for the lace triangle shawl disaster (frogged on Monday)… between this & candy pink, I’m more likely to wear this as a shawl!

The Wee Peggy is also seeing some action.  She’s in charge of the amazing Louet Shetland combed top I got last Christmas:

That’s my 2nd bobbin of singles.  I am thinking in terms of a 3-ply yarn but am still thinking how much I can get with the 8 0z. package (i.e. am I getting more?!!).

I also have a new spindle to play with – my friend & serious spinning enabler gave me her unused Turkish spindle by Ray:

I am thrilled but honestly have not yet figured it out.  From the website’s pictures it seems that I have a high-worl Turkish, and that I have the arms on upside-down… I’ll be posting a question in the Spindlers Ravelry group for help!

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Sunny outlook

Random bits of goodness have been coming my way.  As they have happened:

  • The Wee Peggy spinning wheel is now mine – extra bobbins & all.  I might have put it this way in a former life:  title passed yesterday!  I also came home with a scale from another spinning friend.
  • The new issue of Spin-Off came in the mail – finally!
  • Delivered to our front door this afternoon from MIL for a Happy Easter:

So many buds are there to bloom!

MIL always sends us a potted plant at Eastertime – just so lovely.  We actually are having company on Good Friday, so it’s much appreciated from that point of view too!

  • The weather is beautiful today, and will get better towards the weekend.
  • Gratification how I like it… instant or nearly so.  I ordered this Mini Bossie spindle in purpleheart on Saturday.  Sheila & Johnathan had her tested & shipped that afternoon.  Voilà! She’s in my mailbox this afternoon!  Opening the Bossie Box:

The tissue paper had my name on it!  And under the layers, I find:


Guess who’s a happy customer?!  See more about Minis here.  This will be great for my Shetland wool (it’s top), and spinning-in-public, generally.  Lastly…

  • It’s Pub Night!  I’m a good ways into knitting fingerless glove no. 1 in my handspun.  I tried taking a picture of it on my right hand… didn’t quite work out today.  Zero patience is what it is.  I mean, I do have my first Bossie!

Excuse me while I go & spin for a spell.

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No rants. It’s all good.

This turned out to be a wicked good week!

For starters, Dell wasn’t teasing – the new laptop did arrive Tuesday evening.  At long last, I’m out of the basement & back to my old digs.  As for the machine – its multi-directional touch pad is annoying the life out of me but I am otherwise a fan.

New pics. are temporarily a no-no, so here’s one from our San Fran trip in October.

Aestlight against the chill

Other good things in this week.  I had my jewelry-making friend, Sonja over for coffee.  Let’s just say that it was time for me to reciprocate… The house was clean, and I went all-out with the blueberry muffin baking:)  Adding orange zest is a good thing for that by the way.

Then yesterday afternoon, I went over to knit & hang out with my friend Megster of Knits & Kids fame.  We had a grand ol’ time – her daughter is just the sweetest thing – and as if that weren’t enough, we had more fun at Pub Night.

At last posting the Lacy Baktus scarf for MIL was looking mighty short.  Well, it was my bad.  I actually had another 106 ft of yarn to use before starting to decrease the triangle.  Yeah.  Maybe next time I’ll measure the half-way point before starting to knit.  Actually, maybe by next time Santa will have given me a digital scale….  So, my bad & I had to rip it.  Can you sense my mounting frustration with this gift?  It’s jinxed.

Now I’m off to read my first issue of Spin Off (so it begins) and the winter Knits magazines.  Nice!