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my handspinning, knitting, natural dye, weaving fibre home


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When plying sings

Plying the 980 g of natural white Romney lamb’s wool is making my week.  You may have heard me use the word, ‘obsessed’ when I posted this picture on Twitter?  It has come as a surprise.

Plied hand-combed Romney lamb's wool on Watson Martha spinning wheel

Plying two good things together

For one thing the singles flow evenly from the plying ball.  Both strands feed together to my hands.  The holding pen for the ply ball is a tall Piroline cookie tin to my right.  Quiet, gentle, stream-of-spinning time.

This is the smaller whorl for my Watson Martha wheel.  The larger of the two ratios is working well with the Scotch tension braking the bobbin.  The rhythm slows a little as I get to the bobbin’s capacity of around 110 g of the yarn.  It’s just a matter of paying closer attention to the winding-on since the yarn can jump out of the hooks as the bobbin gets full.

Winding handspun wool yarn on an antique wooden click reel

Antique yarn reel in action!

My blue click reel from the Ramer Collection has made winding-off, and counting such a breeze.  The click still makes me jump (and Melvin glower) but she has a beautiful logic!  Each round is 90″, and the click is at 120 revolutions.  That measures 300 yards or a linen weaver’s lea!  One lea in the yarn count system is 300 yards per pound.

Cleaned wood antique click reel from the Ramer Collection

Brace that elbow!

A small hurdle after cleaning her up lightly with diluted Murphy’s Oil soap was the floppy jointed spoke.  My substitute collar is 3 strips of Velcro.  It’s yet another application of Janet Dawson’s floor loom weaving class on Craftsy!  So far with the braced reel’s help, I have around 1,500 yards of 2-ply with more to come.

Plying with Andean pushkas

The medium and large size Andean turned low-whorl spindles are my plying tools of choice for my spindle projects.  With practice, I am getting better at using them comfortably with larger cops.

Finished handspun yarn from blended Shetland, Merino, Tussah silk

Mulled cider set in skein form

This is the plying that I started in early September.  It was a 3.2 oz set of batts from Enting Fibercraft (shetland/merino/tussah silk blend), and I made 497 yards total here.  The larger skein at the top is 304 yards.  This yarn measures 24 wraps per inch or what I class as a light fingering weight.

Melvin the cat with tulipwood Moosie and handspun Shetland wool yarn dyed by The Painted Tiger

Hello, Moosie spin

The leisurely spin of The Painted Tiger’s hand-dyed braid of Shetland wool with my new Moosie came out at over 2,900 yards per pound!  The first plying ball gave around 249 yards.

Handspun Shetland wool yarn dyed by The Painted Tiger

A full-for-me plying Pushka

The second skein came in at 494 yards!  I was also giving a high plying twist because I would like to weave with the yarn.

I launch these spindles in the Andean style that Abby Franquemont taught me in her “All Spindles All Day” class.  Winding is more efficient as the cop grows, and the spindle goes amazingly fast as well.

Handspun Shetland wool 2-ply yarn dyed by The Painted Tiger

Cherry Fudge in yarn form

Fast-forward these few years, and my set-up is still very simple.  I place the plying ball in a small clay flowerpot that is on the floor behind my left hand.  I ply standing-up on an anti-fatigue mat.  When I came to Abby’s class, I was (barely!) able to butterfly with my non-dominant left hand.  Switching the butterfly was key, and Abby taught me the next steps:  set & release the half-hitches with my right hand; and the launch for my typical Z-ply twist.

To compare a large shawl project that I spun with spindles, and is on our current TKK banner, above – the largest skein measured 366 yards.  It is the fluidity that has improved.  This is what I look at with expert spinners.  Even watching another spinner’s motions can give your practice a subtle shift.

Getting to the place where plying sings is helping me complete even less-focused projects.  At least these past few weeks it hasn’t been akin to watching paint dry!

Speaking of seeing spinners, are you going to the Woodstock Fleece Festival on Saturday?  It’s a great consolation for not going to Rhinebeck.  Hope to see some friends, and to succumb to fibrey temptation!


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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?”