30 December 2010

Part of the next century

One of the wheel wrights on Ravelry said one day, “Have you ever thought that maybe you have added another century to the life of this wheel?”

This week, I got the chance to be part of the next century of another Canadian Production Wheel. I tell you, it’s such a great feeling!

A Bordua wheel showed up on the Alberta kijiji listings, and I posted to the Ravelry board to see if anyone wanted me to pick it up and foster it until the new owner and I could meet up: someone from “the absolute centre of nowhere, Saskatchewan” piped up, so while I was in Calgary yesterday helping my sister and brother-in-law move to their new place, I picked up the wheel.

It’s the same maker as mine – but this one has a mark! I’ve never seen a maker’s mark on the wheel with my own eyes before, so that was quite something.


Here are the two wheels side by side:


There are a few differences – the one in front (that’s the one I picked up in Calgary) has some more detail (extra lines on the wheel rim, wooden ‘toggles’ to hold the uprights and one of the maidens in position, finer turnings on the spokes and maidens). One theory is that over time, the maker dropped some of the finer points of construction. I wonder, too, if perhaps there were different models, like with cars – the routine style and the ‘upgraded’ style.

This wheel was (I shudder to even say it) painted brown with gold trim … the people I picked it up from had bought it that way, and promptly stripped the horrid paint job (and not erased the maker’s mark, which is impressive!) and kept it as a lovely decoration for years. Now, it’s back in service making yarn … and I’ve had a hand in giving it another century of life. Wow.

It’ll be handed off to the new owner this summer, at Fibre Week, when we will both be in the same place … then it’ll travel home to Saskatchewan where it can continue to sing it’s quiet, happy, productive song at the hands of yet another generation of spinners.

20 December 2010

Wheel Alignment

When spinning, one hand is 'forward' and one is 'back' - the forward one controls the twist, and the backward one holds the pile of fibre. I spin with my right hand forward, and the pile of fibre in my left hand. This is fine on a wheel where the orifice is right in front of you as it doesn't much matter which way you twist ... but with the Canadian Production Wheel, it's a bit trickier. They were probably intended for the opposite arrangement of hands – it’d definitely be  bit easier to arrange yourself at the wheel if you spun with the hands in the other positions, anyway.

Still, I’ve discovered that this slightly unexpected alignment of spinner and wheel seems to work quite well:


The wheel is more beside me than directly in front of me, and that leaves plenty of room for drafting.

Of course, in this picture I’m spinning lovely machine prepped rovings so able to do that fancy long draw technique. :)

I also managed to fill a bobbin (i.e. spin up two lumps of roving that were each about as big around as a soccer ball) in an hour. This truly is a production wheel!

05 December 2010

A one-bobbin solution for antique spinning wheels

I have no shortage of wheels (blush) but I wanted to come up with a solution to the 'one bobbin problem' that did not entail winding off from the antique one-bobbin wheel to one of the bobbins for my other wheels and then plying from there.
Translation for non-spinners: Most wheels have multiple bobbins, so you fill one, then take it off and put a different one on, fill that, then put the 2 full bobbins on something called a “Lazy Kate” – no, I don’t know why it’s called that – which holds them steady as you take the 2 single strands of yarn from the full bobbins and ply them together onto yet another bobbin to make 2 ply balanced yarn. If you have only one bobbin (most antique wheels have just the one), you have to put the first batch of single ply yarn ... well, somewhere … while you make the second batch, and then you need both batches of singles to be conveniently unwinding themselves as you twist them together into a balanced yarn. This is the One Bobbin Problem.
So ... I offer *The Lazy Fred* for your consideration.

First of all, it's called a Lazy Fred because although it is *like* a Lazy Kate, it doesn't hold regular bobbins - it's different. And since my wheel's a (presumed) Fred Bordua wheel, and this solution is particularly for the antique wheel crowd, I thought of it as a Lazy Fred. Just kinda stuck in my head that way. :)
Anyway - here's what it looks like:
Those are sorta-bobbins: a piece of dowelling with a wheel affixed partway up the shaft, much like a drop spindle. It's not hollow though, because the idea is that you can attach it directly to your handy dandy drill (you *do* have a drill, right? if you don't, you need one anyway, so quick, go get one!) by just inserting the end of the dowelling into the chuck, like it was a drill bit:

I put one leg up on my spinning chair, rested the drill on my knee, and used my left hand to guide the singles coming off the bobbin so that they went up and down along the length of the bobbin shaft. The wheel at the far end keeps you from going too far in that direction, and you're obviously smart enough not to get too close to the business end of the drill itself. :)

To ply, you place the Fred right beside you on the floor: the yarn comes off the tops of the cones, rather than the sorta-bobbins spinning around and unwinding, as on a normal Kate; or put it in a shoebox Kate and let it unwind from the side.

Construction details, for those who are interested - the bobbins are pretty obvious: the dowelling is a tight fit so some sanding of the end where the wheel goes is needed to get it to slide into place. A bit of wood glue holds them in their final positions.

The base is a piece of leftover wood from my floor installation, actually - I drilled six holes, just a wee bit larger than the dowelling I used, and put those 'feet' that you can nail onto the bottom of your chair legs to help them slide over the floor at each corner. This raises the board up off the floor a bit, allowing the dowels to drop through far enough that they are stable. Any kind of feet would do - you need about a centimeter of clearance below the board for the dowels to stick through, perhaps a little more if you plan to use it on carpet.

Everything was stained with Watco Dark Walnut and given 2 coats of tung oil - and that's all there is to it!
Hopefully this idea is useful to someone else! If you need one and you haven't got the necessary equipment etc to build your own, I've got a handy 15 year old who's always looking for a new revenue generating opportunity …