April 17, 2019

Have you knitted an Inspira Cowl yet? This pattern, available free on Ravelry, is positively addictive. It is an easy knit and a good way to ease yourself into colorwork. And it provides endless variety, given the endless variety of yarn out there!

Malabrigo worsted, Plymouth Tangiers cotton, and Lion Brand Amazing:


Three yarns, two of them self-striping, on circular needles.


There is a certain fascination in watching the pattern build and grow. And if you make a mistake, it is of little consequence, because it easily conceals itself! I liked mine so much, I made this for a friend:


I do like to make one solid base color with the other colors mingled in. And for practicing your colorwork technique, it is an excellent pattern to teach you how to carry your yarn and balance your tension. If the inside is as good as the outside, you’ve got the hang of it!


You will keep making these, over and over, stashing busting or trying out new yarns. Just make sure to take photos, as several of these have now gone out into the world and I forgot to record them! But this pattern gets a big thumbs up from The Wool Merchant’s Daughter!


Support Magnificat Cat Rescue!

November 28, 2018

How you can help …

On a separate post, I described the rather harrowing medical rescue of Peter Mego, a little orange-and-white cat suffering from sepsis. Mego was saved, but at great cost to Magnificat Cat Rescue and Rehoming, the group that rescued him from the NYC Animal Control.

To help Magnificat make up some of that medical bill and to help them continue the very good rescue work they do, I am participating in an online benefit for them. It is hosted by the Afghans for Animals forum on Ravely and you will need a Ravelry ID to participate. But this is easy: log into and create an account. Then visit the Benefit Store thread here.

Lots of great handspun yarns, support spindles, drop spindles, knitting-related items, and items with cat themes. Everyone is welcome to participate. 100% of sales go directly to Magnificat. Join us today; the kitties all thank you (especially Peter Mego!).

And, if anyone would like to donate directly to a really worthy cause, checks can be mailed to:

Magnificat Cat Rescue

P.O. Box 504

Bronx, NY 10471

I know that all the kitties would appreciate it!



A Gentle Reminder on Copyrights …

March 5, 2018

I haven’t been much on this blog lately. Okay, I haven’t been writing at all! Life gets in the way sometimes. But that does not mean that I don’t keep an eye on the old homestead!

I would like to take a moment to give my readers a gentle reminder about copyright. All content on this blog, including photos, are copyright by me. That means you don’t have the right to appropriate them. With my permission, you might borrow one as long as you attribute it to me but you can’t just take them.

It is simple enough to just post a comment below an entry and say, “I would like to use your photo to ….” and explain why you want to use.

Do not, as one person is doing now, take a photo and use it in your “spinning wheel for sale” advertisement. I don’t care if you a found a wheel that “looks just like” one of mine, take a photo of your wheel and post it. Please don’t mislead people into thinking the wheel you are selling is one of mine. I have a considerable readership here, and on other spinning forums, and people recognize some of my wheels. When one shows up “for sale,” it generates considerable messaging, as in, “Why didn’t you tell me first you were going to sell that wheel?”

So, please, readers, don’t borrow my photos (or my text!) without asking first? Please? Be good and do the right things!

Anatomy of a Spindle Wheel Head

December 28, 2016

Great wheel, walking wheel, spindle wheel. The name changes but the principle stays the same. These are large wheels that the spinner typically stands to spin on. A large drive wheel is mounted on an upright post, while the spindle post holds the spinning head. As this is a smallish, removable part, it often goes missing from old wheels. Here is what you need to look for if you need a spindle head, or what you have if you have found one, sans wheel!

The neck mounts the assembly into the spindle post and supports the Mother-of-All, or MOA. Just as with a flyer wheel, the MOA supports the maidens. Since the maidens usually have a screw turn so that they may be leveled, the bottom of the screw has a little wooden cap to protect the threads and prevent the maiden from being unscrewed past a certain level.

The spindle itself is an iron rod about 12 inches in length. It may or may not include a little wooden disk; this helps prevent the spun wool from creeping back into the bearings. The bearings that hold the spindle to the MOA may be from leather thongs or braided cornhusk. The spindle has a whorl — if your wheel has an optional accelerated head, such as the one in the illustration, the whorl will have a secondary drive band connecting it to the accelerating head. If you had a direct drive wheel, you will have only this one whorl on the spindle and the drive band will connect to the drive wheel.

With the accelerated head, each maiden has a small wooden bearing that holds the head’s axle ends. The whorl of the accelerated head holds the drive band that connects to the drive wheel. This 19th century invention was developed in order to help a spinner spin faster.

Just as with flyer wheels, there are many different styles of spindle wheel and of spindle heads. This is a generalization to help get you started or to help you find what you need!


Catching Up and a New Sweater

December 16, 2016

I am really, really behind in keep up this blog this year, but it is the nature of life. Sometimes, life happens. The best laid plans go astray and my road to Hell is certainly paved with good intentions. Basically, there just weren’t enough hours in the day.

There was time for knitting, mostly due to be an automobile passenger and trying to not waste that time. I was able to finish a sweater for Rhinebeck 2016: by August, I had it finished an just needed the ends woven in. It is the Cider Mill Pullover and is available on Ravelry:


I wanted something bright and happy. Rhinebeck can sometimes be gray and chilly. The sweater is heavier than the original pattern calls for: this is knitted in Blue Skies Fiber Worsted Cotton. The main color is Pumpkin.

The slip-stitch pattern yoke and trim are Lemongrass, Dandelion, Orchid, Aloe, and Carribbean.


It is knitted on Size 7 needles, up from the Size 5 the pattern calls for and a little smaller than the yarn suggests. But it gave me a tighter fabric and that was what I was after.


Ta-da. And, of course, since the only the ends needed to be woven in back in August, it was done well in time? Don’t you know I was weaving in those ends a week before the October event? Of course I was! But I was happy with the final result, except the cast on bottom edge.

The sweater is knitted in the round and asks for a couple of rows of purl stitch at the bottom. These refused to obey while knitting the rest, so I switched the sleeve cuffs and the neckline to an inch of ribbing and this tamed the rolling edge problem. If I really thought about it (or get snowed in over the winter), I’m inclined to pick out that bottom cast-on, put the whole thing back on the needles and reknit the bottom to have the same inch of ribbing. We’ll see how motivated I get. Or can manage the time!



Carriage Wheels

May 1, 2016

Carriage or boudoir wheels are dainty spinning wheels designed for flax spinning. M’lady could spin linen thread in the comfort of her boudoir or, if she chose, show off her domestic skills by removing the upper portion of the wheel from its long legs and taking it with her on a carriage trip. These wheels are typically very elegant and ornate, not intended for production spinning. Here are two examples:

wheels 01

The wheel on the left is missing its little drawer under the bench; the wheel on the richt is missing its distaff. The left-hand wheel stands about 30 inches tall and the drive wheel is 9 inches in diameter. The right-hand wheel is about 28 inches tall and the metal drive wheel is a little over 7 inches in diameter.

wheels 02

The wheel on the left shows signs of having been worked on at some point. The treadle does not have the same wear as the foot bar in front of it. Plus, the treadle is in backwards! The footman should come up the front of the wheel. This allows the axle crank to face the spinner, so the wheel can be hand-cranked when removed from the legs.

wheels 03

The tensioning systems are the same: the tensioning screw moves the mother-of-all along the parallel arms of the framework. The flyers are similar in construction, having separate arms set into a wooden center. The flyer on the left is completely of wood with a metal spine for the bobbin, where the one on the right has a metal orifice and metal spine. Also, note that the flyer on the left uses a moveable metal loop to guide the spinning, while the other flyer has metal hooks.

wheels 04

The drive wheels have some differences. The wooden wheel has a metal inset in the rim to help give the wheel some weight and provide “throw” to help keep the wheel spinning. The metal drive wheel has an additional metal plate added to the side away from the spinner to also provide additional weight.

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The smaller wheel shows signs of having possibly been gilded at one time. You can clearly see the gold coloring on the uprights.

wheel 007

Also here on the legs. There is a central turning on the legs that is very rough and I suspect there was metal in these spaces, either pewter or silver, which was dug out long ago.

wheel 006

The little drawer is cleverly decorated with punchwork to form a quilted pattern. The drawer even has a little wooden catch inside, so you can “lock” it when not needed. Note the leg on the right; it does not match the others exactly and is a replacement although I’m unsure how old the repair is.

wheel 005

Overall for their ages, and taking repairs into account, both are lovely wheels and excellent additions to the collection!

wheel 009

wheel 001





February 28, 2016

In the never-ending quest of warm winter woolies, I was looking for a hooded scarf. Most are simply a long rectangle folded and a back seam sewn in near the fold. This doesn’t give a great fit. I hunted through the Ravelry pattern library and turned up this scarf, Loxley, by designer Stephen West.

hood 02

Named for the hero of Sherwood Forest, Sir Robin of Loxley, also called Robin Hood.

The piece is knitted in sections starting with the piece that goes over the head. Short-row shaping makes the back of the head wider and forms a bit of a brim to shelter the face.

hood 03

The second section is the back cap, and this was the feature I liked — it makes some room for the back of your head.

hood 01.jpg

The long tails are next and they are about 32″ long, so you get a good wrap.

hood 04

The scarf is knitted in garter stitch with an i-cord edging. The garter stitch is plush and squishy, the i-cord edge is neat and finished. The long tails keep your neck wrapped warm.

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The perfect garment to stay warm while sneaking behind the Sheriff of Nottingham’s back.

hood 05