What I Did on My Day Off …

April 30, 2011


Friday, April 29. Got up at 3:00 AM, on the road at 4:00 AM, in Princeton, NJ by 5:00 AM to attend a Traditional English Breakfast and see the Royal Wedding on a big screen. As a historian, and one who specializes in British History, the wedding between the future king and queen of England is as close to a sporting event as a historian will get.

On the road again by 9:00 AM, and headed to Maryland and the dreaded Baltimore Loop. It was long past rush hour, so the loop was not as bad as we have seen it in the past. Down to Catonsville, where we retrieved this lovely:

A Canadian Production Wheel of unknown lineage, but in excellent shape. She had been purchased at a house auction in Frederick, Maryland, several years ago. The woman who had her said the man who owned the house being auctioned said this had been his grandmother’s wheel and dated to around 1900, which would be smack in the middle of the time frame for CPWs.

She has the typical CPW cast iron “clamshell” tensioning devise, and the iron trivet treadle:

Her wheel crank is an “S” shape; the first time I have found one of these, instead of the usual “C” shape:

The crank has the most lovely, sinuous flow to it.

There is only minor damage on this wheel, and that is on the rim of the wheel itself. There is one spot that looks like it was dropped at one point:

The break appears to have been restained to cover the wood. Her maidens and mother of all are also a bit darker than the rest of the wheel, so perhaps were rubbed up with the same coloring. The rest of her wood is slightly lighter, like the wood in the lower part of her wheel above.

The one slight oddity (or not!) is her bobbin, which is very small, but fits the flyer. The top of the bobbin is the same diameter as the whorl, where, typicall, the top of the bobbin is larger. Here is the new wheel’s flyer assembly against another CPW’s flyer I am working on:

The new wheel’s flyer is on top. I tried the bottom flyer on the new wheel, but it will not fit. But a woodworker who makes replacement bobbins could make on with a larger top so you could spin a bobbin that holds more yarn, so this is by no means a fatal flaw.

Overall, she is a lovely-looking creature. In the upcoming week, she will get the standard bath in Murphy’s Oil Soap, some minor repair to one of her leathers, a good oiling, and she will be as good as new.


Rainy Day Rehab

April 28, 2011

I had off from work, it was a rainy day, I made some progress on the latest project wheel.

I mentioned in a previous post that the finish had turn into alligator skin. This is what the bench looks like after a washing with Murphy’s Oil Soap:

Lovely, huh? Let’s see a close-up of that:

Fortunately, it does come off. The amount of scrubbing is worth it, because there is lovely wood underneath. Here is the mother-of-all and flyer assembly relaxing after a rub-down with boiled linseed oil:

Can’t wait to get the whole thing looking like this!

Irish Castle Wheel

April 26, 2011

For those who don’t know this, on July 30 I will be exhibiting many of my antique and not-so-antique spinning wheels for the Monmouth County Historical Association in Holmdel, NJ. This means I have to now inventory and clean everyone, which was overdue any way. This is one of the major pieces that will be coming that day:

The flyer on this has made me a little nervous to work with it much. There isn’t much holding it up:

The other thing I was not used to when I got this was the footman, or lack there of. It is butcher’s twine.

Yes, it is dusty. That is why I am cleaning and oiling everyone. If anyone would like to volunteer to be my wheel-oiler-upper, feel free to step up. No money, long hours, must like cats, and the fiber you can digest!

A New Rehab Project

April 24, 2011


The successful rehabilitation of Bedelia back into a viable working wheel encouraged me to take a look at the wheels sitting on my basement workbench. Occasionally, I come across a wheel that is less than perfect and at a good price. I buy it with the intention of rehabilitiating it back into society, but, as we all know, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. So, my workbench has a gaggle of sadly ignored wheels in various states of disrepair.

I selected the one with the least amount of damage for my next project and started on the parts that remove the easiest, the flyer assembly:

The flyer is in mint condition, with no old mended splits and little to no surface rust. All its hooks are in good shape. It is just really, really dirty. Not sure where I acquired this wheel, but the several years it has spent in my basement has not improved the dirt status any. However, mercifully, the whorl unscrewed with no issues.

The core of the bobbin and whorl and flyer shaft all need to be degunked, but everything is in working order. I’m unsure what the actual old finish was. Everything got a hot bath in Murphy’s Oil Soap and, once dry, a going over with denatured alcohol. They cleaned up fairly easily.

The legs, for once, came out easily, too. Generally, these are so tightly wedged in you can’t get them to budge. These needed a little twisting but came out without much of a fight. Either end of the treadle inserts have heads on them, so the treadle does not detach out of the front legs. I started instead on the lone back leg. Below, the left side is untouched, the right side is cleaned:

The wood has a nice, warm, mellow color and is very dense. I’m thinking it is maple: it is clearly a hardwood species but does not have grain of oak. The old finish has a quality termed “alligatoring” for its scaly appearance:

I’ve had to use a little 0000 steel wool to get all of this off, that and a lot of elbow grease. But she is cleaning up nicely. Hopefully within the next week or so, I will manage to get her cleaned up and spinning again.

Shearing Day

April 20, 2011

A couple of Saturdays ago, my husband and I packed up the car for the day and headed off to Delaware for a  sheep shearing. I had met the owner several years ago at an event and this was the first time I’d been able to attend the shearing.

We arrived around 9:00 AM and were concerned that we’d missed much of the excitement. The fences were already festooned with shorn fleeces:

This turned out to be a warning for those who don’t patronize their fleece growers: this is all last year’s clip. As there was no market for the fleece, it was simply hung along the fence row to the benefit of the birds and mice.

The real tragedy here is that this is nice wool. The flock is primarily a merino/cheviot cross, with splashes of shetland and border leicester. If you are a handspinner, please buy fleeces from the breeders. Otherwise, this is what happens to the wool.

Arriving at the farm, we were greeted by the welcoming committee

Other barnyard representatives were more engrossed in each other:

And, of course, there were sheep:

Note the sheep on top of the hay roll. This girl was no dope — she had the best seat in the house!

Shearing was well under way and sheep were everywhere, in the pasture, being led from their field into the shearing pen, tied up along the fence row.

I was encouraged to see so many colored sheep. I love moorit fleeces and the blond outer coats generally mean a brown or moorit undercoat. Yet among the sheared sheep, so many had that lovely gunmetal blue-gray color.

This little guy was unconcerned about the shearing. He was more interested in the milk bar. Once lunch was through, he found himself a nice warm, wooly bed for a chilly spring morning.

Sheep were lined up for shearing. Not only was the farm’s flock being shorn, but 4-H members were trucking in their sheep, as well.

Thick and fast, they came at last, and more and more and more …

Sheared, they all began to look gray, so I started doing some fleece testing. Here is what appears to be a lovely, shaggy, light brown fleece.

However, part those locks and look at what is underneath:

This is Ralph’s lovely silver-gray fleece, one of many I acquired before the end of the day.

Here is another lovely and brown-looking fleece:

Yet under this seemingly-brown exterior:

A very black interior! Another buy by the end of the day.

The shearer was kept busy from 9 until 3, with several well-earned breaks. These were pretty big girls (and guys!) he was throwing around all day.

This is Colorado, another one of the big ram fleeces I bought off the hoof.

You can’t get fresher fleece that this! Still warm, and more of that lovely blue-gray.

By the mid-afternoon, almost 90 sheep had been sheared and returned to their pasture several pounds lighter.

And we returned from Delaware, several pound heavier:

So, now you know. You can put 19 raw fleeces in a Honda Civic. John likened this to a wool clown car.

Laugh if you like, but these are nice fleeces. Here is a sample of Daffodil’s fleece, unwased on the right and washed on the left. I am going to enjoy working with these!

Spring Spinning

April 18, 2011

I do, occasionally, still get to spin:

In between spinning wheel rescue and rehabilition efforts, sewing, and everything else that seems to eat up time, I did manage to spin up this skein. It is Northern Lights pencil roving, but I forget the colorway:

It has been sitting here since before Christmas, begging, “spin me.” Sometimes, there are just not enough hours in a day ….

Oops, I Did It Again!

April 14, 2011

Well, okay. Did I need another wheel? Hmm, probably not. But I didn’t have a bulky spinner. And I was trolling around on Craigslist and somehow got out around British Columbia, where bulky spinners are not uncommon, and well, um …

The seller was most accomodating. Truly, you can meet the nicest people in the world buying spinning wheels. This belonged to her husband’s Aunt Stella.

It was the most beautifully, well-packed box I’d gotten in a long, long time.

Love the graceful flyer — my husband said it reminded him of Nero’s lyre …

And the treadle looks a bit like the paddle of an oar …

Someone thought this might be what is called a “Mud River Spinner”?  If anyone knows the lineage of this wheel, please let me know. In the meantime, I just enjoy looking at her!