Emsket Fleece

May 22, 2011

Several times in the past, I have raved about the quality of Shetland fleeces from Windswept Shetlands in Michigan. Not only do you get quality fleeces, you also get quality service.

A few weeks ago, I e-mailed Windswept shepherd Mike Ludlam and inquired into an emsket fleece. Mike said they had just sheared and he would keep his eye open as he sorted and skirted. Then about two weeks ago, he e-mailed saying he had two fleeces from the same new ram: the lamb’s fleece and the first adult shearing. He indicated that the color had changed slightly; the first adult shearing was more of the steely blue-gray, but the lamb’s fleece was a bit more dramatic in its coloration.

Of course, I had both shipped out. The first adult shearing is a beautiful fleece, but, because it is a bit more dramatic, here is the lamb’s fleece:

This is another candidate to be spun in the grease. Thanks, Mike!


German Slanted Bench Wheel

May 15, 2011

There is a colloquial term for spinning wheels with slanted benches; they are called, not surprisingly, “slantys.” This is a very small slanty from Germany:

A little closer view, the other side:

This wheel is filled with all sorts of interesting points. First of all, it is a wedding wheel:

The drive band is a bit in the way, but the plaque reads: Helene Lemmer in Leidenhofen 1877.  Also, note the carving at the edge of the split bench. This is echoed around the edges of the tensioning area:

Note, too, that the tensioning knob is worn smooth from use. The flyer is in excellent condition:

The wheel is delicately and ornately carved; the carvings have lost much of their color over time, but you can still see the old paint:

Even the treadle is chip carved. An interesting point I have not seen before: the front legs go completely through the treadle bar and so it sits up slightly, about an inch of the front legs visible beneath it.

I found the drive wheel crank to be enchanting. I am used to working with the much larger Canadian Production Wheels. This crank is the same shape, but a fraction of the size:

The upper portion of the distaff is similar in carving, but appears to probably be either a replacement part or added from a different wheel:

But perhaps best of all, both the front and back of the bench are lined with tiny carved wooden bell shapes:

You can discern a bit more of her former paint job here; it looks like she had a line of arabesques and small flowers alongside her bench.

Other than the typical woodworm holes that most European wheels have, this slanty is in excellent condition. She is a lovely, sound wheel and I am looking forward to working with her.

New Jersey State History Fair 2011

May 9, 2011


For several years, one of our favorite living history events was the New Jersey State History Fair, “The Spirit of the Jerseys.” “The Jerseys” is a nod to the colonial distinction of East Jersey and West Jersey, although now we’ve factionalized to the point of being North, Central, South, and the Shore. Even with this, people will argue what is really the Shore, the Bruce-Springsteen-Asbury-Park Shore, or the Long Beach Island Shore.

It was nice to have a State History Fair, especially in New Jersey. We were one of the original 13 colonies, but, typically, everyone thinks history began when they were born and so don’t realize the state’s role in the past. This event brings together living history reenactors from all time periods to teach about the past. The Wool Merchant’s Daughter has always presented the handspinning demonstration.

Then, in 2010, deep budget cuts sanctioned by our new governor derailed the history fair. The original site of Washington’s Crossing State Park in Titusville, NJ, was a wonderful location but did not have a large base of volunteers who could assist with organization of the event. However, for 2011, the NJ Div. of Parks & Forestry (who, for reasons relatively obsure, also administrate historic sites in the state) found an alternate solution. They partnered with Allaire Village, Inc., a non-profit group that leases and runs the Historic Village at Allaire, located in Allaire State Park. Allaire Village, Inc. has a fairly large volunteer base and could contribute considerable support into organizing the event.

This change of venue was not a bad thing. Yes, it is all the way across the state from the original location, but happened to be 15 minutes from where we live. So, for once, we did not have to arise at the crack of dawn, dress in our 18th century rigs, and then drive clear across the state. It was much less stressful to put everything in the car Friday night, get up at a reasonable hour, and take a short hop to the event.

Yours truly, spinning away. In the midst of the thousand of other projects I’ve been working on, I finally found time to make a new dress. I loved the blue striped one I had worn in the past, but a girl needs a new gown every 7 years, at least! Plus, I was better versed in construction techniques and finally had the petticoats and skirts pleated correctly to fit over the panniers. It made for a much more comfortable experience.

And I did get some serious spinning done. I continued working on the musket shetland fleece cited in a much earlier post. I am spinning this one in the grease:

This fleece is from Windswept Shetlands, and I heartily recommend them if you a looking for good Shetland fleeces. A wide range of colors and the shepherd, Mike Ludlam, is a great guy to work with. This fleece is so clean, I just flick the longs with a historically incorrect dog comb and spin from the lock. This is the spinning so far on my Country Craftsman wheel:

Spinning in the grease allows for an easily-spun laceweight; the grease helps stick the fibers together so I can draw a long, thin thread. Here is the before and after, a finished washed skein on the basket of fleece:

And a close up of the finished skein:

Of course, I don’t knit laceweight, so I guess this means I am going to have to learn!

Another Day at the Spinning Wheel Spa

May 2, 2011


My newly-renovated porch and its 11 feet of counter space is certainly getting a workout today:

Lots of small parts in there, too, that don’t show up well in a long shot:

Everyone is getting a goodly coat of boiled linseed oil, including the newly-discovered Borduas wheel:

The mark really only shows from a very specific light angle and better when it is wet. I’m hoping the coat of oil will keep it visible.

The bench also has some damage that needs to be clamped:

I’m trying to get all the parts done before I start on the drive wheel. It has the same gloppy brown finish that the rest of the wheel had. What fun (not!) to get to clean all the spokes …

But I did find time for some spinning in all this!

Can this girl fill a bobbin, or what?

See You Later, Alligator!

May 1, 2011

And hello, Mr. Bordua!

So, in my spare time, I’ve been doing the “rainy day rehab” and cleaning up the dirty little Canadian Production Wheel that has been lurking in my basement since around 2003. I say “little” because it has a 27″ wheel, as opposed to the big girls with the 30″ wheel.

Her finish is really, really in bad shape. I had cleaned all the smaller parts and now had to face the bench with the uprights still in. Being a lovely spring day outside, I set up a workbench outside and hauled the cleaning supplies and wheel parts out in the sunshine.

I don’t know what the finish was on her, but it came off in great, brown, syrupy glops. It was really, really awful. But miraculously, beautiful, glowing golden wood began to appear and I took heart that she might actually look like something. She has some dents and dings that still need work, but there appeared to now be hope for her finish. All the alligator scales began vanishing.

When I began, she looked like this:

As her grain appeared, I noticed there was a pattern to it, sort of like a burling in the wood. I walked around her in the sunlight, and, by golly, what do you think?

When I finished, she looked like this:

Frederic Bordua, St. Hyacinthe

I just yesterday told someone I am never lucky enough to find a marked wheel, and here she has been in plain sight in my basement, lo these many years.

This will teach me to leave wheels sitting around unattended for so long!