January’s Garden Update

January 28, 2013


Today, I take a brief respite from wheels and spinning and wool and knitting to revisit an earlier love. My gardens. I achieved a fairly large goal I had set for myself; I have something blooming in my garden 12 months out of the year.

I didn’t get as much work on wheel restoration, or on knitting, done in 2012 because I doing a fairly complete overhaul of the gardens. I had several visions of what I wanted and realized that, not getting any younger, if I didn’t focus on the gardens in 2012 I probably would never get around to what I wanted.

The overhaul included the laying of much rock. Somewhere, one of my long-past Irish ancestors is probably slapping their knee and thinking “here’s a chip off the old stonewall-setting block.” There was also much planting. MUCH planting. So far, the majority seem to be making it through the winter and promise some wonderful photo ops throughout the year.

On this day of snow and sleet, the witch hazels are blooming:

witch hazel 1

This was the first witch hazel I’d ever put in, going back almost ten years. It is supposed to be “Jelena” but I think it was mislabeled, as Jelena is a bright coppery orange and this clearly is reddish. It had been in the front garden where it was largely unnoticed, but when I set the raised stone bed in the back yard, I moved this to be in front of the slate.

january 2013 065

That is a “Janet Blair” rhody right behind and I’m hoping for some nice blooms, given the size of the buds. I like witch hazels because they always remind me of little bursts of fireworks:

witch hazel 3

The Jelena bloomed very well in its new spot. Its former spot is now occupied by another witch hazel, but one with showier blooms, “Barmstedt’s Gold:”

witch hazel 4

Barmstedt’s Gold shows up much better against the evergreen foliage of a spring-blooming camelia (and note the HUGE bud on the camelia, if the squirrels don’t get them!). Also, even though it doesn’t show in the photos, the Barmstedt’s is behind a sango kaku, a type of Japanese maple with coral-colored bark. I’m hoping the Barmstedt’s will fill out and provide a yellow backdrop to the red bark during late winter.

witch hazel 5

The Barmstedt’s is just opening up; while the reddish on is pretty much full bloomed. Plenty of buds to come on the Barmstedt’s, through:

witch hazel 6

And despite the snow, the sleet, the freezing rain, the garden is now full of promise for the spring to come:

witch hazel 7




Remembering Summer …

January 24, 2013


On a night when it is almost unthinkably cold for around here (going down to 8 Fahrenheit!), I revisited some photos of the summer and found these . This is just a little feather and fan scarf I knitted out of my handspun yarn.

fan scarf 1

I was glad to see my hydrangeas in the background, and the birch tree that survived Hurricane Sandy, although the white trellis had to be tossed in the garage to save it from the wind.


fac scarf 2

I like seeing vibrant colors against a green and sunny background on this freezing cold night.

fan scarf 3

The scarf went for a Christmas gift to someone who adored the colors. I hope it is keeping them warm these more than chilly days!




Spinning Wheel Flyers and What to Look For (or Not)

January 19, 2013

This is one of an occasional series on evaluating an antique or vintage spinning wheel. Whether you are the buyer or the seller, you need to know what to look for when dealing with one of these babies. They can be excellent options over a newly-manufactured wheel, if you know what you are looking at.

We discussed flyers in a previous post, but as this is probably the main working part of a wheel, want to delve a little deeper into the topic. This is an example of an antique flyer in excellent shape:

flyer 2

This, unfortunately, is not:

vezina flyer 01

These are both flyers from Canadian Production Wheels. The upper flyer is a probable Bordua, the lower is one of the Vezina family. The Vezina wheel is dated from the 1870s, so this flyer has been around somewhat longer than the one above it, hence the additional wear. While you could still spin on it to some very little extent, it is an accident waiting to happen.

The flyer hooks are all a potential tetanus hazard:

vezina flyer 02

If the rest of the flyer was in good shape, all these hooks, on this arm and the other, would need to be pulled and replaced.

The bobbin and whorl also showed signs of being dropped, or being dropped on:

vezina flyer 05

Not fatal flaws, but not perfect specimens. And the chip in the bobbin could interfere with the amount of yarn spun on.

The most glaring deficiency is the functional repair holding the arms of the flyer together:

vezina flyer 03

And the other side:

vezina flyer other side 04

Functional repairs are a part of the piece’s history. This wheel, which is an excellent spinner, was obviously well-used by someone who wanted to keep it going. But eventually, most repaired areas give up the ghost and that is exactly what happened with this flyer. It had been lashed together for who-knows-how-long but when the whorl and bobbin were removed, the spine would drop out of the flyer base. If the spine is loose enough to turn by itself and does not turn the flyer, the wheel will not spin yarn.

The saving grace here is that the original spine is available to use as the basis for a new flyer, and that is exactly where this flyer was packed off to. It is currently in the hands of a wheel restoration expert who is building a new flyer that will use the existing spine, bobbin, and whorl. This is not as expensive as having a missing flyer assembly built from scratch, but it still is an added expense over the original cost of the wheel.

If you are buying a wheel with a flyer in similar condition, you need to calculate the cost of a rebuilt flyer against the asking price. If you are selling a wheel with a flyer in similar condition, you also need to calculate what someone will need to spend to bring the wheel back to working condition so you don’t overprice the piece.