Winsome Timbers by Ken Lennox

May 24, 2015

In the late ‘90s and early-to-mid aughts, a wheelwright named Ken Lennox made some lovely artisan spinning wheels in several styles. In addition to a traditional Saxony and a 30” production wheel, he made an Irish Castle wheel known as the Fiona and a sort of chair wheel called Bonnie.

Recently, there has been some increased interest in the Lennox wheels. I previously blogged about the Fiona Irish Castle wheel in a post called “Castle Wheel or Oil Derrick?,” a reference to the wheel’s height. I subsequently acquired a Bonnie but never blogged about her (hey, I can’t put ALL of them up here!).

But with the recent interest, a reader asked to see more about Bonnie, so your wish, gentle reader, is my command. Here are the Fiona and the Bonnie together.

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Unfortunately, you don’t quite get the perspective, do you? I borrowed a willing gentleman of about 5’11” to pose with the wheels.

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That castle wheel is big! But we’ve been down that road before, so let’s look at the Bonnie:

lennox 03Pretty wheel with the same features as the Fiona, but without the height. Same double-treadles, mounts for the extra whorls, and spindles for the extra bobbins (not installed here). There is a flax distaff, as well, also not shown. According to the original sales description, her features are:

Bonnie – 16″ Traveler Spinning Wheel

Bonnie measures orifice to floor 29 1/2“ and can be made in either double treadle or single treadle. She is equipped with 12 spokes, threading hook, 4 (4oz.) bobbins, flax cup, and 3 whorls with standard ratios: 5.6-1, 6.4-1, 7.3-1, 8.0-1, 8.8-1, 9.5-1. The three additional bobbins are attached to the frame. Scotch tension is featured on all of the Lennox Spinning Wheels. Bonnie is made only of cherry wood.

Some interesting features. Here is the screw-turn disc to tension the drive band. Turn the disk to raise or lower the flyer assembly and tighten or loosen the band.

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The water cup if you are spinning flax:

lennox 07And my personal favorite, because I always lose these or the cats drag them off to play with, a built-in orifice hook:

lennox 06Here are the extra whorls:

lennox 08On the back leg, just under the largest whorl, is the maker’s mark burned into the wood: At last! A wheel maker who signed, dated and NUMBERED his wheels! If you collect antique wheels, you know how frustrating this lack of information can be!

lennox 09The Lennox wheels are no longer available, but a former dealer has kept their information posted for historical reference. You can learn more about the wheels and their styles here. Keep in mind that this is an old page and the wheels shown are not available, so please don’t bombard the shop with requests for wheels!

Overall, it is a very pretty wheel and a fine spinner. I was happy to be able to reunite her with her sister, Fiona!

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Just a Quick One!

May 17, 2015

Sometimes, a picture is worth a thousand words. This is another “summer is coming” project for messy hair.


The yarn is Debbie Bliss Cotton DK and the color is 13069, which sadly does not do it justice! It is a lovely peapod green and I enjoyed working with it so much, I’m thinking of ordering more for a summer top. The pattern is the headband part of the “Super Bulky Acorn Hat” from Vermont Farmhouse Designs and is available through Ravelry.

Can Summer be Far Behind?

May 9, 2015

The permasnow of February and March finally seems to be a thing of the past, the spring flowers are in bloom, and thoughts turn towards … the beach.

Last year, I found myself wishing for a nice summer headwrap. We’d leave the beach and stop off at the ice cream shop and my hair was going in every direction. I just wanted something small and light to throw on and look halfway neat.

I found my pattern in Kristeen Griffen-Grimes’s book, French Girl Knits Accessories. This is the pattern, Jasmin.

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I had the book before the yarn. I had noted several patterns I liked and thought I would make, but let’s face it. I will never get to knit all the patterns I admire in this lifetime, let alone the next. So, the book was shelved for the moment.

In November, we stopped at Creative Fibers in Windsor, Connecticut, when coming home from the New England Fiber Festival. On that stop, I picked up two skeins of Louise Harding’s Noema in the Cocktail colorway, purely because I liked the colors.

During the snowy February, I was revisiting pattern books and found Jasmin again. Somewhere, my mental database matched up Jasmin to Noema and there you go.

I broke one cardinal rule here: if you want the yarn to pop, use a plain stitch; if you want the pattern to pop, use a plain yarn. The delicate tracery of leaves sort of got lost in all the color.

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An unintended design plus, however, was the subtle self-striping that, with the lace pattern, turned into a zig-zag pattern.


There is no schematic drawing with the pattern, but the shape is a sort of oblong with two long ties on each end.

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There is a nice edge stitch formed mainly with yarnovers.

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And the ties are a little like netting; they are also a series of yarnovers.

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A success, although if I had to do it over again, I would not graft the two sides in the center, just knit from side to side and then pick up stitches along the cast-on for the tie. I’m not proficient in provisional cast-ons so I wrestled with this a bit. It would be easier to just knit it strait across. But whatever the construction technique, the wrap is lightweight and lovely for the summer. And I won’t look quite so messy stopping off for ice cream!

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April 13, 2015

Winter finally is moving on. The garden is again coming to life with daffodils following in the witch hazel’s wake. April is usually good for one snowstorm, so we’ll see if we can get by without. In any event, spring is here and, as much as I love working with wool, I am so ready for something lighter!

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Well, okay, it is 49% wool. But 51% silk! This is two skeins of Noro Kogarashi I have marinating in my stash. It is not a yarn I typically would buy, but when The Woolly Lamb in Pennington, NJ, closed, the sales were too good to resist. Two skeins came home with me and promptly went into Tupperware to wait. I knew I had the perfect fit when I found this pattern:

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This is “Lichen” by designer Larissa Brown and my hat’s off to Larissa because this is one of the most interesting, deceptive, simple patterns I’ve come across. You start out (at least I did!) thinking it is going to be complicated. You cast on and, after a few rows, think “I didn’t do this right.” Then you get into the increases and bind-offs that make the levels and you go “Ah!.” Just count your row, count your yarn-overs, count your bind-offs. Level by level, you step down and around in a spiral until you run out of yarn.

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The yardage on the Noro was perfect; I think I had about a 15 inch section left. Long enough that the cast-on end is on my left shoulder, and after two wraps around, the cast-off end is on my right.

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Add a shawl pin picked up at Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival, and I’m ready to go.

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This, to me, was one of the most fascinating pieces I’ve knitted.

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It goes around and around.

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And the colors lay perfectly within the stitches.

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At the widest point, it is only about 10 inches wide, but 5 or 6 feet long.

Love it! I plan on wearing it for long walks on the boardwalk in the evenings this summer. Carefully arrayed or quickly tossed on, it looks smashing no matter how you wear it!

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April 4, 2015

With Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival looming on the horizon, it seemed a good idea to make some headway spinning up a fleece I bought at last year’s event. It is a lovely moorit Finnsheep fleece that went through only the most basic of preps. I gave it a hot water rinse that took off what little surface grime there was but left most of the lanolin.

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Rather than send it out to be roved, I am using my favorite method: dog combs.

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These are possibly the cheapest pieces of fiber equipment you will ever come across. I have a set of large Indigo Hound combs and a set of Viking mini combs and, frankly, they scare me to use them because they are so sharp. I’m always afraid that the cats will abruptly jump up when I’m using them and impale themselves. But the dog combs have blunt tines and you can use either the wide-set teeth or the close-set. For my purposes, they work great. I hold a lock by the cut end, flick open the tip, then turn it around and flick the cut end. Works great.

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The only adjustment I had to make in spinning this was to make the final strand a 3-ply. There was far more variation in the fleece color than first met the eye. The first skeins were 2-ply and, when knitted into gloves and caps, had too much of a color change from place to place. The remedy was to make a 3-ply strand that distributed the colorations better throughout.

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These skeins are about 250 yards each, and there is still plenty of fleece in the basket! I will try to make headway on it, spin it down, and justify another one at this year’s MSWF.


… But This One Was Just Right!

March 22, 2015

This is a story of gauge and needle size. I admit I am something of an indifferent knitter. In fact, I’ve often said if I ever wrote a book about knitting, I would use that as the title. I’m not a gauge person. I’m not a swatch person, except maybe with handspun because handspun can be tricksey.

I am also a person who does not like the cold and have mentioned this before. I am on a quest to come up with the warmest, most comfortable wooly knits to ward off the cold. I have experimented with various neck gaiters, cowls, and scaves to come up with the best for warding off a chill.

I found a pattern on Ravelry called Eiswein that I absolutely loved. It was a lace pattern for a bulky yarn and had lots of interest like bobbles and picot edges. The photo of the finished object was eye-catching. I had some skeins of Lion Brand Alpine Wool in my stash. I also unearth a couple of balls of Crystal Palace “Iceland” lopi-style yarn in an ice blue color. I was set.

The results were a little bit Goldilocks — the first was too big, the second too small, but the third was just right.

cowls 01

The top cowl is from Lion Brand Alpine Wool in Oatmeal. I used the requested Size 11 and Size 10.5 needles that the pattern called for. The lower part was okay, but the neck was far too wide.

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I admit I have a bit of a scrawny neck. If women’s shirts were sized like men’s, I’d take a 16 collar. Even though this followed the pattern, it was way too loose.

cowl 04

Back to the drawing board. Next I tried the same yarn in the “Chili” colorway. This actually was my second favorite color of this yarn, the first being the sadly discontinued “Cinnamon”: even an e-mail query to the company about possibly bringing back the color failed to get any type of response. At least they could have been polite and said “no, we stand by our decision to discontinue a really awesome color.” Anyway, with the chili red yarn, I made the error of using the 10.5 needle on the lower half of the piece. I used size 8 on the neck. The neck was okay with the smaller needles, but the body of the piece lost definition.

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The smaller needle made for a thicker, tighter fabric but made the piece overall too small.

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Back to the drawing board, again. This time. I found the Crystal Palace “Iceland.” I had bought this on sale from an on-line yarn store when it was on clearance and at a ridiculously low price. So it marinated in the stash, waiting for the proper moment. This time, I used Size 13 needles for the body, size 9 needles for the 2 rows BEFORE the neck decrease and the 2 rows after, and then a size 6 to finish the neck. That worked.

cowl 03

This needle combination gave me a wider sweep of the body of the piece and allowed for better definition of the lace pattern. The size 9 nipped the neck in a little more snug than before but not too tight. The size 6 for the neck I originally though was too tight, but after a couple of wearings, it stretched just enough so that it doesn’t bag but allows for an easy on/off.

cowl 02

The one thing I may still do is go back and add a few rows to the neck to make it a bit higher. I like it to the chin and this is a tiny bit lower another 2-3 rows should bump it up just fine. But taking everything else into account, this one was just right!


East Coast Fog

March 19, 2015

There is this really great pattern for fingerless mitts. It is called “Vancouver Fog” and I found it using Ravelry’s pattern search. Last autumn, I was looking for a mitt pattern that had some interest, maybe cables. This one fit the bill:

mitts 01

The pattern comes in two lengths: this is the shorter version. If you want them longer, you could do another pattern repeat of the cable. I found, though, that these are plenty long. Good to protect your wrists when sneak up on the little folk in the garden!

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One slight pattern change that I made: I kept the K2xP2 rib all the way throughout the palm side for a snugger fit, hence the variation to the “East Coast Fog”:

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Sadly, I don’t know what this yarn is! It had been marinating in my stash for some time. I believe it is alpaca or alpaca and wool. It probably came from the closing of The Woolley Lamb in Pennington, NJ but had long ago lost its ball band. However, it worked great for my purposes here.

I live in a small town and I had a number of people admire these. So much so, one of my young friends intimated that where she liked to dress mainly in black and grey, she liked to accessorize in pink. I rooted around in my stash, found 2 skeins of Jil Eaton Minnow Merino in Ice Pink, and so a second pair appeared:

mitts 05

Santa Claus delivered these to my young friend and she claimed it made all her friends insanely jealous. Not that that was the goal, but it is a nice compliment. She wore them all winter and, as she has a job that requires her to sometimes be outdoors and have use of her hands to write, they were a big success.

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Orange. Pink. Another friend, another admiration society. This resulted in nut just mitts, but a matching neck gaiter, too:

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I forget the brand, but this is a 50/50 wool/silk blend in the color, “Lipstick.” The mitts, the same as previously knitted. I had almost memorized the pattern by this point:

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The gaiter, the antler cable lined with fun-fur and closed with some silvery Celtic-knot buttons:

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At this point, I was getting a little wound-down about the mitts when I realized that I was heading off to work in a red topcoat and the orange autumn mitts. Uh-oh. Another raid on the stash (notice that theme keeps coming up?), and some Frog Tree Merino in a red that almost matched my coat:

mitts 1

Notice the snowbank is practically all ice. Once it snowed this winter (and snowed. and snowed.), it never seemed to melt, just ice over and stay there. Definitely the winter for warm woolly items:

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The Vancouver Fog mitts pattern is easier than you’d think. Don’t be afraid to tackle the cables; you just do what the pattern says and you will be fine. And warm. And with this winter, warm was a big deal!

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