Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Many Photos

 I really wanted to tell you all what's going on around here before I run off to SOAR at the end of the week. Don't let that stop you from coming in though.  Carol will be in the shop and she is much nicer than me.

 School is progressing.  Maggie has been working so hard this year and even choosing to do some of the optional projects in her curriculum. She did a study of bird beaks and how to tell what kind of food they eat by the shape of their beak. And there was a project she could choose which was to make a bird feeder.  I thought she'd want to do something out of wood but one morning I came down to her cutting up 2 liter bottles. She came up with this design all on her own. The cap on the upper one is holding all of the strings in place and also serves to keep the squirrels out of the feeder.  I thought it was pretty clever.

Two weeks ago we got in 3 wheels from the Bluebonnet Spinning Wheel Company located in Texas.  I wanted to carry these wheels because they are very pretty and also they have a wide range of prices to suit any budget.
 This first one is their most basic model called the Honey Bee.  The treadles fold up and it gets pretty flat.
 It's very sturdy and solid. Sells for $299.95.  This is a great place to begin if you don;t have a bunch of money to invest but want a wood wheel.  It's solid Oak or Maple.  I wouldn't say this is a great travel option due to its weight but I would say it will go easily to guild meetings and classes that you will be driving to.
 It's Scotch Tension and comes with ratio sizes with more available when you want them.
 As you can see, it's pretty basic but it feels good to spin on.
 Next up is the Shamrock wheel. See that cute little shamrock on top?  It's just for pretty and it does its job.
 This is another very affordable wheel with lovely wood.  It's a great option if you have a limited budget but want something that looks beautiful.

 And then the one I was dying to play with.  This is the Thimble Wheel and more specifically the Fairy Thimble.  There are many models of Thimble wheels but I loved the cut outs on this one.
 This wheel does fold.
 I think it's a tiny bit vibraty when spinning but I'm also pretty picky.
 Another interesting thing about these wheels is that the bobbins have bearings in them.  the spinning is smooth.
 Next on my list of things to talk about is the class that just happened this weekend.  Amy King of Spunky Eclectic and Spin Control Fame was here all weekend.  Friday night we learned Nuno Felting. I was prepeared to be annoyed by it but I actually liked doing it.  i made an orange scarf. Also, forgot to take photos.  I was very busy.
 Saturday was a class about how to analyze those mill spun yarns you've been wanting to make.  We learned a huge amount about yarn construction, twist and how to reproduce it.
Sunday was weaving with handspun.  We learned a lot about how to know if the yarns you have are appropriate for warps and how to make yarns - even singles - work in your weaving projects.  We also learned about how different kinds of looms will make a difference in what yarns you can use.

Then Amy went back to Spunky land to prepare for SOAR... which brings me to my next topic.
I'm getting ready to go to SOAR too.  This box had all of the little business card size labels I had printed. Each student in my 3 day class will get 3 cards for each breed.
Those three cards went into a page protector with a sheet of cardstock.  The cardstock is color coded by the wool category. So each student will have 17 sheets, one for each breed, 5 colors for the 5 categories we will cover. 
All of it is already on its way to New Hampshire.  I shipped the wool and handouts yesterday.
My plans for this afternoon include packing my clothes and seeing what I need to wash.  My hand tools and wool for day one are already in another suitcase that I will carry with me and my samples will be in my carry on.
I'm almost ready to go...I just need some snacks!

Friday, September 09, 2011

The Next Great Bag Search

 This first photo is for Jillian.  Just because. Orange Crystals on Pink yarn would be lovely I think.

OK.  On to the search.  A little background. I finally bought myself a travel wheel this year.  A Schacht Sidekick. I never found one that I loved enough to own before but this was the one.  It folds compactly and is easy to throw over your shoulder and take to classes, spin ins and guild meetings.  One drawback is that it's a bit too tall to take as a carry-on on an airplane.  So now I need to figure out how to transport the thing when I am going to teach at places that aren't in driving distance. SOAR is coming in just 3 weeks. I'm running out of time to plan my packing.

More background. When we went to Peru in November I went to Marshalls and purchased a hard side suitcase with spinner wheels.  Most hard side suitcases only come with spinner wheels these days. I filled it with fiber and a spinning wheel and a charkha.  It weighed just under 50 pounds with all of the stuff in it. I checked it in Detroit and the next time I saw it was in Lima when I had to pick up my bags for customs. Did it come off in Detroit or at the flight change in Florida? I don't know but for the rest of the trip that suitcase was horrible to drag around.

I save the receipt and the tags that came with the bag. No warranty on the wheels coming off when flying. Bummer.

So now I need another bag because that one went to the garbage. I want something hard sided and light weight since the Sidekick is 13 pounds. I also want something with some kind of guarantee. So I decided to go to the actual luggage store.
 The first bag we tried was a carry on size duffel with a zipper part in the bottom.  It didn't work because the drive wheel is a tiny bit too wide and about an inch too high.
 Not sure if this photo shows it very well...
 Here's another carry on bag...not cuttin' it.
 Camparison of size with another carry on.  Thing is, the wheel might work on its own as a carryon but I would hate to risk it. I've been on flights where they made me put my carry on under the plane. That would be sad.
 Another view.  So we started to look at other options.

 I like that one. There is a stretchy strap to keep it in place with a zippered bit that goes over top as well as room all around the wheel so I can wrap it in bubble wrap before packing it.  I wish it were a bright color but I can't complain too much. It's also very sturdy and resists very well when I try to push the sides in. This one also comes in silver.

 I like the look of that one (it's shiny) but it didn't have the extra protection of the stretchy band to go over the wheel. This one also comes in red.

 That one was a bit too small. Very little room around the edges and I want to be able to put some buffering all around before I trust it to an airplane.

 This is the from the same collection but bigger. I love the look of this one and the wheel fits very nicely and the interior is pretty lovely. No other colors are available.
 So we've narrowed it down to these three. Pretty, sturdy, shiny..
 Ok, I got rid of pretty because it wasn't as sturdy/strong as the other two. Then I had to make a final decision.
I went with very sturdy in silver.
Also, since I purchased this at the Samsonite store I get a 10 year warranty where the wheels are covered. The delightful person who was helping me (I forgot her name because I am a nit wit) was fantastic and yes, I could have gotten this cheaper on line. but I spent over an hour in the store and this woman was so helpful and smiley and put up with all of my pulling things down that I want their store to stay there. I will definitely shop there again.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Ashford Limited Edition 30" Elizabeth

Before I start talking about the new wheels I got in this week I just wanted to show you a bit of spinning that isn't a natural .  I've begun working again on the Mythos sweater I started last year.  I am almost to the halfway point and realized I won't have enough yarn so I spun up another 350 yards. It's three ply.

I've done a bit of searching and it seems I never talked about this project here on the blog.  Here is the link to the pattern.  I've spun some Australian wool top dyed by Chelsea.  If you are a member of Ravelry, the thread is in the Spinning Loft Group.  I talked about making Mythos and also Tappan Zee.  Tappan Zee is finished and I love it.  
I wear this sweater a lot.  It's practical and pretty. The pattern has no sleeves but I added 3/4 length sleeves to it.  The top is made from merino batts blended by Abby and the light pink is Corriedale/Alpaca dyed by Amy King.
Time to finish Mythos.

A little background on the Ashford Elizabeth.  I am a fan.  When I heard in the spring there would be a limited edition of 30 Inch wheels available I immediately asked for 2 with the double treadle option.  They are here now!  This post could be considered a review of both the 24 inch Elizabeth as well as the limited edition 30" as they are basically the same except for the drive wheel size.  (Also, the 30" has a split bench and the 24" wheel sits completely above the bench.....)
The grey plastic knob allows the spinner to adjust the position of the Mother of All to be in alignment with the drive wheel.  It has the capability of Scotch Tension as well as Double Drive.  I didn't try to set it up in Irish Tension.  I should try it.  Based on the position of the spring and brake band I'm not sure it will work very well though.  I'll check.

The larger knob here is for adjusting the position of the Mother of All for loosening and tightening the drive band.  The one on the right is the orifice hook which is stored there.  Here are my two little picky things about this.  If adjusting the MoA position I need to remove the hook as the handles are too close together for my hands.  Also, I am right handed and the hook is on the left sid of the bench when I am spinning so it's inconvenient to grab.

Under the bench there is another grey plastic knob which is tightened when the spinner gets the drive band tension just right.  Tightening this knob keeps the Mother of All from wiggling out of place.

Also under the bench is the signature which reads Richard and Elizabeth Ashford.  The 24" Elizabeths are not signed. (yes, it's up side down.)

This phot shows  the crank and where the crank shaft enters the uprights.  You can see the sealed bearings sitting in the upright.  There is one on each side of the drive wheel.  This addition makes this wheel spin effortlessly.  It makes such a huge difference in the spinning.  Really.
The crank design is pretty good but for me makes for a treadle stroke that I wish was a bit longer.  Again, that is a very picky complaint and not a HUGE problem.

Here she is from the audience side amidst all of the packing material I removed from the drive wheel.
And a view from the spinner's side.  So pretty.
This wheel came with the Ashford Competition Kate.  I love this lazy kate.  It's in my top 5 kates.  It's tensioned and very portable.  I was excited to see this included with this wheel.

So here are my thoughts.  I love this wheel.  I think for anyone looking for a production size spinning wheel or a wheel to spin fast and fine, this is a real contender.  As I said, treadling is  effortless and spinning on this wheel for long lengths of time would be not tiring at all.  
The flyer has 3 whorl sizes which give ratios of 10.5:1, 13.5:1 and 18:1.  There is a high speed kit available which would speed things up significantly but I found the 18:1 to be pretty great.  For longdraw spinning I'm sure I would want the faster ratios.
And one more very picky thing (and I say this about many Ashford products). I do not love the plastic/nylon knobs.  Just throws me a bit.  I'm glad the color has been changed in the last few years so they kind of blend into the background.
As you can see, I only had a few very picky things.  I definitely would own this wheel.

This is very tempting...do I need another wheel?