Fiber Corner

Daily life of a knitting designer/publisher of handknitting patterns

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Where the Redbuds Bloom

That's where I was last week. Unfortunately, my pics of the Redbud trees didn't turn out so this shot of my lilac starting to bud will have to suffice--proof that spring really has finally arrived here in the upper Midwest.

My trip to the south was on account of a wheel. Not just any wheel, a Rick Reeves Frame wheel. My sister from a different mother (not really, it just feels that way) June contacted me last January to see if I'd want to buy it--she just had too many wheels and one of them had to go. I could hardly believe it. I had been very happy with my wheel family--the big Black Walnut Lendrum Saxony, my Ashford Traveller and little baby Joy. About the only thing that would tempt me to get another one was if a legendary Reeves wheel fell into my lap--and then one did!

Isn't it a beauty! (Please only look at the pretty wheel and not at the condition of the yard.)
The wood is Red Oak and it's a lovely warm honey color. I'm not sure when it was made, but it has the brass plate on the front, and is hand signed by Mr. Reeves on the back.

Oh, and I love the script R on the crank. The attention to detail is wonderful and the workmanship is absolutely stunning. I don't think I've ever seen anything this well made.
I love the on board storage for the extra whorls. Actually, this wheel came with two flyers (the regular and the large one), 6 bobbins (three for each flyer) and 6 whorls (again, three for each flyer). The ratios as I measured them are: 5.5:1, 6:1, 7.5:1, 9:1, 9.5:1, 10:1, 11.5:1, 12:1, 12.5:1, 14:1, and 15.25:1.

Another great feature of this wheel is that the mother of all can be placed at the center or to the right or left (or taken off completely when traveling).
As a left handed spinner it's great to be able to have the flyer on the right and be able to draft across my body instead of having to twist my body to the left when I want to long draw. Here's a shot of the bobbin in progress showing some woolen spun Shetland.
My first skein spun was this painted BFL roving. It shows the result of switching gears in midstream. This wheel has been very well cared for so wasn't in need of any special tender loving care to restore it, however, June had her set up for Scotch tension and I prefer spinning in double drive, so I switched out the drive band right away. It took awhile to get the hang of how it treadled (and we're still not totally in sync but I think we're definitely on the road to becoming friends).

The second skein was this laceweight Merino/Angora/Cashmere. Swapping out a second drive band with a softer cotton one made a big difference.
The first drive band I put on was some parachute cord that I'd gotten for my Traveller. It's a very tight cotton cord and has held up really well on that wheel, but on the Reeves it just made the take up too strong. So, thankfully, Roberta told me about the drive band material the Jensen wheels use (Strait Line cord--it's the stuff used for snapping chalk lines if you want to look for some) and it's much softer and more to my liking. I tend to spin with a very light take up, though, so YMMV.

A couple of people have asked for pics on how I sew a drive band on so even though this post is already picture intensive, I'm going to add on a bunch more to demonstrate it. This is something that Susan McFarland (of Susan's Fiber Shop) once showed me how to do.

First tie the new drive band on--you want to make sure you've got the right length and it will work with all the whorl/bobbin combinations on your wheel. Then, untie the knot and pinch that section tightly. Once you have it securely in your fingers, you can ease off the tension on the drive band so there's a little slack--makes it easier to sew.
Pierce both strands of the cord with a needle, wrap it around and repeat.
It's easiest to work from the middle out leaving a long tail. After you go one direction, thread the tail onto the needle and move the other direction. You only need to really sew through both strands for about a half inch total, then you can just wrap the thread around the two strands a little bit.
Once the band is sewn, you can cut off the remaining tail of cord and to keep the little ends from fraying, drip some candle wax on them.
It's a good idea to really get the drive band out of the way of the wheel when you do this because you don't want to drip hot wax on the beautiful wood.
Then, when the wax is still warm, rub the whole sewn section back and forth in the palm of your hands. This sort of melds the whole thing together and prevents it from getting stiff. Done. No knots to get in the way of your spinning--only smooth sailing...

...make that smooth spinning.

Sunday, April 12, 2009


Renewal, it's in the air. The early spring bulbs have pushed their heads towards the sun and are showing their colors. It's amazing, too, what a few days listening to the ocean can do for one's soul.

Every trip to Hawaii seems to bring a few new surprises. This time around, it was delving into some of the more cultural aspects of the Hawaiian people. We learned to start each day with the Oli Mahalo or the Chant of Gratitude. You can see the words of it and hear the students of the Kamehameha school saying it here. It's very nice, I highly recommend.

I also took a short class in Hawaiian quilting. It had to happen eventually. Years ago when quilting classes first appeared on PBS (or I noticed them for the first time), the only one that ever appealed to me was one short series on Hawaiian quilting. It's different than regular patchwork where you cut up and reattach different pieces of material. In Hawaiian quilting it's all handwork, and generally only two colors.

Here's my class piece. The pineapple symbolizes friendship. The whole thing is appliqued as it is worked--just turning the raw edge over with the tip of the needle. And then, it's quilted in a series of waves around the center. Generally the piece is symmetrical with the pattern folded and cut out as we would when making paper snowflakes. It's then basted on the background fabric. My first small project is this eyeglass case. I figured it was the equivalent of a knitted hat and something small enough to finish before I forgot how to do it. The pattern is the Ulu or Breadfruit symbolizing happiness.
Next up was Lauhala weaving. I had never heard of this before and my teachers said it was something generally taught in an oral tradition. The Hala tree isn't really a palm but that's the closest thing I can think of to describe it. The leaves are dried and cleaned (they have pretty sharp barbs or thorns on them, too) and then woven into some of the most gorgeous products. The hats are absolutely amazing! And, the hand sewn feather bands used to adorn them are more beautiful than anything I've ever seen.

As beginners, we didn't do anything too intricate. Made a simple pattern for a bracelet.
The teachers were quite the taskmasters and insisted on precision. I'm really happy with how mine turned out. I would have loved to have made a fan. The examples of those were so beautiful.

In case you're wondering if I did any knitting at all, let me tell you, I did. Lots of it. But since I took so many different projects along, none of them are finished. I didn't want any technology with me so left my laptop at home but took my Knitter's Journal with me to record the new designs. It was with me every early morning as I sat on the beach and watched it come to life.
If you've not seen the inside of one of these journals, here's a couple of pics. Pages of graphs of different sizes are scattered throughout, and
many pages show lines drawings from Meg and EZ along with many of their quotes.
They're very nice books and I highly recommend them. Sometimes it's just nice to have a book in your hand and work things out the "old fashioned" way.

But, sometimes the old ways are the best ways. They allow you to slow down and stay right there, in the moment.