Archives for posts with tag: spinning wheel




1 skein of Sundara Sock Yarn in Roasted Persimmon over Green Papaya, Seasons Sock Club, Autumn, October 2008 shipment: $25.

Average monthly per capita income in Cambodia: $24.16


Ashford Traditional single-drive, lacquered, single-treadle spinning wheel: $535

The gross national income per capita in Benin, 2006: $540

The theme of this year’s Blog Action Day is Poverty. All over the blogosphere, people are writing about poverty and how it relates to their little corner of the world.

I don’t hold a lot of illusions about people stopping their yarn stashing, eating out at restaurants, buying new clothes, going to the movies, or what have you, and donating all that money to charity instead while living a virtuous, ascetic life in the cheapest place they can afford. It’s just not the way things work in this day and age and place, for the vast majority of people. I’m certainly not saintly enough to live that simply. And despite their ideals, people have a strong tendency to want to spend their hard-earned money on fun stuff rather than donating it to someone they don’t know and will never meet.

Knitters, crocheters, spinners, weavers, let me suggest 3 simple actions that will change little about the way you live your happy, well-fed, yarn-filled life from day to day, but will make a difference (be it ever so slight) in fighting global poverty–and without making you feel guilty about spending your money as you please:
1) Download the AidMaker browser plugin and shop online as usual. When you shop from online stores like the Apple Store (or Ultimate Colon Cleanse, apparently!) while using this browser plugin, AGoodCause.com receives a commission, which (aside from operating costs) they then donate to the charity of your choice, at no extra cost to you. Let’s say you go to Amazon and buy Knitted Lace of Estonia or some Cascade 220 yarn–or even an Ashford Kiwi spinning wheel–they’ll donate 3% of your purchase price to the charity of your choice, without you spending an extra dime.
2) When you feel like you need a shopping fix, or decide you could use some retail therapy, consider going to a charity site instead and spending your money on a charitable donation. If you’re a stasher, you can just pretend you bought some yarn and it went straight into the stash, hidden under the bed or in a drawer out of sight somewhere. But instead, you can spend the money on a sheep, llama, or goat from Heifer International, a camel from Mercy Corps, or a loan to a textiles entrepreneur via Kiva.org (at the moment, one of the open loans seeking lenders is for a group of Peruvian weavers trying to start a textiles factory)
3) Or if you feel like you need something tangible as a result of your shopping spree, consider spending money on products that help the economies of developing countries. You could buy some yarns via The Hunger Site–that angora-cotton blend looks especially tempting, doesn’t it? In your LYS, a few yarn brands you can look at include the Snow Leopard Trust, Manos del Uruguay, Malabrigo, Shokay, Lantern Moon, and Mirasol. If you’re feeling indulgent, splurge on some qiviut from the Oomingmak cooperative. If you’re feeling even more indulgent than that, how about some vicuna at $300 per 28.5 grams? According to Peace of Yarn, after maintaining state control and protection of the wild vicuna herds since 1825, the Peruvian government “handed ownership of the animals back to the common villagers of the country, creating a viable and stable source of income for struggling villagers” by sponsoring traditional shearing days called chacus in which the vicunas are trapped using traditional methods, sheared, and released.

So in honor of today, I’m going to go install that plugin, lend some money via Kiva, and ogle qiviut on Ravelry for a while.

P.S. I just bought the Ashford Traditional used on Craigslist and it was actually closer to the GNI per capita of Afghanistan. I’m pretty excited about it–I’ll have enough bobbins to actually do a two-ply without having to wind off into centerpull balls! Lots of ratios! A nice big drive wheel! I can adjust twist and pull separately using the Scotch tension!–though I’m surprisingly feeling sort of anxious and attached about selling my old wheel. It’s prettier, and easier to treadle.

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So before I go on to talk about some more spinning stuff, I’d like to ask you to take a look at my friend Fee’s new Etsy shop, saibhriot.etsy.com, to see if anything catches your eye. As she blogged about here, her husband, who is only 35 years old, recently discovered that he has a tumor in his colon and will need to have an operation very soon to have it removed. They’re still waiting to hear about whether it’s malignant, and her friends in the Bloomington knitting community are all wishing the best for them. Fee opened up her Etsy shop to raise money for medical bills, so I wanted to help spread the word… she currently has some very nice original artwork (some knitting-related!), a knitting pattern, and a handknit cowl for sale. I hope you see something in her shop you might like.

Anyway, far off in Madison, I’ve been spinning and spinning. When I went to California over the summer, my dad and stepmom and I had a really wonderful day in Point Reyes–we saw fawns and tiny songbirds in the marsh, and had the good fortune to watch a whale playing in the waves, very close by, for probably a good hour. In Point Reyes Station, we stopped in at Black Mountain Weavers, where I bought a 3 oz. bump of locally dyed mohair-wool roving. It was all kinds of colors all carded together, and I was very curious to see how it would spin up; the base color was a warm mahogany brown, but shot through with streaks of bright red and blue and yellow and purple.

As it turned out, it was fun to spin–the fibers were slightly coarse and drafted smoothly with just a little coaxing. It spun up into a really interesting tweed with a lot of visual depth. (I’m taking Abby’s definition, because she’s the expert, but it doesn’t have neps/flecks in it, so I would have called it more of a heather.) From far away, it reads as brown:


When you look a little closer, though, you can see the streaks of brighter colors in the yarn. Mohair takes dye really well, and I’m assuming the really shiny bright colors are from the mohair part of the blend:

Here’s a picture of the singles on the bobbin.

It’s about 12-13 wpi, so more or less a sport weight yarn, with a shiny, slightly fuzzy surface. I treated this as an experimental sampler, so most of this is spun worsted, short forward draw, but other parts are spun over the fold or long draw. It’s about 136 yards total. (Honestly, I don’t quite understand how people can charge so little when they sell their handspun! Maybe I’m doing it wrong, but it takes me hours to spin up even this much yarn, and it’s not a large amount.)

Also, I think I discovered what kind of spinning wheel I have! I bought it used at Yarns Unlimited–someone was selling a couple of old spinning wheels, but the shop owners didn’t know that much about them. A patron at the shop told me she thought it was an Ashford Wee Peggy, but I think that’s just based on the fact that it’s a castle wheel. When you look closely, it doesn’t look too much like the wheel in the photos on that page.

However, browsing through that page about New Zealand-built spinning wheels, this castle wheel, by H. H. Napier/Glenfield Industries, caught my eye. It says this type of wheel was made on Auckland’s North Shore in the 1960s. Look at this and compare the shape and placement of the mother-of-all, treadle, legs, etc., even the spokes on the wheel. Doesn’t it look just like mine? I love the fact that his initials are H. H. too.

It doesn’t help me too much with the things I was wondering about–where to get extra bobbins, for example. I have two bobbins and one of them has a pretty small whorl, so it spins at a fairly high ratio (good for finer yarns) and gets less use than the slower bobbin. I’d like at least one more larger bobbin–actually, I would really like to have at least four bobbins so I can do a three-ply easily, but judging by the paucity of information on the internet about this wheel, I don’t think I’m going to have too much luck with finding extras. I’m also mildly curious about how much my wheel is worth, in case I decide to trade it in one day for a wheel with easily available spare parts.

More stuff in my setup: You can see my orifice hook dangling from the wheel in the picture above. I use a Dritz loop turner for the purpose and I love it–it has a little latch over the hook that works perfectly for grabbing onto the leader. Also, I just put on a new drive band, made of a long strand of Plymouth Encore tied in three places. I read somewhere that jelly yarns make nice drive bands, so maybe one of these days I’ll try that out.

I own one spinning book: Maggie Casey’s Start Spinning. I also checked out the Alden Amos Big Book of Handspinning and Teach Yourself Visually Handspinning from the library. Of the three, I think Teach Yourself Visually is my favorite; in addition to the absolute basics about wheel and spindle spinning (like in the Maggie Casey book, which is an excellent introduction to spinning), it gets into some slightly more advanced (but still practical) information–construction of novelty yarns using different plying effects, and appropriate methods for spinning different types of fibers, like cotton, vicuna, and angora. Alden Amos is amusingly opinionated, kind of the Elizabeth Zimmermann of spinning, but the book gets very technical about things like mathematically figuring out slippage percentages in a double drive wheel system–not the type of information I personally was looking for, but great for a certain very select audience.

(Actually, I have a note to add: after reading some of the reviews of the Teach Yourself Visually Handspinning book, I’m starting to doubt whether it’s a good source of information. Since I haven’t compared all the different types of wheels personally, or tried the methods the author suggests for certain types of spinning, I can’t speak to those criticisms personally, but one of those negative reviewers seems pretty knowledgeable and pretty certain about what’s wrong with the book.)