Not such a lost art


Spinning in Donegal, 1978

My grandparents on my father’s side come from Mayo and Kerry.  I see the ruddy complexion in my boys (and me) is a ‘thing’ for those of us with Irish ancestry 🙂

When I first sat down at an antique wheel it was as though something ‘clicked’ in my hands.  My hands knew what to do before my brain caught up.  I suspect something like spinning, a skill with such a long history, is carried in genetic memory.

While I can’t speak for my ancestors, who may very well have hated the task, I can say that spinning gives me comfort, a time to meditate, a peaceful space in which to contemplate everything and nothing.

Still waiting.


Our camping trip was amazing.  We met some people, including someone (who shall remain nameless) that I never in my wildest dreams would have imagined meeting at a little tiny camp out in Northern Arizona!  We also met several Arizona heathen families, some wonderful New Mexico heathens, along with a fellow mead maker/brewer, and lots of other people, all of whom were talented and giving of their time and skill.  It was, all in all, a lovely weekend.

We got an incredible amount of rain!  Mr. TF and I were married in Grand Caymen during Hurricane Michelle in 2001.  I don’t think I’ve experienced sustained rain with winds like what we had on Friday since we were in the hurricane!  People’s tents got filled with 2 feet of water!  A few tents collapsed!  We were luckier – we were camped out farther from the common ramada, but on not such a steep slope and thus avoided some of the problems others had (and that was purely by chance, I assure you).  We did get water in the tent, but it was because the wind was blowing the rain horizontally and it lifted the rain shield, allowing rain into the tent.  Not so bad, though.  Only one half was actually wet (with about an inch of standing water in places) but most of our stuff was still in the plastic totes and thus dry.  Most importantly, our bedding remained mostly dry (yay wool!) and we were cozy every night.

I took not a single picture.  In fact, our phones remained either in the truck’s glove box or charging with the solar charger on the hood.  We were pretty much technology free during our 3 days there.  I didn’t miss it much either.  I did notice I had missed a phone call from someone very important when I finally picked up my phone around 10pm on Friday night – luckily said person also sent an email and I spent an agonizing 15 minutes trying to sign into my email and waiting for his letter to load…but it was good news and well worth waiting for.  Mr. TF and I drank two drams of scotch each (LaPhroaig) to celebrate, and sat outside in the beautifully clear night, watching the meteor shower and the stars.  Other than sharing the good news with family and close friends the next day though, no phones for either of us.

I did NOT win the antler handled, hand forged skean dhu I had hoped to bid on….I was too busy running my mouth visiting and missed the auction for it entirely!  Ah well, not meant to be I guess.  There will be others.

All the crap that has gone on since January…if it all hadn’t gone down the way it did I never would have met any of these people, at a time and a place in my life when I really NEEDED to meet them.  I humbly apologize to the Universe.  Things do in fact happen for a reason.  And sometimes wyrd/karma takes really some really strange twists to get us where we are supposed to be and in contact with those we are supposed to know.

But now, home for nearly a week, I am like a caged panther.  I’m not particularly good at waiting.  But wait I must.  I guess the Powers are making sure I get some actual rest time in before I start my new job with its associated stress and all consuming lifestyle (if my fellow workers are any judge, that is).

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Maybe some time to knit while I pet the cat….

ohkd

Or knit while I chat with friends….

 

A'Knittin' while you work

A’Knittin’ while you work

Or knit while I get this amazing craphole of a dirty house back into shape 🙂  Are you sensing a pattern here?  Of course, I also have wool tweed on the loom I need to weave off to make a vest with, and POUNDS of alpaca and wool to spin up – including a commission for lace weight suri yarn.

I’m behind on holiday gifts too…

Yep, waiting is hard, but I think I might be able to fill my time.

 

Perusing Craigslist for jobs that don’t exist :)


I looked in the skilled trades/crafts section of Craigslist today, just to see what types of jobs are being posted.

Framer

RV mechanic technician

Plumber

Experienced tile layer

And that’s about it.  I had to laugh — did I really think I was going to find a post wanting a weaver??  Or a spinner??

I am doing my first commission spinning though, nearly 2 lbs of an alpaca cria (baby) fleece (actually it’s called blanket) my friend tried to process and was worried she was going to destroy if she did any more.  Some of it is already in roving with lots of nepps (little balls of fiber) and I’m spinning that into singles that will become a worsted weight 3 ply.  Some of it is washed but not processed in any other way; this I will card on my drum carder, very slowly and carefully to keep the smooth and lofty nature of the fiber.

Ideally, the owner of the fleece (not my friend, she owns a fiber mill) will end up with a textured yarn and a smooth yarn, and be happy with her first fleece product.  She is new to owning fiber animals, and recently learned how to knit in anticipation of using her own yarn.  I am enjoying spinning this so far; it’s deliciously soft and fine and most of the prickly things are falling out as I spin.

I wish I could do more commission spinning and less actual working.  It’s less money by a long shot, but I don’t have to get dressed up, drive a long way away, worry about meals and drinks, or stress out about deadlines or working overtime.

Tour de Fleece 2013


Antonio

(and once again, please ignore the condition of the room and the yarn fluff all over the floor and wheel…this was taken before the hooks were replaced)

This is Antonio, my Canadian Production Wheel.  The CPW, as they are known, were the workhorses of the Canadian textile industry for nearly 100 years.  These wheels were made for one thing and one thing only:  to quickly and efficiently spin large quantities of wool into a fine single suitable for weaving woolen fabric — a needed item in the long, dark, and cold Canadian winters.  Of course, one can knit with the yarn produced as well, but the chief purpose was for weaving.  My particular wheel was made by Frederic Bordua, son of Francois Bordua, and father of Theodore Bordua — a family of wheel makers that spanned almost 100 years and was based in and near St. Hyacinth, Quebec province.  He dates from somewhere between 1890 and 1918, a fact I can surmise from the turnings on the legs and spokes — wood was in short supply leading up to and during the First World War, and nothing went to waste; my wheel’s legs are not altogether round, because some of the pieces were not quite big enough to rout to a round condition.  In my opinion this only adds to  his charm.

I got him around the first of June, but it took quite a bit of work to refurbish/refinish/repair him and make him functional.  He sat in a barn somewhere, for many years; I know this by the condition of the treadle and table.   The original shellac finish was completely missing on the lower legs and treadle bars; the shellac was extremely alligatored on the table and uprights (the bars that hold the wheel), and the wheel itself appeared black as did the maidens from years of oil allowed to sit and decay into the surface of the wood.  I had to strip, as much as I could, down to the bare wood.  This took a couple weeks and a half gallon of denatured alcohol as well as a quart of paint thinner.  Then the applications of Danish oil began — a process that also took days.  It soaked in as fast as I applied it in the first days, and after about a week’s worth of multiple daily applications if finally slowed down.  I knew I was done when the final coat took an entire day to stop being sticky and set up.  The color change was pretty dramatic as well — The wheel, as you can see, is a reddish color as are the maidens and the rest of the wheel is a reddish blonde color.  I am very happy with the outcome.

Then, once the refinishing was complete, it was on to the restoration of the working condition.  That also took several days and the help of my husband, who crafted a bushing for the crank arm side as the original, made of lead, was literally worn down to a sliver and the wood was also being worn away.  Then he sacrificed a collector’s edition metal guitar pick in the service of a shim for one of the uprights — a true sacrifice for my musical spouse.  It however works beautifully, and I smile every time I see the glint of the metal pick holding it in place.

Then, the bobbin and whorl had problems; after asking other CPW owners what to do, I took the assembly off and cleaned the shaft of the flyer and lubricated it with white lithium grease, cleaned the grooves of the bobbin and whorl with denatured alcohol and then sanded them, and put it all back together.  It worked, the take up was good, but the single I was spinning kept breaking.  This was because the hooks had spun so much yarn over the years that they were nearly worn completely through; the yarn was getting shredded by the hooks as it slid past them onto the bobbin!  Off the assembly came again, out came the old hooks, and in went decorative hooks from the big box store.  Many people feel this is heresy and a bad restoration job, and from an  authenticity point I agree, but my purpose in owning this wheel is production spinning, not absolute authenticity to the period.  They work, they are what I had that was useable, and they will stay until it is time to replace them as well — hopefully not in my lifetime, but possibly in my grand daughters’.

This wheel, now that it is back to working as designed, is simply breathtaking.  I am truly in awe of the makers.  I don’t think they would be surprised that these wheels are so loved and admired all these years later (though they might think we’re crazy for choosing to spin when we can buy yarn), nor do I think they would be surprised to find their machines still working as designed nearly a century later — they made them to last, after all.

Because I spin on antiques, they tend to have their own character and therefore get names.  This wheel is named Antonio.  My husband named him when he spun the wheel around and watched it turn…and turn…and turn…for a very long time.  He said “You should name him Antonio…Antonio Banderas because he is so smooth.”  in a very convincing Spanish accent and artificially deep voice.  So my Canadian wheel has a Spanish name that suits him very well.  And like his namesake is out of my league, he is too much wheel for me and I once again have a learning curve to keep up with this Maserati of the spinning world.

Which brings me to the title of this blog post:  the Tour de Fleece.  This is a really fun event that is deliberately set up to coincide with the Tour de France every year.  The premise is that you spin every day the Tour rides and ideally you watch the Tour de France on TV while you spin for the Tour de Fleece.  Then, on the mountain days you take up a special challenge for yourself — whatever you consider a challenge.  You rest on the rest days, and there are prizes awarded by the various Tour de Fleece teams.  I am on four teams this year:  Team Yarnspinners Tales, Team Paradise Fibers, Team Sasquatch, and Team Russian Underpants.  This last team is a group of spinners who spin on antiques; the name derives from the horrid fad in the 70’s of turning functioning wheels into floor lamps with frilly shades that happen to look like, as one person described it, “Russian Underpants.”  And thus a team was born.

I have a challenge and a project already picked out.  My challenge for this year’s Tour is to learn to spin flax.  I ordered 8 ounces from Paradise Fibers, a family owned small business that has absolutely amazing customer service.  I ordered enough to allow for much swearing and breaking of single and I hope to end up with enough usable fiber in the end to weave a couple of linen towels for our kitchen.  My project for this year is to get the fiber I have prepped spun into lace weight yarn in order to make my future daughter in law a shrug to wear with her wedding dress.  She knows I’m making it, she knows I’m spinning the fiber, and she picked out the pattern.  So hopefully she will love it and not be disappointed!

That’s what I’ve been doing for the last month.  Well, that and working, and studying, and starting clinicals.  Viva la Tours — both of them!  And Viva la CPW!