Posts tagged ‘spinning wheel’

I got a new spinning wheel yesterday, a Majacraft Little Gem from a local friend who is unloading her spinning stuff. It’s seen hard use and has some cosmetic damage but is otherwise sound. I set it up and noticed it didn’t treadle as smoothly as it ought to.

It could use some clean-up, being covered in lint, but after a general de-lousing it still needed some help. The treadle mechanism had fiber wrapped around the shaft and in general it was a bit gunky.

Important Note: Professional Driver, Closed Course. Please to do not take this as license to disassemble your spinning wheel willy-nilly. Getting those little parts back together in the correct way is not as easy as it looks.

So here is the patient on the workbench:

Little Gem spinning wheel, partly disassembled

Step One: find the metric hex key set. It is conveniently attached to my bicycle tool. You can field strip almost anything with this and open your beer when you are done.

I took off the crank arms, removed the screws holding the center pulley and cleaned the shaft as much as possible. The shaft itself didn’t want to come out so I didn’t push it. With some help from my handy-dandy bench vise (and a conveniently located husband who has better hand strength) I was able to disassemble and clean both cranks.

loosening the crank bolt took some work

I could then use the WD-40 to clean the quite filthy parts.

cranks disassembled

Put everything back together, give it a final once over with the canned air, and it runs much better.

I spent a couple hours yesterday spinning and my wheel is being kinda cranky. When I was spinning daily I never had a problem with this, and even a couple times a month it would be fussy for a few minutes and then settle down. But now that I haven’t been regularly spinning for a year it’s annoying. The takeup tension comes and goes.

I’ve already cleaned the various flyer parts and gone at it with the graphite powder (which I use instead of oil.) I did have the original rubber band on the scotch tension brake, so I’ve replaced it with a hair elastic. We’ll see how that goes.

I’ve been suspecting it’s the change in environment, as previously we were in a basement where it was pretty much the same all the time. Now it’s winter and cold even with the heaters on, and despite all the rain it’s dry inside. This is the second winter in this apartment and since last year I’ve done even more weatherstripping and insulating, including plastic film on the windows. I’m going through hand lotion like nobody’s business, it must be having an effect on the wood equipment. But you would think with all the plastic and metal parts on the Lendrum it would be less sensitive.

Yesterday I did a spinning demo at the Swedish Christmas Festival in San Francisco. A couple of days ago a friend sent me an email about it, at the last minute the organizers contacted her about getting a couple of spinners to demonstrate traditional crafts. (When we got there, we found a weaver, knitter and wood carver as well.) I didn’t want to go by myself, but at least one other person was going to be there. I didn’t have anything particularly urgent yesterday, so I went.

It was a little amusing, here we were two people who were neither Swedes nor all that big on Christmas sitting down for a day at a holiday festival. It started off ominously when the display of toys behind us started playing sickly-sweet Christmas tunes. But they fed us sticky buns and smoked salmon sandwiches and we had a great time. As a culture, the Swedes kept many textile traditions alive when all across Europe people were abandoning them as fast as possible. Of the group who normally comes out for demos, we were probably two of the most appropriate as we both are traditional spinners and weavers and know a good bit about Scandinavian textile history.

My friend brought his antique wheel that he describes as having “come across the country the first time in a wagon and the second time in a UPS truck.” He bought it off eBay from a family in Minnesota that has records going back to its manufacture in 1797 in what is now Norway. Dozens of people stopped by to say their mother or grandmother had one just like it. A very frail elderly woman told us how, as a girl of ten, she and her sisters spun in a demonstration for the King of Sweden. Seeing us clearly brought back a rush of memories and was one of the highlights of the day. Even me, there with my very Italian name on my little paper nametag, had someone stop by and say he was also a Longo. His family had come from Sicily to Argentina and now he was in the Bay Area. We are probably related somehow.

There were of course a lot of blonde heads wandering around, but this being San Francisco not as many as you might expect. A couple came by to chat with us, a tall burly man clearly of Scandinavian origin (in his amazing wool coat and 18th century style buckled shoes) and his Japanese wife. I can’t imagine what he must have went through living in Japan, but they spent many years near her family home as well as the United States. A college student doing a paper for her folklore class talked to us about the history of handspinning, both ancient and modern. Most everyone that stopped by knew that we were spinning, as we talked about what we were doing and kept watch on tiny hands intent in exploring every little moving part.

I had no idea what to expect when we showed up, but I think we will be back again next year.

I’ve been thinking about textiles, how about that? I started to re-sley the acrylic baby yarn on the loom because I wasn’t happy with the fabric I was getting at 12 ends per inch. That’s what I measured from the relaxed yarn, but as weft it insists on packing in way more than I want (like almost twice the number of weft picks as warp ends.) I’m going to change it to 16 and see if I like it any better then. If it’s going to come out like cardboard then at least cardboard in both warp and weft directions is a more useful fabric. It’s annoying to do however, one of those things that makes housework suddenly very interesting.

In the spinning department, I’ve been re-organizing the studio so I can bring the bicycle over finally. Yes, bicycle. A friend has an exercise bike with disembodied Ashford parts bolted to it that she would really, really like gone from her basement. It’s rumored to work, and if I can get it going well enough I’ll use it. Finally I could combine fiber and exercise at the same time. (A Woolee Winder is going to be high on the list for next equipment purchase. Spin for hours, never having to stop to change hooks!)

Note: I’ll be doing an OS upgrade and some filesystem housekeeping for the webserver soon, so you may find the site off-line for a few hours sometime in the next week or so.

I’ve got about 6g of extra fine brown cotton spun for the two-ply skein and I think it’s taken me about 10 hours to do that much. I’m losing 25% in broken yarn along the way. I’m going to continue to use the Lendrum because it’s more than fast enough and I can see what I’m doing. I can’t find a comfortable place to spin with the charka at home and I still haven’t worked out how I can both turn the wheel and still see the yarn at arm’s length without inciting major back spasms. And after I finish this, there are still two more extra fine skeins, one cotton and one silk. I’m not sure quite what the second half kilometer of cotton is supposed to tell that the first doesn’t, that I know how to spin this fiber or that I have minimum 50 hours to sit there for each skein. Based on previous samples, I expect the two-ply skein to be around 450m and single 900.

I can only spin about four hours a day at most just because I can’t sit like that for longer. And that’s when I don’t have other responsibilities. This week I’m both driving to Los Angeles to pick up solar panels and planning a fundraising party. If I didn’t have a doctor’s appointment today, I’d be out picking up plastic electrical enclosures. As it is, I’m merely waiting for someone to come get the key for the truck instead. It’s probably best I not bring up the state of the kitchen. (When I’m not spinning, I’m planning a test deployment of wireless computers for Uganda with the “startup” non-profit we’re involved with. Fun and professionally rewarding but a lot of work and it is still mostly being funded by personal credit cards.)

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