Technology!

Technology is amazing. 3-D printing is a relatively new technology, but it is already being used in the world of spinning to create some high quality bobbins for us spinners. The company that makes these 3-D printed bobbins is called Akerworks and is located in Tennessee in the US; Akerworks make custom bobbins for a wide range of spinning wheels. (They also make spindles, but I have not tried one yet, so I cannot make any judgment. They also produce a lazy kate; I got one for Christmas, and it is fabulous. But I’ll save the kate for another day.)

The bobbins are not cheap, but they are affordable and come at a price that is comparable to (and often a little less than but sometimes a little more than) the OEM bobbins. But unlike the OEM bobbins, the Akerworks bobbins come apart so that they can be stored flat, are totally customizable with 20 colors and  6 whorl patterns from which to choose, and are virtually silent when in use.

After each model bobbin is designed and developed, it is then tested by spinners. The bobbin isn’t offered for sale until it receives passing marks from the test spinners. I was lucky enough to be chosen back in October to test spin the newest Akerworks bobbin, a double drive bobbin for the Ashford sliding hook flyer. After using it to spin in double drive and ply in Scotch tension, the bobbin got an A+ from me. It is totally silent as it spins on the shaft of the flyer, and it is very smooth. I highly recommend this bobbin to anyone who has an Ashford sliding hook flyer.

Here’s my review, in pictures and captions. Enjoy!

The bobbin arrived in a small padded mailing envelope. The bobbin comes in a mesh pouch with a separate compartment for the core. The flat-pack design means the bobbins take up much less space when stored or packed for traveling.

Two whorls and the core. They fit together easily and stay together until you decide to take the bobbin apart. Akerworks has a video on their web site/YouTube demonstrating how to assemble and take apart the bobbin, but to be honest, it is totally intuitive. I didn’t discover the video until I had put together and take apart the bobbin several times.

Here’s what the bobbin looks like once it is assembled. Mine is the Lotus pattern in Berry Blue. The core is carbon fiber.

The Akerworks bobbin is just a hair longer than the Ashford Sliding Hook Flyer bobbin, and the core has a slightly smaller diameter, so you can get more yarn on the Akerworks bobbin than on the Ashford bobbin.

This is the end with the big pulley. Normally I would use the large end for spinning in Scotch tension, but I’ve never been able to get that to work on my Traveller with the Ashford bobbins. I just put the brake band over the small end, and I use a cotton brake band instead of the nylon band the Ashford comes with. I did the same thing with the Akerworks bobbin, and it worked well.

This is the end with the small pulley. I love the openness of the Akerworks bobbin.

Here’s my Akerworks bobbin set up in double drive on my Traveller using the smallest pulley on the sliding hook flyer whorl. The gold yarn on the bobbin is the leader. The purple and green are the yarn I was spinning.

The bobbin looks quite lovely on the spinning wheel. I think the blue goes very nicely with the cherry finished of the NZ silver beech of the Travvy.

An added bonus of the Akerworks bobbin is that when the bobbin is spinning, you can actually see through it. No more excuses for forgetting to move the sliding hook. Seriously, this makes it much easier to get a nice, even bobbin.

Because this bobbin is so big, I was able to spin a 4-ounce bump onto it with tons of room to spare. I could have easily fit 2 more ounces on this bobbin.

I used the Akerworks bobbin in Scotch tension to ply the singles I had spun. The yarn is a 2-ply spun from both ends of a center-pull ball. The bobbin is nearly full, but there is still room for more yarn on it. These bobbins have a good capacity; they will hold a little bit more than the Ashford Sliding Hook Flyer bobbins, which are nice big bobbins in their own right.

If you have been thinking of purchasing Akerworks bobbins for your spinning wheel, do it!

Holy Crap!

I am so ashamed. I have so neglected my blog. A lot has been going on in the fibersphere, and I have totally failed to document it. No excuses. I now have a smartphone

I traded in my old flip phone for an iPhone SE. I don't know what took me so long.

I traded in my old flip phone for an iPhone SE. I don’t know what took me so long.

from which I can write and post to this blog, yet I haven’t posted anything for a couple of months.

Since you last heard from me, I sold my Lendrum folding wheel and bought a Flatiron, the brand new design from Schacht. This is my very first Saxony-style spinning wheel, and I absolutely love it.

It comes in a flat box that is a size and weight that qualifies for USPS priority mail, which means it is inexpensive to ship.

An entire spinning wheel fits in this box.

An entire spinning wheel fits in this box.

The flat-pack feature means that the spinning wheel requires a lot of assembly. Fortunately, Schacht includes everything you need to assemble the spinning wheel except for a philips-head screw driver.

Some of the parts and tools that come with the Flatiron

Some of the parts and tools that come with the Flatiron

With the help of the step-by-step manual that comes with the wheel and an assembly video on YouTube, I was able to put the wheel together all by myself, well, except for screwing one of the bolts into a barrel nut. I needed the DH’s assistance on that because my fingers just weren’t long enough to hold the barrel nut in place while screwing in the bolt.

Almost finished. It really helps to do the assembly on a table.

Almost finished. It really helps to do the assembly on a table.

I’m not what one would call mechanically inclined, but I didn’t run into any major difficulties putting this spinning wheel together. It took me a little longer than average; Schacht estimates assembly will take four hours, and it took me closer to five hours, but it wasn’t nearly as hard as assembling my Ashford Traveller was.

Assembly completed

Assembly completed

One of the most innovative features of the Schacht Flatiron is that it can be assembled with the flyer on either the left or the right. Since I spin with my left hand forward, I put the flyer on the left. Many Saxony wheels are left-flyer only, but some companies will custom-make wheels with the flyer on the right.

Of course, the most important part of this story is that the Flatiron came in a box. If you have a cat, you know why that is important.

Siobhan says, Thanks for the box!

Siobhan says, Thanks for the box!

Here are my spinning wheels standing in a row. Three of them are Schachts. The odd wheel out is my quirky but lovely Ashford Traveller.

L to R: Ashford Traveller, Schacht Ladybug, Schacht Matchless, and Schacht Flatiron

L to R: Ashford Traveller, Schacht Ladybug, Schacht Matchless, and Schacht Flatiron

The Flatiron is a wonderful wheel. I love spinning on it. It’s fast and quiet, and the treadling is very light. And I am happy to report that I can treadle with just one foot. YAY!

As for my now-departed Lendrum, she has found a new home where she will be loved and used.

I have a lot of spinning and knitting to share, and I hope to get caught up in the next few weeks. We’ll see.

The Tour De Fleece Has Come And Gone

I have to say that the 2016 Tour de Fleece was a rousing success. I spun and plied and posted pictures and binge-watched The Great War and Midsomer Murders and plowed my way through 14 4-ounce bumps of fiber all from stash.

I spun fourteen different types of sheepswool or different blends, some of which I had never spun before. I spun BFL, Cheviot, Corriedale, English Shetland, Falkland, Icelandic, Manx Loaghton, superwash Merino, Polwarth, Romney, Targhee, Wensleydale, superwash Merino/Nylon, Merino/mohair, and Po-Mo-Silk. Eight of the fiber bumps were from Spunky Eclectic, and six were from Into The Whirled. Almost all of the spinning was done on my Schacht Matchless; all of the plying was done on my Schacht Ladybug. Two projects were spun on my Ashford Traveller, one on my Schacht Ladybug.

I had every intention of updating my blog during the TdF, but that just didn’t happen because the reality is that I joined too many Tour de Fleece teams, five in all, and it took me at least an hour every night to photograph my progress, edit the pictures, make collages, and then post the appropriate pictures to the appropriate teams.

But I am updating yinz now, so enjoy.

In the first week of the Tour, I was a lucky duck. I won a Tour de Fleece random drawing on the Spunky Eclectic Ravelry group. The prize was my choice of a braid of BFL. Here’s what I chose.

I was so happy to be the lucky number chosen by the random number generator.

I was so happy to be the lucky number chosen by the random number generator.

And here is a picture of the center-pull ball from which I plied Northern Lights.

Here's the center-pull ball I wound to make a 2-ply yarn from Northern Lights. I kept it on my thumb so that the ball wouldn't collapse on itself and make a hopelessly tangled mess.

Here’s the center-pull ball I wound to make a 2-ply yarn from Northern Lights. I kept it on my thumb so that the ball wouldn’t collapse on itself and make a hopelessly tangled mess.

Plying from a center-pull ball forces you to finish the plying in one sitting unless you are foolish courageous enough to stick a pen in the center-pull ball before removing your thumb and trusting that you will remember to be careful when picking the ball back up that the pen doesn’t fall out. I did this twice (I have the bladder of an almost-65-year-old), and both times the spinning goddesses were smiling on me.

After Six Days

Today is the seventh day of the Tour de Fleece, and after six days, here’s what I have accomplished, as told in pictures. With captions. And links to my Ravelry project pages. 🙂

These singles were spun from Spunky Eclectic Romney in the colorway Little Bluebird. They have been resting and are awaiting plying. Romney is a very nice fiber to spin.

More Spunky Eclectic fiber, this time Wendsleydale, which is a long wool and requires careful handling. Too much twist and you end up with twine. Just the right amount of twist and you end up with a lustrous and drapy yarn that works well for lace shawls. This colorway is called Island Dreams.

This is what Island Dreams looks like after the two singles in the picture above were plied together. This is a laceweight 2-ply yarn and it is even lovelier in person than in the picture.

These singles are spun from Icelandic wool from Spunky Eclectic in the colorway Squirrel. I had to take special care spinning up this fiber because it had a long staple and was kind of slippy. Too much twist and it turned to twine; too little twist and it drifted apart. I really needed to hit the Goldilocks Zone with this fiber.

And this is Squirrel after plying. It is really quite lovely, with lots of rich shades of brown and a nice sheen and halo. This is a somewhat rustic yarn, not the softest, but not harsh, either. It will probably soften up a bit when I soak it to set the twist, but it is definitely destined for outerwear.

This is lovely English Shetland wool from Into The Whirled in the colorway Studio West. I spun this as a fractal, which means that the color repeats on one bobbin are long, and on the other bobbin the color repeats are shorter, so when the two singles are plied together, there will be a subtle striping effect.

And here is Studio West after plying. Shetland wool is one of my favorites to spin and to knit with.

Last but not least, I have been working on a bump of Targhee wool in the colorway Talisman from Into The Whirled. I stripped the bump into eight strips to shorten the color repeats, and I’m spinning the strips end to end. I plan to chain-ply the singles to make a self-striping yarn, which is going to take forever because the singles are very thin. The plied yarn will probably be a heavy lace weight to light fingering weight, but I think it will be worth the time and effort because the colors are brilliant. I think this is the nicest Targhee I have ever spun. The prep is outstanding–very few nepps. It practically drafts itself.

The Tour De Fleece Is Here Again!

It started on Saturday with the start of the Tour de France. It’s the Tour de Fleece 2016! This year I plan to spin as many different varieties of sheep wool from my stash as I can in 24 days.

Yes, this is all fiber from my stash, and every single bit is either Spunky Eclectic or Into The Whirled. And, yes, this represents less than half of what is in my fiber stash. No, I’m neither embarrassed nor ashamed. My fiber stash is nowhere near S.A.B.L.E.

These are all fibers from Into The Whirled. Starting at the bottom left, we have superwash Merino and Cheviot, and in the back, left to right, we have Falkland, Targhee, and English Shetland.

From Spunky Eclectic, there is Romney, BFL, Corriedale, Wensleydale, Manx Laoghton, and Icelandic.

That’s eleven 4-ounce bumps of wool. It’s unlikely that I can spin all of that in the 12 days of the Tour de France/Fleece, but I plan to spin and ply as much of it as I can.

In the first two days, I’ve gotten a lot of spinning done.

These singles were spun on Day 1 from Spunky Eclectic Wensleydale in Island Dreams, and I will be plying them together to make a lace weight yarn. Doesn’t Wensleydale have a lovely luster? It has a nice halo, too, but you cannot see it very well in this picture.

In addition to the Wensleydale on the left–can you see the lovely halo?–I also spun part of a bump of English Shetland from ITW in a colorway called Studio West spun up. That’s a lot of spinning for Day 1.

On Day 2, I finished spinning the English Shetland from ITW. I did a fractal spin, so when I ply the two singles together, I will get a 2-ply yarn with a subtle striping effect.

On Day 2 I also started spinning a bump of Romney from Spunky Eclectic. The colorway is Little Bluebird. For this yarn, I decided to divide the bump into 8 strips and spin two bobbins of 4 strips each. I will then ply the singles together to make a 2-ply yarn.

That’s the English Shetland on the left, the Romney on the right. So far all of my spinning has been done on my Schacht Matchless in double drive. I will be doing the plying on my Schacht Ladybug in Scotch tension.

The Tour de Fleece 2016 is moving along smoothly here in beautiful Brookline, Pittsburgh. I have enjoyed each fiber so far. I will keep yinz updated, but probably not daily because I’d rather spin than blog. Peace out!

Dancing With Lord Stanley

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The Captain kisses the Cup. (Robert Reiners/Getty Images)

As you know, in addition to being an avid knitter and spinner, I am also a sports fan and a self-described hockey nut. I love watching ice hockey, and I’m a big fan of the NHL. So big a fan, in fact, that my husband has started buying me Center Ice for my birthday every year so that I can totally pig out on hockey.

My very favorite hockey team is the Pittsburgh Penguins, and since we now live in Pittsburgh, we are able to actually attend some games instead of just watching on television. The DH and I attended four games this past hockey season and saw the Pens win three time and lose only once, and that was in OT.

It was a rough season for the Penguins. Second year head coach Mike Johnston seemed to be in way over his head, and the boys didn’t look like they were enjoying themselves on the ice. They were inconsistent from one game to the next, losing more games than they should have given the level of talent on the team, and playing the most boring style of hockey imaginable.

Thankfully, after a couple of months, GM Jim Rutherford saw fit to fire Johnston and bring up Mike Sullivan, head coach of the Penguins’ AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, to take over the duties as bench boss. He also realized the team needed more speed if they were to turn things around, and he made some brilliant trades to achieve this. Between the acquisitions last summer and before the trade deadline in February and players brought up from WBS, the team was revamped and went from being a slow, plodding, boring team to an offensive and defensive juggernaut driven by skill and speed.

When Sully took over the team, they were out of a playoff spot, but that soon changed. The Penguins moved up to a wildcard spot in the standings, then made a charge in the month of March that pushed them up into a solid second place in their division.

Playoff hockey started in April, and the Penguins had a tough row to hoe. In the first round they faced a strong, physical New York Rangers team; in the second, they went up against the winningest team during the regular season, the Washington Capitals; in the third round, they had to play against last year’s Stanley Cup Finals finalist, the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Going into the first round, we were without our starting goalie, Marc-Andre Fleury, and our back-up goalie, Matt Murray. The third goalie, Jeff Zatkoff, stepped up to the plate and won the first game of the series, but lost in the second game. Fortunately, Murray was able to return to the line-up, and except for a hiccup when he was pulled in the third period of a game and sat out the next game, he played brilliantly and joined an elite group of goalies who have won 15 games in the Stanley Cup playoffs as rookies.

Going into the final series, the Penguins were up against the Western Conference Champions, the San Jose Sharks. Not many people outside the Pittsburgh fan base were giving the Penguins much of a chance. In the past 10 years, the Western Conference has won most of the finals, and the sports pundits all seemed to think that the bigger, harder-hitting Sharks would overcome the skill and speed of the Penguins. But there’s a reason why the games are played. Reality painted a different picture. The speed and skill of the Penguins neutralized the Sharks’ attack, and the Penguins won the best-of-seven series in six games, holding the Sharks to just two shots in the third period of game five in San Jose. It’s hard to score if you cannot get the puck to the net, eh?

Had it not been for the stellar goaltending of the Sharks’ goalie, Martin Jones, the Penguins may well have swept the series and every game probably would have been a rout.

The Penguins faced and overcame a lot of adversity to make it to pinnacle of sport, and for us fans, it was amazing to watch this team go from being directionless to being single-mindedly focused on playing the best hockey they could play. The young players who were called up from WBS to become starters or to fill in temporarily for injured players fit in smoothly, and the newcomers quickly developed chemistry with veteran Penguins and with each other. Coach Sullivan was able to put four strong lines out on the ice knowing each line would play well in all three zones, and all three defensive pairings were reliable. Add the solid netminding of Fleury and Murray and you have the perfect recipe for winning Lord Stanley’s Cup.

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A moment to remember. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Let’s do this again next year!