A Gentle Reminder on Copyrights …

March 5, 2018

I haven’t been much on this blog lately. Okay, I haven’t been writing at all! Life gets in the way sometimes. But that does not mean that I don’t keep an eye on the old homestead!

I would like to take a moment to give my readers a gentle reminder about copyright. All content on this blog, including photos, are copyright by me. That means you don’t have the right to appropriate them. With my permission, you might borrow one as long as you attribute it to me but you can’t just take them.

It is simple enough to just post a comment below an entry and say, “I would like to use your photo to ….” and explain why you want to use.

Do not, as one person is doing now, take a photo and use it in your “spinning wheel for sale” advertisement. I don’t care if you a found a wheel that “looks just like” one of mine, take a photo of your wheel and post it. Please don’t mislead people into thinking the wheel you are selling is one of mine. I have a considerable readership here, and on other spinning forums, and people recognize some of my wheels. When one shows up “for sale,” it generates considerable messaging, as in, “Why didn’t you tell me first you were going to sell that wheel?”

So, please, readers, don’t borrow my photos (or my text!) without asking first? Please? Be good and do the right things!

Anatomy of a Spindle Wheel Head

December 28, 2016

Great wheel, walking wheel, spindle wheel. The name changes but the principle stays the same. These are large wheels that the spinner typically stands to spin on. A large drive wheel is mounted on an upright post, while the spindle post holds the spinning head. As this is a smallish, removable part, it often goes missing from old wheels. Here is what you need to look for if you need a spindle head, or what you have if you have found one, sans wheel!

The neck mounts the assembly into the spindle post and supports the Mother-of-All, or MOA. Just as with a flyer wheel, the MOA supports the maidens. Since the maidens usually have a screw turn so that they may be leveled, the bottom of the screw has a little wooden cap to protect the threads and prevent the maiden from being unscrewed past a certain level.

The spindle itself is an iron rod about 12 inches in length. It may or may not include a little wooden disk; this helps prevent the spun wool from creeping back into the bearings. The bearings that hold the spindle to the MOA may be from leather thongs or braided cornhusk. The spindle has a whorl — if your wheel has an optional accelerated head, such as the one in the illustration, the whorl will have a secondary drive band connecting it to the accelerating head. If you had a direct drive wheel, you will have only this one whorl on the spindle and the drive band will connect to the drive wheel.

With the accelerated head, each maiden has a small wooden bearing that holds the head’s axle ends. The whorl of the accelerated head holds the drive band that connects to the drive wheel. This 19th century invention was developed in order to help a spinner spin faster.

Just as with flyer wheels, there are many different styles of spindle wheel and of spindle heads. This is a generalization to help get you started or to help you find what you need!


Catching Up and a New Sweater

December 16, 2016

I am really, really behind in keep up this blog this year, but it is the nature of life. Sometimes, life happens. The best laid plans go astray and my road to Hell is certainly paved with good intentions. Basically, there just weren’t enough hours in the day.

There was time for knitting, mostly due to be an automobile passenger and trying to not waste that time. I was able to finish a sweater for Rhinebeck 2016: by August, I had it finished an just needed the ends woven in. It is the Cider Mill Pullover and is available on Ravelry:


I wanted something bright and happy. Rhinebeck can sometimes be gray and chilly. The sweater is heavier than the original pattern calls for: this is knitted in Blue Skies Fiber Worsted Cotton. The main color is Pumpkin.

The slip-stitch pattern yoke and trim are Lemongrass, Dandelion, Orchid, Aloe, and Carribbean.


It is knitted on Size 7 needles, up from the Size 5 the pattern calls for and a little smaller than the yarn suggests. But it gave me a tighter fabric and that was what I was after.


Ta-da. And, of course, since the only the ends needed to be woven in back in August, it was done well in time? Don’t you know I was weaving in those ends a week before the October event? Of course I was! But I was happy with the final result, except the cast on bottom edge.

The sweater is knitted in the round and asks for a couple of rows of purl stitch at the bottom. These refused to obey while knitting the rest, so I switched the sleeve cuffs and the neckline to an inch of ribbing and this tamed the rolling edge problem. If I really thought about it (or get snowed in over the winter), I’m inclined to pick out that bottom cast-on, put the whole thing back on the needles and reknit the bottom to have the same inch of ribbing. We’ll see how motivated I get. Or can manage the time!



Carriage Wheels

May 1, 2016

Carriage or boudoir wheels are dainty spinning wheels designed for flax spinning. M’lady could spin linen thread in the comfort of her boudoir or, if she chose, show off her domestic skills by removing the upper portion of the wheel from its long legs and taking it with her on a carriage trip. These wheels are typically very elegant and ornate, not intended for production spinning. Here are two examples:

wheels 01

The wheel on the left is missing its little drawer under the bench; the wheel on the richt is missing its distaff. The left-hand wheel stands about 30 inches tall and the drive wheel is 9 inches in diameter. The right-hand wheel is about 28 inches tall and the metal drive wheel is a little over 7 inches in diameter.

wheels 02

The wheel on the left shows signs of having been worked on at some point. The treadle does not have the same wear as the foot bar in front of it. Plus, the treadle is in backwards! The footman should come up the front of the wheel. This allows the axle crank to face the spinner, so the wheel can be hand-cranked when removed from the legs.

wheels 03

The tensioning systems are the same: the tensioning screw moves the mother-of-all along the parallel arms of the framework. The flyers are similar in construction, having separate arms set into a wooden center. The flyer on the left is completely of wood with a metal spine for the bobbin, where the one on the right has a metal orifice and metal spine. Also, note that the flyer on the left uses a moveable metal loop to guide the spinning, while the other flyer has metal hooks.

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The drive wheels have some differences. The wooden wheel has a metal inset in the rim to help give the wheel some weight and provide “throw” to help keep the wheel spinning. The metal drive wheel has an additional metal plate added to the side away from the spinner to also provide additional weight.

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The smaller wheel shows signs of having possibly been gilded at one time. You can clearly see the gold coloring on the uprights.

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Also here on the legs. There is a central turning on the legs that is very rough and I suspect there was metal in these spaces, either pewter or silver, which was dug out long ago.

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The little drawer is cleverly decorated with punchwork to form a quilted pattern. The drawer even has a little wooden catch inside, so you can “lock” it when not needed. Note the leg on the right; it does not match the others exactly and is a replacement although I’m unsure how old the repair is.

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Overall for their ages, and taking repairs into account, both are lovely wheels and excellent additions to the collection!

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wheel 001





February 28, 2016

In the never-ending quest of warm winter woolies, I was looking for a hooded scarf. Most are simply a long rectangle folded and a back seam sewn in near the fold. This doesn’t give a great fit. I hunted through the Ravelry pattern library and turned up this scarf, Loxley, by designer Stephen West.

hood 02

Named for the hero of Sherwood Forest, Sir Robin of Loxley, also called Robin Hood.

The piece is knitted in sections starting with the piece that goes over the head. Short-row shaping makes the back of the head wider and forms a bit of a brim to shelter the face.

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The second section is the back cap, and this was the feature I liked — it makes some room for the back of your head.

hood 01.jpg

The long tails are next and they are about 32″ long, so you get a good wrap.

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The scarf is knitted in garter stitch with an i-cord edging. The garter stitch is plush and squishy, the i-cord edge is neat and finished. The long tails keep your neck wrapped warm.

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The perfect garment to stay warm while sneaking behind the Sheriff of Nottingham’s back.

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Adventures in Gauge

January 19, 2016

In an old post, I discussed gauge — that is, how what size yarn you use and on what size needles effects the size and shape of whatever you are knitting. I was working up a design for a turtleneck cowl and decided to vary the sizing to see what I got. And what I got was this:

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Three cowls and a pair of wristwarmers!

We have Papa Cowl:

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Mama Cowl:

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And Baby Cowl:

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These are all made on the same number of stitches; only the yarn and needles change.

For the largest cowl, I used 2 skeins of Bernat’s Roving in a color called “Rice Paper,” and this is a lovely winter white. The suggested needle size is 10.5: I used size 13 for the body and 9 for the neck. This gave me some drapiness to the cowl part and a tighter neck, as I find otherwise the neck tends to stretch out too easily with wear. I pack the stitches a little tighter to get it to hold up a bit better. The cowl is 22″ in diameter.

For the medium size cowl, I again used 2 skeins of another Bernat Roving, this one in “Coral.” I used the suggested 10.5 needle for the body and 9s for the turtle neck. For whatever reason, this color had more body to it than the Rice Paper and the neck really stands up. Which I love because I can burrow into it when the winter winds blow!  The cowl on this size is 17″ in diameter.

The smallest cowl was a gift for my neighbor up the street. I used 2 skeins of KnitPick’s Gloss DK in “Aegean,” which is suggested for a 5 – 6 needle. I used an 8 to get a little more drape. Even after knitting a goodly sized turtleneck, I had a bit left over so used that to make matching wristers. The diameter on this cowl is 14″.

Now, how does that translate into garment size and look? Well, I’m not the best model but through the magic of Photoshop, I can give a visual on the fit:

cowl compare white

cowl compare coral

cowl compare aegean

I like all the sizes equally well. I love the big sweep on the winter white one, the cozy turtleneck and warm color of the coral, and the lightweight wearability of the aegean blue one, as it is easy to wear inside to warm off drafts.

I am going to be writing up the pattern for this cabled design and for a ribbed cowl I did last year. Test knitters are welcome to message me!

cowl 016



January 10, 2016

Happy 2016. May it be better than 2015, which saw the departure of far too many 2- and 4-legged friends. In looking for a good side, I realize that the enforced time at home monitoring illness gave us time to finally establish a large vegetable garden and to spend time in our backyard screen house, something we had not been able to do. But at the cost of many friends, old and new. We will see what 2016 brings.

The first project of the year was a scarf for an older gentleman. I wasn’t sure about allergies and it needed to be washable, so I used Lion Brand Wool-Ease in a denim-y color called Blue Heather. The knot design came from Elsebeth Lavold’s Viking Knits and Ancient Ornaments.

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I added a rib column alongside the knot and used a seed stitch edging. The knot was actually pretty simple and the chart easy to follow.

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I wasn’t sure on spacing because I was just making this up in my head. I wound up knitting two sides from the bottom up, then seaming them across the center. This way I used the entire two skeins of yarn. The knot patterns is spaced apart by its own length between the first two repeats, then knit the rest of the section to the end. Knit the other side and seam it together. Easy, and a good way to practice the knot pattern.

nraga 3


Winsome Timbers by Ken Lennox

May 24, 2015

In the late ‘90s and early-to-mid aughts, a wheelwright named Ken Lennox made some lovely artisan spinning wheels in several styles. In addition to a traditional Saxony and a 30” production wheel, he made an Irish Castle wheel known as the Fiona and a sort of chair wheel called Bonnie.

Recently, there has been some increased interest in the Lennox wheels. I previously blogged about the Fiona Irish Castle wheel in a post called “Castle Wheel or Oil Derrick?,” a reference to the wheel’s height. I subsequently acquired a Bonnie but never blogged about her (hey, I can’t put ALL of them up here!).

But with the recent interest, a reader asked to see more about Bonnie, so your wish, gentle reader, is my command. Here are the Fiona and the Bonnie together.

lennox 01

Unfortunately, you don’t quite get the perspective, do you? I borrowed a willing gentleman of about 5’11” to pose with the wheels.

lennox 02

That castle wheel is big! But we’ve been down that road before, so let’s look at the Bonnie:

lennox 03Pretty wheel with the same features as the Fiona, but without the height. Same double-treadles, mounts for the extra whorls, and spindles for the extra bobbins (not installed here). There is a flax distaff, as well, also not shown. According to the original sales description, her features are:

Bonnie – 16″ Traveler Spinning Wheel

Bonnie measures orifice to floor 29 1/2“ and can be made in either double treadle or single treadle. She is equipped with 12 spokes, threading hook, 4 (4oz.) bobbins, flax cup, and 3 whorls with standard ratios: 5.6-1, 6.4-1, 7.3-1, 8.0-1, 8.8-1, 9.5-1. The three additional bobbins are attached to the frame. Scotch tension is featured on all of the Lennox Spinning Wheels. Bonnie is made only of cherry wood.

Some interesting features. Here is the screw-turn disc to tension the drive band. Turn the disk to raise or lower the flyer assembly and tighten or loosen the band.

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The water cup if you are spinning flax:

lennox 07And my personal favorite, because I always lose these or the cats drag them off to play with, a built-in orifice hook:

lennox 06Here are the extra whorls:

lennox 08On the back leg, just under the largest whorl, is the maker’s mark burned into the wood: At last! A wheel maker who signed, dated and NUMBERED his wheels! If you collect antique wheels, you know how frustrating this lack of information can be!

lennox 09The Lennox wheels are no longer available, but a former dealer has kept their information posted for historical reference. You can learn more about the wheels and their styles here. Keep in mind that this is an old page and the wheels shown are not available, so please don’t bombard the shop with requests for wheels!

Overall, it is a very pretty wheel and a fine spinner. I was happy to be able to reunite her with her sister, Fiona!

lennox 010

Just a Quick One!

May 17, 2015

Sometimes, a picture is worth a thousand words. This is another “summer is coming” project for messy hair.


The yarn is Debbie Bliss Cotton DK and the color is 13069, which sadly does not do it justice! It is a lovely peapod green and I enjoyed working with it so much, I’m thinking of ordering more for a summer top. The pattern is the headband part of the “Super Bulky Acorn Hat” from Vermont Farmhouse Designs and is available through Ravelry.

Can Summer be Far Behind?

May 9, 2015

The permasnow of February and March finally seems to be a thing of the past, the spring flowers are in bloom, and thoughts turn towards … the beach.

Last year, I found myself wishing for a nice summer headwrap. We’d leave the beach and stop off at the ice cream shop and my hair was going in every direction. I just wanted something small and light to throw on and look halfway neat.

I found my pattern in Kristeen Griffen-Grimes’s book, French Girl Knits Accessories. This is the pattern, Jasmin.

scarf 01

I had the book before the yarn. I had noted several patterns I liked and thought I would make, but let’s face it. I will never get to knit all the patterns I admire in this lifetime, let alone the next. So, the book was shelved for the moment.

In November, we stopped at Creative Fibers in Windsor, Connecticut, when coming home from the New England Fiber Festival. On that stop, I picked up two skeins of Louise Harding’s Noema in the Cocktail colorway, purely because I liked the colors.

During the snowy February, I was revisiting pattern books and found Jasmin again. Somewhere, my mental database matched up Jasmin to Noema and there you go.

I broke one cardinal rule here: if you want the yarn to pop, use a plain stitch; if you want the pattern to pop, use a plain yarn. The delicate tracery of leaves sort of got lost in all the color.

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An unintended design plus, however, was the subtle self-striping that, with the lace pattern, turned into a zig-zag pattern.


There is no schematic drawing with the pattern, but the shape is a sort of oblong with two long ties on each end.

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There is a nice edge stitch formed mainly with yarnovers.

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And the ties are a little like netting; they are also a series of yarnovers.

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A success, although if I had to do it over again, I would not graft the two sides in the center, just knit from side to side and then pick up stitches along the cast-on for the tie. I’m not proficient in provisional cast-ons so I wrestled with this a bit. It would be easier to just knit it strait across. But whatever the construction technique, the wrap is lightweight and lovely for the summer. And I won’t look quite so messy stopping off for ice cream!

scarf 04