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Technical Matters

September 12, 2008

I finished three new skeins last week, all silk and silk blends from The Silkworker. Here they are drying. I like chaining through the yarn as I skein it onto the yarn wrap. This helps to avoid tangles later when winding the yarn into a ball. Flashdance (Navajo plied silk top in crayon colors) is chained into 50 yd. bouts; Tuscan Star (2-ply blue silk/cashmere) is divided into 100 yd bouts; and Charisma (2-ply purple silk top) is chained into 100 yd bouts.

Charisma is winging its way to a friend as a gift. Flashdance is warped on the inkle loom ready to weave into colorful bookmarks.

That left Tuscan Star. I barely plied it in this first run, just enough to tension the two strands together while maintaining its cushy loft. Now it needed another run through the wheel to gently tighten the ply. In one of those light-bulb life-changing moments I realized that my beloved antique saxony could do that job beautifully. I had waited so long to be ready. This was the task…now it was time.

I bought my wheel as a ‘wheel and a box of sticks’ near Ann Arbor, Michigan in the late ‘60’s. I cleaned her with turpentine, conditioned her with warm boiled linseed oil, steel wooled her metal parts, and replaced her worn leather bearings with ones cut from old driving reins. I spun on her for 10 years…she was like an extension of my hand and thoughts. Then life changed. She went through a flood, followed by 30 years in storage, a bad repair, more storage, another flood, and finally a professional repair to her whorl to realign it with the bent axle, and to rebuild her broken treadle bar. After two years of waiting in the open air in my house to reabsorb moisture into the fragile ash-dry wood, I spun on her yesterday for the first time since 1975.

I love this wheel, and everything about her.

Her elegant simplicity, the grace of her maidens:

The depth of her oak table, the strength of her tension screw:

She has lived a long life and worked hard. It shows In the red paint embedded in the grain of her wheel rim, and the little charred place near one of her spokes:

It shows in the numbers stamped into each of her posts and holes, to help put her back together after a long journey, perhaps with a family of settlers traveling west to a new home and new opportunities:

It shows in her treadle, worn by use into a perfect footprint:

She has fire and passion, like a spirited horse eager to grab the bit and go.

She reminds me of Trixie, my little sorrel mare, who would lighten her step and toss a glance back over her shoulder, as if to say “Come on Mom, are you ready for a good run?”

Yesterday was a good run. This little wheel was born to make yarn with alarming speed.

Her wheel to flyer ratio is 13:1; her bobbin take-up is awesome. She spins with barely a touch on the treadle. She is a joy.

My wheel has come home.
My heart is singing.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. September 12, 2008 7:37 pm

    My heart is singing, too!
    Can’t wait to see your woven bookmarks. And, love the birdcage swift, too.

  2. September 12, 2008 9:19 pm

    What a touching tribute! And your silks, as always, are gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous!

  3. September 14, 2008 12:33 am

    Beautiful words for an old friend. I’m glad you’re making yarn together once again.
    Your silk handspun is gorgeous, and I’m looking forward to seeing the bookmarks.

  4. September 14, 2008 11:06 pm

    What a beautiful story! If only all the ‘rescues’ in this world would have such a happy ending. Or, as in this case, a new beginning…..

  5. September 15, 2008 7:46 am

    Wow, what lovely silk. And such an interesting wheel.

  6. September 15, 2008 12:30 pm

    Oh my gosh, Jan you gave me goosebumps! Wow, wow, wow. This is totally utterly awesome.

  7. September 16, 2008 11:35 am

    I can’t wait to see your wheel in person. She is a beauty. The silk is beautiful too, of course. 🙂
    Thanks for such a moving post!

  8. Sam permalink
    September 18, 2008 11:23 am

    You are just the Silk Queen, Jan. Gorgeous wheel, and I’m so happy that you are restored to each other! I look forward to future collaborations. 🙂 Beautiful, beautiful work…

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