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Another old spinning wheel. And some new knitting.

January 4, 2010

On January 1 I completed my first FO of 2010.

When I made my annual pilgrimage to WEBS after Christmas, I saw some Plymouth Baby Alpaca Worsted Glow that immediately said, “Emily!” to me. So she has a new helmet that is exactly what she wants, and very soft and warm.

The rest of my pilgrimage to WEBS yielded this.

Some Plymouth Baby Alpaca Worsted (no glow) in a nice saturated pink (I don’t have much pink in my wardrobe), a bag of Tahki Sedona which is aran-weight wool and silk, because I really need something in this weight in my stash, and some Valley Yarns Florence in navy (this is being discontinued and I really like it so I grabbed some in navy at only $2.29 a ball). I was pretty good.

There is a reason for that, as you’ll see.

In the old-knitting department, I finished the socks I was working on. The pattern is “Eunice” from Cookie A’s Sock Innovation book. I haven’t actually worn these yet, I have been saving them to photograph, and I just like looking at them. I think they are gorgeous.

The yarn is the luxury sock blend from Neighborhood Fiber Company, in a gorgeous royal blue shade called “Georgetown”. It has a little cashmere in it, but it feels extremely solid and firmly plyed, so I’m hoping they will wear well.

I knitted 4 repeats of the leg pattern, instead of 2, because I don’t like short socks. I literally had about 6 feet of yarn left when I finished. The remaining yarn is what you see wrapped around the yarn tag in the photo. I knitted the leg ribbing on size 1 needles and then went down to size 0 for the legs, to get a firm fabric out of the delicate yarn and to get a good fit. When I go down a needle size I always end up burning through a lot of yarn to get the same length.

After I finished those, I was in a sort of a knitting slump. I had one thing on the needles, and it was driving me nuts. It’s Cambridge Cables, from the winter issue of Twist Collective. It’s a very attractive and clever design, but a couple of things about the pattern really caused me needless headaches.

First (and this caused me to knit the start of the neckline FOUR TIMES before I caught on) – if you see “K2T” in knitting instructions, what would you assume it meant?? I mean, based on the experience of your previous 100 years of knitting? Well, it doesn’t mean that. It means to make a baby cable (1 over 1 twist). Once I figured that out, I got the raglan increases completed, but the cabled collar is a bit the worse for the wear I inflicted on it it as I picked up and knit, ripped back, picked up and knit… Grr.

The bustline short row shaping is quite clever but I had to knit it twice. I’m not sure if the pattern was obscure or I had a stupid day.

Then I got to the cabled waistband, which is applied sideways in the manner of adding edging to a shawl. Now, again, this could be me being too demanding, BUT – if you provide BOTH a chart AND written instructions for doing a particular piece of work, why would you avoid marking BOTH of those items to indicate that the first stitch of every right side row is SLIPPED, and bury this information in a NOTE on a completely DIFFERENT PAGE? Even if you are not supposed to slip the first stitch of the row with the twist, you could easily indicate that since all rows are charted and explained. I was going to let it go, but then I noticed that for 2 of the 4 right-side rows of the waistband, you are supposed to attach it to two body stitches instead of just one. Now this, I could not let go, it created a tremendous flair at the waistband. So I ripped it off and redid it.

That was my last mishap. This is what it looked like yesterday. Now, I wonder – what will happen when I block and wear it, given that the applied bottom edge seems to want to ROLL UP??? Sigh. The cursed sweater.

One sleeve to go. I tried it on. It fits nicely. It’s a bit too long but I will just be careful what I wear it with. The yarn is Berella Muskoka, an old out-of-print 100% merino from Canada that I’ve had in my stash for a long time. It’s a bit firmer than the merinos of today, so I think it will be reasonably durable.

I fumed and frogged over this project for a week or so while I tried to get inspired to cast on something else. Usually when I have a vacancy in the WIP lineup I can’t wait to run and start something, but it took me a lot of pondering over my Ravelry queue before I decided what to do.

This is the Cable and Lattice pullover from Vermont Fiber Designs, and Cascade 220. I bought the yarn and the pattern at about the same time, because I just wanted this sweater in this color. It is a really good match for the pattern – the cables really pop. The body of the sweater is based on one of my favorite cable patterns of all time. I figured, if I want to knit a wine-colored cabled pullover, this is the time of year to do it.

So what, you may be wondering, about the old spinning wheel?? I was restrained at WEBS because I was acquiring something else that same morning.

This is an antique Canadian production spinning wheel, made by Philias Cadorette in St Hyacinthe, Quebec, probably in the late 1920s. The maker’s mark is a little damaged, but mostly clearly present.

I bought it from someone in Maine who met me at WEBS to make the handoff. As I carried it across the parking lot, people were admiring it, and someone said, “We covet your wheel even though we don’t spin.” It’s that beautiful.

It really doesn’t need any work at all. It obviously has not been stored in an attic, next to a fireplace, or in a damp basement. The wheel is quite true and the joins are tight.

The wheel hub, of all places, has some pretty grain in the wood.

The flyer is balanced and quiet, and the iron saddle does not bind on the mother of all.

I can put a 3.5 ounce cop on the bobbin! That is unusual for an antique wheel.

The bobbin is made so that it nests ever so slightly into the flyer whorl. I haven’t seen anything like that anywhere else although I’m sure it’s not unique.

The interesting patterns of wear on the flyer make me think that it was used in a cross-threaded manner for its whole life. Why else would there be wear like this on the back of the flyer arm, and below the hooks?

Its spokes have this pretty turning.

The day after I got it, it went to a party with lots of others of its kind. It also got a little beauty treatment of the inside of its bobbin bearings, from the Canadian Production Wheel Pit Crew (long story), so that its takeup would be better.

If you click through to the flickr set for the party you can see 9 different Canadian production wheels all gathered in a room together. Le Premier Reunion des Rouets Canadiens was held on the 27th, in Athol, Mass. There were three identical wheels there, two marked as by Philias and a third that was the same in every way although its mark had been lost. There are more flickr photos of the details of my Philias Cadorette wheel also.

This is a really beautiful wheel. I brought it home and put it next to its young cousin in my small study.

Having French-Canadian ancestry, as I do, and having spent a lot of time doing genealogy (really easy for Quebec, everything is very well preserved and available online), it was not difficult for me to determine that Philias Cadorette was third cousin to my great grandmother. Because the initial immigrant population of Quebec was so small, if you carry in your family tree a name that was present in the country prior to 1700, you are related to almost everyone. Therefore, that is not as thrilling as it may sound, but it’s still pretty cool. I wish it was possible to know more about these people who left little information behind, other than the marked products of their work and their names and signatures in parish and government records. What we know of Philias is that he was a middle son of an established maker of wheels, and that when he was about 25 he left Quebec to go to Vermont. On his border crossing record he described himself as a telegraph operator. However, 12 years later he was back home (based on census information), and by the time of his father’s death and his own marriage, when he was in his mid-40s, he was clearly the heir of the business, his occupation identified as “industriel”. So, although he evidently tried to dash off to the US and become something else, he ended up coming back and making these functional and very beautiful pieces of work anyway. Whatever else can be known of his story is yet to be found in more recent Canadian records that are not yet released to the public….
I am updating this to add a note about my friend Philias. He was indeed the third son of his father. However, I was able to locate death records for both his older brothers. The first son in the family died at the age of 7, when Philias was 1 year old. The second son died in 1910 at the age of 31 and was listed as a maker of spinning wheels at the time of his death. Philias was present at the funeral and signed the register, so perhaps he had to come home from Vermont and take over the family business at that time.

12 Comments leave one →
  1. January 4, 2010 11:10 am

    Wow what a treasure! My dream wheel…I have seen one or two around (here in Ontario) the auctions. They always seem to be in bad condition so I thought not worth buying (the dealers bidding were paying 200 to 300 dollars Cdn.) I have Quebec ancestry as well 🙂

  2. January 4, 2010 11:46 am

    Heeyyy! I didn’t realize that I read your blog already. That’s me in the purple shirt in the roundup picture! 🙂
    Your new wheel really is beautiful, and I think it’s fabulous that you’re related to the maker. What will you name her?

  3. January 4, 2010 2:59 pm

    Haha – funny how that happens. When I bought the Merlin Tree wheel and posted about it, I got an almost identical comment from the woman who sold it to me!
    Actually I’ve been calling the wheel “Philias” when I’ve been calling it anything…

  4. January 4, 2010 2:59 pm

    How out of place does that Lendrum look in that pic at the roundup. Your new wheel is a beauty! May you spin beautiful yarns together. And, I love the new whine cabled sweater, too.

  5. January 4, 2010 3:52 pm

    You find the most amazing things!
    I would’ve thought the same thing with K2T – and honestly, wouldn’t expect to have to play detective with a premium-priced Twist pattern. Good luck!

  6. January 4, 2010 9:34 pm

    Just discovered your blog. WOW! You’ve been around for a long time! (In the blogosphere, I mean.)
    Spinning is way out of my league, but the wheel is beautiful.
    The face beneath the helmet is precious. Did I overlook the information about the pattern? I think my Indiana grandsons would like that.
    Thanks so much! I’ll be back.

  7. Sam permalink
    January 5, 2010 1:58 am

    Wow – what a great entry. Just, “Wow!” to everything. 🙂

  8. Melanie permalink
    January 7, 2010 3:28 pm

    Gorgeous new wheel and thank you so much for sharing all the information your found on it’s maker. It’s fascinating.
    I think your Cable & Lattice sweater is going to be a knockout.

  9. Eli permalink
    January 11, 2010 6:03 pm

    Can I use this wool combs picture on my blog?

    My blog is here:

  10. March 28, 2013 1:12 pm

    Beautiful story, Beautiful wheel; I have the same one, also in beautiful condition.I just recently bought it from a retired school teacher who was downsizing. I paid 100.00 for it because it appealed to me so much. I’m so happy that it has french roots from Quebec, as I also have some French background.

  11. Curtis Dale, PhD permalink
    July 5, 2018 12:44 am

    I just posted on a similary (maybe same) site that I found a “Michal” in Parker, CO, a few weeks ago at Salvation Army Story. I had no idea, as I have only one basutiful flax wheel that is perfect, distaff and all, so this dirty looking thing was a challenge. It was sinfully dirty with soot, lanolin, dust and wool lint, but oh how it glows with a BIT of very CAREFUL cleaning and buffing. WOW! I had or “whittled” (Yes, I do superb work with my pocket knives) and I also had a flyer/bobbin assembly that fits beautifully. So, it now has a special place before the fireplace. Michal’s oval is readable, and that appears to be the only thing that his son, Philias changed as he took over the business. My Michal look exactly like the Philias except for the first name being changed in the oval manufacturer mark. In that it predated the Philias by a generation, I’ve figuring 1880 to maybe as late as 1900 for the Michal Oh, it was marked $99, but my wife bought enough stuff to make it 50% off and my Veteran Discount off that. Quite a bargain for a thing of beauty.

    • fotyc permalink*
      July 5, 2018 6:53 am

      Nice! Be careful keeping it in front of the fireplace as it can dry the wood so much that things begin to crack or warp. Michel lived until 1929 and it was in the 1920s that Philias came home from Massachusetts to take on the business. Later Philias wheels have a more ornate spoke design, once he used up his father’s parts and decided to make up his own style.

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