Through the Back Loop

Adventures in knitting, fiber arts, and family.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Spinning Wheel, Got to Go Round - (Blood Sweat & Tears)

Isn't it amazing that it only takes two weeks to become an expert? Well, I may be stretching it a bit, but after a week, I did this!

It plyed it into a beautiful yarn, and it's very soft. A HUGE improvement from my first attempt (no pictures.. I'm even afraid to show it to people. Except that it can be called "artistic", but even that 's strecthing it).

I went back for the final class last Thursday. I brought two full bobbins like the one pictured above and learned how to ply on the Louet wheel. Then I tried an Ashford Elizabeth 2 wheel. It looks like this:

Anyway. Here is a brief review of both wheels from a two week spinning master!

Louet S51DT

This was a great wheel to start on. The tension was great, once I got it set appropriately, and it took my beginner rope without complaining that it looked like crap. My first 1/2 pound of roving was gone in 4 days, and I tried plying by myself without great success. The first roving was sticky and hard to draft. It was very tough. I bought it from the shop that offered the class, and I didn't like it. I don't think it was a good quality. My next roving came from down the road at Hidden Valley Woolen Mill. Carol was so nice! I bought a color called "Lady of the Lake" and started filling up my bobbins. This time I waited until class night to ply. I didn't want to ruin this soft, pretty yarn. The first roving I didn't care about, it didn't even feel nice on the bobbin, so I knew that I wouldn't want to work with it, but Lady of the Lake had a lot of potential as a final product. The Louet was a nice, forgiving wheel. It went and went and went, and asked for more. The only problem I had was when I wanted to make a thin yarn. It wasn't possible, even when I predrafted like a fiend. No matter how hard I tried, I seemed to end up with DK weight yarn. If I predrafted very thin, the yarn would just break and I was forced to go thicker. When I brought the wheel back to class, the teacher told me that this was a typical problem with this wheel. She encouraged me to try a different wheel. So I did.

Ashford Elizabeth 2
Well first of all, this was a dream because the wheel is from New Zealand. The roving is from sheep down the road which are a New Zealand breed. I have been to Ashburton, New Zealand, where the company is located. Right here the wheel had me hooked. I knew this had to be the perfect wheel for me.

I started spinning on Elizabeth in class. It went smoothly from the start. I had no trouble switching to the single treadle, although I did have to pay close attention at first to make sure the wheel didn't reverse direction when I started spinning. At home, I had a hard time getting the wheel to take the yarn at first, but after playing with it for awhile, the tension seemed to improve. I'm not really sure how. Starting the wheel by hand really helped with this. After I got going, I felt like a pro. DH and the girls went to Hidden Valley for me and picked out a new roving. I didn't want to tell the girls that my plan was to spin yarn to make them each a pair of mittens, but I ended up telling them anyway after they picked out "Royal Flush" as a colorway. My DH and children gasped as I spun silky, thin thread almost invisible to the naked eye! I worked magic! The yarn was beautiful and it was soft. Today I brought it to show my MIL, and she oohed and aahed over it, too. Back at home I went to ply it. No luck. I sat and sat for over an hour, but again the yarn wouldn't feed onto the bobbin. The bobbin just spun and spun and my yarn twisted into a mess. I tried to change over to Scotch tension, but there was no manual, so I just played around until finally it kind of worked when I ran both belts around the spool and put the clear wire around them for some drag. I worked forever plying, often having to wind the yarn onto the bobbin by hand. It was not fun. I finally finished and wanted to spin a single again, but again it wouldn't draw. I had it set up with the original tension of one belt on the whorl and the other on the bobbin, but no luck. I ended up going to bed. Disgusted.

So, which wheel do I like better? Neither. Jury is still out on what will work best for me. I love how easy the Louet was to work, but I couldn't get the yarn I wanted. The Elizabeth is from New Zealand, which wins many points with me, easily makes thin yarn once it gets started, but is very, very, very touchy. It demands patience. Or someone who knows what they are doing, and I clearly don't.

I'll try again tomorrow.

Oh, and yes. I am still working on the mittens. They are progressing slowly now because my "spinning wheel's got to go round." The second mitten is only a little farther and doesn't warrant a photo, yet.


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