Saturday, July 12, 2014

Coming together

So what's new? A fair amount, actually.

I've been working hard getting everything back into place. (Or at least into some place or other.) Even with having disposed of probably a third of what was in the room before, there is still a lot of stuff to sort out. And, frankly, more that will probably go. (No probably about it - there's more to go for sure.)

I am super pleased with how the room storage is working out, though. The combination of dressers and shelves is working very well so far. I want to get some bins that fit into the shelves to hold smaller stuff, and to create a neater appearance. This means another trip to IKEA, which is almost an hour away, so I've been putting it off until I have a little more time. Hopefully soon.

(click on photos to embiggen)

Gee, do you think perhaps I'm not tall enough to reach the top? What's the clue?
I also made the decision to store all of the animal – based fibers in sealed bins. As pretty as I think it would be to have all the yarns and fibers artfully arranged on the shelves, in effect this is like setting out a buffet for wool moths. Having dealt with them once in the past, I never want to go through that again! It'd be quicker to just set (lots of ) dollar bills on fire and avoid the cleanup hassle!

I spent a morning cataloging all of my fiber and putting it in numbered bins. I will do the same with the yarn. That means the shelves will be a bit more bare, but I won't end up having to throw things away either. As a side effect, my tools and supplies will be more organized than they've been in the over 20 years I've been doing this.

All those bins on the left? They'll be gone. Someday.
"Sealed bins" means "store in the garage" which is, um, kind of full of stuff plus two cars. So we began sorting through the garage the other day. I love scope creep, don't you? It needs to be done though - we've lived here over 15 years and the accumulation of stuff is kind of frightening, actually.

Joe hung the TV a few days ago, and I am working on a way to deal with the cords. We didn't want to have to punch into the wall and pull wire, but I don't like the look of the dangling wires either.



The iMac I bought has been here for just over a week and we're getting to know each other pretty well. I managed to get my Roland keyboard hooked in and serving as a MIDI input with the Mac, and have been playing around with Garage Band - nothing serious but it's fun to play with the different patches. Not to mention that it's nice to not worry about Joe having to hear me practice the piano - I am so out of practice it's embarrassing! He says he doesn't mind - but I do!

In fiber project-related news, I began spinning for the Tour de Fleece with the Hansen miniSpinner team - all in good fun, actually, and I'm not getting as much done as I'd like, though I'll be done with the second half of this soon, perhaps today. I also cast on a shawl yesterday - hopefully I'll finish this one. Loooong stretches of stockinette but I think it will be pretty in the end.

Stay tuned for further adventures...

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Some Assembly Required

Progress! At last!

Monday, a friend who is in the carpet business laid the new carpeting. Yesterday, two nice men from IKEA came with half a ton (literally) of furniture in boxes, carried it all upstairs, and assembled and placed it in the room.

Things are looking a little different now.

(click on photos to embiggen)

Just as a reminder - before:


And (drumroll please), after:

(I know the loom is facing backward; that's temporary.)






For the curious, the furniture consists of two HEMNES 8-drawer dressers with KALLAX 4x4 shelf units on top; a HEMNES desk; and a STENSTORP kitchen island for a worktable. (The white bookcases were purchased long ago.)The plan is to put the island on glides so it can be moved around the room as needed, and in fact I suspect it will spend some time up against the wall by the door when not in use.  I chose the kitchen island so that it's the right height for working while standing, and it also has room for two barstools for seating and two strong metal shelves for storage. I still have to sand and oil the butcher-block top, which may not be as necessary as if it were to be used in a kitchen but I'd like to keep it in good shape.

Of course, there is still all the stuff to move back in and organize, and work areas to get ready - some assembly is, indeed, still required. This is the current state of the guest room:


See the patch of blue in the upper right, to the right of the big box? That's the guest bed, which we tore down and upended to pack the room with All My Stuff. I'll be working on emptying everything back out and installing it all in the other room, but for now I'm enjoying the pristine look of my studio. That room has never looked so good in all the years we've lived here.



Monday, June 2, 2014

Getting there, and - getting there

This last weekend, I attended NwRSA's Conference 2014, held in Salem, OR at Willamette University. This conference has been held annually since 1985, and has evolved from a big spin-in to add two full days of workshops as well.

(click on photos to embiggen)

The Hatfield Fountain - of course I liked it, it has birds! 
Mill Stream
Willamette U is a beautiful campus, complete with a stream running through it with resident ducks and several beautiful common areas. The academic buildings are mostly newer. The dorm I was in? Not so much; it appears to date from the late 1800s and is about as perfect as a human would be at the age of 120 - uneven creaky floors, questionable electricity and plumbing (and the electricity clearly added after the fact), no elevator or AC. My punishment for asking for an individual room was to have that room on the top floor with two double flights of stairs as access - not a big deal until I tell you my thought process for packing was "I'm not getting on a plane, I can take whatever I want!" The stained glass over the front door was lovely though, and the carved banisters on those stairs were too.

One thing I learned: I am too old for communal showers. For sure.

The conference itself was a fun experience. I have been to similar gatherings in the (rather distant!) past, and always enjoyed them - this was a bit smaller than I had anticipated, with somewhere around 135 registered attendees (I am told that is unusually small). The benefit to me was that I got to know almost everyone at least by sight by the end of the weekend. There were likewise fewer vendors, which was probably good for my bank account - especially since I have a different event coming up in just three weeks! I did pick up some books I'd had on my wish list for a while, one of which is out of print and a bit hard to locate - Deb Menz's Color in Spinning. Bonus time: it's double autographed!

And honestly, most of what I learned is that I know more than I think I do. More than once I found myself explaining to someone else what to do, or helping to adjust a wheel to accommodate whatever was being worked on. The classes I took were good (working with mohair, art yarn creation, knitting with unspun silk), but not as much of a stretch for me technically as I had thought they might be - which was nice actually, because I could focus on the product and not worry about being able to do the process once it was explained.

Art yarn - building blocks, and...

Art yarn constructed!

Knitting with unspun silk - a rather painstaking process...


On Saturday there was a luncheon and fashion show, with some amazing work displayed. Maybe someday I'll have something worthy of showing!

And I think the funnest part was the spin-in - the gym was full of people with wheels working on projects, with lots of visiting.

All in all a great time, despite the fact there was a big accident the morning we were driving down so my four-hour trip to Salem took 6 1/2 hours to get there - ugh. Very glad I went, as I somehow agreed to be on the committee hosting next year's conference, which will be May 28 - 31, 2015 at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, WA. Keep an eye on the guild website for details coming soon. And as a side note - even if  you don't attend many meetings, if you're in the area (Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana) and interested in fiber arts, guild membership is a good resource for information and pretty inexpensive at $25/year. (How's that for a little advertising?)

Speaking of getting there - while I was gone, Joe emptied the studio in preparation for new carpet which is due to be installed late this week! I am excited, though when he brought up replacing the carpet I was apprehensive at the amount of work involved to clear the room out. God bless him, he took that on for me. Once the carpet is installed, I can commence Ikeacizing, and then move back in - the end is in sight!

Joe dodging the camera

I had forgotten how big this room is!

It actually echoes in here now!



Thursday, May 8, 2014

Jam Break

Yes, it happens to be lunchtime and I happen to be hungry - so a PB&J may be in my near future, but I'm talking about a different kind of jam break right now.

That is, I've broken the logjam of I Can't Make Any Progress On Turning the Storage Room into a Studio.

Yesterday, I listed on Craigslist the three old furniture items I needed to get rid of as "free to good home," and also listed an older table loom for sale. By 3 pm, all were claimed. The dresser went to a couple with a young daughter, whose dresser it will be. The desk went to a man with his own business who didn't have a desk to work from at home. The table went to a woman who had just moved and needed a dining table that would fold down. 

I'll be delivering the loom to the purchaser next week when I head into town for other reasons.

So now that side of the room looks like this:



And it's the other side that's truly frightening - see below:



Next steps? Con Joe into helping me shampoo the carpet - or at least the 20% or so that's exposed, then....

Ikea, here I come!

I might actually get this done before the end of the year!

By the way, I'm really liking Craigslist right now. I just sold a set of Addi interchangeable needles too. Anyone need a warping board? In digging out the room I discovered, somewhat shamefacedly, that I now have three, which is at least one more than I need.  That's going on Craigslist next.

Jam not included.


Monday, April 28, 2014

Stalled

When I retired last year, I had accumulated a fair amount of paid vacation time, which was paid to me  in a tidy lump sum as I went out the exit. I set aside a portion of it to redo the room I am going to use as a studio, and I've spent several hours sorting, packing, moving and discarding things to get ready to make that room more "useable studio" and less "storage space."

Much of my new workspace and storage was intended to come from IKEA, that bastion of room re-dos and college dorms everywhere.

In February, my friend and I were near IKEA (which is about 40 miles from my home), and decided to stop by and look at the furniture in person. Imagine my horror when I saw all of their EXPEDIT line, upon which nearly everything in my plan was based, tagged with "closeout!" signs. (Of course, "closeout" did not mean "reduced price.") In addition, I was nowhere near ready to buy the furniture, as the room hadn't yet been cleared and I had nowhere to store several large boxes full of pieces. EXPEDIT was wildly popular and it disappeared fast. Its replacement, KALLAX, is only just now hitting the stores - and it doesn't come in the same configuration I'd been counting on for my room.

So, it's back to the drawing board for me. I had planned to have the room work-ready by April; it's more likely to be at least June at this point. And, of course, none of my new options are as affordable as the EXPEDIT would have been. Gah! Decisions, decisions.

Meanwhile, I am continuing to refine the equipment selection. (Doesn't that sound grand and official?) This basically means buying things I have no room for yet, as the studio is in a shambles, but I'm finding good deals that I can't pass up. The friend mentioned above in the IKEA debacle kindly helped me acquire a four shaft Rasmussen table loom, 30 years old, in pristine condition save a bit of dust and rather dry wood. According to the seller's daughter, who was the Craigslist contact for her mother, Mom bought it, wove two pillow covers on it, and stuck it in a closet. I've also picked up a 25" Schacht Flip rigid heddle loom with a host of optional accessories for less than 50% of list from a woman in Texas who was a motivated seller. At least this one will fold and go in a tote bag for storage!

And, in an odd case of "it's such a small world that I can't quite believe it," I stumbled across the woman from whom I purchased my eight shaft Loomcraft floor loom, which is basically a clone of this loom, in about 1998. I was impressed with the fact that she remembered the loom well and made a couple of suggestions on things to update if I hadn't done it already.

Stay tuned; I'm hoping to break the logjam sooner rather than later and actually create a space where I can use all this stuff.

Not to mention Joe would probably like that Rasmussen loom out of the middle of the living room floor, which is its current resting place.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Sleeping Beauty

We have a new family member, and her name is Sophie-Marie.



I'm not always given to flights of fancy, or to naming my possessions, but she insisted that was her name and that was all there was to that.

The backstory: a good friend recently purchased a spinning wheel off of eBay. It was really pretty, and a bit unusual, and I got curious so I started reading about them. It is of a type known as a Canadian Production Wheel - they were made largely in Quebec, from about 1875 to perhaps as late as the 1950's, by companies that also made farm equipment (wheeled and wheel-powered things: threshers, sawmills, water wheels, spinning wheels - there's a certain logic to it). They were made to produce yarn in quantity at home, which means they are speed demons and workhorses - though they are also pretty. Based on its design and fittings it seems likely this one was made by Compagnie DesJardins - which is still in existence, though out of the spinning wheel business.

They have a distinct look to them, the most obvious of which is they usually have cast iron fittings. And the tension system is pretty unusual, too. I don't know where tilt tension originated but it was used a lot on wheels out of Quebec, and Canada in general - including the Watson wheel I have on order.



I've never used tilt tension before, and I know the Watsons are also built for speed, so I thought it would be a good idea to see what I could find in a CPW for myself as well, so I could get into the swing of things before the Watson arrives. 'Cuz, you know, I need to justify buying the new toy.

Of course, Quebec is a long way from here, and so they're hard to find nearby - the farther away you are from Quebec, the more rare and more expensive they get. They're also old and sometimes a bit fragile, thus expensive and nerve-wracking to ship even if a seller was so inclined.

I've been looking around pretty aggressively for a month or so. And I happened to find one in Bellingham last Sunday night, offered for rather less than it's really worth. I called immediately, hopping up and down in my chair and trying not to sound too excited, and made an appointment to see it Monday morning. Drove like a madwoman to Bellingham, where the seller told me the wheel really didn't work and she wasn't sure what was wrong with it.

Looking over the wheel, I could see that all the major parts were there, intact and mostly in great shape, and apparently original. That in itself is a bit unusual. The issue she described didn't really make much sense, but I could see the footman was all bent out of shape - it's made of a soft metal rod, and apparently she'd let her son use it as a play sword. (Ed. note: Not a good idea. On so many levels.)

After a nice visit, I handed her the relatively small sum of money she was asking for the wheel, and we broke it down and put it in the back of my car.

The wheel was filthy, having sat around in her garage for years, but obviously had been someone's valued tool at some point as it had been well cared for in the past. A good scrub with a strong solution of Murphy's Oil Soap when we got home, and a lot of furniture oil the next day, and she was looking much, much better. It was clear she wanted to spin, she was built to do it, and just needed a boost to wake up and get going again.

I actually got her to spin Monday night after just washing off the dirt and grime, with no further work and not even oiling the moving parts. The bobbin will need some cleaning out so it turns freely, but that's minor.

There are a couple of things I'll need a blacksmith's assistance to repair - they are simple fixes, such as straightening that play sword back into shape, but I can't accomplish them myself. She will work just fine without these fixes, with a bit of improvisation.

The only thing missing is the axle peg, and my husband is working on a replacement, though she'll spin without one - and I've improvised with a pair of Chinese-takeout chopsticks for now. (She is pretty embarrassed by this though, so no photos. We are not the Kardashians here.)

You may note, as I'm writing about her, I am using "her" and not "it." She insisted on a female pronoun from the first time I laid eyes on the Craigslist ad.

And Tuesday morning, Joe was leaving the house early; I woke up just as he was leaving, rolled over in bed and said, "Remember Sophie-Marie is in the laundry room drying off after her bath; don't trip over her as you head to the garage." I have no idea where the name came from, it just came out of my mouth.

And out of Joe's mouth came - "Who on Earth is Sophie-Marie, and why is she in our laundry room?"

Flickr set of photos here - I am documenting the cleanup/restoration as I go.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Ballad of the Woolee Winder



Come and listen to a story about a man named Jed 
A poor mountaineer, barely kept his family fed, 
Then one day he was shootin at some food, 
And up through the ground came a bubblin crude. 
Oil that is. Black gold. Texas tea. 

St. Valentine was good to me this year, and brought me a Woolee Winder and three bobbins for my Majacraft Suzie. Since St. Valentine is so very nice, I even got my gift early, so I've had a few days to play with it.

Or maybe that should be, I've had a few days to wrestle with it.

What, you say, is a Woolee Winder? It is an invention by a man in Oregon designed to improve the efficiency of spinning by eliminating the need to stop and move where the yarn is winding onto the bobbin. The device replaces the regular flyer assembly on your wheel with one that contains a travel screw inside one arm, which drives an eye back and forth using the movement of the flyer and bobbin, to distribute the yarn evenly.

The engineering-minded can see a schematic on the inventor's website, here, under "how it works."

And the visual learners can see the results below. 


Manual flyer on the left, WW on the right. Yes, two different wheels. You can see the difference in how the bobbin is loading!
Things go in trends in all aspects of life, and Woolee Winders seem to be trendy in the spinning world right now. The maker provides them to fit a variety of current popular wheels, and it seems more are in the works as well.

What do I think?

When it works, it rocks. The closest example I can think of for non-spinners is, it's the difference between having to stop your 4WD and get out and manually switch the hubs on each wheel (inevitably in the snow, ice, or mud, which is mostly when you'd want 4WD of course!), and turning a knob on the dashboard for 4WD on the fly. Okay, that's a bit dramatic - but I tend to zone out when things are going well in spinning, and I'm forever forgetting that I need to stop and shift things - it's interruptive, frankly. Plus the uneven winding-on means you can't get as much on any given bobbin.

The key term is, when it works. For the cost of this thing, it really ought to work out of the box. But no. It's finicky, grumpy, grabby, stiff, tense...sounds like me after a bad day at work in my old life, and working with it is about as much of a struggle as that job could be. 

And this is where our friend Jed comes in. Oil is your friend. 

The online troubleshooting I found, mostly on Ravelry, sometimes mentioned using a drop of oil in the traveling screw. 

I think they mean "drop" as an alcoholic would use the term in the phrase "a drop of whiskey." 

I've been oiling this thing like there's no tomorrow - and in waaay more places than people have mentioned. All the gears, particularly the gear shafts. The worm gear at the end. The traveling screw. And the bobbin shaft when putting on the bobbin. Not a drop at each end, a line of the stuff all along the bobbin shaft. 

I also switched out the brake band to a length of cotton crochet thread, and ran a 5.5mm sketch pencil (graphite! A lubricant!) along the brake band groove on the bobbin. Oh, and I ended up modifying the position of the eye that feeds yarn onto the bobbin by (this is very scientific) sticking a screwdriver through it and gently tweaking it counterclockwise, so it would align better.

And FINALLY it is not routinely a struggle to use this thing. I just caught myself doing the "in the groove" mind drift which means everything is working perfectly, I don't have to fight the equipment, and I'm just cranking along, daydreaming as I go. 

So, if you happen to have just acquired one of these, and Dr. Google has brought you here in a search to help you with your troubles, get out Jed's Texas tea and don't be shy about using it. And remember the challenge starts anew with each new bobbin for a while too. 

As of this writing, Robert Lee & Son offers a two-year money back guarantee if you just can't make friends with your Woolee Winder. (See their website for details, of course.)

Y'all come back now, y'hear?