Friday, April 30, 2010

a subjective wheel comparison

Channon left this comment on yesterday's post:

Interesting. I spun on the Lendrum, a ST Matchless, the Majacraft Aura and the Kromski Fantasia last weekend. I still want to try a DT Matchless and the Majacraft Rose, but I was wondering how you think the wheels all compare.

(It will be my second wheel. I have a Heavenly Handspinning Bellus already.)

My first reaction was, "You've spun on the new Majacraft Aura?! Do tell!" But then I realized that she has likely been sworn to secrecy until the big unveiling tomorrow at the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival.

So here is my off-the-cuff and purely subjective comparison of wheels that I own or have owned. There aren't a lot of opportunities to try wheels here in Regina so I have purchased and sold a few in my trials. Luckily wheels hold their value pretty well so resale isn't too painful. I figure it's still less expensive than a trip to another city to try a bunch and I'm not too good a traveler these days. I'm fortunate at this stage of my life to have the time and money to indulge my passion.

My first wheel was an Ashford Joy and I loved it dearly. Super portable and pretty. It needed regular oiling but wasn't high-maintenance once it was lubricated. The bobbins were on the small side; putting 4 oz. of wool on them was a stretch. The padded bag protected the wheel beautifully. As my fibromyalgia progressed I didn't like having my feet so close together when I treadled so I sold it but I still miss it sometimes. You never forget your first love.

Next came the Ashford Elizabeth 2. A beautiful traditional saxony wheel but a pain to put together and an oil pig at first. Elizabeth was smooth and fast and I spun on her in double drive. My body decided that the single treadle was brutal and I paid dearly for a spinning session with pain the next few days. After much dithering on my part she eventually went on to a new loving home with Monika.

After researching a new wheel that would be kinder to my legs, I bought the Majacraft Rose. I really love Rose although there are times when my knees hurt after a marathon spinning session with her too (I don't think that I can escape treadling pain unless I use the espinner). Rose is an extremely versatile wheel right out of the box with ratios from 4.24 to 19.5. The plastic bobbins are large and inexpensive. There are lots of add-ons that you can purchase too. I have the lace kit and the stylus. My favorite feature is the adjustable flyer. It's great to position the orifice exactly where I want it just by swinging to the right or left which is terrific for long-draw or spinning with the stylus. It comes with both the delta orifice on the regular flyer (good for bulky or art yarns) and the regular orifice on the fine fiber flyer (my default flyer). There is a handle that pops up when you rotate the main support but this isn't a lightweight, compact wheel. A big plus is the Majacrafts low maintenance. Except for the hinges on the treadles, they used sealed ball bearings for the movable parts. No need to keep a bottle of oil handy for this wheel.

I liked the Rose so much that I bought a Majacraft Little Gem. I liked it for its portablity and beauty but I didn't like it as well as the Rose. The Majacraft accessories are interchangeable between their wheels with just a few exceptions. I didn't mind the different feel of the treadles although some people can't get used to it.

After selling my unloved knitting machine, I decided to splurge on the Schacht Ladybug. I adore the bug. From the first time I sat down to spin on her, I was in love. For the vast bulk of my spinning, which is fine to very fine, the Ladybug is my perfect match. My knees don't have much trouble treadling the super-lightweight wheel and it is rim-weighted so has great momentum once it gets going. It feels solid, with the sturdy flyer and bobbins that Schacht is known for. Although it is possible to spin the bug in double drive and bobbin lead, I like it best in Scotch tension. It does require frequent oiling. I find that I can get 6 oz. on a bobbin without problems. It doesn't fold but is lightweight and easy to carry. The wheel came with the attached lazy kate as a promotion. I didn't think that I would like the kate but I really do. It's nice to have bobbin storage on the wheel and its position is perfect for my style of Navajo plying. It comes with two whorls with ratios of 7:1 to 12.5:1. I bought the high speed whorl but don't find it need it much. It would be difficult to spin chunky or art yarns without the new plying flyer and bobbins but I don't spin heavy yarns much so it does everything I want for most of my spinning. If I was forced to downsize to one wheel only, I think it would be the Ladybug. The Rose has more versatility but, for my body, the Ladybug is the perfect fit.

I started to think about how much I loved the Ladybug and therefore would love the Schact Matchless even more. The Little Gem wasn't getting a lot of use at home and I decided that I really didn't need a super-portable wheel at that point in my life so I sold it to help fund the purchase of a Matchless. I tried to love the Matchless, I really did. It's sturdy, solid, and reliable but my knees hated that wheel. It was just too heavy to treadle. It moved on to a new home after a few months. I know that most people consider the Matchless the premium wheel and the Ladybug only the starter Schacht but it certainly wasn't that way for me.

Proceeds from the sale of Matchless went to purchase an Ertoel Roberta espinner. It's terrific for plying and has saved my knees in a big way! It is bobbin lead so has strong takeup. I can spin fine yarns on the Roberta but it's a struggle. I like the feeling of being one with my treadle wheels when I spin singles. I never really get that zen with the Roberta but don't care as long as it whips through all that plying. It suits my purposes perfectly. There are two sizes of bobbins and the jumbo easily holds 8 oz. It is light and surprisingly quiet. I have the pause control and dual power options on my wheel as well. Some maintenance is required to keep things clean and lubricated.

As I started taking intermediate spinning classes I found that I needed a versatile wheel to learn to spin those art yarns and high twist cotton yarns. I hate taking my beautiful Rose out in public because her soft Rimu wood is easy to bang up. My sister Darcie got a Majacraft Pioneer as her first wheel and loved it so enter the Pioneer. As with all the other Majacrafts, the Pioneer is low maintenance and versatile. She doesn't fold but she rides nicely to classes while seat-buckled in the van. Her small drive wheel makes her easy on my knees. She doesn't get the momentum of a big wheel so makes a perfect learner wheel. She's a plain Jane sort of wheel but she treadles like a true Majacraft. And she doesn't have to stay the plain sister - Darcie recently gave hers a makeover.

And that brings us to the new Lendrum which you can read about on yesterday's post.

eta: The regular Lendrum bobbins hold about 4 oz. of wool, to answer Jody's question. Also, I just took the dogs outside and it's snowing! Forget about March coming in like a lion, May is coming in like a lion! Disgusting. Only in Canada....

Thursday, April 29, 2010

and a big thing

Some of you may know that I have an addiction problem.

No, no, not to drugs, alcohol, nicotine, or anything that is harmful to my body; my addiction is just harmful to the bank account. I am a wheel junkie. I adore spinning wheels, all kinds.

The latest case in point....
a new Lendrum upright (from Shuttleworks, of course).

The feature that I like the most is the lean so that you can see how your bobbin is filling as you spin.
Because of my TMJ problems, I lean back when spinning so that my neck and head are supported by my body. I like that I don't have to stop and lean forward to see if the yarn guide needs to be moved.

When I first started spinning, I was attracted to pretty wheels. I have to admit that I dismissed the Lendrum based on its plain Jane looks. Now I see my wheels mainly as tools and their aesthetics are secondary considerations. The Lendrum may be low-tech in many ways but it is solid maple and seems very sturdy.

It does fold although it's not the lightest portable wheel out there by a long shot. At this point in my life, portability isn't too important. I don't have plans to fly anywhere with my wheels and I don't have to take public transit to spinning classes.

Notice the knob at the base of the wheel.
You unscrew this knob and a hinge allows the wheel to fold down flat.
Just move the knob up to the next hole to secure it to the base and it's ready to travel or to be stored (I see that Bentley's headless skunk wanted to be included in the photos).

The Lendrum has Scotch tension and the flyer is removed and/or changed in the same way, unscrewing the knob under it.
You have some choice about how high to place the flyer (also tightening or loosening the drive band) before tightening the knob.

Changing bobbins is very easy. The back of the flyer folds down so that you only need to remove the tension band before you slide the bobbin out.

For a 19" wooden drive wheel, it's very easy to treadle and has nice momentum. I've been spinning on it for the last couple of days but I'm not yet sure how my knees feel about treadling this wheel. I've been having a fibro flare this week and I'm one big hurt all over (and starting to get whiny about the pain and poor sleep - it sucks!) so it's tough to know if the wheel is causing any more pain than my body would be experiencing anyway.

I chose to get the regular DT wheel and the fast flyer rather than the complete package which also includes the plying flyer and bobbin. I ply on the Roberta espinner and can't imagine needing the plying attachment. I did order the fast flyer separately. It uses the same bobbins as the regular flyer so was a very reasonable add-on.

The wheel comes with a tensioned lazy kate.
It's not very heavy so I'm thinking that I may buy some rubber feet to make it more stable.

All in all, the Lendrum is a sturdy, cleverly-designed wheel at a great price. It feels like a full-sized wheel and has some portability features. I like that it's made in Canada too.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

small things

I have a couple of small things to share today. They are very useful and are my current favorite 'tools'.

This cute little double-ended crochet hook is from Knit Picks.
I love that I can attach it to my sock-on-the-go knitting bag for stitch dropping emergencies. I kept losing regular crochet hooks and don't have to worry about this one going astray.

The second tool is a wrist distaff for the other bag in my purse, the spindle bag. While I was at the hospital with Dan, I was forever jumping up and down to make room for the nurses or when visitors came. I usually wrap my fiber around my wrist but it didn't work very well to keep pulling it off and putting it on particularly while I was wearing my watch on the same wrist.
I had seen an article about distaffs in an old Spin Off magazine and thought this idea looked like it would work well so I pulled out some Elann Esprit yarn remnants from the stash. The stretchy cotton blend is practical and comfortable for this use. I just knitted a regular ribbed cuff in blue then picked up stitches at the edge of one rib and knitted a faux rib (K one row, P one row, K one row, repeat these 3 rows) with the rose yarn. Once it was long enough I sewed the other end to the cuff as the fiber compartment. Here it is in use:
Now if my spinning is interrupted, I just pull off the cuff and don't disturb my fiber supply at all.

Besides the Trekking Maxima sock knitting, I've done a little dyeing and a little spinning.

The dyeing is for a gift so I won't divulge what the plans are just yet. It's SW merino and I was aiming for Barbie pink. I think I got pretty close.

And the spinning is a 3 ply sock yarn using a blend of Corriedale and bison. It's the first time I've spun yarn with a tight twist from fiber that I scoured and prepared myself. It certainly doesn't feel like commercial sock yarn. It has some spring in it even with the tight twist. I think I will dye it. It will be interesting to see how finishing it affects its hand.

Here are some leftover singles right off the wheel.

Friday, April 23, 2010

wet Friday

Shelties like rain. They don't even seem to feel it; must be that double coat of theirs. We had showers most of the day. Cooper happily discovered the little trickles of rain coming off of the eaves and out of the downspout, first pouncing on them and then drinking the water.

He looked up when I called him.

Then he came running to see what I was holding in front of my face.

Robbie saw the camera and posed nicely for his picture.
He used to be the dog that would never pose for the camera. I guess he figured that the kid shouldn't be getting all the attention.

Dan is just fine and back to school and playing hockey. The doctors don't know what caused the heart flutter problem. Hopefully the medication will prevent it from occurring again. I'm thankful that it all turned out fine.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

actually some fiber things

I actually have some fiber pics to share! It has been a long time since I've said that.

I adore this Trekking Maxima (color 906) sock yarn!
I wanted to play around some more with toe up socks to find a heel that I liked knitting and that fitted well. This yarn has gamely survived being knitted and frogged a few times in that quest. I knew I didn't like keeping track of wraps and picking them up and now I'm sure of it. I hate, hate, hate wraps! I surprised myself by preferring Wendy Johnson's plain gusset heel. I didn't think it would fit my skinny heels and ankles well but it does. It is also easy to knit so it fits the bill perfectly.

The above picture was taken before Dan went into the hospital. I had a few hours of knitting in the strong lighting of the emergency ward room and here it is now.
I'm knitting it on 1.75mm needles so it's slow going but I like it very much. Once Dan was admitted to the regular hospital room the lighting wasn't good enough for these teeny tiny stitches so I switched to a spindle for those hours. Thank goodness for knitting and spinning to keep my hands busy! Definitely a sanity saver in those circumstances.

I used the crock pot to dye some Blue Faced Leicester wool with a wee bit of firestar a few weeks ago.
It gave me chance to use this drying gizmo that I found in a bargain store.
It's very slick. There are four mesh surfaces (I only set up two of them for this fiber) that sit against the upright base at the back. There's a fan in the base that gently blows the air so it can circulate around the mesh drying shelves. It works great! It will be particularly useful for drying fleeces.

I took the carder out into the sunroom and starting blending the BFL with the firestar and am getting batts like this that remind me of the color of the sky at sunrise.
(That's actually very ironic as I'm a night owl and sleep through sunrises.)

Friday, April 16, 2010

so glad he's home

Dan came home from the hospital on Tuesday. We don't know what caused the tachycardia and arrythmia but he has new medications so hopefully it doesn't happen again. The preliminary results of the echocardiogram and stress test didn't show anything out of the ordinary. He still needs to get hooked up again for a few 24 hour time periods of monitoring over the next few weeks. We are cutting back on sodium and trying to eat very healthily now. I don't mind telling you that he scared the **** out of me and I am very, very glad that he's home! We have been together since we were 16 years old, over 35 years now, and I am not ready for that to change any time soon.

Although we are all glad that Dan is home, Cooper is especially happy. Dan often sits on the floor beside the couch while he watches TV and effectively becomes a playground for a young sheltie, with ears and hair to nibble on while said puppy climbs over and slides down Dan's head and body. Don't let that first nicey nice picture fool you; here's what was happening the rest of the time:

Thank you all for the comments of concern and support the last few days. It means more than you can know.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

drive by posting

Just a quick post. Dan was hospitalized yesterday because of heart issues. Today brought good news that medication has restored his heart's normal sinus rhythm. He will stay in the hospital until at least Monday while they try to find out what caused the problems. While the last couple of days have been stressful, I am very glad that his heart gave us this warning.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

really Spring

What a difference a week makes! Where there were mini-lakes and mini-ice-mountains, there now is lawn.

There are still some leftover icy patches in the shade but they are melting rapidly. I know it's really Spring because I saw the first robin of the season the other day. And when I peered into the muddy mess in the corner of the garden, I spotted the first rhubarb sprouts peeking through the dead vegetation. Can you see their rosy little noses in the middle of the picture?
That's the surest sign of Spring around here.

Although there are a few flies moving slowly in the sun, it's bug-free enough to leave the door open in the sunroom so the dogs can go in and out at will.

Cooper thinks this is the best of both worlds.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Cooper 'kills' his dish

I'm new to the world of digital video. I haven't managed to post a video to You Tube, not sure what I'm doing wrong, but I think I've got this little clip here on Blogger.

For your viewing pleasure, I present Cooper 'killing' his dish after eating.

Edited to add: I have no idea what's up with the weird sound track. That's not what it really sounds like.