Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Hold onto your hat, Martha, we're going to town!

There's a new spinning wheel at my house -- new to me, anyways. This is my Canadian Production Wheel (CPW), made in Quebec around 1920, give or take 20 years.

It's huge (that's my Lendrum behind it), with a 29" drive wheel (the Lendrum's is 18"). It doesn't have the versatility of the Lendrum, but it should help me spin fine-to-medium, smooth-to-slightly-slubby yarn extremely quickly. That's what it was designed to do -- these wheels were for women spinning for income, and there was quite a little industry producing them.

I became intrigued by these wheels a while back, and started thinking about them more and more. There's an online discussion group for them, which just added fuel to the fire. A couple of months ago one turned up on Craigslist up in Edmond, but by the time I had noticed it, it had been sold -- to someone else in that group. You've got to move fast, I realized.

Many of the wheels that people find need a lot of rehabbing, which is not what I wanted. So I was really excited to see on Craigslist that looked good, was reasonably priced, and was only about half an hour away. I emailed the seller and made an appointment for the next morning; by lunch time it was in my living room.

It's in very good shape, considering. The seller had it for decor only; it had come from an antique show in Minnesota about 10 years ago. It has obviously seen a lot of use at one time (oil stains) but probably hadn't spun in decades.

There's some damage to the wheel rim, but nothing that will affect spinning:

And the footman is wonky; I'm still bending it in different ways to get it to the right height and to try and resolve a click:

The flyer assembly was the only real source of trouble. It looks great:

but the bobbin and flyer would barely turn independently due to decades of solidified gunk inside. I spent Monday evening cleaning the bobbin out with alcohol & q-tips, and polishing the flyer shaft with steel wool. I thought I had done a pretty good job, but it still jammed going back on:

Not good. If the bobbin doesn't rotate freely on the flyer, your yarn won't wind on. So I did some reading Monday night & Tuesday morning, and got a lot of helpful advice from the Ravelry CPW Lover's group, before I turned my attention to preparing for house guests. I picked up a few supplies on my way to get the kids after school, and Tuesday night I polished the shaft with a hand drill and some Turtle Wax car polishing compound, using the bobbin as a polishing tool. (CPW bobbins have metal bushings, so they can take this. Most don't, and couldn't.)

Then I reassembled the wheel, oiled everything with high-viscosity gun oil (another afternoon purchase) and ....

... started spinning. It's a blast! I haven't cleaned out the metal bits you see below the flyer, so I can't control the tension with any finesse. It's either too-light-to-spin or 20-mule-team, not much in between. So this yarn is hardly my best, or even my usual. But I foresee a lovely future with this wheel, turning the pile of fleeces in the garage into yarn.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Assessing fit

As it turns out, once I counted stitches and rows I realized I had shaped the front piece exactly the same as the back. I think the difference in the way they looked comes partly from the bust shaping, and partly from the greater weight-per-stitch of the hem on the narrower front piece. Blocking helped a lot. So I knitted up the right front. (Actually, first I knitted up a second left front, but with buttonholes. Then I ripped that out and knitted the right right front.)

I whipped up a sleeve to see if there was enough yarn to make the whole sweater one color (there is) and to test my ability to draft a set-in sleeve on the first try (not there yet). The armhole is deeper than I intended -- it turns out my gauge is just slightly different from what I expected -- and I am not willing to reknit the sweater to make it higher. Although I don't know why not, really. Will have to sleep on this.

Anyways, I basted the whole thing together today, and realized that the sleeve is too big. So I pinched out the amount that seemed appropriate and rebasted. What do you think? (Funny pucker in the middle of the back is just wonky basting. Peculiar expression on my face is nearsighted attempts to aim camera. Wallpaper is unspeakable.)

It's still pretty big, but the whole sweater is roomy, and I think if I tighten the arm up any more it would look peculiar. Other than the low armhole and a bit of residual hem flip, I think it looks pretty good. Or should I rip out all three body pieces and redo them with a higher armhole? I don't think this sweater deserves that much fuss, really; if I just finish it off the way it is I'll have a nice, warm, well-enough fitting sweater. And given the fact that fall has finally arrived in Oklahoma, I'm eager to have this done and ready to wear.

Friday, November 12, 2010

A slight problem.

The sweater has been progressing -- not at quite the pace of day 1, but pretty fast. I finished the first half of the front yesterday (Thursday) after dinner and was quite pleased until I realized that the front was much longer than the back. This worried and confused me, since my plan for the front was basically "knit half a back, only with bust darts, a lower neck, and a front facing." How could that go wrong?

I did actually write out a pattern for the front, complete with row numbers, although the bust darts make those all wonky. It did seem while knitting that there was a long stretch between the end of the armhole shaping and the beginning of the neck shaping, and then really quite a bit of space between the end of the neck shaping and the start of the shoulder shaping. So I thought I should probably just rip out a enough rows to match and then redo the shoulder shaping.

I had gone so far as to take out the bindoff and rip back a couple of rows before I remembered that machine knit fabric needs time to assume its final form after coming off the needles. The weights that make knitting possible also stretch the fabric. So I set the piece aside to wait for morning, sure that all would be well.

In the morning, although the front was still too long, I was glad I hadn't gone any further. I don't have a good track record with sweater revision concepts developed after 10 p.m., and just whacking off a chunk of the shoulder seemed, in retrospect, to be a bit chancy. So I counted rows between the end of armscye decreases and the beginning of shoulder shaping, and was stunned to find that they are the same on both pieces.

That was as far as I could get before breakfast, and afterwards the day was eaten up with teacher conferences, errands, and kid wrangling. They had the day off school but my husband was at work, so the opportunities to sit and think about pattern issues really never came.

I did manage to knit the second front up to the start of the bust darts, since I'm pretty confident all is well up to that point. Then I pinned out the first front and the back to look at them again:

And now I noticed something that completely escaped me before, who knows how: the armscye shaping isn't the same. I think my extra length might be all right there, in the more gradual slope on the front. My row gauge is 6 rpi, so a couple of extra rows makes a big difference.

I think, then, that I will have to rip back to the armscye and make the pieces match. I'm not sure at this point which decrease curve matches my original instructions -- and since it's long after 10 now I think I had better wait until morning to figure it out.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A day's work

Last week it dawned on me that yet another winter (or at least the Oklahoma approximation thereof) is on its way and my grey cabled cardigan is still a goal rather than something I can wear to keep warm. Rather than beat myself up over this, I decided to make a sweater on my knitting machine -- something nice and cozy, something that will keep me warm and be fun to wear, but that won't take up too much of my project time.

I decided to use some yarn that was given to me back when I lived in Michigan. I was told it was handspun but I'm not sure about that. If not handspun, it might be small-farm spun. It's a fairly coarse wool with more bits of hay than strictly necessary, in a nice dark sheep's brown. It's a heavy worsted two-ply that knits up at 4 stitches to the inch. It would make a lovely jacket if I had two more skeins of it. Because I don't, I've done nothing with it for about 14 years. There's plenty for a nice vest, but the yarn is too coarse and too heavy for a vest. What to do? Last week I suddenly thought of Scandinavian women's wadmal jackets with knitted sleeves. I'd make a solid colored body and completely different sleeves.

I retrieved the yarn from its storage location -- inside an old picnic basket in the garage. This turned out to be a less than ideal storage site; at some point insects have been having their way with the yarn, though half-heartedly. I could only find two spots that looked chewed on, so I washed it up and hoped for the best. Then I waited until today -- Wednesday is my least-scheduled day.

My day in pictures:

6:30 a.m . : looking at inspirational pictures:

9 a.m. : time to get started. It helps that years ago I made a large swatch marked with key plate sizes:

10 a.m. : pattern for the back has been written:

10:45 a.m. : yarn has been wound (also, dishes done, beds made, cats fed, etc.):

You can see how much debris flew off in the winding. One skein ended up in five small balls but the rest seemed pretty sound. The proof is in the knitting, though.

It took me a while to find all the bits of the machine and get things set up. I started knitting around 11:30, then spent about an hour doing a hem because I really like a purl folding row. A picot hem is much faster but seemed inappropriate for this project.

2:30 p.m. : by the time I had to go get the kids; I was up to the armholes. After school we went to the library but did get home in time for me to knit a little more before dinner. This picture is at about 6 p.m.:

8 p.m. : after dinner I finished the back. Just as I was finishing the bindoff, Charlotte came out to investigate and fell in love with the claw weights:

She spent about 20 minutes moving them here and there! After she went to bed, I took the back off the machine:

So here's the back. I am bothered by the way the hem flips up, and there's a break in the yarn that needs to be darned, but all in all it looks pretty good. I didn't expect it to take me 12 hours, but still -- a good day's work.

Tomorrow: the fronts. I wish I had the energy to write out the bust darts tonight, but I'll be lucky if I can stay awake long enough to do the dishes.