Odds and Ends

This post contains a variety of fiber and non fiber information - just so you know, lol.


First of all - I really like these pens, Pilot Varsity Fountain Pens.But hate the idea that they are made to be thrown away. When mine ran out of ink, I decided to experiment, and guess what? It worked! I gently pulled out the nib with a pair of needle nose pliers, refilled it, stuck the nib back in and - It works great!

Truth be told, when pulling the nib out, it actually POPS out, flinging teeny tiny little ink splatters everywhere. The subsequent times I refilled it, I wrapped the pen in an old rag, and then pulled the nib out, grasping the rag and the nib in the pliers. This works great, and kept the ink splatters in the rag and not all over me, the table, the floor... The pen seems no worse for wear, and I think that I can go on refilling it forever. These pens are GREAT - wonderful nib, no leaks whatsoever, light weight - I could go on and on, but I won't - let's just say that I really like these pens!


Next - Someone JUST sent me this link - to Brio Mec - click here. Get a set and start building spinning tools! (3 links)


Next item - I'm spinning like crazy on my Bicycle Wheel Spinning Wheel - you know, that's a cumbersome name - what is a better one? Hmmm... Great Bike wheel? Walking Bike Wheel? Bike Spindle Wheel? Weird Wheel? One of my friends refers to it as "your contraption."

Gotta think of something! Or, maybe I should just stick with "Contraption?"

Anyway, it's working out great! I've built a simple frame so that it can rest on a table
which allows me to spin in the house, as it's getting pretty cold in the garage. When I'm not using it, I push it to the center of the table, but when I use it, I pull it right up close to the edge, which is why I have these big honkin' clamps, clamped onto the back of the stand - - to weigh it down so that I don't pull it onto the floor.

I think that I've figured out the whole business about how to "balance" the spindle. I don't know if this is the correct terminology, but what I mean is that I have figured out how to keep everything straight without all of those zip ties, which I employed to keep the needle in the head, as it wanted to scoot out of one side or the other. I have learned that you have to get the spindle in line with the wheel, you have to adjust the tilt of the needle, and you have to adjust spindle to be perpendicular with the plane of the wheel.

This last one eluded me, because my spindle isn't perpendicular to the head, and while I knew it - I could see that it wasn't straight - you can see that it isn't straight - I just wasn't thinking about it, know what I mean?Now, I stick a folded up piece of paper - vaguely wedge shaped - into the works and the very slightest adjustment is all it really takes to get everything all in order. I use a bare-naked knitting needle and it works just fine. It just spins and spins like a good little spindle should.

Here are some other tricks that I've picked up along the way.
  • I've moved the wheel and the spindle away from each other, to a distance of about 45 inches - hub to spindle - and this gives me a nice, long "pull" before I run out of arm length. For whatever reason, this gives me pleasure. Compare the photo above to this one. The short distance works well, but I get more satisfaction out of having a long length. Of course, this means that I have to turn the wheel more often in the "adding twist" phase, but...
  • ...a friend is going to help me figure out how to add a Miner's Head to the works, which ought to cure this problem.

  • I use a big, giant, pinch clamp (I don't know the actual name of this device - it's like a huge clothes pin) to get the head arranged properly, because the head just slides around for easy, minute, adjustments. Once I get it how I like it, I clamp it down with a "C" clamp, aka "G" clamp which holds it steady while I spin.

  • Pony lacing works great for the drive band. The other stuff works well, but it continually stretches and doesn't quite go back to its original length. The Pony lacing works perfectly. I just knot it - I haven't tried the little connector thingie that comes with the lacing. It costs $1.27 per pack, and it looks like it will last for a really long time. I've spun LOTS on the band which I have now, and it's showing no signs of wear at all.
  • I moved the spindle up, and the wheel down, and I really like this arrangement. How I had it originally, made it hard to wind the spun yarn onto the spindle, and just felt backwards. Now, it feels right.
  • This frame works well, too. I haven't ever pulled it over - haven't even come close - but, you know, just in case... These clamps give me more confidence. There's NO WAY that I'm going to pull it over now!
  • I don't use a whorl any longer - I just wind everything onto the knitting needle in a wide, back and forth pattern. This seems to hold down the vibration. The spindle vibrated quite a lot with the whorl, and with the yarn wound in a tight pattern. The wide pattern seems to solve this problem. Of course, when I change something, I generally change 8 different things, so I'm never really sure which of the changes wrought the improvement.
  • I tried a heavier spindle (quarter inch steel rod) and while it didn't seem to vibrate, it was so heavy that it was hard to turn, although I'm not terribly sure that this issue was real or imagined. Need more data.
  • Next, I tried a fiber glass rod - left over from a broken bicycle safety flag, and I think that this would work - light, but stiff - but I'd need to make another head, as it's a smidge too large to fit through the knitting-needle-sized hole, and I got too impatient and want to spin, not experiment! Besides, I moved out of the garage, and into the basement, and that was just too much running back and forth. Maybe I'll figure out a different spindle next summer, when I can move my experimental unit back into the garage.
Cost so far - let's see.... about $1.25 for the bolts to hold the stand together, about $1.27 for the package of Pony Lacing, and about $2.00 for the steel rod which I am probably not going to use anyway. So, out of pocket is so far, approximately, $4.50. Not bad!

How much did your spinning wheel cost?

Here are a few nice youtube videos
Lovely Music! This one has an accelerator head, but it's almost out of the frame.
Spinning Cotton - accelerator head - close up on the accelerator at about time 1:30
Nice, from different angles.

National Alpaca Farm Day

This was my second time participating in National Alpaca Farm Day, and once again, I had a wonderful time. There was so much to do! So many activities! So much to see!

Here are some highlights -

First of all,
Phil and Allie welcomed everyone to their farm in their friendly way.

Phil spoke to visitors about how to raise alpacas, and taught folks about how to select the right alpacas when buying. Phil and Allie have lots of alpacas for sale - if you are interested in buying, you should contact them at their web page, Eyedazzler Alpacas - gosh, they have some beautiful animals for sale! Click here for more information about sale animals.

One of the day's activities was that visitors could have their photo taken with an alpaca, and could lead the alpaca on halter. My daughter, Emma, was the official alpaca wrangler, and she had a great time.This was loads of fun for all who participated.

There were also many demonstrations -
Pat demonstrated wet-felting alpaca fibers, and...
Karin demonstrated needle felting. She also let some folks help her out - just take a look at this enthusiastic young needle felter.

There were other demonstrations, too.

Julie and Sharron demonstrated spinning on the wheel,
Men seemed particularly interested in the spinning wheels. Julie does a good job explaining what all of the parts do.

Julie and Sharron also taught visitors how to spin, here you can see Sharron helping a student, and Julie is giving her some pointers, too.

I demonstrated drop spindling,
and I taught quite a few students, too. I LOVE the look of concentration on the students' faces!

As an aside - for all of you spinning teachers - Allie has some alpaca roving which was a side-by-side mixture of black and white. If you enlarge the photo below, you can see it wrapped around my arm. This day's spinning students learned amazingly quickly, and I an certain that it is because of this "skunk stripe" roving - the students could easily see the twist, and understand the concept of twist and of keeping it out of the drafting zone.

The speed at which these students picked up spinning was completely amazing! I'll never teach spinning without it.
I tried to teach this alpaca how to spin, and while she was very interested, she didn't really take to this new skill. Alpacas are such curious little creatures, it appears that they hang on your every word. It is very satisfying.

By the way, how did my baby daughter end up so tall?

I also ran the "till" as all of the items you see on the tables and shelves, as well as all of the spinning wheels, were for sale. We sold roving, fleeces, dyes, spinning wheels (Ashford, Louet, Schacht and Majacraft), handknitted items, knitting and crochet kits (coffee cup cuffs, cell phone holders, scarves), and balls of yarn. If you are interested in any of it, email me at thomases2000@yahoo.com and I'll send more info.

But, that's not all -
Peggy had a dye studio set up in one of the alpaca pens,
and demonstrated dyeing -
Peggy teaches precision dyeing methods - here are two of her Triads. This is a very precise, very accurate method of mixing dyes, and by learning how to do it, you can match any color you want to - you know, sort of like the guy does down at the paint store. You can see a better picture of one of Peggy's triads here, Triad Photo.

Peggy (in the black shirt), discussing her methods of dyeing with one of the Farm Day Visitors. If you want more info, email me, and I'll put you in touch with Peggy.

WAIT! I'm not done!

All visitors to farm day were treated to a lovely lunch of Aji de Gallina - a Peruvian chicken stew. Oh my goodness, this stuff was Completely Yummy. As you can see, I cleaned my plate!

To top it all off, Jack the barn cat did his part -He hung around, looking handsome,and he entertained the younguns. He is the friendliest cat!

BUT - the best of all - Take a look at Homeschooling in Action - -

Homeschooling at its very finest - go to an Alpaca farm for a day, thinking that you are going to wrangle alpacas, and end up learning about dye chemistry, proper use of various measuring devices, and laboratory safety. I love it when this happens.

Life just doesn't get any better.
Thanks Peggy.