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.


Sande Francis said...

What kind of ink do you use to refill your fountain pen? I've become much enamored of the gel type inks - dont thing they would wick well in a fountain pen.

Rosemary said...

Hi Sande,

I use Waterman Fountain Pen ink - I really like brown ink, and this was what I found. I like the sorta old fashioned look of the brown ink.

Carolyn said...

And where do you find your fountain pens? I have some from Pendemonium, but I am always looking for other places to find them. They're so much fun!

I love your spinning wheel, and just may have to make one. But first, I'll get some of that pony stuff for my drive band on my Saxon wheel! After 15 years, my old band is beginning to fray.

Rosemary said...

Hi Carolyn,
I get the Varsity at a local office Supply Store - Scott's - and my "fancy" fountain pens - here and there, gifts mostly, since folks know I like them. Honestly, I like my Varsity pens better than my fancy ones! They are *really* nice!

The wheel is really easy. Go for it!

fleegle said...

I don't have a spinning wheel! Ha! Even cheaper!

Refilling those pens is a great idea, but I get enough ink splatters changing my printer cartridges. And I guess I don't even write enough to use up a pen a year :)

lizzzknits said...

I am so impressed by your bicycle spinning wheel. How clever you are!

Anonymous said...

Dear Rosemary, I'm a new comer at knitting and spinning. I found your blog when I was searching for a homemade spindle last year, your spindles are the best so far and I was even more amazed with your bicycle spinning wheel, what a genius idea, thank you for posting them.

Rosemary said...

Thanks, Nana! Thanks, lizzzknits! You are too kind.

Keep on spinning!


Kathryn said...

Hi Rosemary,

How inspiring! Let's see...what do I have in the basement?...

How about using large straws fitted over the spindle? Then you slide the full straw off and a new straw on, without having to remove your spindle. I did this with my drop spindle - I use the big ones that come with the kids' drinks at Friendly's.

Danika said...

Rosemary, you are a woman after my own heart! I love the simplicity of your tools, and the fact they are so, ehm, inexpensive!! haha! I lost all my spinning tools and my floor loom in a house fire a few months ago and have been scratching my head as to how to reacquire those very expensive toys. You have given me much to consider and experiment!

We moved from Colorado 2 years ago to Northern Ontario. I cannot find knitting needles to save my life! That's how I found you! I can't wait to make a few circular needles! I was in Home Depot yesterday scratching my head over the matter! I will let you know how things turn out! Oh, did you know people around here BURN their fleece? No spinning market! I was aghast, and have begun processing the wool and making drop spindles! With so many knitter around, there have got to be a few spinners...don't cha think?
Blessings to you,
Danika Gravelle
Massey, Ontario

Rosemary said...

Hi Danika - so sorry to hear about your loss. That's really heartbreaking, but you seem to have a great attitude about it all. Have you seen my post about making spindles? I don't know too much about weaving, but I once read a book about Navajo weaving, and it looks like you could make one of those looms without much in the way of money - you just need long branches or lumber. I'd love to email you, but your profile is set to private. I hope you see this - my email is in my profile. Cheers!

Anonymous said...

Danika, have you actually made your own knitting needles yet? If not, try looking in places like hardware stores, craft stores, even WalMart if you have one nearby! Wooden dowels come in many sizes, and if you take a knitting needle sizing gauge along, making needles out of dowels is a relatively cheap way to re-establish your supplies! Plus you make only the sizes you need, so it may work well for you! Hope you will do okay!

Anonymous said...

I've heard there is a splatterless way to fill those varsity pens, and it also won't wear out the plug that holds the nib. If you hold the plastic part of the pen in boiling, or possibly simmering water, the air will expand and escape through the point of the pen. after that you can quickly put the tip of the pen in your bottle of ink and while the pen cools the air will contract again causeing a vacuume that sucks more ink into the pen just like the lever does on a nondisposeable pen.

Rosemary said...

What a great idea! I'm still using that pen, daily. I love it. Thanks for introducing me to the spatterless idea, I'll give it a try!