An Alden Amos flat-rim 'suitcase' spinning wheel set up with tilt-tension double drive.

A New-to-Me Spinning Wheel

I recently added a second spinning wheel to my studio – I guess you could say I’ve started a flock! This is actually the third spinning wheel I’ve owned. My other current wheel is the second 1970s Ashford Traditional I’ve restored: I wrote briefly about the first one way back when in this post, and it’s since gone to a new home.

The new addtion is an Alden Amos spinning wheel. I purchased it from the original owner, who was downsizing her flock. I didn’t know very much about Alden Amos wheels before I bought her, so I did a bit of sleuthing on the internet to find out more. It appears to be one of the so-called “suitcase wheels” he designed – it comes completely apart for travel and is maybe even a wee bit smaller than my Traddy.

This unique little wheel is essentially a miniature version of a Canadian flat-rim wheel. The drive wheel is about 18″ in diameter, and is secured by an easily removed wooden peg. The wheel came with its own lazy kate and three tiny handmade bobbins – they hold only about a half ounce of fiber each. The flyer has two ratios, which I determined to be around 9:1 and 14:1. It works in either double drive or Scotch tension, and it has tilt-tension system for the double-drive, which you can see in the photo at the top. I’d been wanting to try a double-drive wheel for awhile, and now that I have I can see why many spinners love it.

I haven’t had a chance yet to do a full project on my new wheel, but I tested her out spinning some Corriedale roving, and she spins beautifully. No vibrations at the higher ratio like on my Traddy, and I love how easy it is to adjust the tilt tension. She’s perfectly set up for spinning fine yarns using longdraw techniques. I can’t wait to find the perfect project for her!


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New Pattern Release – Towline Hat

The Towline Hat is now available as an individual download. Originally published on the Spin Off website, Towline is a cozy cabled hat that harkens back to classic Aran sweaters.

The pattern includes instructions for two adult sizes, and spinning notes for those who would like to make their own handspun version. For the non-spinners, I’ve also included commercially-spun yarn recommendations, and I’ll talk about choosing your yarn in a future post. For the individual pattern I’ve also added an option for a beanie version in addition to the original folded brim, watchcap version. The cables can be worked from charted and written instructions, and all of the cables can be worked without a cable needle. In a worsted/ Aran weight yarn, this hat will knit up quickly and have you ready for fall in no time!

The Towline Hat is available on Ravelry, Payhip and Etsy.


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Spinning Gulf Coast Native Wool – a New SE2SE Project

I’ve been sitting on some fiber for a couple of my Shave ‘Em to Save ‘Em projects for awhile. I’ve been on a kick of spinning dyed fiber, and generally working on other projects. But I finally got around to pulling a new one out. This is my 7th SE2SE project – Gulf Coast Native from Gulf Breeze Alpaca Ranch. I purchased the fiber from Lynns Cozy Fibers on Etsy.

About Gulf Coast Native Fiber

As is my habit, I tried spinning a bit on my drop spindles first. Gulf Coast Native is a feral breed that developed in the Southeastern United States, like the Florida Cracker. According to The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook, the wool is variable in quality, but tends to have a moderate staple length averaging 2-4 inches, which was about the staple length of my sample. My first impression was that the wool seemed similar to the Florida Cracker I’d previously spun, but a bit whiter in color, where the Florida Cracker I spun was definitely more of a cream color. It’s fairly fluffy in the roving preparation, low in grease, and has a slighlty spongy feel that reminded me a bit of a down-type breed.

My Project

I then set about spinning the bulk of the fiber on my wheel. Lately when I try a new fiber on my wheel, I tend to spin it according to the preparation. So, since I was dealing with roving, I decided to spin the fiber using supported longdraw. I spun on a 9:1 ratio, and plied on the 12:1 ratio; judging from the breaks I had in the singles while plying, I probably could have spun on the 12: 1 as well. I’ve found shorter staple fibers like Clun Forest a bit easier to spin longdraw than this somewhat longer fiber, but the fiber drafted relatively easily and I was able to spin it quite fine.

I soaked and thwacked the yarn as I typically do. I ended up with approximately 447 yds of lovely fingering weight yarn at 20-22 wpi. The finished yarn has a nice amount of elasticity. I’m not sure yet what I’ll knit with this, but it might be nice to try dyeing and using for a colorwork project.


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Managing Takeup When Spinning Fine Yarns

Recently I was chatting with Mary Ann at Three Waters Farm about an issue I consistently have with spinning finer yarn and/ or slippery fibers like her Polwarth/ silk blends. I have a vintage Ashford Traditional wheel, and I often find myself fighting the takeup of the wheel with these fibers. I adjust the brake band tension until there is no tension in the spring at all (and the brake band wants to get caught in the flyer hooks), and still it feels like the takeup is too much. The result is that I have a death grip on the fiber, and my hands tire easily when spinning with short forward draw.

It turns out that part of the problem is that I’ve souped up my wheel too much. I’ve replaced the old flyer (which was missing on this wheel when I bought it from a thrift shop) with a new, multi-whorl flyer and I’m using a new poly drive band. I love the ease of treadling with this new band, but the downside is the issue with fighting the takeup.

This month the focus in the Three Waters Farm Ravelry and Facebook groups is consistency. Since I’m working on a fingering weight yarn using short forward draw, I figured this was a perfect time to work on this issue.

Here are some of the tips I’ve found helpful to manage takeup:

  1. Use a wooden bobbin. On top of the new flyer and brakeband, I couldn’t help ordering myself some lovely Akerworks bobbins. These reduce friction even further, and when working with a fine or slippery fiber, a bit more friction is helpful. So going back to my classic Ashford wooden bobbins would have helped in this case.
  2. Add some sort of core to your bobbin. This is a tip I haven’t personally used, but one I’ve seen mentioned. When I came back to this project after the holidays, I had a half-full bobbin, and wasn’t having trouble with the brake tension. When I switched to a new empty bobbin I noticed I started having the issue again. Once I built up a core of fiber on the new bobbin, I was able to increase the brake tension slightly and still spin comfortably. Adding a core to start with would likely have helped.
  3. Try cross-lacing. Since I had already started spinning on a new bobbin, and I didn’t want to switch to a wooden one in the middle of the spin, I tried this trick that Mary Ann suggested. It helped reduce the tension until I filled the bobbin enough that I could continue to spin without it.
An example of cross-lacing to manage takeup

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Spinning Dorset Horn Roving

It’s been awhile since I’ve finished a Shave ‘Em to Save ‘Em project – the last few months have been a bit of a whirlwind and haven’t left me much time for spinning. I’ve been working on this lovely natural gray-brown Dorset Horn from Covered Bridge Fiber for several months, and finally finished it off last week.

According to The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook, Dorset Horn sheep originated in Dorset, a county in southwestern England, and have fleece with a regular, fine crimp with plenty of elascticity. The micron count is typically between 26 and 33, which puts them in the medium wool range. The Livestock Breed Conservancy lists the breed as Threatened; you can find a fiber profile on the Conservancy’s website. They are usually white but can occasionally be near-black in color. Lucky me to have found this gorgeous shade of fiber!

After spindle spinning just under an ounce of the fiber for my blanket project, I set up to spin the fiber on my wheel. While Dorset Horn not a Down breed, this fiber did have a bit of that spongy feel that’s characteristic of the Down breeds, so I assumed this fiber would be amenable to spinning londraw. I had visions of a hat or mittens in a lofty thicker yarn.

But I had trouble initially spinning it as fine as I wanted with longdraw, perhaps because the staple length is a bit longer than other breeds I’ve spun longdraw, such as Clun Forest. I don’t often take the time to actually measure staple length of fibers I’m spinning; I just pull out a staple and eyeball it. But this time I got curious and actually measured – the staple length was around 3 inches.

I found myself wanting to spin the fiber semi-woolen with a short forward draw. It seemed to want to spin relatively fine that way, so I settled on a fingering weight 2-ply. I figured it could be used to knit a sturdy pair of mittens or even as a weaving yarn.

I started spinning the singles at a 12:1 ratio with about a 2-inch draft. But I found I wasn’t enjoying this project over the long haul, and about 3/4 of the way through I gave long-draw another go. This time I was able to spin fine enough to match the singles I already had, so I went with it and finished the bobbin that way. Needless to say, this spin isn’t going to win any consistency awards, but I’m satisfied with the end result. Oddly enough, the skein spun completely with a worsted draft seems to have fluffed up more after finishing than the skein where I switched to long-draw halfway through. Go figure.

The resulting yarn is pleasantly soft, if not next-to-skin soft. I could see buying a sweater’s worth of this fiber and spinning it for a fingering-weight sweater.


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