19 May, 2009

Great Wheel

Tried it. Loved it. Want one. Could find room.

From top, a great wheel up for auction at Maryland Sheep and Wool, a great wheel at Plimoth Plantation, and a great wheel at the Frontier Culture museum which is the wheel I got to try. This is the first time I managed to successfully do long draw drafting. Felt effortless. One long swoop, just like I’d seen a man do on his charkha at our guild.

My second pass ran into some snags. This rolag’s fibres had more grease and were not as well aligned as the first rolag’s. I produced slubs, then a consistent patch, and then a broken strand. (This pass, of course, I got on video. Not the first pass, which Sara the museum interpreter said was the best first try she’d ever seen of any museum visitor. She said it, not me. I’m just repeating her words rather immodestly.)

The obvious fix would be to spend more time carding the rolag. Additionally, the wool should be spun on a warmer day so that the grease won’t seize up and retard the drafting action. I wouldn’t have known this if Karen, another interpreter at the museum, hadn’t pointed it out later when I described my problem to her.

Karen also recommended a shorter staple fleece for long draw. Sara had been using a basket of washed Cotswold locks in order to show the sort of wool an English family of the period would have been raising for export. A lock was ten inches long on the fleece we looked at outside near the scouring pots.

After the strand broke, I sat and carded rolags for a bit. Wasn’t sure if I completely remembered the proper way a friend from our guild had taught me, but I persisted. Sara was able to use one rolag for a school tour that came through, which pleased the kids. They said they hadn’t gotten to see the great wheel in action on their visit the year before.

One boy was much more interested than the others in the mechanics of spinning and, with Sara’s permission, I gave him a rolag to try twisting the fibres by hand as he went out the door. Hope the rolag didn’t get too felted in his pocket, where his teacher made him put it for later.

I’ve been very impressed with the level of intense interest in a few of boys I’ve seen, at the Fall Fiber Festival, Meadow Farm’s Sheep to Shawl, and at the Frontier Culture museum. They approach a spinner’s wheel with total confidence and declare they want to try it. I’m waiting for a spinner to let them…

Spinning in public is fun.

Additional note: I flipped through the copy of Foxfire 2 I got from the public library and found diagrams of a great wheel. Nice.

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