Saturday, October 17, 2009

Handmade (Little Grace Special Spinning Wheel)

I love things that are handmade. I imagine a lot of us do. I have spent thousand of hours knitting lace or spinning lace weight yarn in spite of being asked by non-crafters, "Can't you just buy that in a store?". I don't get mad anymore. Instead, I just show them a finished shawl and assure them they will never see one of these in a store.

That said, I have wanted a Little Grace Special spinning wheel since I first saw one in Spin-Off magazine many years ago. They are made by Mike Keeves of New Zealand as a more portable version of his "Grace" spinning wheel. If you follow the link above, you can see all the different versions of his wheel which he makes by hand out of marine grade plywood for durability.

Though I lusted after this spinning wheel there was no "on-line" store to order one. If you want one, you have to e-mail Mr. Keeves and get on the waiting list. I had also never actually had a chance to spin on one since there are not a lot of them around. I finally decided to "go for it" after giving away my "Little Peggy" spinning wheel earlier this year. She was pretty and vintage but spun too slow. This made room for one more wheel in our small house and I decided I just had to have that Little Grace Special wheel. Of course, I had no idea if he was still making spinning wheels.

I sent an e-mail to Mr. Keeves ( who is a lovely gracious man. Lucky for me he still makes this wheel though he is in his later years. I asked about the the whorl sizes since spinning thin is a big deal for me and found that this would be no problem so I went on the waiting list with an estimate of 6 months before my wheel would be ready. 6 months later and I got my first picture of the finished wheel sitting on top of Mr. Keeves work bench (the first picture above).

In order to arrange for payment, I had to go to my bank to initiate a money transfer in New Zealand dollars. The nice young man helping me at the bank was great until he asked,

Him- "What are you sending away for?"

Me- Smiling "A spinning wheel!"

Him- Blank stare

Me- Less smiling "You know, to spin wool or other fiber"

Him- Blank stare

Me- Not smiling "You know. Before they started making yarn or thread with large machines you had to make them yourself so you had to spin the fibers of animals or plants using a tool called a spinning wheel"

Him- Blank stare-

I gave up explaining at that point and kept my "eyes on the prize" so to speak and got through the rest of the transaction.

I had asked for a clear finish rather than the dark stain pictured in the brochure and she came packed securely in 2 boxes with excellent and clear assembly instructions. It took less than 25 minutes to assemble and she spins perfectly. I took lots of pictures of the various parts so if anyone in the future is considering getting one of these wheels they will have a better idea of what they would get. It's very cunning in design and can be either assembled for left or right side spinners. It comes with one whorl with many different sized ratios, (smallest is 5/8" diameter for a 22:1 ratio) is a single treadle wheel that utilizes a nylon drive band. The tension on the drive band is adjusted by a "tilt tension" system that can be adjusted easily. The scotch tension is very thin fishing line with a rubber band with a knob in the front. Simple and easy to adjust.

This wheel is virtually silent and has sealed bearings in the wheel and flyer head so it needs oil only on the treadle hings if they are squeaking and in the ball joints of the Pitman arm which connect the wheel to the treadle. The wheel comes with 7 bobbins, an orifice hook, pigtale attachment for plying and a reducing orifice attachment to make the orifice in the flyer smaller. The wheel is approx. 31" tall, 12"x 16.5 inches at the base with a 14" wheel diameter and comes with a lazy kate. It spins well as you can tell from the pictures so I'm very happy :-)

Last but not least, two spindles that were a gift from Wonder Mike who has a new podcast called "Fiber Beat" If you get a chance, check out his podcasts and video casts. The two spindles were made for me by Ed Ligenfelter of Tilt-A-Whorl. Both are about 0.7 ounces and they are great fun to spin with. Both were made with the theme of "lace" since Wonder Mike wanted them to reflect my obsession and Wonder Mike knit the lavender lace that tops one of the spindles which makes it extra special :-) Thank you Mike!

In case you wonder "Where's the lace?" I'm still knitting the "Surprise" as you can see from this crumpled lump. It takes about 45 minutes to go around the shawl one time if it's a pattern row now, 30 minutes if it is a plain knit row. I have also been taking Ukulele lessons and knitting fingerless gloves for my niece who is away at Philadelphia University so not as much progress as I would like. Of course, I never claimed I was a fast knitter :-) Until next time.