Oh, This Old Thing?: Flax Wheel

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It’s been 11 years now since I bought my first spinning wheel. I can remember scouring the internet during this “Renaissance Spinning Era”  digging up all the information I could find about wheels. I had just moved to northern Indiana from college and had finally landed a full-time job. My first wheel was an old Baynes single treadle wheel that I bought off Ebay for about $100. It arrived with a broken leg which my dad fix for me with a broom handle. I eventually sold it when I bout my Kromski Sonata a year later (still the best wheel I own).

I actually bought another wheel off Ebay during that time period that I was much less proud of. It is an affordable old Dutch Wheel Saxony wheel kit by Brabants (perhaps from the 1950’s). I put it together with what little tools I had. There were no instructions. I remember the neighbors in the apartment below beating on the ceiling. They were tired of hearing me hitting the treadles..and the floor with the hammer. I didn’t know enough to drill pilot holes. The treadle is cracked a little as a result.

Once I got the wheel crudely put together I tried to spin on it. Ugh. The wheel was wobbly and the drive band wouldn’t stay on. I declared it a DUD but couldn’t bring myself to throw it away.

I moved it to my basement when I bought my house and forgot about it until now. 10 years later. After bringing it out I realized this little old wheel was meant to spin flax. It actually has some nice wood turning and is quite stylish with its dark walnut flyer and leather bearings. I never noticed this before. It’s actually a nicely made wheel.  Although the ratio of 5.5:1 is super low compare to my preferred 19:1 and the bobbins only hold about 2ozs of yarn it is quite serviceable. I rubbed it down with butcher block oil and tuned it up. It was now fit to sit in my living room and look cute.

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I have since learned quite a bit about spinning on a Saxony wheel from spinning on my Kromski Symphony. I found that I needed to adjust the maiden posts and glue them in place on the flax wheel which fixed the issue of the drive flying off.

I also found that the take-up was too fast for me to build up enough twist for wool using double drive so I rigged the wheel up for scotch tension using a few eye hooks and a golf tee.

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The first project for the little old flax wheel was to comb and spin some of the mystery wool I was gifted by a member of my fiberarts guild earlier this year. The result is a nice lofty yarn . Once I got the rhythm of the single treadle going I enjoyed the spin.

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The spinning adventures continued with a Spinner’s Challenge from my guild. Participants were given 4 cards with attributes that they would need to incorporate into a finished yarn. The attributes were chain-plied, space-dyed, wool, and sparkle. Hmm. I actually had a 4oz braid already that was purchased on my Oregon trip. The braid was brightly dyed BFL from Renegade Fibers.

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I separated the braid by color then carded each color pile together with some sparkly Angelina fiber I had purchase a few years ago. The fiber was then spun up fine using the original color sequence then chain-plied. Voila.

My plan is to turn it into a shawl for the big reveal this spring. I can hardly wait.

In other spinning news. The 8oz flax/silk braids are spun up. The colorway is called madras. I kept the original color sequence and plied each section together for a lace-weight 2ply yarn. The resulting 4oz skeins look like two completely different colorways. The plain is to weave them, dark color as the warp and light color as a weft, to see if I get a “madras” looking fabric.

I also spun up a black cormo/alpaca blend that I purchased at Sauder village. It’ll probably be a bit scratchy.

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I have a nice soft alpaca/cormo blend in a oatmeal color on a drop spindle. It still needs to be plied. There a few other spindle projects in process too. They’ll get done eventually. No hurry.

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