12 September 2006

An' The Wheel Goes 'Round

I mentioned in an earlier post that I'd recently learned to spin on a drop spindle. What I didn't mention was that I was also the recipient of a beautiful Country Craftsman spinning wheel. The wheel, she hasn't told me her name yet, came to me with a broken footman. After looking closely at the point of failure on the original part, I realized that it had broken at least once before in the same location and had been repaired.

The first thing that I did was to research Country Craftsman wheels in an effort to find a stock replacement. What I found was that these wheels were made by hand by a woodworker in Massachusetts for something like 25 years before he retired a couple of years ago. Needless to say, replacement parts are not exactly growing on trees.

In retrospect, I find that I'm actually glad that I wasn't able to get a stock replacement. I quickly decided that what I needed to do was to find someone to re-make the footman. I took measurements from the original, studied how it fit onto the wheel and how it worked, and took matters into my own hands. I created an Alchemy request on Etsy.

If you're not familiar with Etsy Alchemy, you're not alone. It is a system set up by the wizards at Etsy to connect buyers with artisans/craftspeople who can fulfil their makery wishes. It's also a little confusing. First, the buyer posts an alchemy request saying what they want. They include pictures or links to help clarify their needs. Then one or more Etsy artists bid to fill the request, supplying their own pictures or other information. Then the buyer chooses a bid (or several bids) and from there the commissioned work is completed, paid for, and feedback is left. It is a wonderous and magical process.

In the case of my footman, I got one bid from a woodworker in Canada who I'd corresponded with earlier this year about custom pottery tools. Barry is a great guy and the two of us exchanged quite a few messages about measurements and tweeks to the design of the original footman. In the end, he recommended a footman made of 2 layers of maple laminated together with metal plates on either side of the keyhole opening where the footman attaches to the flywheel. We changed the dimensions of the footman, as well, widening it so that the holes do not come so close to the edges as to weaken the structure of the finished part.

My new footman arrived from Canada in Saturday's mail. In the last few days, have admired it, fondled it, shown it off to my spinning mentor, and finally, attached it to my spinning wheel where it will live until the end of time. With the new footman in place, I took the wheel for a real test drive. I spun up 1/2 ounce of leaf green corriedale wool that I had purchased for a needle felting project. My thought, when I started spinning it, was that I would pull it off the bobbin and allow it to relax so that I could use it as vines for my planned needle felted embellishment. Now that it's spun, however, I can't decide whether to go with the original plan, or to ply it back on itself and save it as a momento of my first real yarn spun on my very own spinning wheel. For now, I'll leave it on the bobbin where I can admire it while I work on glazing beads for this weekend.

Expect some fun fiber posts over the next week or so... A tutorial, a long overdue explanation of my spinning fascination, more images of the large wavy motif in progress, and maybe even some yarn, assuming that I get my clay work done. Wish me luck finding the time that I'll need over the next three days.

Image: [Irish Spinner and Spinning Wheel. Co. Galway, Ireland] Found via Library of Congress online collection. REPRODUCTION NUMBER: LC-DIG-ppmsc-09892 (digital file from original) No known restrictions on publication. photomechanical print : photochrome, color. [between ca. 1890 and ca. 1900].


Maryellen said...

spinning is great. Glad to see someone else with a wheel nearby.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like fun! Can't wait to read about your spinning experiences!