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Monday, January 11, 2010

Majacraft Millie (in the Middle)

That's Millie in the center, between Suzie Alpaca and Little Gem. It's my latest spinning wheel adventure!

Several months ago Glynis Poad and I made a private arrangement. I'd send some signed first editions of one of my children's books for her grandkids, and she'd send me a discounted Millie, unfinished, in parts, so I could finish it the way I wanted and put the WHOLE thing together.

Parts is what I got. Wooden parts and metal parts. And all the little bits of hardware in a baggie. No instructions, nothing labeled, nada. Since this is my first Millie, it was a quite an adventure.

I started by pretreating all the wood with wood conditioner, especially the edges of the drive wheel where the MDF is exposed. They told me at the paint store that MDF couldn't be stained but a bit of googling proved them wrong. Then I wiped on three coats (over two days) of oil-based stain in a dark teak color. When that was completely dry I wiped on a coat of poly finish, sanded with steel wool, and rubbed on another coat. Then I had dark brown parts, and a bag of little bits.

I've put a lot of Majacrafts together but those wheels all came partially assembled. I had to figure out what went where (drive wheel bearings, flyer shaft bearings) and how to install them. I dragged a few hints out of Glynis despite the fact that they are still on vacation down under...and was able to put it all together over a couple of days.

There was some trial and error. For instance, I set the treadles back too far and got a severe wobble. Out came the screws, off came the hinges, and back to the drawing board! Then I had to figure out how to set the drive wheel. I had a bolt, some washers, and a nut. What order? What washers where? Trial and error again, until everything was going around smoothly.

The flyer shaft was a puzzle. It was easy to see that it slid into place between the bearings in the head, but how to secure it? Loctite! Glynis said to use green (609) but I couldn't find any so I used "weld" and it worked fine.

I put it all together, put on a bobbin, and spun up some Dorset. YIPPEE! So, let me tell you how a Millie spins!

It feels a lot like the Pioneer. Everything is smooth and easy and quiet. The drive wheel is much lighter than my Suzie wheel so it has less momentum, but the bearings are so smooth that it isn't tiring. The close-together treadles didn't bother me one bit. In fact, I found myself sitting back farther from it which was more relaxing. Maybe I'll become an easy chair spinner!

You can see from the picture that the Millie isn't a miniature wheel. It is nearly as big as a Suzie. It is much lighter, however, and the footprint is considerably smaller. Like the Pioneer and the Little Gem, it can't take the high speed head but other than that, all Majacraft accessories will work with it. It doesn't fold but has a nice little handle on the front for picking it up and moving it around. I like it very much!

Don't start bugging Majacraft for a teak-stained Millie or I'll get in trouble! They are very proud of their native Rimu wood and unlike some competing wheel makers, don't have any reason to cover up the wood. This one was my little project and I learned a great deal from it. I learned how EVERYTHING goes together, and I learned to appreciate the Majacraft shop personnel even more. Assembly from scratch is nothing like assembling a wheel that is ready to go to a customer. When I take a wheel out of the box ALL of the difficult and precision work has already been done. YAY for Majacraft!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Prayse of the Needle

I recently bought a Fiddlesticks pattern from the Needle Arts Book Shop and when I received my order this sonnet was printed on the receipt. I loved it so much I wanted to share it with all of you. It was written by John Taylor, who lived from 1580-1653.

The Prayse of the Needle

To all dispersed sorts of Arts and Trades,
I write the Needle's praise (that never fades)
So long as children shall be got or borne,
So long as garments shall be made, or worne,
So long as Hemp or Flax, or Sheep shal bear,
Their linnen woollen fleeces yeare by yeare;
So long as Silk-worms, with exhausted spoyle
Of their own Entrailes, for man's gaine shall toyle;
Yea, till the world be quite dissolu'd and past;
So long as least, the Needle's use shall last.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Woolcombing Part 1

There are four parts to this lesson - well worth watching several times. I emailed Amanda to thank her for these videos and she wrote back. She lives in Cornwall.

Wool Combs and Happy New Year!

The weeks between Thanksgiving and the New Year have been incredibly busy, but I AM NOT DEAD. I made dozens of batts for a arts fair, spun up a load of angora/alpaca/corriedale laceweight, did all the holiday things...and learned to COMB WOOL. It's true. I've avoided it for some time now, reveling in my Supercard Powers, but I do SELL wool combs, so it makes sense that I can show another person how to use them. Plus, it is fun. It generates as much static electricity as rubbing wool slippers on a nylon carpet. Shockapalooza.

I found the BEST videos on YouTube and will post them next. I also found a link to a small shop in England that still makes the full-sized wool combs, if you are interested. Majacraft makes "mini" combs which can be clamped to the table and used like English combs. They're great for smaller batches, blending, etc, and cost a fraction of the big wool combs, but if you want the big ones these are the best I could find.