Tuesday, June 17, 2008

I'm a baaaad monkey.

Got to the arm pits on the cable-knit for my father-in-law. Since he's going to be here next week, I've put it aside until I can measure him and make some more detailed plans. Pretty sure I'm doing it the hard way, when I do it; shoulder straps and grafted-in sleeves. Being a perfectionist is such a pain in the ass.

With the cable-knit set aside, I have returned to working on the Hex Jacket, from VK's holiday 2007 issue. (Yes, yes. Me knitting something from Vogue Knitting is a sign of the apocalypse. Plagues of locusts and rivers of blood, up next.) I LOVE the way the pattern is written, and love watching the colors of my hand-spun move through my fingers, and, well, long story short, I've been knitting like a fiend.

My hands are killing me, I've just taken some painkillers, and I fully intend to go right back to knitting as soon as I'm done with this blog post. I will rue the day. Fuck it. Every once in a while, I rebel against the whole hand problem thing and knowingly do stupid stuff, out of frustration. This is one of those times. Ah, for the good old days, when rebellion meant staying stoned for a weekend, or getting a tattoo.

Actually, I intend to get a tat for my fortieth birthday, so things aren't too far gone.

Anyway. Babbling. Bet the painkillers are kicking in.


I had a request, for a review of my spinning wheel. So here you go.

I have an Ashford Kiwi, purchased new in February from the Woolery (where I also got my swift; nice folks, and they do free shipping on a lot of stuff if you're in the lower 48). It is the unfinished model. I could go on a long riff about the Arts and Crafts movement and wood in its natural state and blah blah, but bottom line is, I like unfinished wood, and it's cheaper. So I got it that way. They do sell a finished/varnished version, and you can certainly buy the unfinished and finish it yourself. (Which I haven't ruled out. The husbeast has many off-the-wall ideas for paint, mostly involving things that will make your eyes cross, as the wheel spins.)

Ashford bills this wheel as their beginner wheel, both in structure, function, and cost. At the time of purchase, I had no idea what I was doing (other than knowing drop spindles screwed with my hand and weren't going to be possible for me). Figuring (rightly) that Ashford knew a hell of a lot more about spinning wheels than I do/did, I took their word for it and bought it. I'm very, very glad that I took them at their word, because that's exactly what this is; an excellent beginner wheel.

The dual drive (the two foot pedals) is more comfortable, especially for people with ankle and knee problems like me; it spreads the work out over both feet (am I the only one amused by my footprints on those foot pedals?) The 'castle' setup (everything in a nice, vertical line, from pedals to wheel to orifice and bobbin) is also fantastic for beginners - until you try it, there's no way to know if you spin right or left handed, and this type of wheel will work easily, either way. It is a single-drive, with a band transferring spin from the main wheel to the whorl with no fancy gearing/reduction/increase. In other words, the function of the wheel is easily understood. You look at it, and you understand immediately how it works. (I'm not saying that as an engineering geek, either. It really is VERY simple. Honest.) Which of course means any needed adjustments and fixes are easily accomplished.

My one complaint about the wheel isn't really anyone's fault. It creaks and squeaks when I spin. Drives me kind of nuts. Partly that's because it is new and still needs broken in (I don't consider a spinning wheel broken in until it's spun about a thousand miles of yarn/thread). We keep oiling it occasionally, and I've found that the main squeakyness, from the hinges the pedals are screwed to, can be avoided if I move my feet around on the pedals and slightly shift the force of the movement.

It does come unassembled if you buy it new, but it's easy to put together. Really. Pre-drilled guide holes for the screws and everything. All you need is a screwdriver and a hammer.

So, bottom line, two big thumbs up for the Ashford Kiwi. I'd say it's even a fine wheel for intermediate to expert spinners, if they want an all-purpose wheel that is adaptable, for spinning fairly simple yarns of medium weight. Oh, and spare parts are affordable. That's nice, too. I recently got two more bobbins for less than twenty bucks.

If I may comment on another beginner wheel, I think the Scachat Ladybug is horrendously overpriced for what it is, and not as good a wheel as the Kiwi. It costs almost twice what the Kiwi does, and is made from inferior materials. (Plywood and plastic.) Not to mention, the wheel itself is supposed to act as a flywheel to even out the start/stop of your treadling; for that, weight is good, the heavier the better. The Kiwi has a fairly heavy wheel. The Ladybug's is made out of lightweight plastic. So. Food for thought.

What's really funny is, when I got this wheel, I did it with plying in mind; I never really intended to make yarn from scratch, I wanted to ply together lace-weight yarns into heavier stuff, making marled yarns that way. But I got some wool with the wheel and spun it up just as an educational exercise, and found I really enjoyed it. It's also good for my hands - my grip strength has probably doubled since I started spinning, and plying alone wouldn't have done that much good.

Now that I know what I like, I want one of these.


Maggie said...

Hey Julie,

Thanks for the review. I like the wheel I was just worried that it might be so beginner that I would outgrow it really quickly. Can you make different weights of yarn on it? lace, worsted, bulky etc?



Bells said...

Excellent write up. Thanks. I'll be shopping around some time and will consider this.

Glad it's helping your hand, too.

jeanfromcornwall said...

I'd already decided to leave a cheerful comment on the footprints before I scrolled down to your mention! To come over all pompous and arty-farty, what you are doing is building patina and making it your very own machine.

I'm still resisting the temptation though.

Cara said...

Dude. Two-plus-pound bobbin capacity. !!!
So why the heck does everybody make their regular bobbins so small?

Louiz said...

Now I really want one of those!

PS - you have been meme-tagged.Pick up the nearest book.Open on page 123.Find the fifth sentence.Post the next three sentences.Tag five people,and acknowledge who tagged you.

Amy Lane said...

Lovely review, but I'm still resisting the madness...

ily said...

I too have been pining after the kiwi and since it is marketed as a beginners wheel I am wonder if I will outskill it too quickly. So I guess I just second maggie's question!
Also, considering finished vs. unfinished. Any regrets about not getting finished... it is $90 (yikes)?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the review, I was looking at the kiwi and googled reviews to pop up with yours. I'm just starting out myself, have been spindling 6 alpaca fleeces and now have 6 wool ones to do, but I can see I need a wheel if I want to get done sometime this century. Again, thanks for the review!