Category Archives: Spinning

Community in the Yarn Biz

Disclaimer: The opinions here are mine and mine alone and I do not represent any of the companies mentioned in the below article.

The word “community” and what it means regarding yarn businesses has been on my mind lately. And yes, I’ve been thinking about it because of the recent controversy regarding Brooklyn Tweed’s debut of Ranch 01, which is extremely similar to Range, a yarn A Verb for Keeping Warm has been making and selling for several years. I’ve been watching mostly from the sidelines with profound disquiet and unease, because in the past, I too have created lines of small batch yarn. I’ve put in the time to connect directly with farmers, gotten sweaty and greasy and shitty (literally) on shearing days, and researched and eventually worked with a few different USA mills. I’m keenly aware of how much time, money, and effort goes into that process, and how hard-won and costly it was to develop the connections and experience to actually deliver a unique end product.

IMG_0368 - Copy


So when I see a popular well-capitalized yarn company come out with a line of yarn that is (at best) highly derivative of a smaller company’s product, and then rally their base with warm fuzzy claims of being such a caring part of the yarn community, well, my eyebrows go up and my hackles rise.

Let me just make clear up front – I don’t really care if Brooklyn Tweed intended to copy Verb’s product or not and ruminating about it is pretty much a waste of time. Intent doesn’t change their or Verb’s yarns, and publishing a timeline doesn’t actually communicate anything decisive about intent, despite BT’s claims that it somehow does. A timeline is just a calendar of events. But something they’ve neglected to spell out in their timeline is quite interesting and worth noting. An excerpt of their post:

“February 2017: During the research and development phase of exploring naturally dyeing the yarn, Stephanie reaches out to three industry and business associates who have experience with naturally dyed yarn. In these calls and emails we state that we are exploring natural dyeing and ask for any advice they might offer about naturally dyeing wool yarn.”

Two of those three “industry and business associates” were Kristine of A Verb for Keeping Warm, and Brooke of Sincere Sheep. I believe the third was Emily of Local Color. I wasn’t on these calls and it’s not my intention to speak for these women or their businesses. All I know and what BT has said above, is that the process of naturally dyeing a large run of yarn (yes, it’s small batch for yarn manufacturing but a large batch for a natural dyer) was discussed.

There are a few important points here. Brooklyn Tweed might be an experienced company in terms of pattern releases and photography, but they were the new guys in terms of both natural dyeing and making small batch single-origin yarn. They reached out to Verb and Sincere Sheep, members of the yarn business community who had extensive experience in both of these fields, expressed that they wished to learn more, and asked them for information and advice. Then a year later, the popular n00bs come out with a yarn that directly competes with one of the businesses whose advice they asked in the first place (and who, btw, is also a stockist for their other yarns).

That was a dick move.

You might shrug and say “oh, that’s just business!” but the fact remains, it’s not how a vocally self-proclaimed upstanding cooperative member of a beloved small community acts. This is how a predatory and exploitative business acts. They call you or arrange for a friendly meeting, and hey, they’re a big name in the yarn world and maybe there’s a possibility of some collaboration in the future, so you take the call or meeting. You tell them about your own business philosophy and thoughts on natural dyeing, what the timeline and process is like, and you help educate them. You do this for free because it’s a really small community – and natural dyeing especially is tiny – and helping other like-minded businesses is how we all do better collectively. And then a year later, the other shoe drops, and you find out that your good intentions were totally taken advantage of. At worst, you were copied, at best, your “fellow community members” didn’t bother to think that differentiating themselves from your existing product (from the same fiber source) was important. Then they have the audacity to claim “Our fiber community is at its best in an environment of support and trust. Inciting division, competition and rivalry has never been, and will never be, an intention held by the members of the Brooklyn Tweed team. Such an intention functions in direct opposition to our definition of success…”

So yeah, this is why my eyes are sprained from rolling them so hard. There’s a lot of talking the community talk, without actually walking the community walk.

My fear, and why I’ve gone to the effort of writing this damned treatise, is that nothing about Brooklyn Tweed’s business practices is going to change, and more dyers and businesses who have a smaller audience but have been legitimately active in the yarn business community much longer, are going to similarly be taken advantage of. In fact, small things are already happening. If you’re familiar with Sincere Sheep, have heard her talk about her yarn, been reading her newsletters, or just been following her for a while, you’ll know she talks about her yarn and natural dyes in terms of “terroir.” She lives in Napa, and has specifically talked about the relationship between terroir in wine and terroir in farming and dyeing in her printed and online copy for years. Here’s an excerpt from her website:

“Now, still located in the wine-growing region of Napa, CA, Sincere Sheep continues to be inspired and guided by the concept of terroir. Both wool and natural dyes are agricultural products that depend upon and reflect their environment. Factors during the annual growing cycle such as water, grass, weather and stewardship all impact the quality of the wool clip and plant harvest. You will see the effects in the subtle variation of colors and textures of yarn from year to year.”

Though the concept certainly flows, making the direct parallel to wine and specifically using the word “terroir” wasn’t something I had heard other companies use, oh wait, until Brooklyn Tweed came out with this description of natural dyeing in their blog post profiling Green Matters(the company they ended up using to dye Ranch):

“Natural dyeing captures the beautiful irregularities of nature itself — just as wine imparts the flavors of terroir along with the native characteristics of the grape and the artistry of the winemaker, plants yield different colors depending on soil, weather, and other environmental factors. The dye strikes the wool more strongly here, more gently there, to produce rich tonal variations.”

They wrote this about a year after their meeting with Brooke, in which she did in fact talk about her philosophy of dyeing and how it relates to terroir. Before this copy came out and before Ranch was released, she had still been in occasional communication with Brooklyn Tweed, during which they mentioned they’re considering producing a Cormo yarn. Brooke, in conjunction with Jeane deCoster of Elemental Affects, has been producing a few lines of small-batch domestic Cormo yarns for several years. She and Jeane have been slowly bootstrapping the endeavor, buying more fleece every year, raising awareness of the yarn to their customers, working with designers to release more patterns with it. They’ve put large amounts of time, effort, and money into the endeavor, and have created a wonderful and unique product. And Brooklyn Tweed is now specifically asking her about sources, and one of the partners in the company has purchased a skein of at least one of her Cormo yarns.

Spoiler Alert: don’t be surprised if next year, we’re having this same discussion about a new Ranch 02 Cormo yarn that’s exceedingly similar to one of Sincere Sheep’s and is also naturally dyed.

To wrap this all up – what’s really my point here? I’m trying to say that we – you, me, anyone who buys yarn or sells yarn or works with yarn – get to have a voice in what we want our yarn community to be. Do we want to welcome companies who are exploitative, and don’t hesitate to seek advice from their peers, yet don’t seem to care enough to bother differentiating their products from those same peers? Do we want to support companies who talk a good talk and take pretty pictures, but whose actions don’t support their words? I think it’s worth taking the time to consider these things. For me, I much prefer to support businesses who are highly collaborative, work to support others in their community, and offer truly unique products.

Lamb Talking

Ta-Na-Na-Ah, Ta-Na-Na-Ah, Stitches, Stitches, He-e-llo

Lambie says: Stitches is in just a month! Get on it, yo!

Lamb Talking 2 (Medium)

I just got back from TNNA, so I’m full of energy and inspiration! It was great to visit with a few of my yarn suppliers, put more faces to names, and see good friends. I also spoke with several smaller US mills and hope to have a new American yarn base or two in the late spring. Good stuff!

So have I mentioned that I’ll be vending at Stitches West this year? It’s my first time, it’s both exciting and terrifying. Myself and Ranch of the Oaks are splitting a booth – 1048, be sure to drop by! Mette will have lots of natural colors of her own alpaca yarn, plus Icelandic wool, plus llama yarn, plus blends of everything. I’ll be bringing lots and lots of naturally-dyed yarn, about 1/3rd of it will be Corriedale from the Ranch and Central Coast alpaca. And we’ll both have lots of fiber for spinning! And have I mentioned the 15 micron merino that I brought back from Australia? Mmmmmmm…. And! If that wasn’t enough…I’ll also have some Little Red Bicycle yarns! Yay! Hopefully her laceweight order will come in and I’ll have some beautiful hand-dyed skinny stuff, but I’m certain to have sock yarn at the very least. Woot!

There are going to be several natural dyers at Stitches this year – I definitely encourage everyone to check us all out, as we all have different twists on colors and fibers. As far as I know, the following will be there: A Verb for Keeping Warm, Tactile, Pico Accuardi Dyeworks, and Carolina Homespun usually carries Nature’s Palette yarn.

What else is noteworthy? Two of my yarn suppliers will be there – Green Mountain Spinnery and NordicMart. Green Mountain Spinnery is located in Vermont, they make wonderful yarns out of American wool and US-made Tencel. Several of my American Yarns are theirs. And a few of my Global Yarns are from Garnstudio – NordicMart is based here in San Luis Obispo and carries their complete line. Ball and Skein and More in Cambria will also be at Stitches for the first time, and they’ll be highlighting O-Wool yarn, which I also use for dyeing. Michelle Miller of Fickleknitter Design will also have a booth – she creates great patterns, many of which are small yardage and perfect for hand-dyed yarns. I’ll also be a selling a few kits of: one of her patterns, yarn to go with it, and a handmade project bag!

I think that covers my shout-outs for now. Stitches can be pretty overwhelming, so it’s sometimes handy to have recommendations, especially for us new companies that no one has ever heard of. Oh, I have one more shout-out for very interesting stuff – don’t miss John Marshall’s booth. Last year he had very interesting gold yarn (yes, real gold over silk), he sells really cool fabrics, and also very good and user-friendly instant indigo (though I don’t know if he’ll be bringing that to Stitches).

And don’t forget my booth, okay? :) 1048!

Happy New Year! So long 2010!

I made a New Year’s resolution to blog once a week (inspired by the indubitable Jacey Boggs), so I’d better get on it! Actually, I’m gonna do a double-dual update-o-rama here because I do have a bit to talk about. I’ll eventually write another post about Dan and myself’s recent trip to Spain (he’s becoming quite the world almond traveler, I’m just trying to tag along when I can!), but that will be later. Maybe even after Stitches, we’ll see how much time I have between now and then. Hahahahaha….like none! So first….

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, folks! This is how they do Christmas trees in Madrid:

Spain 2010_0285 (Medium)

It was a very cool stainless steel structure that lit up red and green at night. The pic is from inside, looking up into it. The Spain trip was just before Christmas, we actually spent Christmas day at the Ranch. With sheep and lambs!

Lambs at Ranch (Medium)

It was rainy and misty…I always feel lost in time at the ranch, but the especially so this day.

Windmill 2 (Medium)

It was very still, the pond was a perfect mirror.

Mirror Pond (Medium)

The moss grows thick on the trees.

Mossy Trees 2 (Medium)

It was quiet and peaceful, nice to visit and see most of Dan’s family + extended family, even though I came down with a nasty cold in the middle of it. Which is still lingering on, arggh! I wish it would get over and done with because…(this is your cue to go to the next post).

What is UP?!

Geez, anti-chatty, much?

Well, you can tell when I came back to California. In rural Australia, there’s pretty much nothing to do other than knit, watch very bad TV, and write blog posts about the few things you do that are actually interesting. It was nice to have some time to chill with the knitting needles, but near the end I got kind of antsy, like I was just spinning my wheels on the whole business thing. So when I got back to California, I hit the ground running. Here’s the quick synopsis of my life since early May:

1. Arrive in SLO. Awesome surprise greeting party of all my favorite peeps. Tail-gater in the airport parking lot, complete with sammich, beer, and fondling sub-15-micron merino fleece.
2. One hour later, take off for Phoenix, spend time with family, and help spread my grandmother’s ashes. Go through tons of pictures with Dad, and realize that the act of going through physical pictures is probably going to be obsolete by the time I die.
3. Two days later, back in SLO. Say hi to kitties that I’ve missed very much.
4. Felicia’s sweet wedding – she wore red cowboy boots under her dress and had the wedding & reception at a wine bar. Dinner was biscuits and gravy. Totally perfect. Oh, and the groom is pretty cool too. :)
5. Spinning at the Winery in Livermore. Nice event, met nice people, lots of spinners, chatted with the cool vending folks (Shari and Morgaine mostly, but met the nice people behind Shaggy Bear Farms and got to talk to another natural dyer!) Also tasted the wine – Retzlaff Winery has some pretty nice wines.
6. Shearing at the Pronsolino Ranch! Year two, I learned quite a lot from Year 1 and had a better setup. An actual shearing table this time (instead of a sheet of plastic on the dirt), I talking my friend Marya into helping, and I picked much better fleece. It’s still a ton of work – you go through about 100 fleeces in rapid succession in an afternoon.
7. Dan gets back from Australia, yay!
8. Dan’s sister’s wedding – back up to Northern Cal for a bigger event this time. Yes, I wore the same dress that I wore to Felicia’s wedding a few weeks before. It has also made an appearance the wedding of another 2 friends, and I think those are all the separate friend circles that I have, so I think the dress will now be semi-retired.
8. I actually begin honest work on my website.
9. Then we find an awesome house for rent about a mile away – it has a 1-car garage plus storage space plus workshop plus backyard. It’s in a nice little neighborhood instead of a fishbowl bordered by obnoxious students and obnoxious adults with screaming kids. So we decide to move.
9.5. We add 2 big planter boxes to the 2 big planter boxes that are already at the new house. We plant stuff. This is cool, I’ve never had a garden before. Dan’s convinced I’m going to kill everything, so he sets up a fully automatic irrigation system. We buy organic seeds, plus some grown-in-an-organic-manner plants from a local nursery called Growing Grounds, which works with people suffering from mental health issues. I could not possibly feel more awesome about the garden!
10. We pack stuff.
11. I get rid of stuff.
12. We move stuff.
13. We unpack stuff.
14. We fix stuff.
15. Move, move, move, moving, moving.
15.5. My cat Bandit goes missing. :( Tears, inability to sleep, worry, and feeling like a failure.
16. More unpacking.
17. Buying storage stuff.
18. Assembling storage stuff.
18.5 More fixing stuff.
19. Figure out where the hell to store stuff.
20. Getting rid of more stuff.
21. Isn’t moving fun?
22. Deep fried food, chocolate-covered bacon, ice cream, and overpriced beer at the county fair.
23. and AEROSMITH!!! Totally rocked, this time we saw them from stage right (two years ago we were stage left).
24. Deep fried food, chocolate-covered bacon, ice cream, and overpriced beer at the county fair…..again!
25. and WEEZER! Holy crap, like 8th row! Awesome concert, and as all concerts do, makes me want to be a rock star when I grow up. This experience was brought to you by the letters J-A-S-O-N, otherwise known as Felicia’s husband who bought her an awesome birthday present to share with friends. :)
26. Frantic packing from 11pm after the Weezer concert until 2am. Packed for being gone for 2 weeks, 3 separate trips.
27. #1 trip – backpacking in Goddard Canyon! 44 miles in 72 hours. A personal record, but the last day kind of sucked ass. Wore the 5-fingers KSO Treks and totally loved them. Best trail shoes ever, even though they blew out a hole in between the big toe and index toe.
28. #2 trip – camping and climbing in Tuolumne! Totally awesome, the entire freaking LA crew was there due to two of my friends doing a once-in-a-lifetime climb. Jan and Andrew did the Bachar-Yerian. For those of you that don’t climb….well, I really don’t know how to equate it to anything. It’s pretty much the boldest and most impressive thing you can do, requires physical ability and mental focus that is super-human. And Andrew led it with a veritable circus of 20 of us below watching. Insane and brilliant. Dan and I stuck to easy-peasy stuff, I felt killer on knobs and Dan felt good to be out climbing after 2 years and 2 more shoulder surgeries. Yay!
29. I get news that my cat was found, but was dying. I have to make the call to put her down while I’m away. Tears, inability to sleep, and feeling like a complete and utter failure.
30. #3 trip – Golden Gate Fiber Institute! My brain has to degauss from going straight from climbers to fiber freaks, but the potty-mouthedness, insanity, and intensity carries straight on through. So does the sleeping bag, as it’s at the YMCA camp on the Marin Headlands. Also a strange mix of past and present – fiber arts at a place that was once used for missile defense. It was the most killer week I’ve ever spent with fellow fiber freaks, learned new and cool spinning tricks & skillz, and made some awesome, awesome new friends that I’m totally stoked to keep in touch with and see again at other fibery events.
30. Home again! To an overflowing washing machine and screwed-up dryer. Yep, home sweet home. :)
31. Immense spoiling of remaining kitty. Immense gratitude to my friend Eileen who was with my other kitty in her last moments. I enjoyed making her an over-the-top yarn care package – you just can’t put a price on what she did and it was the least I could do to show my appreciation.
32. Immense freaking out when I saw “a thing” on remaining kitty’s neck a few days later. Turns out it was just an abscess and the vet drained it and she’s just fine. Well, occasionally trailing blood and pus around the house, but just fine.
33. Work on my website finally continues in earnest. I made a commitment that I’d be up on September 1st, and that’s what’s going to happen. So I don’t update my blog again for a little bit…..well, I’ll be at the computer working on the real site. :)

See you soon!

Ultra-fine Merino at Burrabliss Farm

Fleece pr0n!

Burrabliss_0159 (Large)

I knew that would get your attention. Now I’m going to blab a bit. :)

When I planned this trip to Australia, I kind of had this vision that Australia was land o’ sheep, and that there would be ranches everywhere and sheep around every corner. I guess that’s true for some parts of the country, but not of Robinvale, which is my base of operations since I have a free place to stay and half-paid-for groceries. Dan had assured me that he passed by several farms on his way to the Grampians, and saw a few signs for organic Merinos with phone numbers. But when we retraced his steps, we only saw one flock of sheep and one sign which had mostly to do with selling stud Merino semen. Not exactly the part of the sheep that I’m interested in. :) I had a lovely offer from ixchelbunny on Ravelry to come see her angora rabbit farm near Melbourne, but I unfortunately was only in the city for a few days and without a non-public mode of transportation. I was sorry to miss out on the chance to cuddle fluffy bunnies! So when I got back to Robinvale, I googled galore to see if there was anything at all within a single day’s driving distance. And I found Burrabliss!

Burrabliss Farm is in Lake Boga, near Swan Hill. At an hour and 45 minutes away, it’s practically right next door to Robinvale. :) I emailed with Tricia Pollard, she and her husband Bruce who own the sheep farm and a B&B, and set up a visit. I met them at the B&B, which is on the shore of Lake Boga. She has a garden full of beautiful and fragrant roses:

Burrabliss Roses

Alright, enough about roses, more about wool. :) They specialize in raising Saxon Merino sheep to produce ultra-fine fleeces – we’re talking below 15 microns, which is incredible for wool. Most merino falls in the 20-22 micron range, super-fine merino usually meaning 18-19 microns. So I was blown away when she said she had an 11.4 micron fleece! That one’s behind glass, so all I could do was drool, but I did get to feel a 12ish micron fleece. As you might expect, it’s heaven. Absolute heaven. Super-tight springy crimp and oh-so-soft. This is the type of fleece that spinners dream about, usually with a glazed look in their eyes.

So how do they do it? They raise their sheep according to the Sharlea method, which is a trademarked name for a specific process used to house, feed, and yes, clothe sheep so that they produce ultra-fine and very clean wool. The first ingredient is protecting the fleece from the weather. So all the sheep are housed in a large raised shed.

Burrabliss_0171 (Large)

The inside is penned, and there are probably about 12 sheep per pen. Even though the shed houses 500 sheep, they’re not packed in tightly or confined in any way. There’s plenty of space in each pen for the sheep to move around freely.

Burrabliss_0178 (Large)

Burrabliss_0181 (Large)

The second ingredient is keeping the fleece clean. Each sheep is coated, of course, and the coats are changed every 3-4 months as needed.

Burrabliss_0177 (Large)

This little guy was pretty cute:

Burrabliss_0179_crop (Large)

And they are all guys, by the way, all wethers. I asked why no females, and it’s basically because a female sheep with that good of a fleece is better used as a breeder. And with any fiber animal, the fleece quality isn’t as good when a female is pregnant, because all the animal’s energy goes to the developing baby. Burrabliss doesn’t actually breed any of their own sheep, mostly because it would be yet another endeavor that takes up more space and time. As someone with a one-person business, I can understand that decision!

The floor is slatted, so that their dung falls through the slats onto the ground several feet below (you can see the piles under the shed in the first picture above). The feed is distributed along walkways outside of the pens, and each sheep has a spot to stick his head through the pen and eat. So the pens also stay free of hay.

Burrabliss_0176_crop (Large)

Sheep butts!

Burrabliss_0183_crop (Large)

Ingredient number 3 is a specially controlled diet. They buy feed in bulk for the entire year, changing to a new year’s supply just after shearing to maintain consistency. The feed is tested for protein, and supplemented with oats and vitamins. Each sheep is also weighed about 4 times per year, so they can judge the health of the animal and fleece growth.

Overall, these are some of the best-cared-for sheep I’ve seen. Some people may be upset that they’re “stuck in pens,” but you can’t argue that they get far more individual care and attention to health than 99% of free-range sheep. Tricia said that penned Saxon Merinos have a lifespan of about 8-9 years, vs. pastured sheep that have a life expectancy of 6-7 years. And frankly, the sheep didn’t really seem to care that they were inside. They have enough space to move around, they get high-quality feed, and they even have the radio to listen to. But maybe they need cable TV….

I did leave with some fleece. Not 11 microns unfortunately, I had to stick to fleeces in the “lower-priced” 13-15 micron range. In case you’re wondering, an 11.7 micron fleece goes for roughly $250 USD per pound. The fleeces tend to be between 1 and 2 lbs – the sheep are pretty small and the fleece is well-skirted. Burrabliss sells most of its fleece in bales at auction, but they have probably about 10 individual fleeces left, ranging from about 13 to 14.5 microns, and depending on weight & fiber, they’re approx. $75 to $150 AUD each (right now the exchange rate is about 1 USD = 1.1 AUD). And I know some of you have drum carders….a pound of fleece wouldn’t be that hard to process yourself…(enable, enable!) If you’re interested, contact Tricia for a list. She’s shipped to the US several times and will try to ship to just about anywhere.

updated links 07/10/2014

And some comments – I know this is bound to be a controversial subject.  I stand by my assessment that they were the best cared for sheep I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen a metric fuckton of sheep.  Just to be perfectly clear – these sheep are not kept in the dark.  There is natural light coming in the windows, which are oriented in a typical passive solar design, which allows indirect sunlight in so the barn stays cool.  No, it’s not super bright, THAT’S THE POINT.  They aren’t kept hungry, though they are fed a special diet to maintain wool quality.  Pretty much any wool breeder, alpaca, sheep, you name it, controls their animal’s feed.  It’s well known for alpacas that too much protein will cause their fiber to be coarse, I’m not sure if it’s the same or opposite with sheep.  Anyway, you can totally debate pens or free range, but you can’t debate the quality of their care or living conditions.  This is not veal, people.

…and then there were 3!

Yep, my double treadle finally arrived last week! I’m not usually a person who names things, but the names for all 3 wheels came to me in a flash of inspiration: Blondie (DT), Honey (ST), and Wench (Clemes). Me and my 3 slutty wheels – it fits since I’m pretty much a hoar for fiber.

I like the double-treadle, although it feels like I’m going too fast. I think the single treadle is actually a bit more relaxing – it has a slower rhythm with a slight pause that’s kind of reminiscent of swinging.

I’m also – cough, hack – a bit disappointed in the size of the plying head. I would have been duly impressed and awed if I hadn’t already seen and used my friend Tom’s plying head. He has a really cool 30-year-old Lendrum that I believe is one of the first models made. He has the original wire footman, and amazingly is still on the original drivebands. One of the things that sold me on the Lendrum was his ginormous plying head. (Ok, for you non-spinny types out there who really have your minds in the gutter – it’s just a very large bobbin that can fit 3 or 4 normal bobbin’s worth of yarn – handy, because when you ply (twist) two singles (yarn) that you’ve spun together to equalize the twist, you end up with twice as much yarn. If you only have “normal” sized bobbins, that means you have to cut your yarn in half in order to ply it. Highly annoying because weaving in ends in knitting is highly annoying….) Still with me? Back to the gutter, then – anyway, when my Lendrum came in and I took out the plying head, I thought, “Gosh, I’m pretty sure Tom’s was bigger.” I showed it to my friend Michelle who said, “Yeah, I’m pretty sure Tom’s was bigger.” So when I went down to Ranch of the Oaks yesterday, I grabbed a hold of Tom’s plying head, and sure enough – it’s like twice the size of mine. Yep, spinnis envy.

It’s not my fault that I have 3 wheels

Well, technically I still only have 2, but a 3rd is on order. You see, it all started when I totally fell in love with a Lendrum…..

(Wayne’s World wavy fingers flashback – dittle-loot, dittle-loot, dittle-loot!)

Back in the end of July, we were all spinning on Anne’s patio and I was in the midst of the throes of deciding which wheel to buy. I liked the Sonata, but wanted to try a Lendrum out before making a final decision. I had seen Marya’s before, and treadled it once, but that was a while ago on the second day of spinning class. I sat down at it on the patio, and immediately started noticing things like the very simple, modern look that would match my living room decor perfectly. The bobbin was a snap to change, and you didn’t have to muck with the drive band at all. It folded for travel in about 2 seconds. The treadling was very nice. I went back and forth, back and forth between it and the Sonata. Then I realized why the Lendrum is tilted. It’s so you can see the yarn on your bobbin without having to get up and peer over it. Then I thought back upon seeing Tom’s Lendrum, with the extra-large plying head that would hold 3 normal bobbin’s worth of yarn, and it was a done deal. I emailed John at Village Spinning and Weaving and put my name on the list! I knew it would be a few months, but I was about to be camping for a month, so the wait didn’t really matter.

Fast forward to getting back from camping.

On the way home, I picked up a pirate wheel for Bonni. “The Pirate Wheel” was the name that our spinning class had given to the Clemes and Clemes traditional wheel that Nancy had. Some people really hated it, and I could see why. It was a typical older-style double-drive castle, so in order to change the bobbin you have to undo the driveband, unscrew it from the flyer, and do everything all over again. The bobbins weren’t very big and the treadle (a single) was a bit on the heavy side. The whole wheel looks kind of chunky-clunky too. It was starting to get a seriously bad rep as everyone took turns with it for a week, so on the last week I decided to take it home and see if I could redeem it. I was drawn the giant wood screw and pirateyness of it. The treadle has 2 planks and it kind of looks peg-legged. I sat down at it, treadled for a bit, and fell in love when I realized it had the perfect place to set down your beer:

Piratey Goodness

Anyway, Bonni had also fallen in love with the wheel and both of us had been stalking craigslist like a couple of fiends, trying to buy one used. She scooped me by something like 2 hours in responding to an ad from a seller near Sacramento. I was…ahem….a bit envious, but I was driving right through Sacramento on my way home, she hadn’t had a chance to pick it up yet, and it just worked out. My car was packed to the gills, but the front passenger seat was open. I carefully wedged it in place, and glanced woefully at it all the way home. I needed a wheel, STAT! It didn’t help that I had accumulated a nice little stash of fiber that was just taunting me with its beady little eyes. I resumed my craigslist stalking for the Clemes and Clemes, and I happened to notice a used single treadle Lendrum in Denver. The one I had on order was a double treadle, but I’m not a treadle snob. The price was right, so I contacted the seller, and yay! She was willing to ship! Three days later, I had my first wheel:

Lendrum Love

And a day or two before it showed up, an ad for a Clemes and Clemes traditional popped up on craigslist. It even had the darker walnut finish that looked so 1800’s sea vessel. My heart raced as I feverishly typed a text message to the sellers, explaining that I was completely in love with this wheel, had been looking for months for one, and would they consider shipping it can do cash-funded paypal! A phone call later and the answer was yes!!! I was totally stoked. Don’t get me wrong, I still totally love my Lendrum and she’s my faithful wife, but I’m completely in lust with the pirate and she’s my salty wench. They don’t seem to mind.

A Happy Family

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