Tour de Fleece

What do you do during the hottest July on record? Spin wool of course.

During the famous Tour de France — on Ravelry we do the Tour de Fleece. Spindle spinners, wheel spinners, drop spindle spinners — spinners of all kinds take on a challenge (or two or three) and just keep spinning! I guess it makes sense, bicycles have wheels, spinning wheels have wheels; you peddle the bicycle, we treadle (or turn by hand) our wheels, although some “wheels” are electric.

What is my challenge??? Learn how to spin on the mother of all wheels — the Great Wheel and make “Great” yarn! For a while there it looked like I might not even get started with the challenge. The wheel I bought needed too much work, and would not be ready for July. But after my Woolfest and the “Great Spinning Wheel Adventure” concluded I ended up with TWO Great wheels (one still waiting for minor Miner’s head repairs — hey minor, miner repairs –that’s funny). I only started 3 days late!


BTW — see that little guy under the Great Wheel??? that is a Hansen e-spinner — I love the Biggest Wheel and the smallest wheel image!!!

It was a little tricky at the beginning — the P.Wood Great Wheel (I named her “Penelope”) was just a little fussy when it came to getting adjusted JUST right, so she would not throw the drive band. I also had to figure out just what she wanted in terms of lubrication — with lithium grease? (no), vaseline? (ok but too gooey), machine oil? (YES — just a drop, thank you) Now we’re talkin!

Rolags Ready

I whipped thorough 8 oz of Coopworth — no problem — carded into rolags — cause everyone said …..

Coopworth Skein

Then I started on this lovely hand painted Faukland wool I bought in New Hampshire 2 years ago — 8 oz of that —


Penelope REALLY liked the Faukland — the colors seem to match the increasing heat we were

Dyed Faukland

starting to experience. Next I tried some nice combed Finn — just tear off a small chunk and fold it over your index finger —


Penny took care of the rest — spins like butter. We are really getting the hang of this and I’ve been spinning every day (except for 2) of this grand, HOT, Tour de Fleece month.

The GREAT Spinning Wheel Adventure

Life is indeed made up of many threads, interacting and interlacing.  It’s hard to say which thread is leading us, and where it originated, but anyone with eyes to see can observe the action of this web of threads!  Here is a small example of how one thread leads to another.

I have a lot of wheels, and they travel in and out of my life at irregular intervals — See Polygamist and Proud of it! — So I haven’t been looking at Ravelry’s Used Equipment board — but one day I did. CPW-VAThe First Thread was dangling before me.  There before my eyes was “CPW — for sale”.  — See It’s Not my Fault!.  This was a local pickup kind of thing, OR even better, a “meet me at the Maryland show” deal.  I HAD been wanting to go to that show (see Be careful what you wish for), but …. time …. money …. excuses, excuses.  My husband suggested that we just go down for the day (albeit a LONG day), get the CPW, wander around the show for a few hours and head home.  I wanted that CPW — so, you guessed it, the road trip was planned.

I did not end up completing the Deal on that particular CPW — but if you read the above mentioned post, you will know that I found another one at the same time and had made arrangements to get that later in the Spring. I am beginning to think that wheels come in pairs.  We did wander around the Maryland show, saw many wonderful things, put in orders for stuff like weaving benches, spinning chairs and counting clock skeiner’s (made from Cherry) — but I digress.  The Second Thread in this intricate web was about to be grasped (with both hands).  At the Williamsburg booth stood — with all the pride and dignity of their era 3 HUGE, perfectly preserved, working, Great Wheels.  I asked the gal at the booth to show me spinning on one of these gentle giants.  As she started to spin, I was transfixed, awed, and entranced.  The Great Wheel had cast her spell upon me, and I had to bring one of them into my life (and my house).

Now I was beginning to notice a pattern, and see that there are not just individual threads, but there is, in fact, a more subtle structure at work.  BEFORE my passion for a Great Wheel had been ignited, my friend (and super fabulous massage therapist) had mentioned on several occasions that his wife had “one of those big wheels” and they wanted to sell it.  I gave him some advice, but really did not think twice about it.  NOW — I’m starting to think about it …. hmm…. I could get Marty’s Within a few weeks I had this wheel sitting in my living room.  It had a few problems, the wheel was warped, but due to the groove COULD — if you fiddled with it enough keep the drive band, the Miner’s head was glued in backwards, and the spindle had a nasty bend at the worn end, BUT — it could be put back in order.  The Third Thread was advice from several sources to take the wheel to Fred Hatton of Hawley PA.  This thread was interwoven with the First Thread — we had to make a trip to Maine anyway to pick up the second CPW I found (again, quite by accident???).  We could take the GW to Fred, go to Vermont and take back our friend’s Futon Frame (THAT is another story all together — are you seeing the pattern of this weave yet?), then go to Maine and get the CPW.

We would go after my Fiber show at the Woolfest.  By July 1st I would have a CPW, and Fred would be working on my Great Wheel.  Cool.  My Web of threads decided to take on an additional twist (or a boucle if you will) when the first thing I saw upon arriving at the Barn to set up for the Woolfest was a gal from Peace Eagle Valley, unloading — oh yes — a Great Wheel.  alltogether_1She was just too sweet for words, a nice price, — and she was a working wheel (just needed a new spindle and some leather spindle bearings to make her work even better)  Yep, I bought her, even before Dawn had the chance to put her up for sale, and the next day I bought her little side kick, a clock skein winder.


The show ended, we had a day of rest and preparation, loaded up the ole Element and set off for New England!  If you have the chance to visit Fred and Grace Hatton in Hawley — do it.  What great people!  They are so friendly and helpful.  We brought the wheel in to Fred, he had already seen the pictures and formed somewhat of a plan.  He would know if the wheel would hold the drive band after he got the Miner’s head off.  It turned out to be a bit of a FrankenWheel — but there was hope.  The Woolfest GW’s accelerator head & spindle were an easier fix, she would be up and running in no time.  It turns out that she is a pretty sweet little wheel, the upright is pegged and supported, so she is fairly easy to adjust for spinning, and I will be able to take her to demonstrations (my good friend Cathy of The Artful Yarn — would like me to do spinning demonstrations — yet another small thread) pretty easily.  Fred took us upstairs for a little relaxation and the first thing I see is this beauty of a wheel on their hearth.  WOW.  pwood_1They had just finished getting a layer of polyurethane off of it (gasps from my readers) and it was — beautiful.  Are you sensing the Fourth Thread? Patience “small bear” — the story must unfold in its own time.  After a lovely 2 or so hour visit, we started the trek to Vermont.

Vermont is fabulous, green, hills, mountains — lots of pure, woodsy air.  Ahhhh …  If it didn’t snow so much and have such a long winter …..  It was a long day, but worth it.  Our friends showed us to their rental house, transferred the futon frame, and we slept like the dead.  vtwoodpeckerThe next morning we open the door and there is this HUGE woodpecker, lookin straight at us.  “who are you, and why are you interrupting my breakfast” he indicated with his “don’t bother me again” look.  He had a good idea, so we went in search of breakfast before the Maine leg of the trip.  Have you ever noticed that you can think more creatively when you are not tired, and you have a good breakfast in your tummy?  Well, that’s Lou to a tea.

As we were driving to Maine, I was sighing and chattering about that beauty of a Great Wheel in the Hatton’s living room.  Lou suggested I call Fred and offer a deal — my old GW and cash for Fred’s Great Wheel (signed P.Wood).  Hmmm.  So I called Fred, pitched the idea and told him to think about it.  I called later that day and He said “What do ya want for your wheel?”  I said “How about $….” and he said “How about $…” and I said “DEAL”.  Yep — The Fourth Thread laid into place.  You know those 2 pegs on the table are for holding your carded rolags — something I would never be able to use when I had cats.

We took the back roads to Maine without incident (Thank GOD — cause I don’t think we could have fit anything else in the car — safely)  Trina was so nice, she had the wheel set up and ready for me to spin on, gave me a little tour of her workings and I gave her a little test drive.  I had been wanting to learn about cross threading (seeing it mentioned on posts so many times — I’m thinkin’ — what is this and why do it???)cpw-maine Now I know — this wheel has a very strong pull/momentum and you need to cross thread to slow her down when the bobbin is fairly empty.  Boy, she hits the ground at warp speed!  She was worth every penny of the asking price, and I guess I’ll do just about anything for a good wheel.

Back to Vermont for the night, and then the next day an early start to get to Fred and Grace’s again, to pick up my new Great Wheel.  It was a misty wet start to the day, but I’m told that seeing a Lady Moose ladymoosein a clearing is good luck, so I was happy.  I almost kicked myself for not taking pictures at the Hattons on the first day, but now we had another opportunity on the way back. talkincpw_1chuckies_1 There were chickens to capture by the lens, Fred looking at the CPW —  giving it his seal of approval, and, of course his very cool shop, with wheels, skein winders, tools — awesome.

There you have my little tale.  A story that has beginnings even further back than I had imagined — I thought it all started with a CPW and a trip to Maryland, but in fact, it started earlier than that.  I have always drawn out fiber with the left hand (unusual — I recently discovered for a right handed person) — why do you think that happened?  MAYBE because spinning on the Great Wheel requires a left handed draw.  Who knows.  All I can tell you is that there is no real beginning to stories and no clear end.