I’m back from Maryland, safe and sound. The driving part was not so bad – aside from Giselle giving me some seriously quirky directions (a 20-mile U-turn, for instance), I was just fine. It wasn’t nearly as nerve-wracking as I feared because the volume of traffic in DC meant that I was crawling at 20 mph for long stretches.

I met up with lots of people –

My aunt and uncle

Margaret and Richard

Glynis and Jen

Some knit bloggers (this one was a self-portrait – can you tell?)

Beware of sheep – you never know when one might sneak up on you!

Stealthy sheep dressed in camo

I also bought some stuff – indigo and osage orange roving of Corriedale and silk, dyed bombyx silk top, a cap, an orifice hook, and a bag or Cormo/angora (60/40) roving.

Fiber-wise, I only bought that which would be a PITA to make myself. I don’t think I have any plans for dyeing with indigo, the paddling and oxidizing and playing with urea… I’ll let Stephania do it. We all know how poorly my previous attempt at handpainting silk turned out, and Nancy Finn kicks some serious silk butt, so more power (and my cash!) to her. The cap has last year’s logo on it, but my neighbors won’t care. They’ll just be glad to see me out in the yard digging up dandelions. The hook (for my electric spinner) is turned by Bill Hardy (I’m not worthy, not worthy – and I have serious squirrel cage swift lust yet again). Cormo is such a springy and nep-prone fiber, it’s hard to find a commercial processor who can do a smooth roving. (Sure, I could comb it myself – and I have – but I comb at a max rate of ~100 g/hr.) From the bit I teased open, it looks like Alice of Foxhill Farm (no direct website – scroll down for contact info) has found a great processor to prepare her prizewinning wool.

I also briefly chatted with folks that I’ve worked with or bought stuff from before, it’s always nice to say hello and provide on-the-spot customer feedback for potential purchasers. I always make sure I say hi to Sheila Bosworth, Gail White, Otto Strauch, and Jerry Womack.

Although I spent Saturday socializing (see Cass for the linkfest) and cruising the marketplace, I did my serious MDSW-ing alone on Sunday. I tried out EVERY. DAMN. WHEEL. that interested me at the fair. I guess I’m not really in the market for a new wheel right now, but I do want to see what’s out there and have an idea of the workmanship, the maker, the performance, etc. Let’s see if I can remember what models I tried:

Robin DT castle
Schacht/Reeves DT Saxony
Lendrum DT Saxony
Kromski DT Symphony
Golding triple flyer DT
– Vermont Spinning Wheel Saxony (no Web site)
Merlin Tree Hitchhiker

My aim is to rigorously test a wheel in as brief a time as possible. (Sometimes, if I’m not impressed early in the test, I will skip some of what I’ve described below.) I begin by treadling only (no spinning) – 2 feet, 1 foot, the other foot, full speed and then let go and see how long it spins without treadling. I try the slowest ratio, the fastest, and one in the middle. I adjust the take up tension and change bobbins. I treadle slowly and quickly and low and high tension. I ask what points need oil and if the wheel knocks down for transport. I pick it up and set it down a few times. I listen for rattles and squeaks. I feel for “sticky” spots in the treadling motion. I’ll take off the drive band and put it back on. If at any point I see something that confuses me, I ask a lot of questions. I also ask wheelwrights about why they design it this way and not that, what was the reason to add this feature or why didn’t they provide that feature. Most wheelmakers are somewhat relieved to speak to someone who knows wheels very well and answer questions fully with the same kind of academic passion. (I love that! Thank you for taking me seriously!) Above all else, I try to be as efficient as I can without compromising the test run – usually, I can wrap up a wheel evaluation in about 15 minutes.

And since someone’s going to ask – yeah, I still think the Drudik wheel is better. (I need to do a full review of the Drudik wheel someday [and the Butterfly spinner, too]. Someday.) Even though the drive band sometimes falls off at the high ratios, its momentum carries the day. The wheel is incredibly heavy, which results in ultrasmooth treadling action. Once it gets going, it spins effortlessly. Surprisingly, it is very easy to get the wheel spinning – still have no idea how such a heavy wheel starts so smoothly, but Magnus has worked some serious magic. Literally the only wheel I’ve ever tried that compares to it in terms of treadling was the 30-inch Wyatt Pegasus.

To those of you who I met for the first time, it was nice to put a name to a face. I’m sorry if I was a little quiet – I’m not much into social networking through the Internets, it still seems weird to be meeting people this way – but I was glad to meet-n-greet. To old friends, thanks for making the time. It was wonderful, as always, to see you again.

14 thoughts on “MD$W

  1. Hey, where did all that Luxuriant Flowing Hair go?! That’s got to be breaking some club rules; I should make you send me the cormo in exchange for my silence!

    Looks like you had a good time, and found some excellent fibers. Wish I could have been there to meet you.

  2. Looks like a great trip to MDSW – I went last year and found it quite overwhelming.

    I just got a squirrel cage swift for my birthday in January – and I love it! It took some getting used to, it works much better for me to not pull the yarn taut between the wheels. It works much better for the big honkin’ homespun hanks than my little wire/plastic one.


  3. It was so great to meet you, June. THANK YOU for speaking up — dumb me for not asking! Yes, we had horrible traffic, too, and missed our flights. But we both made it on later flights and all was well. It was a great time.

  4. Two years ago I bought some cormo pencil roving that was from Alice Field’s sheep – it was fabulous stuff and made the most gorgeous 3 ply yarn. I wish she had a website! Did you see her blue-ribbon cormo fleece on the table by the fleece corner? Omigod. The most gorgeous fleece I’ve ever seen.

  5. Thanks for the MS&W report – which I could have been there! Not that I need fiber – I found some long-forgotten Mannings loot while cleaning up over the weekend.

    So you don’t want to mess with indigo? It’s so fun, though! I’m looking forward to indigo dyeing with Rita Buchanan’s recipe this summer from the guild dye garden. You no longer have the excuse of fun chemistry on the job, either, but maybe you don’t miss it. I got a bunch of those Louet natural dyes because they are no longer carrying them and I’ve been having a blast trying them. Logwood is amazing with the range of colors you can get.

  6. Good summary of wheel tryout. I’m going to have to be more rigorous. It was great to see you out of the virtual mode.

  7. Looks like you had a fabulous time at MSW. I’m totally jealous (grins) that you got together with the famous “Claudia” She is truly and inspiration with the 150k bike ride fundraiser for MS.
    Glad you enjoy the Chasing Rainbows fiber from Nany Finn. She is a peach and we adore her!

  8. What a productive/fun trip you had. I loved your description of spinning wheel testing. Tell us more! What did you think of each of the wheels you tried, you lucky Drudik wheel owner?!

  9. Yes, what about the Drudik wheel – you have peeked my interest. Glad you had a good trip – hope to see you this month. Bonny

  10. Your description of wheel try-outs made me laugh. It sounds like JUST the kind of test the scientist I live with would put em through. As opposed to the flaky-me type test where I sit down and look at the finish and chat with the seller, and forget to even try out how it actually spins!

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