Friday, 8 January 2016

Doing Up an Ashford Indian Spinner/Country Spinner Mark 1

My friend BG uses wool to make art. In her eyes, kempy old sheepswool locks and matted beige bits from dodgy plant dye experiments are just inspiring raw materials, which saves me grieving over foolish purchases and failures and generally makes for a happy symbiosis. Nonetheless, for Christmas 2014, I was sure her life would be enhanced by possession of a spinning wheel, if only I could find the right one, at the right price.  BG's ideal wheel would definitely need to cope with big art yarn and minimal maintenance, so when a friend of ours pointed me towards this Ashford Mark 1 Country Spinner on eBay, I zipped in with a bid of £65, despite the seller's remarks about it having woodworm.
My sister met a pack of big dogs living on the farm when she drove there, in the dark, to fetch the wheel home for me.  Once it had had a good scrub, the wood looked scarred, but intrinsically sound.  The damage looks more like teeth marks of a puppy, probably now grown up into one of those big dogs.  The Ashford logo was clearly stamped on the front and the Ashford website listed
this model under the name Indian Spinner, made between 1980-86, confirmed by the original assembly instructions.  I used those instructions to take it apart and put it back together after applying three coats of Danish Oil, poured oil on all the moving parts and bought a new 10mm nut to replace the only missing bit.  How smart it looked!  I named it 'Twice Shy' (as in once bitten) and tied a leader onto the bobbin, ready to present to BG with a great Ta Da!!
Small snag - I couldn't see how to get this wheel to spin yarn.  I thought I must have reassembled it all wrong, because the mechanism baffled me.  The one huge bobbin has a whorl fixed to its back and the weight of the big wheel itself actually hangs off that via the drive band. Unlike my scotch tension Ashford Traveller, the flyer has no evident link to the turning of the wheel, just a brake band running over the orifice.
  
Though BG had to wait til spinning camp in March to have a confident tutor, this wheel did prove entirely functional, just treadle away and you soon get the hang of it. By Easter, she had spun a dozen balls of superbulky yarn and developed thighs like nut crackers. BG fed massive amounts of fleece into its gaping orifice and as I imagined, did love making wild, thick yarn, though apart from pure capacity, the Indian still seemed to me a rather daft wheel design.  Not only is it heavy to treadle, there is only the one bobbin.  Unless you know how to make single yarn (which I don't), a spun single has to be wound back off the bobbin and rolled into a ball, before you spin the second single. Then the second single has to be wound off and balled, before you can finally ply the two singles together and finish your yarn.  It was only recently that it occurred to me to ask to borrow it, specially for a heavy weight plying job.
Resolving to catalogue, organise and use up my stash of wool, I have so far only got as far as the very first fleece I ever spun.  The Huxtable Jumper has not had much wear, being heavy, hot and well, the post-apocalyptic look is so dystopian.  Once unravelled, I found the yarn was soft and weak with incredibly loose plying, which rather explained why the fibres were already pilling.
I also rediscovered a half formed
bag in hibernation.  This yarn was a fascinating and thoughtful gift, a huge egg of tough, highly energetic Z twist single Karakul sheep wool, brought back for me from Samarkand.  Maybe it was intended for warping a rug. Crocheting with it proved so hard on the hands, the original project got abandoned. 
With Roger, my Ashford Traveller,
spinning clockwise on the 15:1 ratio, I took the S ply out of the Huxtable yarn and added plenty more Z twist.  Pulling this straight back off Roger's jumbo bobbin and plying it anticlockwise with the Karakul yarn from the ball, the Indian Spinner did sterling duty. With both feet on the single treadle, I could spin the wheel til the bobbin was nearly half full. Doing this ten times gave me a good workout, though the effort it took suggested my core strength must be dismal. I simply couldn't 
get up enough power to shift the weight of a full bobbin.  Close inspection showed the final yarn was around 5-6 wpi.  The weight was shocking - 10m weighed 22g. No wonder that was hard work. Still, I now have a high grist yarn which ought to combine durability with all the colours I so admired in my first Jacob X Texel fleece. The latter has also added enough softness to crochet without taking the skin off my knuckles.

9 comments:

  1. I have a home made wheel with a single treadle which I find difficult to use. It can not be used at the moment because I have broken the spindle! I think I prefer to have two treadles but my beloved husband didn't take the mega lead lined hint for Christmas and birthday(within a week of each other) so I am still in want of an Ashford Traveller! How I envy you Fran.

    Jaki

    Perhaps I should do what you did and ebay!

    Jaki

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    1. The perfect thing on eBay is usually on the other side of the country, in my limited experience. This one was a fair old drive for my sister, but having a wide spread family can pay off. Best of luck with finding your wheel.

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  2. Lovely and thoughtful gift! I bought my Ashford wheel second hand too, and the job of disassembling, sanding, adjusting, greasing and finishing off with wax was a good way to learn to know the wheel. Ashfords homepage is really helpful too. You made it look really pretty.

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    1. I resisted the temptation to customise it. Always interesting to see other people's wheels, they can tell you quite a bit about the spinner.

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  3. you'd have to wind off the first bobbin of yarn, but then you could navajo (chain)ply it for a chunky three-ply instead of spinning and winding several singles? and I do find it more relaxed to spin double-treadle on my lendrum, but I've diddled with my single-treadle louet for so long, that I don't really mind either - I just have to get used to either again after using the other for a while...

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    1. True. I've been watching a video on core spinning - very tempted to try that on this wheel.

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    2. and you have a lot of space on that bobbin, might be good for plying stuff spun on another wheel! I find it rather annoying when I ply a multi-ply and have to break the threads all the time, because the bobbin is full... I am a lazy knitter, who prefers to knit without darning in endless threads afterwards:)

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  4. I have the same and do not understand why the flyer has no connection to the spinning wheel. It's just nothing else. Does it really work like this?

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  5. It does. Just pedal and the wheel turns the flyer, twists and pulls in the single simultaneously, you probably won't want to increase tension, but on the top of the front triangle, the strap over the orifice can be tightened.

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