I am very happy to announce that I have finally been reunited with my beloved Ashford Traveller. There hasn’t been much spinning news from me in a while, as I didn’t take my wheel with my on my last move and fortune saw fit to united me with a wheel of somewhat unknown make, possibly an old Ashford Traditional.
I span a few things on it but while it was a beautiful wheel, trying to spin anything fine was a humongous amount of work and I prefer double treadle systems. I still can’t bring myself to part with it just yet, but unless I want to spin more wools and art-yarns, I’m not sure it’s the workhorse for me. I was sorely tempted to buy a Lendrum instead – they are absolutely fabulous wheels and really designed with complete pragmatism in mind, including total adjustability and folding powers – but… it’s hard to get excited looking at the castle ones at least.
The Ashford Traveller however is compact and still just my favourite looking wheel. I’ve never had the spare space for a Saxony wheel and I will always have very fond memories of strapping my little Traveller into the passenger seat of my tiny two-seater and bringing it home for the first time. This is why it was a little heart-breaking when, after shipping the wheel with ParcelForce, I found it looking a little worse for wear. It had fared better than my weaving loom where somehow in transit one of the arms for the beater had managed to fracture and my embroidery stand had a broken joint. As well as completely unreliable delivery time frames, given how everything was packed, it is hard to see how any of that could have happened without some seriously rough handling. Very much not recommended. If anyone has suggestions for wood repairs or glues please let me know!
I was a bit concerned for the wheel as it was quite clearly not running ‘right’ with some new wobbles, distressed noises and generally not feeling right. However, the good thing with wooden and mechanical things is you can always strip them down and put them back together. Out came Alden Amos, the oil and the Allen keys, and in not that much time, I had a wheel that felt like the wheel I remembered that made turning fluff into fibre a joy.
Obviously, that meant a new spinning project was on the way… My default in life is 2-ply silk spun fine but sometimes in life we have to get out of our comfort zones. I went to a spinning diploma exhibition where the work of the students just blew me away, and while a lot of their creations you might look at and say ‘what do you do with that’ and I’m not sure anyone really needs eyelash yarns in their life, it was clear that by attempting to create all sorts of complex and whacky things, they had learnt to control their spinning completely.
I was in the mood for something ‘seasidey’ in colours, having dug out some old handspun just to make a quick cord so I stopped losing my yarn gauge reference and could hang it on the wheel and by chance I came across some old dyed merino top from The Makerss. I must have picked this up back at the 2018 Knitting and Stitching Show and it has been lingering ever since.
I had 50 g of both their Cornish Seaside and Rainbow top, both of which are beautiful colourways but Cornish Seaside seemed an apt choice for something ‘sea-like’. However, for me, the Cornish seaside is more rugged and wild than this colourway conveyed. Perhaps this is too much experience Cawsand and Whitsand in all weathers talking, but I definitely wanted something more moody and 50 g of fibre spun anything other than laceweight is also an irritatingly small amount.
I thought about blending it with silk, an instant way to add to the appeal of any fibre with me, but I didn’t want to detract from a palette that I already really liked and tone down the brightness with undyed silk. Apparently I had foreseen this problem though, and dyed a load of silk top in different colours just in case.
I matched up what I could and decided to run it through the combs to blend it up a little. It was somewhat half-hearted blending and I ended up using the combs more as a mini-hackle than proper wool combs but it seemed to work well enough and I think bothering to spend some more time on the preparation was its own reward when it came to getting down to spin. I had taken some care to split the merino braid in half and weigh both sides but my lack of organisation soon got the better of me and I lost the ordering of how I’d broken the braid down so things just ended up being prepared in a stochastic order.
I found laying the prepared fibre on a big white board to spin from really helpful for this. While I’ve seen people make fabulous lengths of continuous roving from hackles and boards, I tend to find mine gets a bit thin and wispy in places, making it hard to make sturdy nests. Plus, prepared fibre is just beautiful to look at.
The first single is underway!