Normal Service Resumed?


Denise: As Jonathan has already remarked, here and elsewhere, I’m recovering from my operation much more quickly – and apparently more completely – than anyone had expected. That said, there’s only so much repair work a body can take, so I really have to avoid heavy strains on my abdomen. It seems though, that doesn’t mean giving up this or that task, but rather modifying how I do them, and of course that’s still likely to mean J doing some of the things I used to.

Spinning, for example. I had feared that I might have to entirely give up spinning with a wheel, and instead rely on an electric spinner. We’ve had an Ashford electric spinner since just after my first operation a few years ago, but I found it too slow (especially tedious for plying!), and though J likes to use it, both for his own production spinning, and when he’s teaching students to spin. We both criticise it for the various switches and knobs can only be operated by hand, and are awkward to reach: it would be better with a foot pedal like that provided with a sewing machine.

I have looked on the internet for other electric spinners, but they are all very expensive, and I can’t seem to get information on how the controls work, and how ‘fast’ it is. And there’s something else that holds me back: an electric spinner is not, simply not, deep down, the same – culturally, aesthetically, even practically – the same as spinning with a wheel. If there were only electric spinners – no wheels, it’s unlikely either of us would ever have been inspired to spin in the first place.

So, in recent days, I’ve experimented with other types of spinning wheels. We have those as well – in fact we have an entire fleet of spinning wheels! We use most of them for tuition purposes: in fact I’ve used them only in order to be able to teach others to use them.  I’ve recently looked into how I get on with our Ashford Traveller – not just for spinning-for-pleasure, but spinning-for-profit.

The Traveller uses the same flyer and bobbin configuration as the Ashford Traditional, but with a smaller wheel: the drive ratio is significantly lower as a result – and thus also the potential maximum production rate. This means that for the same amount of finished wool, the power applied through the legs, feet and joints is less on the Traveller – but I’d need to keep up that effort for longer.

[J: The total work effort is the same however. If D were electrically powered: less kW, more h, the same kWh in total!]

The Traveller has another feature which – in my circumstances – truly makes a decisive difference. Unlike the Traditional, the Traveller is not powered by foot … but by feet – two feet, to be precise. Instead of one largish treadle board, with a single connecting rod and crank, the Traveller has two smaller boards, each connected to the drive wheel axle via its own rod and crank.Denise spinning with Ashford 'Traveller'. The Hebridean Woolshed, Isle of South Uist J says they’re opposed to each other, which to me sounds like a criticism, but he says it nodding approvingly, so he clearly thinks otherwise.

[J: A few years ago, Ashford started offering the Traditional with a double-treadle option. All three of our Traditionals all pre-date that innovation!]

What it means is this: when one treadle is up, the other is down, and as you press one down, the other comes back up. Yup, like cycle pedals, J says. ‘Gotcha!’

This means the work effort is shared between both feet, both ankles, legs, knees and hips. And I’m finding that I work with a more ‘symmetrical’ and balanced posture.  I feel more relaxed.

In fact, I feel relaxed enough about restarting productive spinning that I’ve decided to produce some skeins of handspun wool for you lovely people to order for Christmas.  I’ve recently sold – from existing stock – some Uist Landscapes hand-spun merino, and we’ve received tentative enquiries from others for skeins of Atlantic, Peat Stack or other colours from this range. So, we’ve decided on this …

We’ve re-opened our website for online purchases of Uist Landscapes hand-spun merino DK yarns. Orders received by 10th December will be hand-spun to order, and delivered to you by Christmas. (For delivery to outside the UK, please enquire as soon as possible.)

Normal service is resumed!