My daughter terrorizes me. As long as we are being truthful… we, too, have a complex relationship. She has accepted Colleen in my life only reluctantly. I now have a present wife and an ex-wife. I never thought that would be the case. They get along as well as one might expect. Our common meeting point is granddaughter Noa. For the sake of seeing her, we dance around. I accept that as the price. It was a non-negotiable price. Stuck? You bet! I attest the dynamics are complex. Detente!
Diplomacy. Not my strong suit. Present & former wife – we all survived the encounter. They were cordial. We were there, for my daughter, the common point: and, of course, Noa, the youngest grandchild. At least we are civil; I/we had always intended to be so. A peace offering: Colleen gave Lisa a spinning wheel she was not using. We were making space: a new wheel will soon arrive. Either way, it worked out for the good. It was a strange day on many levels. It ended peacefully. One never knows. Strained? Tension? Nah!
I need(ed) a kick in the pants. Boredom? Stagnation? Progression? Rut? I started taking flower pictures in earnest last summer. Sure, I have tons of flower pictures from the past. Yawn! But, last summer I started paying attention to the little details. I discovered I had been missing a lot. This spring I convinced myself to get a macro lens. I had a macro lens. It was an old clunky mechanical macro lens, now decades old. There were a myriad of reasons to justify the purchase of a new toy. I am acquisitive and have been all my life. Why not indulge? I did. I got a spiffy full frame mirrorless camera body to go with it. Don’t ask. Boys and toys. It has been a game changer. I am, for the moment, shooting exclusively, extensively, with the new camera and macro lens. Better images? Sure. You can also do the job with about any other equipment. But, like cars, some are better suited to the task. Ease of use and consistent results help. It is similar to the improvement of my dive photos after I started using a dedicated underwater housing and a flash strobe. Unless you are a gearhead, you will not likely understand. Maybe you will nod indulgently like Colleen. Part of what I love is that she (Colleen) understands too well my exuberant enthusiasm. Her spinning wheels are much larger (size) examples how much fun it is to have different tools for the same task. Why use different spinning wheels? Each (wheel) brings something different and, so, brings joy to the task at hand. I like different cameras (not too many) for what they can do to get the image I have visualized. I firmly believe that iPhone is not the best tool for most situations.
I have cameras. They are smaller than spinning wheels. And, they (cameras) are smaller than looms and great wheels. This does not mean that I don’t have a lot (of cameras). It just means they are more discrete. I have a series (of cameras) that I rotate in use. Each has its own characteristics, and therefore, its use in certain situations. It would be boring to wax poetic over each (camera’s) special or general use. Suffice to say that Colleen’s picture illustrates one “signature” spinning wheel, one loom, and two great wheels, all of which take up (all) the available space in our (her) living room. Three cameras take up a portion of one table that does not have fiber upon it. Which is to say, that the missing camera (I took this photo with it) is my new spiffy Nikon Z5. Yes, one must always keep up with tech. It is the replacement to my trusty Nikon D610, that I purchased when Colleen and I first met. I will not be replacing Colleen anytime soon. I say this upon pain of death. Ha ha. (KIDDING!).
This new camera does take great shots. I’ve been waiting to get the red wing blackbird with its red chevron – only to find, it is orange – and shot with my Sony RX100 VI. The swallow? A crow decimated their nest last spring. I hope they have returned to nest once more. Mix and match, each instrument for its purpose. When you you need a hammer, a screw driver might do if nothing else is at hand. Macro? The right lens is definitely a plus – helpful! But you can do it with or without. I love to learn new tricks. A new camera? A new lens? Is it an excuse? Or, is it inspiration to explore new possibilities? Whatever! I rotate and I use whatever is at hand that will achieve what I imagine. Sometimes it works. Do we need all those spinning wheels? Ha ha. I would not presume to answer that question. But I do know, it’s a whole lot of fun to have the tools you need at hand. … now to talk Colleen into needing a Tesla.
The Saga: Colleen has admired the Rick Reeves handmade wheel – whispers, dreams. In a house full of spinning wheels and looms, what would be the impact of one more wheel? Don’t laugh – too hard. The internet revealed a Reeves wheel for sale – the one and only, and on the day I searched, the only one for sale. Package and ship cross country? The cost was nearly one third the price of the wheel. The box was substantial and the packing weight was nearly equal the weight of the wheel. Safe? Yes! As you can see, there was much joy!
I have once again exposed my bookcase to scrutiny. (I hand-built it.) But, I am illustrating another fact. If you weave or spin, you have more than one wheel. It’s common. I’ve been told, one woman had 40 wheels – spinning – in her home. I’m lucky. We only have … well…. there’s a great wheel – so called because … they are also called walking wheels. They are among the oldest spinning wheels around. Modern? The wheels are now more modest in size, and, larger in cost. Castle and Saxony are popular styles. We have multiples. Of course. Why? Let me ask, would you just have one camera if you are a photographer? Laughing? Probably the greatest satisfaction (ever?) – indulging your (beloved) wife.
… the opposite of minimalist. I wish. Ha! We are close to clutter. But not! Call it cozy. Call it busy. What weaver wouldn’t kill for a studio like this? Barn loom and four modern looms. I have cameras – lots. Looms (five) are bigger and standout in a room. Alas, we have looms in the living room. Don’t forget the great wheel! And we have beer mugs – lots. My Nantucket baskets await. I shall give them away one day. Ha ha.
Consider it home. We (truly) live in it. It’s a happy home. Did you peek into the background? There’s something to catch your eye everywhere. Meaning and memories abound, stories to regale you of adventure and fun, not clutter, but about love. If there were only one beer mug it would just be a representative of the genre, a commemorative. But, each one after is a memory of place and travels. Yes, we’ve been around a bit. …making up for lost time. Yup, stuffed…with love.
Big wheel? Walking spinning wheel. Great wheel. Used as early as the 14th century, it’s more of a curiosity among spinners nowadays. I have seen few in use while many are simply display pieces. Not ours! Colleen has been determined to make ours go. And so, she did. And It works! And she spun up a pern (bobbin)… a few. Why? Because she can. It adds history and brings back skill that is being lost to the lure of modern life. This venerable tool was once a major source of yarn that got spun into fabric that was made into…
Someone once said to me that the sign of genius is a messy desk. Ha ha! I wish. Nantucket basket weaving takes space and material. It’s controlled chaos. I know where everything is. The tools of the trade are organized so I lay my hand on whatever is required quickly. Piles of material await use. Right!? Really! There is absolute organization. Rims take time and so I let them accumulate. Hence, there are a lot of baskets awaiting the finishing touch. Note: the background is Colleen’s big wheel (spinning, not tricycle) and one of the smaller looms. What else is in the background? …two more regular spinning wheels, finished baskets on the mantle and on the TV cabinet…. Sometimes the lines between worhshop and home blur. It’s ours, we’re fine.
As long as we are talking technique, let me mention background. Most folks forget to look at the clutter in the background. You know, the stuff behind your subject. … like the light pole sticking out of some loved one’s head. Clutter. Distraction. Ha! I often find myself looking at the background to see the clutter that got “snuck” into someone else’s photo. Oh well, no one likes a messy background. It’s distracting and shows that you were not paying attention when you tried to focus on your foreground subject.
No one likes a cluttered messy home. “Minimalist” is “in” these days. Me, us, we seem to have accumulated an assortment of weaving and spinning things that would do any shopkeeper proud. Nice stuff. Displayed. We do work with most of the stuff you can see. (There’s more!!) Since, we are not entertaining in the near future, anything goes. A lot of fiber equipment is out and in use. This is not a display so much as it is a workshop of “in progress” projects. It’s home. And, it feels like it, though I laugh because not even the cats can make a straight line across the room.
… two spinning wheels, two looms, winder, lazy kate, carder, great wheel, fiber, ball winder… we’re not showing off. We – mostly Colleen – have many projects simultaneously in progress. …and, nary a cat in sight. And, I daresay any picture (in this room) unless it’s a closeup will have distracting background to be considered.
After you spin, you ply. That is, you combine two single spin fibers into a plied yarn. You can ply more, but two is good. And this looks good to the untrained eye. There are plenty of defects. I’m not sure what we can do with it. That would be for Colleen to decide. But this skein is ready to go. I hope. As in, I hope it will be put into some project and not just sit around looking pretty (not).
After the first, I kept at it, moved on, and tried to improve. It’s mileage. The more you spin, the better you feel the fiber in your hands. Ha ha. It’s a zen thing. And I got better. Of course, the first was worst, so there was only better to go. And indeed, I am. Ha! I am my own worst critic. It’s only that honesty is a necessary trait in order to improve. I’m not prime time yet. But, there is a great promise. No, one cannot achieve what the industrial mechanical machinery can spin. But, I am happy with imperfections of handmade, custom made home spun yarn. I suspect time will tell as I get better. We have a good many spinning wheels both antique and modern. At least they are all in use.
By default I am becoming a spinner. There are spinning wheels and there are spinning wheels. To me they are like rental cars. I’ve never driven a Porsche. But I can drive a car. Aren’t they all alike? Ha ha! But true enough, I eat to live not live to eat. Mostly. Spinning is getting to the product – yarn. When you look at a skein you don’t know what wheel it was spun on. But I suppose you can have a lot of fun getting there. it’s too early for me to be able to appreciate the differences. Now, if we were to discuss cameras… well, right about now, I have more than a few. And they all have a role in different circumstances. I might use one differently depending on the subject or lighting. Perhaps someday I will know spinning wheels too.
We processed fleece. Sheep fleece. It needs to be cleaned and washed. You cannot wash it on the sheep. I wish. And you cannot wash wool in a washing machine. It will felt. That would never do! No, in order to spin and weave you must prepare the fleece. Why? Because it is the beginning of the process, the source. We’d have sheep in our yard but the homeowners association forbids it. Darn! How many fleece and how much? A lot! So much fleece was waiting we were days washing and drying. Hence, the “mess.” With all this fleece ready to be spun, it would be a good long time before you could expect to do much else. So! I have decided to spin. You know, help out. After all it is one very large task. And so I shall/did. And here is the result. I tried drop spindle a good long time ago and was miserable. I didn’t spin good and the wool did not like me. We parted. But now I am spinning. Um, they say your first skein is a piece of work no mother would love. And mine was a work only I could appreciate. Actually, I got the hang of it right away. Don’t be too smug! I was. Looking back it was true. My first effort was laughable. I got a lot of encouragement from Colleen. She’s a truly supportive spouse. And I have to love her dearly for her kind words. We are still laughing…
I have a lot of cameras. I don’t get rid of them or sell them. I just keep them and my collection grows. I collect a few vintage cameras when the price is right. Cheap! Weaving and spinning stuff is a lot more bulky. It takes up real space. I have my old cameras on a few shelves at the moment. There are four looms in my bedroom. Well, three. One went to the living room – temporarily. (I hope.)
Before the auction a prudent bidder checks the merchandise. So we did. But then a bargain comes along? This time we checked in real time and it was indeed hundreds off the list price. I bid at the auction like I meant it. We got applause when we “won” it. It’s a Schacht Matchless (spinning wheel). Sure, you would know one if you saw it? But it was worth more than $1000 used. The bobbins included were worth more $$$. And the former owner was in the audience and told us what he had last spun – for the fair. We met him. He had spun up the wool for this exhibit. It was more than 75 samples. Wow! Yeah, it was quite a feat. He stayed around till his wheel was sold. And I assured him it would go to a good home. See, we even seatbelt it like a member of the family. All of this, I’m sure, is more than you needed to know.
These are snapshots, out of focus, poorly composed, grab shots if you will. The spinning wheel is an Ashford, akin to a comparable Nikon camera. It is a venerable wheel, well respected among spinners. Who knew? I don’t. But here are the only three owners this wheel has known. Colleen is the third owner. Ha! Of course, how do you pass up a bargain. The previous owner knew the original owner and I met them all at the sale. Imagine that? It’s a small world.
We took a tour of a factory. Schacht Spindle Company started making spindles and are since famous for their weaving products of which they make well known and well regarded looms and spinning wheels. Barry, the President cordially met us when we showed up unannounced. He personally gave us a tour. The hand made products are made and assembled with highest regard to quality. Improvements are constantly being made. It’s a fine operation. There’s something nice about watching the care and craftsmanship so abundantly on hand as we toured. The sheep were photographed, reproduced and later painted from a trip to Scotland many years ago. Many thanks Barry; we were so impressed.
While spinning wheels are on my mind I’d like to tell you another story. Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival. Worldwide and from across the USA people come. The traffic line was more than a mile long. And no one cut in. My my, what a polite crowd. Big? You bet! And just to see sheep, really? Yup. I was pretty impressed. The hillside was covered with cars. They’ve done this before. And the fairgrounds were packed.
Gambling? There was an auction. People were selling. Part of the sale went to support the next fair. You name it, there were things of value and junk. Outright junk. You sort and figure is all out. A single spinning wheel, a very special one, never before on the auction block went for more than $2000. And junk was sold for $5. You had to bid. It was friendly as long as you weren’t bidding against a nut case. You also need to have an idea of price. Oh yeah! Like I know spinning wheels and the cost of looms. Good stuff. As is. Who knows. Old things and brand new in the box. So I watched. Saw that $2000 wheel go to a woman whose husband approved. My my, that’s a lot. And then I put in a bid on a flax spining wheel. I got a nod. The auctioneer was not looking my way. I had to make noise. You sort of grunt ascent and wave your hand. Don’t look like you are scratching your head. And then it comes down to two or three women who stay in and drive up the price until the determination in my eye or the price exceeds their desire. Got it. As in, I bought it. No, silly, I didn’t take a picture. I don’t shoot everything.
The last time I did an auction was back when my kids were 8 or 10 years old. Their school auctioned off a large white stuffed bear. How large? Bigger than my two kids combined. They were impressed. Me too! I got it for about $20. The very next year at the same auction I got another but smaller bear for another $20. After that never again. I’m not a gambler by nature. I think that I would be tempted and lose the family farm if I were in Las Vegas. The worst I ever did was lose $5 in Atlantic City. (We had to pay for parking to enter the casino.)
I was in Puerto Rico at a spine meeting and the hotel had a casino. An orthopedic friend of mine handed his girlfriend $20 and told her to have fun. She went to the roulette table and damn if she didn’t parlay that money into $5000. Wow. She bet corners and lines and …. She hit the number a few times. Double wow! So years later during a family vacation at the Tyler Place in Vermont, lo and behold – Casino Night! $5 got you a Styrofoam cup of chips. Using my knowledge of roulette, I lost that cup of chips in less than 30 seconds. I walked away much the wiser. Nope. I don’t gamble.