It’s Alive!!!


Well not really, but my e-spinner has been revamped and it’s AWESOME!


This is the spinner as it was. In the housing there is a micro motor running the pulley on the front. On the top of the housing is the on-switch, a direction toggle and a speed dial. I made the uprights from doweling, the drive band from some thin elastic superglued into a loop. The flyer unit and bobbins are from my Ashford Traditional wheel. They were replaced with the jumbo version later. There was nothing wrong with this design except that this type of motor can only be used for 15 out of every 60 minutes or it burns out… Yeah, I went through 4 motors pretty quickly.

My interest in yarn spinning was recently rekindled as the Fibre East event neared. It was held last Saturday and Sunday. By Monday, after a successful Sunday at the event, I was desperate to get back to spinning.

Ashford Traditional WheelI have an Ashford Traditional (above) but find it a little awkward to use. I can’t find a sitting position that doesn’t either twist my body or leaves me with very tense muscles between waist and knee.

I also have a rare Louet hatbox wheel (above). It’s a travellers wheel and as much as I love it, it has very small bobbins and I like to spin all of a fibre onto one bobbin rather than having it split between several. Though it’s been out of production for about 20 years, they are planning to release an updated version for the company’s anniversary.

These are both excellent wheels and it is only my personal preferences that keep me from using them more.

So, yeah. I came home from Fibre East with a renewed fervour for handspinning and handspun yarn, and several additions to my fibre stash. So many beautiful yarns, fibres and spinning wheels! I was very restrained.

Commercially made e-spinners are expensive (£350+) and if you want something other than the Ashford e-spinner, your out of luck in the UK unless you fancy paying for shipping and customs on something coming from the States. I’m sure the Ashford is lovely but I don’t like how clunky it looks and I just can’t afford it. I’d buy a regular spinning wheel if I had that sort of money available. After some research into home made e-spinners (again), I came across several blog posts that showed others who had successfully made their own and directed my technical advisor (my husband) to have a look. We’d already discussed the possibility of using a sewing machine motor and had sort of discarded it but some of these blogs better described what they had done.

Garrulous story telling made shorter – we did it!

e-spinner v2

(Yes, that is the stripped sewing machine on the right).

This is not a complicated solution. You need to be careful with the electrics of course, but it is just a motor with a drive band attached to a store-bought flyer unit. There is no direction control on this version but putting a twist in the driveband switches the direction of the flyer. We replaced the foot pedal with a light dimmer switch partly because I wanted a hand control but mostly because the foot pedal is not a good way to get consistent speed. You can keep the foot pedal if you like but I found it infuriatingly difficult to use. Also, keeping the pedal braced for any length of time caused cramping in my calf.


And this is the first yarn completed with it!

It’s a 2-ply yarn about the same thickness as a commercial 4-ply/sock yarn. It needs to be washed to set the twist but at the moment it is about 410m long. I can make a small shawl with that!

Our next project will be making a device like this to measure yarn length.


This is the yardage counter by Schact. Need to investigate a few parts before we make anything though. Once we work out the counter, it should be fairly straight forward.

*** I totally forgot to tell you all that I have decided to Brave The Shave and shave my head in August to raise money for Macmillan cancer support. They are an excellent organisation and in greater demand than ever. If you can donate, it would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

Day 153


No blanket photo today. I’m not sure what I was thinking when I created the plan to have a triangle worked in this direction but it needs a new pattern and I can’t think it through tonight.

I had a good day at knitting including selling the green and pink shawl I’ve been knitting. Got some food shopping done, bought some awesome new false nails and pink hair dye, and had a surprise visit from friends after dinner. But my neck and upper back won’t relax and I’ve had a headache developing for the last three days. It’s not very strong but it’s persistent and distracting. There will be graphing and calculating tomorrow to make it work

Oh! And I got the motor details wrong the other day. We’re looking to get a brushless motor for the e-spinner, which I think is going to need yet another reworking of the housing. It will be worth it. And we still haven’t spent half of the cost of a commercially made one.

Heard an old favourite while shopping today and I fancy something uplifting tonight. I really enjoy singing along to Des’ree. India Arie is very similar I think. Uncomplicated music with positive, melodic vocals. This song in particular was a positive for me during my teens when I felt most isolated from my peer group and alien in the world around me. It’s about the same time that I decided I was who I am and that I wasn’t going to change. But more than that, I refused to be told that who I was and how I felt was wrong. It’s not that simple in the moment to moment but it’s a desire, and a determination at my core. And when it comes to my precarious grip on my mental health, this is desperately important. It’s hard enough working through that mental mine field without also having to negotiate the lies we tell ourselves.

Anyway, Des’ree – You Gotta Be

Day 149


Quiet Sunday at home trying to ignore the clawing panic in my gut. Despite the long nap this prompted, I rewound the balls of yarn for the blanket – they were in quite a state – and passed the provisional half way point on the pink and green mitred-square shawl I’ve been gradually working on. I didn’t do say spinning because I burnt out the second motor 2 days ago. We’re going to have to try an AC motor instead of the DC motors we’ve been using so far (think I got those the right way around). The current type of motors need to be used at a ratio of 15 minutes in use, 45 minutes cooling down which is no way to achieve any sort of rhythm or quantity. So now we’re waiting to make an order for the new parts we need.

I also got today’s oddly placed trapezoid done.


No music today. My head is music free….

Day 145


Kinda sorta worked out the e-spinner today. It’s so sloooooow though that I have to apply patience to get enough twist in the yarn. My first batch had to go through the machine twice to get it to hold together.

That’s not just because there is less twist going into the yarn each second but also because as the newly spun yarn moves from your fingers onto the bobbin it runs along several surfaces that force some of the twist out of the yarn and back towards your hands.

It can be difficult to judge how much twist is lost, particularly when you are working with new equipment.

I still want a faster motor.

A blue/green trapezoid today. Not sure I joined the short row pick-ups the same way as previously but it looks ok so I’m leaving it alone.


Biffy Clyro. I’ve no idea where the name comes from but I really enjoy their music. They’re a British band – specifically from my nana’s hometown of Kilmarnock in Scotland – and they ROCK! Literally, in the musical sense, and in the modern colloquial sense.

I had trouble choosing which of the first two of their songs I ever heard to share. ‘The Captain’ won because I love the opening riff. Also, Pirates! (And the video clip doesn’t confuse me…)

Biffy Clyro – The Captain

Day 144


I added yesterday’s trapezoid (stripes!) as well as todays rectangle to the blanket this evening (I love turquoise yarn!).


I spent most of the day disassembling, cleaning the rebuilding The Machine today. Yes, my e-spinner got a new motor. We bought 2 with different ratios when we decided to try a geared motor. The one I killed was 50:1. This one is 95:1. It’s a lot slower but has higher torque so it will hopefully stand up to the requirements for a little longer. Also, the lack of dust to get caught in the works might help too.

I’m not sure I like the lower speed. I spin very thin yarn – because I like to, because it’s what I most often knit with, and because I want to get as much mileage from each braid of fibre as possible (unplied, the green and pink yarn I finished the other week was a full 1500 metres long – that’s one and a half kilometres of useable yarn from 100g of fibre!!!). Thin yarn needs a lot of twist to hold it together and to give it strength. This is most commonly done using a high speed flyer (does what it says on the tin – it has smaller pulleys so it spins faster than a normal flyer which puts more twist into the yarn without having to exert more effort. It’s all about the ratios), or faster treadling on a regular spinning wheel.

Both of these things very quickly become non-factors with an e-spinner. The motor sets the speed limits so it doesn’t really matter what flyer you have. If the motor is slow, the flyer will move more slowly. You have to adjust the speed you draft out your yarn. This may sound like a simple thing but we all fall into natural rhythms. When we spin yarn, we set our spinning wheels to complement those rhythms. I suspect that i am not the only spinner who slips into a meditative mental state when spinning. If something on the machine changes, my yarn becomes inconsistent because the twist in the yarn and the pull from the bobbin are no longer complementary to my yarn draw.

The point is, it stops being calming and starts to get frustrating. And that entirely defeats the purpose of crafting as far as I’m concerned.

So we’re still trying to find a motor that will meet my demands and won’t bankrupt us. Have you seen how much hobby motors cost?!

I also reinforced the opening for the jack. It won’t get pushed into the housing everytime I plug it in. I quite like the way it looks.


Something funny for you to watch/listen to today.

I do not watch the news for ao many reasons but I love comedy/satire news shows, particularly panel shows. In the 1990’s, when I still lived in Australia, I loved watching Good News Week, hosted by Paul Mcdermott. Occassionally there would even be a musical number. This is one I have never forgotten. I love the song and Mark Trevorrow is brilliant (check out Bob Downe on YouTube).

GNW Paul Mcdermott & Mark Trevorrow – Can’t Take My Eyes Off You

Day 143


Still not quite back to ‘normal’ but I feel like I only did half a million sit-ups today.

I had intended to ply the blue-faced Leicester yarn then knit my blanket piece but I managed to burn out the motor on my e-spinner so finished it on a hand spindle. There was maybe a quarter of it left to go but that took much longer than I had planned so no blanket piece today. I’ll take measurements and photos of my new handspun in the day light tomorrow.

The motor burn out may be due to wood dust but it’s more likely that it just isn’t strong enough to withstand the stress of resistance in the flyer. We have another of these motors with lower rpm but higher torque and they are cheap enough that burning another, while annoying, won’t be bank breaking.

We knew when we started this project that finding the right motor would be the most difficult part. Many people who have built their own e-spinners have used sewing machine motors. I’m not convinced they are the best option but I’ll be checking the local charity shops for a cheap sewing machine to dismantle (which is the most fun part 😉 )

Revisiting my (tormented) youth with Pearl Jam today, just because.

Pearl Jam – Alive

Day 140


Ugh! Just found a dead fly in my drink…. Almost spat that mouthful all over the blanket. Didn’t though. Yay me, I guess.

The blanket didn’t get a mouthful of hot chocolate but it did get a pink trapezoid. I confess that sometimes I don’t like knitting the trapezoids but I do love how they look when finished and how pretty the sloped joining looks.


It’s been a distracted day for me. Again. I’m pretty sure I need to go back to seeing a psychologist. I’m already on the recommended  dosage of my meds and while I won’t refuse an increase if that’s what is decided, I would prefer to avoid it. I know I need the medication but I do t have to like taking it. And by ‘need’, I mean that I do not much like the person I am without the medication, and I am even less capable of being a functioning human. It’s not much fun being on that high speed , emotional roller coaster. At least with the medication, the ride is less dynamic – fewer and less intense ups and downs, and a little more time between them. Still not sure I can be classed as functioning though.

I spent some of the day using my e-spinner to spin some very lovely blue-faced Leicester wool in a natural mid-brown colour that I bought at Fibre-East last year from Adelaide Walker. I think I’m about halfway through the batch and have been thinking about putting beads into the plied yarn. I’m thinking gold, although light blue might work too.


I kinda love marching bands. Not so much that I seek them out but I enjoy them when I get the chance to see/hear/watch one. I am utterly lacking in the coordination to participate in one. I can’t even coordinate my hands to play both parts of a piano piece and that doesn’t even require forward momentum! I also kinda love Fleetwood Mac. Again, don’t usually seek them out but don’t change the radio station if they’re on.

This is a tidied up copy of the video for Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Tusk’. It wasn’t particularly great in the first place but the song is good.

Fleetwood Mac – Tusk

Day 137


First piece of phase 3 is a mostly grey rectangle.


I almost didn’t knit today because version 2 my e-spinner is finished and it’s beautiful! Well, ok, it’s not exactly beautiful to look at but I am very delighted with it. Improvements in this version include a physically smaller, geared motor instead of the previous one that was cumbersome, clumsy and prone to wear within 5 minutes of use. The drive wheel is larger and we’ve added a direction switch so there’s no need to redo some wiring to get the wheel to go from spinning to plying.


The motor is the same voltage etc as the last one which means, despite my hopes to the contrary, it isn’t strong enough to run the large flyer. We’ll continue puzzling that out.

The next project being worked on is a metre counter for my handspun yarn. The basic parts are mostly done. I’m hoping we can start testing by the weekend.

Kevin Smith wrote, directed and acted in a movie in 1999 called ‘Dogma’ which was mostly about 2 angels who had been banished from heaven trying to take advantage of a loophole to get back in to heaven which would destroy all of creation, and the attempts to stop them. But in amongst that comedy of errors, he makes some fabulous commentary on how we approach and use religion, faith and belief.

Alanis Morrisette makes a brief appearance as God and sings the song over the closing credits. This song has made me cry on many occasions. It is beautiful, and a humbling thought.

Alanis Morrisette – Still

Day 135


Yesterday’s trapezoid took 5 attempts to get right. I realised that it was in part because I hadn’t constructed one in this sort of space. It came together nicely in the end. Fortunately, today’s piece was a simple small square.


There is only 1 piece left in the current phase of the blanket. Tomorrow’s rectangle will finish the large square. As a result, I finally got around to charting phase 3, which will take us up to 196 days.


After this chart is finished I will turned the blanket into a rectangle. It’s already huge. I fully expect to be dwarfed by it before I’m done.

I began making new housing for the e-spinner’s motor today. Hubby added a switch to change the direction of the spin and the current housing is sized for the old, much larger motor. It is also situated too far back on the base board to work effectively with the flyer. I hope to have photos tomorrow.

Some pretty definitive camp rock opera for you tonight. The Darkness with ‘I believe in a thing called love’, because singing about believing in a thing called socks would just be ridiculous… Grab your air guitar, crank the volume and rock out with me.

The Darkness – I Believe In A Thing Called Love.

Day 132


handspun-gardenFINISHED!!!!! 550m/600yds of 4ply yarn (the actual yarn is 3ply but the thickness is the same as a commercial 4ply yarn). Think I killed the gears in my e-spinner (nicknamed ‘Avril’ because it got complicated) finishing this yarn. Good thing I have spares.

Anyway, some spinning terms before I go on.

Single/s – a single strand of spun fibre.
Ply – 2 or more strands of spun fibre.
Chain-plying – a way to turn single into a 3-strand thick thread.

So, I finished spinning the single-that-wouldn’t-end last night and almost immediately began plying the yarn. To keep the pinks with the pinks, and the greens with the greens I chose to chain-ply the single. Chain-plying is a process where you draw a long loop of yarn through another long loop of the same yarn to create a continuous length of yarn that is 3 strands thick. As you are doing this, you are twisting the yarn in the opposite direction to the one that the singles were spun in. In this case, I spun the yarn in a clock-wise direction so I twisted the plies in an anti-clockwise direction. The tricky part is not to put too much or too little twist against the earlier spinning of the singles. This is called balancing the yarn.

To be honest, as long as the yarn doesn’t fall apart, you can use it and count it as a success and with pattern databases like Ravelry, you are sure to find a pattern that will accommodate whatever sort and length of yarn you have created.

The process of plying this yarn took about 5 hours in total. 550 metres of stranded yarn means that the single was about 1650 metres. That’s more than 1.5 kilometres…. and just over a mile long. It’s the longest I’ve ever manage to draw out 100g of fibre.

A blue rectangle for yesterday and a dark pink square for today join the previous 130 blanket pieces today.

I fancied some awesome guitar today so here’s some Santana (with Rob Thomas) from the turn of the century.

Santana feat. Rob Thomas – Smooth