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

Day 128


No new blanket piece today – with the judicious application of Super Glue to the gears and gear shafts of my e-spinner, I have been spinning!!!

Building this device was only the beginning of the process. There have been so many things that have needed rethinking since the original design. While it probably could run from a battery, mains power is more constant and garners a better experience. I have had to consider how the pieces work together and failure  points (the gear situation). I have built and rebuilt the mechanisms that actually move to see which type of gears work best and discovered that a system using chains, like on a bike, works better than gears moving against each other, like in a clock. My point being, I have the technology. I can make it faster, better… and I have. Not that we’re stopping here of course. Computerisation is next. I’m also thinking about making something like my Meccano spinner but with more clockwork. No idea if I can make it work yet though.

All of the fussing with the device this weekend has put me behind my goal but I now have a device that works for more than a few minutes at a time.


Day 122


Not a lot of crafting happened today but not through lack of effort. I made new uprights for my homemade electric spinner, had hubby find the battery recharger and left the battery to charge as I reassembled parts of the spinner. Plugged everything – nothing. Found a couple of loose cables, fixed them – nothing. Took out the power switch and connected the working parts straight to the battery – still nothing. There’s another thing I can remove to test the motor but it could still be the battery. Guess I need to do some research and go shopping. It really needs a different motor – more torque, capable of running for long periods of time – so yeah, research. Sewing machine motors are apparently a good option but i don’t have a spare machine here anymore and if I’m buying a motor I’ll choose one that is built to meet my requirements. A picture of the spinner when it was working….


A simple grey rectangle today. Really need to do the next stage of the plan for the blanket. I’ve got less than 2 weeks left on this plan.


Way back at the beginning of this journey, I talked about the band Muse. I confess to not having heard too many of their songs but I’ve loved what I’ve heard. Their music is slick and perfect and sexy. This is the first piece of their music I ever heard and is something I can listen to no matter what mood I’m in and get lost in it to come out feeling more together.

Muse – Plug In Baby

Day 75


Another Meccano device – this one is based on the charka wheel used predominantly in India and is similar to the type the Gandhi made famous as part of his peaceful resistance.

charka - meccano

Another charka, this one made of pvc pipe and a wheel off one of my son’s old bicycles. charka - pvc

Both of the charka wheels are hand operated and use spindles (made of knitting needles) instead of flyer units, as does my Meccano electric spinner. This means that I have to wind the yarn onto the spindle instead of it being automatically wound onto a bobbin like with a flyer.

The spinning wheel and charka wheels use a system of ratio’d pulleys to convert minimal effort (at the large wheel) into high-spin (at the spindle). An incredibly simple system that exemplifies the adage ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. These are still in use across the world.

Tomorrow I’ll show you my handspindles – some that I’ve made and some that I’ve bought – to show some different styles that all rely on the same principles of weight to prolong motion.

But now, as promised, some video of the Meccano electric spindle.


day 75


A denim blue rectangle attached itself to the blanket today. 75 pieces! I’ll take a photo of the full blanket tomorrow but for now, here is today’s extension.



Horrible Histories is an educational programme on the BBC’s children’s channel. It’s a sort of sketch show that teaches history. It includes the requisite over abundance of poo and fart facts, and an on-going series of segments titled ‘Stupid Deaths’. It’s brilliant! It also has a lot of pretty terrific music, much of it in the style of popular music. For example, compare Adam & the Ants ‘Stand and Deliver’ with the Horrible Histories song about Dick Turpin.

Adam and the Ants….

Horrible Histories….

There are *so many* I want to share with you but I’ll restrain myself today and share a few more over the next few days.

Day 74


I had planned to show you some video of one of my yarn spinning devices but it’s not ready yet so tomorrow. I haven’t been doing much yarn spinning lately – too many knitted things to make, as much as no overwhelming desire – but the spinners of Ravelry are invited to participate in ‘Tour de Fleece’ each year which happens at the same time as the Tour de France. Basically, any day that there is cycling for the Tour de France, yarn is being spun by the Tour de Fleece spinners. I’ve used it to work through large quantities of my fibre stash in past years because I put aside my knitting or crocheting during this time.

This year is a little more complicated because I’m not satisfied with either of the wheels I have and we haven’t rebuilt my electric spinner yet. But last August, using a variety of sources, I devised and built several yarn spinners from various materials. I used pvc pipe (surprisingly awesome for this sort of thing), dowelling and a pram wheel, even Meccano. I made a wheel you would recognise, a kick spindle, a couple of charka style devices as well as a couple of electric devices. All of them work though a couple still need tweaking – or more glue.

So here’s a few of them –

handspindle - chopstickThis is the one that started it all. I needed a light weight spindle to spin some 10g fibre samples so I repurposed a chopstick and a small rubber plug. The plug had a piece in the middle to attach the chain to which was removable and the perfect size for the chopstick. I had the cup hook in a picture hanging kit.Cheap and simple and still in use today.

pvc wheelThis wheel is still being perfected. It needs a lighter weight, slightly longer treadle and some sand as ballast in the base to make it truly usable. It is based on the Babe PVC wheels though I’ve used a thinner pipe than they have. I may yet make another with wider pipe to see what difference it makes to the final product.



My pride and joy. This electric spinner (e-spinner) was made with motor parts from Maplin (electronics store here in the UK), a bamboo chopping board as the base, and a bamboo utensil holder as the motor housing,and the flyer unit (the bit that actually spins the yarn) from my Ashford spinning wheel. The flyer unit is not complicated in its purpose but balanced construction is important and we don’t have the equipment for that so I repurposed what I already owned.

e-spindle - meccanoThis is the device I am using at the moment. I made an electric spindle with Meccano!!! It’s uncomplicated and hardworking and in that it reminds me of my grandfather so I’ve named it ‘Les’. It’s not the quietest of machines but it’s certainly not deafening. I am trying to devise some sort of housing for it but that will need a redesign so that I can still turn the motor off and on.

The motor is powered by 2 AA batteries, an elastic band acts as a drive band and a double pointed knitting needle (4mm) acts as spindle. I’ve since put a circle of cardboard at the motor end of the spindle to stop any yarn getting into the works. One of the best things about this device is that the motor works in both clockwise and anti-clockwise directions. I don’t have to do *anything* to the machine except to flip the switch in the opposite direction. For the large e-spinner, I have to twist the drive band to change the spinning direction. This is useful/important when you are both spinning single strands of yarn and then plying 2 or more of them together as spinning and plying twist in opposite directions.

I din’t have to buy anything special to make this though we do have a large Meccano collection anyway. Everyone, no matter what age you are, should have both Lego and Meccano to play with in their home.

There are several more in my collection and I’ll continue the list tomorrow.

day 75



A small, green square joins the previous 73 days worth of knitted patchwork.




And I’m going to apologise right now for today’s music choice but it’s been playing on a loop in my head as I wrote this post so I’m sharing the pain….