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 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….