Review: Electric Eel Wheel

**If you are looking for the Pigeonroof Studio’s awesome giveaway, follow this link to YouTube, Episode 3 of the knittingthestash podcast and leave a comment🙂

As promised, this week I have an interview with Maurice Ribble, inventor of the Electric Eel Wheel. I will be posting a full review of the wheel in the new year once I have a chance to run it through its paces; but I wanted to get the word out about the wheel because Maurice has a Kickstarter campaign going on and he–and you all–might benefit from getting in touch! Oh, how I do love DIY–and Maurice’s project is certainly about rethinking the electric wheel and making its price point more accessible. Plus, if you choose to support a certain tier of the Kickstarter, you’ll receive the Electric Eel Wheel at a pretty cool discount. Electric wheels are somewhat different from their foot-powered cousins, but, to my eye, they offer some pretty big plusses: portability, speed, and adaptability, particularly for those who cannot treadle a traditional wheel. This model, designed by Maurice, was inspired by his wife’s spinning hobby, so, as you’ll learn in the interview, he’s an inventor and an insider to this fiber community of ours. I hope you’ll read on to learn more about Maurice’s invention process and the Eel Wheel. I’m really looking forward to testing it out in a few months!

What is your background? What else have you invented?
I’m a computer engineer by training.  My day job is designing the micro-processors that go into mobile phones.  Designing electric spinning wheels is a very different end result, but I use a lot of the same critical thinking and communication skills for both.  At the end of the day I really enjoy solving hard problems and have found electric spinning wheels are an interesting place to have fun doing that.  I’m one of those people who always has to be doing something so instead of watching TV I’m designing spinning wheels.

Another project I’ve worked on is the Camera Axe.  It’s a high speed photography system used for things like photographing bullets in flight, humming birds, lightning and other fast events.  Photography is my hobby which is why I ended up doing that.  Spinning is my wife’s hobby so I made a spinning wheel.  Both of these are now ongoing projects where I keep iterating and improving them over many generations.  Hopefully neither of us pick up too many more hobbies or I won’t have any time left for sleep!

How did you get interested in building an electric spinning wheel? 
A little over 6 years ago my wife only had a treadle-based worn out spinning wheel that didn’t work very well.  I was looking for a project so I told her I could replace the treadle with a motor and then half way through decided to also make a new flyer.  She showed this first version to some friends and they really liked it and some of her friends started asking for something similar.  I looked around and found very few electric spinning wheels back then, and the ones that existed were crazy expensive.  So I decided to make some for my wife’s friends. From that point on I’ve been iterating and improving on the Electric Eel Wheel.

How does this wheel compare to other, traditional spinning wheels and/or other electric wheels?
One of the defining traits of the Electric Eel Wheel is it’s affordable price.  So when designing each version I have to make compromises to keep the price reasonable.  I can’t use a $200 motor, or high end ball bearings.  Instead I pick areas I’d like to improve and work on ways to make that better.  As one example, on this version I created a new hook sliding system.  One of the most requested features from the community on the previous version was to find a way to covert the fixed hooks into a sliding hook solution.   Most sliding hook systems on wheels use wire hooks that clamp onto a round dowel, but those are pretty expensive to make and often rotate on the round dowel so they don’t work that well either.  I was trying to come up with other solutions and probably went through 4 or 5 very different designs before arriving at the current solution.  Several of these designs were tested by community members (I mailed them prototype wheels).  This shows how design involves a lot of community collaboration and input.

What are the best features of the Electric Eel wheel? 
The small and lightweight design makes it extremely portable.  When you have a spinning wheel that you can easily carry around in one hand you find a lot more places you can spin.

Another nice feature is because there is no treadle it’s easier to use the wheel while relaxing on the couch or when there just isn’t enough room to use a standard spinning wheel, such as in the car.  Also not having to use your legs actually allows people who have leg or back problems to spin.  It really feels great when people with disabilities that have kept them from spinning for years write in to tell me how the Eel Wheel has let them spin.

That’s just a few of them.  If people look at the Kickstarter there are several other features I call out there.

What kinds of yarn can spinners make on this wheel?
Every Electric Eel Wheel 5 comes with 3 different orifice hold sizes so it works great with lace weight to super bulky yarn.  If you are doing artistic yarns where you put something into the yarn like beads, the biggest object that can fit through the EEW is around 0.3 to 0.4 inches.

Where can folks find your Kickstarter campaign online? 
The easiest link is www.dreamingrobots.com/eew5_kickstarter  At the top there is a 3 minute video.  That’s usually the best place to start.

When will the Electric Eel Wheel be ready for production?
We’re hoping to start production in February 2017, but there will be lag between production and when our backers get them.  We’re currently targeting to finish shipping the Electric Eel Wheels to our Kickstarter by May 2017.  Some should ship before that date because we ship them as we complete batches of them; by May 2017 backers will hopefully have their spinning wheels.

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Thanks so much to Maurice for an interesting interview and opportunity!

I love farm visits and meeting new people (and sheep!): if you are a DIY inventor, a hand spinner, a shepherdess, a small flock owner, a mill operator, or a wool trader, I would love to feature your work on this site. Please get in touch via email or Ravelry by clicking the “About” tab (above)

Posted in community, electric spinning wheel, information, review, spinning, spinning wheel, sponsored post | 7 Comments

Stornoway Throw: Border Wrap and Turn

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If you are making the Stornoway Throw by Anita Grahn, you are in for a real treat. The body is easy to memorize and the cables are fairly intuitive (with the exception of the Left and Right cable corners, which I explain on my Ravelry project page). The tricky bits are the blanket corners–at least the first time round–because the instructions do not tell you much about working wraps and turns, which can be worked a number of ways.  See, for example Carol Feller’s book Short Row Knits or her Craftsy classes.

This post is for anyone else who is working the Stornoway Throw OR working wraps on a cable piece that takes a turn. It took me a few long nights and some knitting 911 calls to figure this one out . . . and so, here’s hoping someone else can learn from my many many hours of mistakes🙂 What follows is my method for making things work . . . I’m sure there are multiple ways to turn this border!

Step 1: Learn the basics about wraps and turns–there is a free Crafsty class available here.

Step 2: Find the right tools. For me, that means gathering my reclosable safety pin stitch markers–you’ll see why in a moment.

Step 3: Read the pattern instructions; mark up your chart well; and if you print out pattern charts, double check your printed pattern against the digital version (I failed to print the corner chart on a printer that had enough ink to show the grey “no stitch” areas, and this messed me up to no end!)

Step 4: Get in the ring! Try and fail! Rip out stitches and rows, if you must! The good news is that you may learn more by failing than by succeeding on your first go.

Let’s get specific: for this blanket, the cables need to turn 90 degrees while maintaining their crosses, which means the entire border needs to take a 90 degree turn. The yellow line below indicates where the wraps and turns are created, picked up, and stitched together ALL WHILE THE CABLE PATTERN CONTINUES ON THE RS OF THE BLANKET.

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To achieve this, you work two triangles. In #1 (below), you are knitting in the direction indicated by the arrows; once you get down to two stitches (in the top corner) you then need to begin picking up your wraps along the edge of the triangle so that the border will begin to turn.

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For section #1, you simply follow the chart and knit across the RS of your work until you see the wrap symbol. Then, you slip a stitch from left to right (purlwise), turn your work, move the working yarn to the back, and slip the stitch back onto (what is now) the right hand needle. Follow the chart back across the WS of your work. Do this until the final stitches. Work those final stitches per the chart, creating 3-4 more wraps around the final stitch. I collect my wraps on those reclosable stitch markers so that I can find them later.

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Once you reach Row 50, it’s time to pick up your wraps so that you can create the blanket corner’s other half (section #2 in the photo above). The pattern does not specify when or how to do this; but I emailed Anita and she suggested that row 49 is the last row before picking up the wraps. Row 50, where the party really starts, is a WS row–all wraps will be picked up on the WS (at least this is how I managed the pattern).

The first wrap pick up requires that you grab 3 wraps. When you turn your work to the WS (you’ll see the wraps lurking below), slip the first stitch as if to knit from left to right and then put it back on the left hand needle (this prevents a hole). Then, pull the wraps up from below and onto the left hand needle. Knit all of the stitches together through the back loop (tbl).

Work your RS row as normal, remembering that when you get to the wrap and turn symbol, you still need to create a wrap to turn your work–but when working on section #2, you do not need to mark these wraps–I found that they just faded into the background.

Now, back on the WS of your work: your first stitch will be the pick-up (again, you’ll see the wraps lurking below), slip the stitch as if to knit from left to right and then put it back on the left hand needle (this prevents a hole). Then, pull the wrap up from below and onto the left hand needle. Knit the two stitches together through the back loop (TBL). Here are the same instructions in pictorial form:

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Slip the stitch knitwise from left to right

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Place the twisted stitch back onto the left hand needle (the twist prevents a hole); my thumb is covering the orange stitch marker–sorry!

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Pull the wrap up onto the left hand needle

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Knit the twisted stitch and the wrap together through the back loop (TBL)

You will do this for each of the wraps you have marked with the reclosable stitch markers. Here is what my corner looked like from the WS when I was about half-way finished:

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And here is the finished corner from the RS. It’s not perfect (it was the first border corner), but the cables continue on in pattern and the wraps are invisibly hidden on the back. I would love to hear about other folks’ experiences with these wraps and turns! Any advice is welcome! I’d love to hear your experiences!

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Posted in blanket, cables, community, help!, instruction, knitting, Stornoway Throw, technique, wrap and turn | 8 Comments

First Kettle Dye: Eggplant Beauty

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Last week I posted a mini-photo essay about dye day. While I participated–helping Spencer and generally being around for a couple of hours, I did not do much dyeing. This was not for lack of trying! I showed up with my 1.5lbs of wool yarn ready to go! I soaked it in the acid bath for 30 minutes; I had colors in mind . . . but as it turned out, the natural brown shetland yarn that I wanted to overdye was better served by a kettle dyeing process. And that meant that I was sent home with some very wet wool and some dye. It was the best thing that could have happened.

I have been wanting to try kettle dyeing for a long, long time. I even have acid dyes and a pot and all of the necessary gear. But the whole process seemed so, well, complicated and dangerous. I was wrong. Yes, it’s important to use safety gear: I wore a mask and an apron; I worked with special pots and bowls and gear that was never to be used for food preparation again; and I did the whole process–except for the post-dye rinsing–outside. But the process itself was easy enough. I think that’s largely because I have talked to (and interviewed) a lot of indie dyers, watched the process ad nauseum on YouTube, and had the express urging of my dear guild mates who have already encouraged me to stretch my limits.

So, home I went for some mixing, heating, and a lot of waiting to see the results–which turned out better than my wildest dreams🙂

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Here is the before and after (1.5lbs of locally sourced, mill-spun, brown Shetland)

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Posted in color, custom yarn, dye, dyeing, firsts, purple, yarn | 8 Comments

Episode 3 and a Giveaway!

Hello world! I’m happy to report that Episode 3: The Importance of Place is up and running over on YouTube! This week, I have an extra-special giveaway to announce from Pigeonroof Studios (see below and/or tune in to find out more)!! Show notes can be found below.

 

Giveaway Info:  Krista of Pigeonroof Studios has most generously offered a set of her high twist sock mini-skeins in the Aquatic colorway–that’s 240 yards of glorious color! To enter, head on over to Episode 3 on YouTube and leave a comment on the video: what would you make with the set? I see socks, mittens, or a fun hat. You? The giveaway will close on Dec 9th and I’ll announce the winner in Episode 4 on Dec 10th!

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Image Courtesy of Krista McCurdy of Pigeonroof Studios

SHOW NOTES: EPISODE 3

Ravelry group:  knittingthestash

 

Posted in big projects, cables, community, dyeing, fiber, giveaway, knitting, place, podcast, video | 6 Comments

Happy —Days :)

To anyone celebrating Thanksgiving, Turkey Day, Tofurkey Day, a fun meal with family, or just getting to and through another Thursday .  . . I wish you the best day!

And for those who are looking for community, celebrating solo, or just in need of a pick-me-up, here is a wee contribution for the season that I spotted around my campus this fall

photo-on-11-15-16-at-10-17-am-2Source: http://static.creativemarket.com/uploads/2013/09/takewhatyouneed.pdf

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Dye Day 2016

Beth recently sponsored another Dye Day for guild members–thanks, Beth!!–which means she broke out the bins, the tables, the plastic wrap, the dyes (for cotton and wool), and opened her home to us all. Some sat knitting while waiting to soak, others were busy at the dye tables from the moment they arrived. Good cheer was everywhere. Even Spencer got into the act for the first time: he had a cotton warp to dye!

Here are a few photos of the scene and the process.

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I did a wee bit of dyeing too: I dyed my brown Shetland wool at home (more on that next time!), but at dye day, I worked on some SW Merino top that I wanted to rescue. I could not be happier with the results!

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Posted in color, community, dye, dyeing, inspiration, spinners and weavers guild, warp | 6 Comments

Indie Dyer Feature: Pigeonroof Studios

Ok folks, this is BIG! I have an interview with one of my favorite fiber dyers: Krista McCurdy of Pigeonroof Studies! Sometimes, you just have to ask  . . . I first noticed Krista’s work on one of my Facebook groups–people were talking about how beautiful the colorways were. I have, in my hot little hands, a couple of silmk/merino braids from her Luminosity collection and I cannot wait to spin them. Krista began dyeing in 2007; she is a printmaker and an artist, and it shows in her color combinations and rich saturations. I’ll let Krista tell the rest of her story in the interview that follows. If you love amazing color as much as I do, check out her Etsy shop and Facebook page. Enjoy!

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Image courtesy of Krista McCurdy

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Image courtesy of Krista McCurdy

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Image courtesy of Krista McCurdy

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Image courtesy of Krista McCurdy

How did you get into dyeing? 
I got into dyeing pretty much just by chance. I’d taken a couple of textile classes in college and so had done a little bit of dyeing, but that was it for a couple of years. Then I picked up knitting again, about when I was 24, and discovered knitting blogs. I also started spinning. I was seeing people dyeing with kool-aid on blogs and thought it was neat, so started with that. It was just an obvious step to acid dyes from there.

What is your favorite fiber to dye? 

As for a favorite fiber to dye, I’d have to say boring old superwash merino. Although blends with silk and cashmere, etc., are lovely as well. Because of the super washing, the dyes sort of just “sit” on top of the fibers so you can get really intense colors and interesting variations. It’s a good canvas.

Where do you find inspiration?

Inspiration’s a hard one. I don’t dye from pictures unless it’s just a jump start to get some color ideas started. There really isn’t anything concrete that I can say inspires my dyeing. I guess I would have to say it’s just from working with the dyes themselves; colorways can build upon themselves, or I’m just experimenting from a “what if?” thought. Or one color of dye will act a certain way that I think is cool and build from there. I’ve always had an innate sense of color, I’ve never used color wheels. Honestly, I just do what my eye tells me is good. It’s hard to explain, it’s just like an instinctive exploration, sort of.

 Any advice for new dyers? 

I would say biggest thing is to just really get to know your materials. That’s a solid foundation to go from. Experiment. I realized that I don’t dye like any other dyers I’ve seen so far; it’s just a process that I’ve developed that works for me. It makes my yarn and fiber distinctive. Do what you want to do; you don’t need to take a bunch of classes or read a bunch of tutorials. I’m not knocking them, it’s a fabulous way to learn a lot of things, but nothing’s set in stone. You just need to learn what works for you, even if it’s unorthodox.

Also…if you want to keep it fun, don’t turn it into a full time business.

Where can folks find your shop online? 

You can find all my yarn and fiber at pigeonroofstudios.com

What’s NEW on the horizon for your shop?

I’m looking forward to offering a lot more OOAK skeins. Dyeing is no longer my full-time job; I’m also a Pilates instructor, primary area of interest rehab, especially of the shoulder. I love that job. I closed down my main website and moved everything to the Etsy shop, because I just can’t have the pressure of having everything always in stock. I just can’t do that with my current life. When it comes down to it, I just really like to make things, and if I’m always stressed about keeping things in stock, the creative side just gets crushed, and that’s always been the most important thing to me. Starting a new career was so I could have some dependable income and not have the constant financial pressure of the yarn dyeing business. And now that I live in Portland, Oregon, and not one of the most expensive places to live in the country, (I’m from the Bay Area, California), I have a little more financial freedom.

 I’ve been doing this for over ten years by now. The industry has changed so much since I started. At the base of it all, though, is simply a deep love for color and making things.

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Thanks so much Krista!

I love meeting new people (and sheep!): if you are an indie dyer, a hand spinner, a shepherdess, a small flock owner, a mill operator, or a wool trader, I would love to feature your work on this site. Please get in touch via email or Ravelry by clicking the “About” tab (above)

Posted in color palette, colorway, fiber, fiber artist, indie dyer, interview, Uncategorized | 9 Comments