Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Tinkering Comes First

I love to fix things. Tear them down, clean all the parts, replace worn or broken pieces, refinish and then reassemble. The process gives me a better understanding of structure, function and a good dopamine rush when everything works as it should, especially when there are no leftover parts after everything is back together.

Slowly I've been tackling the spinning wheel. Once all the wood parts had been sanded it was the weather that put the breaks on the polyurethane coating. That's not something done in the living room unless one wants to do an Oracle of Delphi imitation. It seemed like each time my schedule allowed me to work on the wheel, it was raining, cold and humid--not conducive to refinishing wood. 

During the weeks, incremental steps forward were inserted into weekly errands. At trip to the hardware store yielded new screws. The piece of leather that attached the pitman to the treadle (I'm getting hip to the lingo) was the trickiest part. Old halters and reins scavenged from the barn proved too thin for the slot. The harness shop in my old neighborhood was no longer in business. I remembered there was an Amish harness repair shop at a farm where I once purchased guinea keets. It was near my poultry processor so popped over one week.

There was a woman hanging clothes on the line and I asked her if the shop was still in business. She said it was and then proceeded to tell me that she didn't think she should sell me a piece of leather without first asking her husband and he wasn't home. It took ever molecule of self-control not to scream, "Are you f%#king kidding me?" Instead, I pulled out the piece of leather and explained what it was for. I appealed to the farm women sisterhood of self-sufficiency. She buckled and we walked over to the shop. The miracle, a small piece of scrap on the floor the exact thickness I needed a bit larger in size of the wheel's piece. I wasn't going to press my luck by asking if I could use his tools to shape the leather and punch holes at either end as she had a look of fear simply by being in the domain of males according to her culture. I thanked her, offered to pay her, but she declined. After all, it was a scrap on the floor.

The weather finally cooperated and the wood was bathed in a few generous coats of Minwax on the front porch, curing on a warm sunny day. Unfortunately, that darn piece of leather was still giving me trouble. I didn't have the proper tools to shape the piece or to punch the holes. Sure, I could have bungled it with a nail, hammer and woodblock for one hole, but the other was more an oval, larger in diameter for the play of the treadle.

Mom was having one of her quilt retreats at her house and that tidbit of information jogged my memory that her sewing machine dealer/repairman had also once had a harness shop. When I stopped at his sewing machine shop he informed me he had not kept any of his leather tools when he sold the business. I showed him the pieces of leather and he smiled. "This I can do," he said as he fished in his tool box for the appropriate tools.

All the pieces sat on my living room floor waiting. But there were tomatoes to turn into sauce, peppers picked and ready to be sliced along with carrots for canning, market day, butcher day, a dead-in-the-water diesel runabout that needed the alternator removed to be fixed or replaced...

Finally, I sat down with my tools and schematic. It went back together easily and when I went to place the drive band, a piece of cotton string, on the wheel, I realized it had been chewed in a few places by one of my four-legged furry monsters. Not to be defeated, I pulled a strand of bright red yarn from my stash and fashioned a figure-8 drive band for the wheel. It was working.

This project has humbled me time and time again with the patience and practice required to do something as basic as turning fiber into yarn, something we, as a modern society takes for granted each time we put on a piece of clothing. It's not as simple as it looks so the next step is practicing with commercial yarn to get the feel of drawing it on to the spindle.
Meanwhile, there are four bags of roving awaiting spinning, five more fleeces needing to be skirted, washed, dried and carded, six more bags of alpaca wool in my second cousin's barn needing to be picked up and processed and several more pasture maggots to shear.

My Sheep2Socks journey continues...

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