Mysteries of the East

If you’re asking yourself, “what on earth am I looking at?”, don’t worry: I’m asking myself that, too. A guy I dated in my junior year of college — years before I learned to knit, let alone spin — spent winter break that year at the Gandhi Institute in India, where he studied the philosophy of nonviolence and also learned to spin using a kit like this. Gandhi believed very strongly that all Indians should learn to spin so they would be less dependent on British textiles, and in fact the spinning wheel became an important symbol of his philosophy. My boyfriend, in addition to bringing me back some lovely dresses, brought me this kit and attempted to show me how to use it, but I never got the hang of it and we broke up shortly thereafter (for unrelated reasons). I did not bring my usual spinning with me to my parents’ house for the holidays because the equipment takes up a significant amount of room in my suitcase — but I thought that, with my newfound understanding of spinning, I might be able to get this thing to work.

The problem, of course, is that the directions are both vague and poorly translated, and the diagrams are blurry and sort of inaccurate. But with their dubious help and my general understanding of the physics of spinning, I managed to get the parts assembled into a configuration that really ought to work — in theory.

On the righthand side of the picture is a wheel with a metal handle that you turn by hand, which turns the smaller wheel even faster. On the lefthand side, that dark brown thing holding the spindle has a spring-hinge, which keeps the spindle under tension, and the spindle really ought to be turned by that loop connecting it to the smaller wheel. But it doesn’t work. I suspect that it might yet work this way if I either greased the point of the spindle that goes in the holder, or widened the spindle-hole in the holder just a tiny, tiny bit with a drill. I may attempt one of these things later, and let you know how it goes.

If all attempts fail, though, at least I have this bundle of Indian cotton that I can spin back home with my regular spindles!

Unsurprisingly, I’ve been working on some gift projects, but fewer than usual this year — after two years in a row of knitting for all my family members, I figured we all could use a break. How many hats and scarves does a person need? To a knitter, the answer is “infinity,” but to a regular person the answer is, “you know, a couple.” So they’re getting non-knitted gifts this year. I am, however, crocheting a set of coasters for my mom by special request; I should be finishing them up in the next day or two and will show them to you then. The only other gift I’m knitting this year is this scarf, which I’m giving you only a peek of since I want there to be some element of surprise when the giftee receives it, even though he and I talked at great and somewhat agonizing length about what he wanted the scarf to look like:

The yarn is the brand-new Shelter from Brooklyn Tweed, which I’d been eager to try, in the Woodsmoke colorway. It does seem very lofty and warm, but I was saddened to find a great deal of vegetable matter in the yarn — I’ve been picking out the bits of hay when I encounter them, but I’m probably not getting everything. This is definitely a wool-person’s yarn — it’s a bit on the scratchy side, but I think it’ll soften up once it has a bath, and it ought to be very durable.

I’ve also been working on my Shallow Sideways Tri-Shawl — I’m now past the halfway point, and it’s narrowing down instead of growing, so it’s flying along:

I continue to be head-over-heels in love with the Sanguine Gryphon Gaia Lace yarn; it’s actually kind of hard to imagine buying any other kind of lace yarn in the future. But surely I’ll manage somehow.

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3 thoughts on “Mysteries of the East

    • hi sylvie! i hear great things about tanis, but i haven’t tried them yet. i highly recommend sanguine gryphon, but of course you have to sort of stalk their website. i recommend subscribing to their blog for ease of stalking!

  1. I’ve been reading Abby Franquemont’s Respect the Spindle and she talks a little bit about driven spindle wheels like the one you’ve got here. Your setup looks almost identical to the pic in the book with the one exception being that in the book’s pic the big wheel is on the left side, though I’m not sure if that matters. Good luck, I’m looking forward to learning if you get yours working!

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