Wednesday, July 27, 2011

So That's a Knitomat!

There's a new pony in the corral, a Knitomat 160.  It arrived today, and it's up and knitting already.
You lay the yarn across stationary latch needles, and then slide the carriage, which pushes the knitting forward , closing the latches and the new stitches are in the hooks.  Then you push (manually) the knitting back behind the needle latches, which opens the latches again, and lay the yarn in the latches....
It actually goes pretty fast.

You can see the yarn laying in the hooks right of the carriage.
You can see the 'fingers' pushing the knitting out over the new yarn.

People who like intarsia, or hand manipulated lace, would like this machine.  It's 5mm pitch, so passap and superba tools work with it.  You could also knit two separate pieces, with two separate yarns, at the same time.  Hmm.  What comes in pairs?  (I know!  Socks!)  Seriously, You could knit both fronts of a baby sweater, mirroring the shaping, at the same time.  Who wouldn't want to do that?

Okay- I saw an episode of Hoarders, and I'm Never watching that again.  And knitting machines are NOT cats.  But I have avoided counting them (the knitting machines, that is.)  It might be time to count.

Custom 131
Today, I will review the earliest (20's through 50's) machines:  There's the knitomat, the Custom 131, the twinmatic, and the Fleischer Fast Knitter (not really a machine, but not really a knitting loom, either.)  I probably need to include the AutoKnitter here.  A Steber, too.
Fleischer EME Fast Knitter Illustration
That's enough counting.  It's better to knit, don't you think?  

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Freedom Wright's Wife and her spinning wheel

You have to go to the auction when it's next door.  Otherwise, the neighbors will talk.  We went, in search of entertainment and gossip.  We found both, and a couple of things to buy, as well.
The auction was a two day affair, liquidating an antiques business that has occupied the old Freedom Wright Inn for the last 45 years.  The wheel in the picture was always marked 'not for sale' in the shop, as it was original with the old house, said to have belonged to Freedom Wright's wife, and marked with her initials, A.W.  The wheel was nearly complete, with the foot treadle and pitman lacking, and the top part of the distaff gone, as well.  The bobbin and flyer are complete, and the drive wheel is true.  It shows both the correct age and wear for a spinning wheel from 1800-1810.  There is a bit of linen thread still on the bobbin, so it's a good bet AW was the last person to use it.  At some point (1960's I'm guessing) it received a coat of varnish, but fortunately, they did not sand it first.
AW's Wheel
 I bought the wheel for $65.  I could not believe my good luck.  I'll post more pictures when she is up and running.  She needs new leathers and a drive belt.  Getting out the cotton twine, now.
Freedom Wright built the inn in 1800.  He does not show up in the 1800 census, but is there in 1810, and gone in 1820.  The census records of the time only recorded the  head of the household, so I do not know her name.

Her intials

200 year old flax leader on the bobbin

I will poke around until I learn more about AW.  DH suggested that I start by getting the description of the land from the County records, as that would record all the owners.
If you have any suggestions for me and AW's Wheel, post a comment.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Zwanzigstein Fest

"Grandma, this does NOT look like a festival."  My non-rural grandchildren have urban festival notions.  We are walking from the car, through a field, toward some farm buildings.  My GS and GD are carrying baskets full of spinning supplies, and I am carrying a wheel.  I am coming to the Mennonite Heritage Farm, near Croghan, NY, to help out by demonstrating handspinning.
"Well, let's see how things work out," I tell my GS.
Zwanzigstein is an annual gathering of the descendants of the 20 families who first settled here in the mid 1800's. They have acquired National Historic Site status, and are faithfully restoring the buildings and the house.  In the house basement, you unexpectedly re-enter the 21rst century, as they are finishing state-or-the-art, climate controlled space for their archives.
The kids had a wonderful time.  There were plenty of kid-friendly activities.  My GD claims to have climbed the rock wall eleven times.  She also rode the wagon, drawn by a couple of picture-perfect Belgians, but she lost count.  The GS acquired a bill cap, and flirted with bidding on a John Deere collector's edition toy tractor.
My wheel is on the left, as a young demonstrator prepares to make butter.
  It went great with the homemade bread.
I had a great time with the kids, and  a great time spinning.  In the shade of the narrow front porch, I talked to lots of people, and met friends old and new.
The food (homemade icecream, homemade rootbeer and sassparilla, brats as thick as your wrist, corn chowder, and turker dinner!!) was great.
It's always great to get an upclose look at the old ways, and talk to people who know about those ways.
On our way home, the kids told me it was a pretty good festival.