The Daily Skein

All the craft that’s fit to make.

Sock Loot! August 5, 2011

Filed under: fiber,spinning,Yarn — Cailyn @ 11:09 am
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Now the part that you’ve all been waiting for.  Or dreading, depending on how much you like or hate when bloggers post things they’ve bought at events you didn’t go to.  You might want to skip this post if you’re the jealous type.

 

First up, the random stuff.  Preordered swag (glass, pen, button [not shown {but cool}]).  I just wanted to see how many types of brackets I could use in one sentence.  And a high speed whorl for my wheel, which means I can put more twist in per treadle when I spin laceweight.  And there’s a teal aluminum needle gauge.  It was a complete impulse buy near the register while I was buying the whorl, but I’ve always kind of wanted one.  They had three shades of blue!  It was hard to choose.  The gauge goes down to size 000 size 000000 which looks terrifyingly small!  Oh, and the pen lights up.  Because why not?

 

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I got a new mug from Jennie the Potter, although I didn’t get to the booth fast enough to get her special Sock Summit mug.  She said they sold out in the first 20 minutes the market was open!  Yipes.  Anyway, I got this knitting mug to go with the spinning mug I use every morning for coffee.  This one has yarn in turquoise with white and black sheep; the one I have already is dark blue yarn with brown and black sheep.  They look great together, even though I’m only showing you the new one. 

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Then there’s the fibers!  Let’s see, shall we go in chronological order or pretty order?  Let’s go chronological.

 

We stopped by Crown Mountain Farms, who had all kinds of fun blends and undyed fibers.  I got some incredibly soft undyed yak/merino (50/50).  This stuff is what I imagine clouds feel like.  It’s that light and fluffy.  Living in Seattle, it’s kind of the color of clouds too.  I think this will be spun up to keep it’s fluffiness and made into a warm, soft scarf for Lowell.

 

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After that, my eye was caught by a stunning 100% tussah silk by Teresa Ruch Designs, but then I fell in love with this alpaca/silk blend (80/20).  It’s black alpaca laced through with bright shining silk in teal and violet.  It looks like an opal.  I haven’t had much luck spinning alpaca before, but I couldn’t, literally couldn’t, put this fiber down.  I have no idea what I’ll spin it into yet… It’s almost too pretty as a hank of fiber to spin up!

 

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I went down to Portland with my Tiger Mt spindle but nothing to spin on it.  Even though I can spin just as well on my spindle as my wheel, I prefer to spin 2 oz or less on my spindle.  For some reason to me, spinning a 4oz hunk of fiber seems too “big” for a spindle project.  And for some reason (this is where I think I might have a problem) I don’t like splitting a 4 oz braid into two 2 oz segments.  I want to only have 2 total oz of fiber for my spindle.  And that’s hard to find, since more fiber is sold in 4 oz chunks.  But I did find one vendor selling fiber in bulk and in a great color, so I bought 2 oz  of merino/silk from her.  I think it’s 50/50, but I can’t remember and didn’t write it down.  Destined to be laceweight.

 

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Hm, silk seems to be a recurring theme here.  There’s silk in this next purchase from RainCity Fiber Arts too.  In fact, it’s merino/yak/silk (60/20/20).  Second yak purchase in two days, hmm… 2 oz and super pretty.  Also soft enough to make a cotton ball weep.

 

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One of my favorites: a gorgeous merino/silk (80/20) blend from Fiber Optic Yarns.  Again with the silk!  What’s up with that?  The roving is dyed from a light aqua to a dark, dark indigo color.  I walked by this booth a few times, my eye always drawn to the “gradient dyed” fiber.  They had a number of other colorways, including a lovely golden-orange to purple.  I tried to resist buying this.  I really did!  They probably thought I was stalking them the way I kept walking by, looking at this, then walking away slowly.  I was doing yet another walk-by when I thought of the perfect project for this fiber- a shawl that fades slowly from one color to the other, like this one from the Yarn Harlot.  I imagined myself carefully dividing the fiber in half, spinning each color section as a laceweight single,  plying so that everything lines up right (or mostly right), knitting up a beautiful shawl that fades from aqua to indigo and then it was all over.  I had to have it.  I can’t wait to spin it.

 

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After I decided to spend money on that, I made a decision on another item I’d been waffling over.  A Jenkins Woodworking “Kuchulu” Turkish spindle.  They had one that was so small and cute that I couldn’t stop thinking about it.  It weighs about .3 oz (9g) and is just about as long as my index finger.  It’s designed to be a pocket-sized spindle and it is!  I can’t get over how adorable it is.  So small and cute and it spins like a dream.  I’ll write more about what makes a Turkish spindle interesting later.  The shaft is walnut and the wings are made from amboyna, which is a wood from southeast Asia.  I have a special spot in my heart for red woods.  Ed said that he doesn’t use amboyna anymore, so mine is special!  I love going to festivals and talking to the people who actually make the things I’m buying.

 

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I was going to use the teal merino/silk I’d gotten the day before to try out the Kuchulu, but I wandered by Crown Mountain Farms again and saw this lovely pencil roving that I hadn’t noticed before.  It was a great price, 2 oz, merino/tencel (50/50) and a color I love.

 

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I also picked up some Lorna’s Laces Solemate (colorway Navy Pier), their newest yarn line.  It’s made from 55% superwash wool, 15% nylon, and 30% Outlast.  Outlast is a viscose fiber which is a man-made plant (cellulose) fiber, like rayon or bamboo.  It’s supposed to “regulate microclimate” to keep you from getting too hot or too cold.  Outlast was originally designed for space suits using “phase change materials” coated with polyester.  I’m sure I’ll be writing more about this when I knit up this yarn- I’m pretty excited to try it, because my feet are always too cold or too hot!

 

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Yes, I only bought one skein of yarn.  That’s it.  I have a lot of yarn already and I was drawn to the fibers more than the yarns.  The yarn selection was stunning, though!  Lastly (well, really first) I bought three Japanese stitch dictionaries.  This might seem like an embarrassment of riches, but it’s also a bit of a curse.  Now I want to put every single pattern on a pair of socks or mittens or a hat.  There are so many great designs.  Hmm, I’d better get started knitting!

 

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Oh, and I also bought a set of Signature Needles Size 1 (2.25mm) DPNs.  But I didn’t take their picture.

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Birthday Goodies July 8, 2011

Filed under: Musings,spinning — Cailyn @ 12:53 pm
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It was my birthday last week.  Yup, I’ve crossed the 30 barrier.  Funny, it doesn’t feel that different from 29 except for this irrational desire to yell at kids to get off my lawn.  And the cane.

 

Birthdays come with presents, of course, and I got some nice fiber-y, knit-y things.

 

Alice Starmore’s Book of Fair Isle Knitting.  I can’t stop collecting Fair Isle charts- I’m addicted to those snowflakes!

 

My sister sent me some soft, squishy mystery fiber from Three Waters Farm in North Carolina:

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The burn test revealed that it’s wool, not alpaca.  I think it’s Blue Faced Leicester.

 

I also got some fiber from a local Washington dyer, Rain City Fiber Arts:

 

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85% BFL, 15% silk, yummy!  I’m not normally a pink person, but I love the combo of pink, purple, and natural undyed wool in this colorway.  I think it will spin up into a nice muted mauve-like shade.

 

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100% Falkland wool in foresty greens and browns.  I’ve never spun this breed before.  It’s got about a 5 inch staple length (medium-long) and it’s pretty soft.  Actually, this could spin up into a great sock yarn!  Hmmm…

 

And in the “I had to buy this for you so that I could find out what it does” camp, I got a McMorran balance!

 

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It’s really, really hard to take a good picture of a piece of clear acrylic!  I’m going to write a post with more details about using this thing, but the general idea is that a McMorran balance will tell you how much yarn you have.  Once you’ve got your strand of yarn there balanced on the scale (the one in my photo is too light,) then you multiply the length by 100 and that gives you the yards per pound of your yarn.  This is obviously great for handspun, especially if you’re too lazy to count how many times your yarn goes around your niddy-noddy (another crazy named handspinner tool).

 

Also, only 18.5 days until I leave for the Sock Summit!

 

Hot Off the Wheel April 12, 2011

Filed under: spinning — Cailyn @ 11:42 am
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Not much going on here right now.  So here’s the pretty yarn I just spun last weekend.

 

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This is the Hanks in the Hood batt that I tore into rolags in this post here.  It’s 3 oz, 50% merino, 50% bamboo.  I had trouble getting the right colors in the photos; the yarn is really a cool combination of grey-green and teal.

 

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I spun this with a woolen long draw on my wheel, which gave me a nice poofy squishy yarn with great drape.  Very similar to the yarn I made in December, which was the point.  It varies between a DK and sport weight yarn and I think I’ve got about 80 yards of it.  I forgot to keep count of the turns around the niddy-noddy, so the yardage is a very rough estimate.

 

Did I mention that woolen long draw is fast?  I spun up the singles in just a few hours and plied in half the time.  But I like using worsted yarns better.  I think I’m going to spin up some worsted laceweight on my wheel next.

 

Madrona Was Fun February 22, 2011

Filed under: Musings,spinning — Cailyn @ 11:23 pm
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As you may have guessed from my little ditty last Thursday, I spent some time at the Madrona Fiber Arts Winter Retreat.  I actually didn’t spend much time there, just most of Thursday.  You would think that I wouldn’t forget about a fiber festival all of one hour from my house, but I did.  I remembered it far too late to sign up for regular classes.  I thought I would just go down for the marketplace again, like I did last year, but then I noticed the mini-class list.  The mini-classes were an hour and half (as opposed to three or six hours) and they spanned all kinds of topics.  Most importantly, I was in time for registration.  I signed up for a mini-class on hand cards on Thursday afternoon. 

 

I arrived about two hours before my class.  I went straight to the marketplace, as any reasonable person would.  After all, some of those fibers would go fast!  I took a walk around, looking at everything (and I do mean everything!) before doing a second round to actually buy things.  It was a hard decision!

 

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The fiber that opened the floodgates was this one, a merino/tencel blend.  It was buried under some silk blends, but the colors of this one grabbed me and wouldn’t let me go.  Seriously, it tried to eat my hand.  I love the lighter streaks of tencel in the wool.

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Then I spent a long time looking at silk hankies (also known as mawata to avoid confusion) at the Blue Moon Fiber Arts booth, along with a 100% silk colorway that was gorgeous.  But ultimately, I decided that I preferred the colors at another booth. Mawata is made by soaking and stretching a silkworm cocoons in layers on a frame so that it looks a little like a handkerchief (hence the confusing name “silk hanky”).  You can spin from them or stretch them out and knit with them unspun or a million other things.  Recently, the Yarn Harlot wrote about knitting mittens out of unspun mawata.  I wasn’t the only one to think that this idea looked fun; silk hankies were the hot item this year!  I got 14 g (about half an ounce) of mawata for $5 at the Wolf Creek Wools booth.  Like most silk, the color is incredibly intense in person.

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I also bought some “Panda” merino/bamboo/nylon yarn in a nice spring blue, because well, why not?  I really like the yarns from Wolf Creek Wools.  I made a little shrug out of some merino/tencel of theirs that I bought at the Sock Summit in ‘09.

 

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Then, I was admiring the spindles at the Carolina Homespun booth- they had a great selection.  I’ve made no secret of the fact that I love Cascade Spindle Company spindles; I have four of them now, even if two are technically the same model.  I really want the Little Si spindle, not so much because I want to spin on it (although I bet it spins great) but because Little Si is only a few miles from my house.  I’m always on the lookout for it.  Long story short, Carolina Homespun didn’t have one, but they did have some other wonderful things.  I ended up getting this pretty “wristaff,” which isn’t from Cascade Spindle Co but from a woodturner in Canada.

 

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After that, I thought I was done shopping.  Except that I had a $5 coupon for any vendor that you got for registering for a class.  With that coupon burning in my pocket, I was torn between some knitting needles, some undyed silk, or some fiber from Hood Canal YarnsLast year, I bought some alpaca/silk fiber from Hood Canal Yarns which I really enjoyed spinning, even if it did take me half a year to do so.  I couldn’t decide which fiber to get there,until I noticed that everything I had bought so far was a very specific blue.  So, of course I bought this lovely blue fiber.  To stick with the theme.

 

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The best part was, this fiber was just about $5 an ounce.  With the coupon, I basically got an ounce free!  3 oz of 75% Blue Faced Leicester and 25% silk.  Yummy.

 

Oh right, I also had a class!  I finished up shopping just in time to go to my class, be a little early, and chat with some of the other students.  The class I took was on using hand cards to make rolags and punis.  A puni is essentially the same thing as a rolag, but made smaller and denser and almost always with cotton.  Using hand cards looks so simple, but for some reason I just couldn’t get it.  All you do is brush one card across the other a few times, transfer the fiber to the other card, and repeat until you’re ready to roll.  Simple, see?  Why did it take me almost an hour to be able to do this thing that people have been doing for thousands of years?

 

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I really have no answer.  Except that I wasn’t the only one to have trouble, so I guess that makes me feel a little better.  I did eventually get it, which made me really happy because spinning from a true carded rolag is awesome.  And so fast.  I see much more woolen spinning in my future.  I can’t wait to try these rolags with my Russian spindle!  In the picture above is a merino rolag (blue) and a cotton/silk puni.

 

I love going to these fiber festivals.  I don’t usually go with anyone, unless Lowell tags along, because none of my friends are quite as obsessive as I am about these sorts of things.  But it doesn’t matter.  You can sit chat with anyone there, knowing that they share in your passion for fiber.  I had a woman sit with me while I was practicing my carding and we chatted about her alpacas and I showed her what I could of carding.  It’s wonderful, even for an introvert like me, to just be around all those people who don’t look at you funny when you talk about the sleeve construction of your Central Park Hoodie.

 

Next year, I’m really going to try to remember about the registration day.

 

Madrona Song February 17, 2011

Filed under: spinning — Cailyn @ 11:11 am
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Madrona (to the tune of “Peaches” by The Presidents of the USA)

 

Goin’ to Madrona, gonna spin me a lot of fiber

I’m goin’ to Madrona, gonna spin  me a lot of fiber

I’m goin’ to Madrona, gonna spin  me a lot of fiber

Fiber comes from a drum, it was put there by a thumb

In an indie studio

I had my little way I’d spin fiber every day

Soft wooly rovings in the shade

 

Bat, Bat, and Batt February 7, 2011

Filed under: Knitting Projects,spinning — Cailyn @ 4:26 pm
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This is a bat.

 

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This is a bat.

 

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And this is a batt.

 

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A Hanks in the Hood batt, to be exact.  The beauty above is half merino and half bamboo.  The shiny light blue fibers are the bamboo; the greenish fibers are the merino. 

Batts are made by putting fibers through a drum carder.  The process is similar to hand carding but is less time-consuming because of the large surface area of the drum.  Carders can blend fibers or colors together or allow them to be layered. 

 

Batts can be intimidating.  When unfolded, a batt is a big (seriously big!) rectangle of combed fibers, completely unlike the wrist-thick snakes of roving or top that are so common.  There are lots of different ways to spin batts- for example, you can pick a corner and start spinning, or strip it into roving and spin it that way. 

 

Usually I buy strips of top and spin them worsted.  I really value stitch definition in my yarns, so I didn’t think I would ever want to spin woolen which is softer but lacks definition.  But I started to get interested after I bought a Russian spindle.  It’s physically impossible to use a worsted short draw on a supported spindle like that!  (Ask me how I know.)  Having searched all over Russia (story coming later) and finally getting a spindle, I really wanted to use it.  And to do that, I needed a carded fiber, ideally one in the form of rolags.  I would have liked to make my own (I have plenty of “experimenting merino”) but I don’t have any hand cards and those things are expensive!

 

Wait, what was I talking about?  Oh right, batts.  I took the plunge and bought a batt when I realized that I could make a batt into rolags and spin them with a woolen long draw.  Ironically, I didn’t use the batt on my Russian spindle.  I decided to use the batt to spin and knit Lowell’s grandmother a birthday hat.  (Not a party hat, just a hat given to her on her birthday.)  This sounds like a lovely idea, right?  Especially since I had never used rolags, never spun with a long backwards draw, only had two weeks to spin then ply and then knit the hat, and I was travelling for one of those weeks.

 

But I did it!  I spun half the batt, which was the same as the one above in every aspect except color, on my Cascade Mt. Baker spindle.  The spindle broke just as I finished the first ply, so I had to spin the second single on my Matchless.  Don’t worry, a little wood glue has fixed the spindle right as rain, plus I got two more spindles for Christmas.  I was shocked- I loved spinning long draw.  I loved the little rolags, even though I had to join a new one every few minutes.  Do you know something- spinning woolen is fast.  I mean, seriously fast.  I ate up rolags like they were chocolate truffles.  I was done spinning and then plying the 4 oz batt in just over a week, even including spindle malfunction and travelling.  I even got the two singles to match up in length with only a five inch difference!  I swear, this was a magic batt!

 

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The yarn was beautiful.  It was soft and squishy, the drape was lovely, the bamboo made little shiny highlights, it was warm.  I was in love with this yarn and so was everyone else who touched it.  It was so nice that I’m kind of afraid to spin the other batt- what if it doesn’t come out as well?  Now, to be fair, the making of this yarn was not entirely without trouble.  I rolled the batt into rolags with the merino on the outside and the bamboo on the inside.  Often what would happen when I spun them is that the merino would pull off from the outside, leaving me at the end with a core of pure bamboo which was slippery and hard to spin long draw.  It also ruined the look I was going for, which was a mostly blended merino/bamboo yarn.  But, I still love how it turned out and, in retrospect, if I hadn’t been so stressed to finish in time, the bamboo wasn’t so bad.

 

Next post, I’ll show you how I made the batt into rolags as I prepare that blue batt up there to turn into a hopefully luscious yarn.

 

Oh, and here’s the finished product:

 

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A simple beanie style hat with a garter brim and a wavy, lacy pattern.

 

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In the one on the right, you can really see the long runs of bamboo, even though the color is all off.

 

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The happy recipient!

 

Camping and Spinning August 18, 2010

Filed under: spinning — Cailyn @ 1:19 pm
Tags: , , ,

I’ve been on a big spinning kick lately.  Sadly, not in time to participate in the Tour de Fleece.  I’ve been spinning up a storm nonetheless.  Partially I think this urge is because I’m between interesting projects right now.  I’ve submitted a number of designs to places but now I have to wait until I hear back (and they give me yarn) to actually knit these designs.  So, I’ve been spinning (and procrastinating on blogging).

 

This spinning jag even led me to bringing my spindle with me on a camping trip instead of my knitting.  I’m still working on the alpaca/silk fiber that I bought at Madrona and started spinning in North Carolina.  We camped in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, “near” Mt. St. Helens (not near enough to actually see, though!)

 

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I’m using an LED headlamp (Petzl Tikka 2) that my dad got me a few years ago, which is the best crafting tool I have.  It’s incredibly useful- it gives me just the right amount of light on my project without disturbing people around me too much.  I use it at home, in the car, for knitting, spinning, reading- and it’s great during blackouts!  I look like a total dork, but what else is new?  At least I can see my fiber!  Firelight may be romantic, but it’s not very good for detail work. 

 

White Salmon camping trip with Dave and Jen 061 

 

I discovered that there is a narrow range in which wine is helpful to the spinning process.  Just enough to loosen me up so that I’m not stopping every five seconds to fix a section that is just slightly thicker than the rest, but not so much that I forget how thick I’m trying to spin my singles. I was very productive and spun almost an ounce of fiber; once I spin the remaining ounce, I’ll be ready to ply.  (And yes, that singles in the ball does smell like camp smoke, but it’s not that bad and I think it will disappear when I wash the final yarn.)

 

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Back at home, I’ve been spinning on my wheel.  I finished some fiber that I’ve been working on and off since Christmas (a reddish-brown merino) and set the bobbins aside to rest while I spun up some fiber that I got for my birthday.  The pictures make it seem much bluer than it is- it’s really an interesting blue/purple/green with some marling (aka barber-poling) and slow fades between the colors.  I didn’t realize that the colors would shift so slowly and so I didn’t divide the fiber very symmetrically when I was setting up to spin.  I don’t really predraft, but I split the fiber into the number of plies I want (so far always two) and then split those piles into workable chunks.  That works great for solid or semi-solid top, but not as great for preserving the color changes/order.

 

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Anyway, I spun the first bobbin with no regard to color order.  To add insult to injury, I also divided the fiber in half and then left the second half alone while I spun the first.  So I didn’t even sub-split the fiber in the same sections.  I have decided that this is not going to bother me.  My first bobbin has color changes frequently and the second has color changes vary rarely.  I will have a very pretty and unpredictable yarn.

 

Just yesterday I finished up the second bobbin of the blue/purple/green fiber.  I took the bobbin off the wheel and reached down to my lazy kate to get an empty one to ply the reddish merino, proud that I have two full bobbins of each fiber.

 

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And then I remembered that two plus two equals four.  And I only have four bobbins.

 

Aaaaargh.  I need another bobbin to ply!

 

Lowell suggested that in the future I need a “Break Glass in Case of Bobbin Emergency” case next to the spinning wheel.