Spindle showcase: Enid Ashcroft

I’ve become such a collector of spindles that it seemed appropriate to show them off here, as well as give them a review from the perspective of an experienced spinner. I’ve also been learning a tremendous amount about different types of wood, and while I’m not in the market for my own lathe (yet…), I’ll be adding some info about the wood(s) in each spindle as well.

I’ll start with one I received in the mail today–a Mini Turkish (measuring about 3.5″ x 4.5″) by Enid Ashcroft. I’d heard nothing but superlatives about Enid’s spindles, both in terms of their usefulness and their beauty. I particularly love her “boardwalk” designs that incorporate squares and rectangles of differently patterned woods in eye-catching combinations. One came up for sale and I snatched it up:









The shaft is redheart (which came with a warning to keep it out of light as much as possible, or else it will fade), while the arms are a mix of redheart, bocote, and spalted beech. (I’m also learning quite a lot about different woods and woodworking through this little habit of mine–“spalted” refers to a particular type of discolouration caused by fungi, usually presenting in wavy dark lines).

IMG_5718It’s a mere 14g and a speedy little thing. I can’t find faultwith the balance! It spins just about perfectly and for quite a long time. Absolutely zero wobble, with and without fibre on board.






If I can find one flaw, it’s in the finishing of the lower arm. My other Turks have all been nicely sanded down around the shaft holes, but this one shows a few splinters sticking up. A minor quibble, but I was surprised given how highly regarded her spindles are.









As I mentioned above, redheart will fade from its starting colour (anything from true red to pink) to a more brownish colour with exposure to UV light. Check out this little experiment to see the change. Redheart (Erythoxylon mexicanum) is a hardwood grown in Mexico as well as a few countries in South America, and is highly sought after because of its colour, despite its vulnerability to sunlight. Fun facts: the nameErythoxylon literally means “red wood”, and the genus is also home to the plant from which cocaine is derived (don’t think you can get high off redheart, though, unless you’re really enamoured with the colour).

Bocote (Cordia eleagnoides) is also a South American hardwood, and is apparently becoming more popular for turning small items due to its highly figured wood (it’s rather a small tree, so best suited to more diminutive items such as spindles, handles, and pens rather than larger pieces of furniture). Other trees in the Cordia genus bear edible fruits, which are apparently a bit gluey (one is nicknamed “snotty gobbles”… yum).

Beech can refer to any number of deciduous trees in the genus Fagus, and if you live in the northern hemisphere there’s a good chance you’ve come across them whether you realize it or not. Spalted beech refers to beech wood that has been attacked by fungus (that’s what the term “spalted” means) and while it may not be great for the tree, it can create some pretty fantastic designs in the wood, if dried before it gets too soft and broken down. The process can be encouraged in dead trees but to get the stunning wood effects you have to arrest it at the right time, before the whole thing rots away. Who knew fungus could be so beautiful? (Don’t you mycologists all chime in now…)

Alright, time for a bit of spinning!

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Supported spindle in Blue Mahoe (aka, new toy)









I recently discovered the spindles of Ken and Marilyn Mocker, who run Silly Salmon Designs. I’d never heard of them, but a well placed ad on Etsy (advertising works, yes) caught my eye and soon I was down the rabbit hole. Silly Salmon works with sustainably produced woods that are either unusual colours or highly figured, and they combine them in extremely strikingarrangements in both drop and supported spindles. Through them, I’ve had my first exposure to blued ponderosa pine (its blue colour is due to a fungus that attacks the tree while it’s growing), the almost unnaturally white American holly, and my personal favourite, blue mahoe. So what the hell is blue mahoe? Well, it’s a tree that grows only in Jamaica and Cuba, and produces wood that can vary in colour from blue grey to olive green to cream to purple to brown, often all in the same specimen.I can see the appeal of working with it, given the surprise colours that come outwhen it’s turned.

The spindle above has a whorl made of blue mahoe and curly maple–if you look closely, you can see that while this piece of blue mahoe is a deep purplish brown, there is a little creamy streak. That apparently didn’t show up until the whorl was turned; it makes me think of a meteorite in a dark sky. This spindle is also on the heavier side, which I prefer, and is about as close to perfectly balanced as I’ve found in a spindle.

(I, uh, may have bought three spindles from Silly Salmon recently. This is the last one… for now.)

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FO: Boreas sweater

So what the hell happened between the end of 2013 and now? Well, I finished my thesis, graduated, got a job, got another job, and finally brought my beloved pony up to Canada. She has adapted quite well to the cold by growing a shaggy yak-like coat; I, however, must resort to other options to keep from freezing when it dips to -20 C (which, to be honest, it hasn’t much, since… global warming?).

Anyway, my biggest project and proudest stash-busting event of 2015 was the knitting of this gorgeous sweater to ride in on cooler (not cold…) days. I used up about six skeins of Philosophers Wool that had been sitting in my stash for 10 years or so, and ended up with a warm, slightly itchy (that’s what turtlenecks are for), and cute sweater for riding. It’s perfect, except of course my partner wears it better. But here it is with me, and the pony:









Action shot:








I would have done close-ups, but I prefer the pony pics. Feels good to blog again!

Posted in finished object, horses, Knitting, twist collective | 2 Comments


Hello little moribund fibre blog… haven’t forgotten you. Back very soon. xo.


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This Christmas I didn’t do much giving or receiving of gifts, which was a nice change as I am actively trying not to accumulate more possessions (abandoned vintage typewriters notwithstanding, of course). The few I did receive were very precious, such as this hand-thrown yarn bowl from Shireen:







Now what is a yarn bowl, you may ask? Simply put, it’s a vessel for holding a ball or cake of yarn to keep it from rolling away and getting tangled while it’s being worked with. Put the cake in the bowl, run the end of the yarn through the slit in the side, and there you have it.

Shireen has only made a few of these bowls, which became quite popular for a while after being featured by the Yarn Harlot. Given the amount of work that goes into each one, she stopped making them for sale, but a lucky select few have received them as gifts.







My first project to make use of the yarn bowl will likely be Rock Island, a rather late Christmas (or, early birthday) gift for my SO, using the Renaissance Dyeing yarn I picked up in Montreal.







I love these colours, especially in winter.







Everything looks a bit washed out these late December days–white sky, dull grey snow, with the monochrome currently broken up by the heaps of broken branches from the ice storm.








Good day to stay in and knit before the festivities tonight. Happy new year!

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Snow >> ice storm







It’s snowing in Montreal, which is greatly preferably to being in Toronto, where a massive ice storm has knocked out power and multiple forms of transit. It’s a good time to get some spinning done, in between trips out for food and espresso and beer. I’m trying to get through my first batt on a supported spindle, which technically I started several months ago (just before a walk up Mount Royal) and then put aside for several months once school began again. I’m not exactly a production spinner, I’ll admit.

I picked up some naturally dyed (with cochineal and indigo) yarn from a new shop here in Montreal, to use to make Rock Island. It will be a nice break activity when I’m back in Toronto, holed up with SPSS to finish my thesis. Although right now, with a massive winter storm headed this way, I may be staying in Mtl a bit longer than I expected…

Posted in dyeing, Knitting, russian spindle, spindle, Spinning, supported spindle, travel, yarn stores | Leave a comment

Curbside find

Back when I lived in Boston, the annual phenomenon known as Allston Christmas was an exciting time for poor students. Every September 1 (the standard moving day in the area), people who couldn’t be bothered to move or properly discard of their belongings would leave them on the curb, free for the taking to those most dedicated to having their very own second-hand IKEA shelving units, without the hassle of meeting someone from craigslist and parting with $15. Truth be told, the haul during Allston Christmas can be pretty good.

Quebec has a similar moving day, on July 1, but I haven’t seen anything like it in Toronto. So, I consider myself lucky that I live in a neighbourhood where people regularly leave fairly high-end items on the curb, just waiting for a grad student like myself to stumble upon them. The selection has so far included, among other things:

– Various books, including some rare editions of poetry, and a copy of Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress with photos from someone’s 1970s anniversary cruise on the QE2 stuffed inside;

– A stack of near-mint vinyl LPs;

– IKEA shelving units (of course);

– Strange (really, here I mean ugly), yet expensive-looking angel knickknacks.

I have mostly refrained from taking anything, with the exception of some books. My place is small, and I’ve really tried to keep from acquiring things I don’t absolutely need (or want). And then, last night, I spotted a neat row of objects on the lawn. I took a closer look, and found two very old typewriters and a stack of cattle vertebrae. I took the typewriters inside, figuring I could see if maybe one was in good enough condition to use for writing letters, a recently revived activity in my spare time. (I did not take the vertebrae.)

To my surprise, both typewriters–a Hermes Rocket and an Olivetti Lettera–were in working order. The Hermes is a 1960s version, barely used, and probably worth around $500. The Olivetti came with several sheets of paper from an old, now defunct Toronto publishing company and looks like it saw some heavy use. The Hermes I’m keeping for sure, adding to my small collection of old, well designed, functional things that I can both admire and use (see this post and this one). A few photos of the Hermes:













Some of the dies barely had any ink on them:












I can’t wait to write a few letters on it and send them off. It’s quite different from a computer–there’s a particular way of striking the keys to get the letters crisp on the paper. Less forgiving, but much more tactile, than a computer. Time to get out the address book (ironically, digitally maintained).

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