seed to sail, Uncategorized

In the words of Inigo Montoya,

I hate waiting.

From The Princess Bride


I especially hate waiting when I’ve planted older seed and those seeds have a 7-10 day germination period. What if the seed was too old? What if they don’t sprout?

How can I have old seed? I collected the seed from the 2019 planting, didn’t I? Yes. Then I lost it.

I’d love to blame it on COVID, but that wouldn’t be fair. In 2020, I moved my studio three times. In January, we became a multigenerational household. Then Bob began working from home. Then a building materials shortage pushed back our addition plans. It all sounds very COVID related. Really, it’s more that I am organizationally challenged.

Pre-room shuffling, I had fiber stuff somewhat sorted into bins that slide into those wonderful cube shelves- and on racks in the studio- and hanging in mesh bags from the ceiling- and stashed in tubs in the dyeing room. Now, I have fiber stuff spread in poorly labeled boxes and tubs tucked under beds, on book shelves, under tables, and in one room, stacked side to side, floor to ceiling along a wall. You’ve got to *really* want something to mess with that!

In late 2018, I bought seed from the very nice folks at the Landis Valley Museum in Pennsylvania. They imported seed from Holland, and it grows some lovely flax. From those lovely seeds, I grew flax and saved about 1/2 pound of seeds from the plants. I have no idea where it went. If it ended up in the garage, then it may have fed some field mice over the winter. All I know is that there’s no way I’m unstacking a gazillion bins to find the old seed. OK, I unstacked half a gazillion bins, as well as a bunch of boxes and some mislabeled tubs. Thankfully, I stumbled across a bag of leftover 2018 seed in my computer table drawer. A natural place for storing seed (?). I can’t think why I didn’t check there first.

Truthfully, planting flax was not in my plans for this year. It felt like a long term commitment in an uncertain time. So we turned the gardens and prepped for vegetables. And I talked about flax. And not planting flax. And about sails and seeds and not planting flax. Did you know that over several hundred years, the size of linen panels for sails decreased from 48″ to 18-24″ panels? And the seams decreased from 1 1/2″ to 1″. The standard sailcloth bolt length was 38-39 yards long! And, in the early days of the spinning wheel, people didn’t trust flyer spun yarn, so the “better” cloth was made from spindle spun. I collected flax facts, sail plans, and started learning to weave. Meanwhile, Bob quietly started a new fenceline garden. We live on an old gravel mound, so starting a garden involves pick axes, carrying in soil, and some creative language.

Have I mentioned Bob’s uncanny ability to see into the future? Eventually, I asked how many tomatoes does one household really need? He pointed to the new bed and said, about that many. Which left me with an 8 x 8 garden box ready for flax. He’s a keeper.

Where was I? Yes, planting old seed. I live near the southeast corner of Lake Ontario in Zone 5a. Our growing/retting seasons are fine as long as I don’t dally.

Our new tomato garden. That’s my solar oven way in the back.

I planted in the morning on a day forecast for light rain. Somewhere along the line, I read or heard about mixing seed with flour to make it easier to sow. This worked out well for me in 2019, so I did the same thing again.

By 1 pm, we had a frontline come through with 50 mph winds and 1/2″ of rainfall in 20ish minutes. Behind that was 3 days of 45F nights and 50-60ish days. Flax doesn’t mind the cold, so at some point, if the seeds are going to sprout, they will. Right? Sure, it will. If I say it enough, it will become true- right?

Just after planting, I joined Berta’s Flax group- more about this fabulous project in a later post. In the group, I saw pictures of flax planted in rows. Beautiful, orderly rows of flax growing straight and tall. From what I had read, flax needs support from the side and likes wider beds. Obviously, no one told the plants this. I have orderly flax envy. If I need to reseed, I’m making pretty rows!

2019 Flax crop after a summer storm

For now, I’ll pace and stare at the seeds trying to decide if they look like they’ve swollen at all. Staring and mentally willing seed to sprout is a tried and true gardening technique. I do it every time I plant seeds, and ta-da! seedlings appear!

In case my mental mojo falls through, I’m going to order more seed. Best/worst case, I’ll use it for next year- because apparently I enjoy worrying about old seed.

2019 seed while winnowing
Uncategorized

There and Back Again: Mirkwood Gandalf Spindle Review

I’m a Tolkien lover.  I wrote my first Hobbit fanfiction at age 8, though it was less fanfic than a chance for my mother to explain about plagarism.

When I learned about Mirkwood Arts spindles, I had to try one.  But, I was scared of the crown.  There’s an option for a more traditional tapered tip, but the crown is a big part of the design- & more importantly IT HAS A CROWN!

or to quote Amy Farrah Fowler from the Big Band Theory  “I’m a princess, and this is my tiara!”

Here’s a little video of the spindle in action with a 50/50 merino silk blend.

The Ordering:
The etsy listing is clear and easy to understand.  Selecting the gem color did lead to some paralysis because Grey for Gandalf the Grey?  White for Gandalf the White?  Green for the Shire?  Fire Red for the Peter Jackson “Fly, you fools” Balrog scene in the movie which almost made up for the roller coaster through the mines scene?  I spent way too much time waffling.  In the end, I went for luminous green which had the white sparkle for Gandalf the White and the green tones for the shire.

To say that I had unreasonable expectations for this spindle is an understatement.

The Wait: 
This was a custom spindle, and the expected fulfillment time was 1 month.  At 4 weeks, I was getting excited, so I emailed to see where I stood in the queue. Instead of the email I deserved (hey, lady, at least wait for the month to be up to contact me)  I got a very friendly email letting me know it was just about ready to go.  A few days later, I had the spindle in hand.  There was a minor mix up in which I received the plying version of the spindle.  This gave me a chance to see excellent customer service in action.  The maker sent the replacement within a few days.  I sent the one I had back and received an immediate refund for the shipping.  Overall, the entire ordering and receiving experience was excellent.

The Specs:
Whorl: Black Walnut
Shaft: Maple
Crown: luminous green gem
Weight 39.2g
Height: 10 3/4″
Ball bearing tip

The Crown:
The crown is a lightly flared area at the top of the shaft that holds a crystal gem.  I was concerned that the crown would make the drafting a bit clunky.  It doesn’t.  The angle of the flare is the same as the angle I hold for drafting, so it all comes together nicely!  (yay for good design!)

The Flicking Area:
Where do you flick if it has a crown?  I was worried, but I didn’t need to be.  Below the crown, right where I would usually flick, is a lovely narrow space that is just the right size for flicking.  I expected there would be an adjustment period, but there wasn’t.  It flicks just like any other support spindle. I do wrap the secondary cop a bit lower than I usually do, but that was a non-event.  It also spins nicely without the secondary cop.

The Spin:
The ball bearing is very efficient.  So efficient that I needed to back off the flick a bit.  (watch me overflick in the video!) The spindle has beautiful balance as long as I don’t overpower it.  And it spins and spins and spins!

The Support Bowl:
I used it with a maple spinning bowl, and it matched up beautifully.  Most of my bowls & supports tend to be wood, so that’s a good thing for me. I also tested it on a table with no bowl.  A placemat on the the table with no bowl.  A china cereal bowl.  A glass spinning bowl.  A Corian bowl.  It was fine on all of them, but the wooden bowl- or the tabletop- seemed to match my spinning style best.  My super low friction bowls are cupped to send the spindle back to the center, and I needed to be careful not to overflick on those and get that loft/annoying click from overpowering/lifting the spindle.   I could see that the spindle could walk if overflicked or held offcenter on a flat, low-friction surface.

The Cop: 
The spindle has a ridge partway up the shaft which makes an excellent space to start a cop.  I tend to build football cops, so the placement of the ridge is exactly where I need it.  The shaft is smoothly finished but not slick. The cop stays in place even with the 50% silk blend.

The Aesthetics, Presence, and Hand feel:
Aesthetics is a huge part of spindle selection for me.  I’m going to spend hundreds of hours with a spindle, so I like to feel a connection to the design.

This is a gorgeous spindle- esp. when it is in motion.  The light reflects off of the gem.  While spinning, the shape and color of the whorl contrast nicely with the lighter shaft and make a nice dark background for the cop.  The wood is nicely finished so that it feels warm and smooth to the hand without being slippery.  It’s a friendly spindle that makes me feel like spinning by a campfire.  It’s beautiful without being fussy.  I suspect it’s a workhorse in disguise because yarn appears very quickly without hand fatigue or frustration.   It’s all there-  form, function, and a little bit of treasure!