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Pretty Wooden Things

I passed my second 4th decade birthday uneventfully, but happily.  A small collection of thoughtful and lovely things joined my life.  Most supported my continuing love affairs with making coffee and making cookies.  There were a few things that I thought merited special comment on my blog.

The beautiful little bowls you see were hand-turned by my dad.  The inner one is walnut, the outer is cherry.  He created the dark edge on the cherry bowl with a burning technique.  Both have a beeswax finish, so they could easily be used for food, but I've decided to use them on my dresser where I will see them more often and where I will be able to touch them every day when I take off my jewelry.  One thing that is hard to convey in a picture is how smooth these bowls are.  Almost soft.  I hope I was able to capture some of their radiant quality in my picture.  The walnut bowl in particular has a deep, luminous glow.

The needles come from from a set of Darn Pretty 6" double points in the "Winter Sky" color pattern and were a gift from my beautiful little girl who is all about having socks knit for her.  These needles are as a much a joy to look at as they are to knit with.  In honor of the giver, I have cast on the first pair of socks employing a set of them for her.  She's quite enthusiastic about the potential for new socks and has been almost ecstatic when I've asked her to take off her sock so we can size them as we go.  Knitting with these needles has started to build in me an unholy desire to get  set of their interchangeable circulars.  Dyak Craft needles are hand turned and feel to me like the perfect spiritual complement to a beautiful hand made garment

Other than that, it is all good, but very busy.  Between a busy three year old and a job with an aggressive time table, I haven't been able to take as much advantage of the knitting mojo I have as I would like.  But I have managed to build my elliptical time back into my routine, so it's all good after I accept the reality of the limitations of a 24 hour day and the need for a reasonable amount of sleep.  

WPI Tools

An Assortment of Hand Turned WPI Tools

It's always nice to visit my parents in Ann Arbor. I get to check out what's going on in my mother's sewing room and I get to see what's going on in my dad's workshop as well. Dad, whose spinning just keeps getting better and better, has been inspired to create some spinning related tools. In the picture above are 4 wraps per inch tools that he turned using his lathe and some exotic woods that had been cut for pen blanks, but which work equally well for his purpose.

WPI Tool In Action*

For those of you who aren't familiar with these tools, they are actually quite useful for knitters as well as spinners. You take your yarn and wrap the yarn around the tool between the gauge lines and measure how many wraps fit in an inch (for bulkier yarns or yarns that do not have a regular diameter, you might measure how many wraps are in two or more inches and divide as appropriate). This measurement tells you a couple of things: first, WPI can give you an estimate of the size of your yarn. For instance, yarns in the 21-17 WPI range often are considered sock weight yarns. You can also use this tool to determine if a yarn will easily substitute for another yarn. For instance, let's say you've got a pattern that calls for a yarn that, when measured, gives you 12 WPI. However, that yarn is wool, and you're allergic to wool and you want to substitute a cotton yarn. All you need to do to determine if you're likely to get gauge with that cotton yarn that you have in your stash is to take it out and measure the WPI. If it's close to 12 WPI, it's going to be a decent possible substitute (at least when it comes to gauge, WPI definitely can't tell you about elasticity or memory or other similar qualities which help factor into making a substitution decision).

* The yarn shown here is one of my dad's hand spun and plied yarns from his first stash of BFL. It's beautifully soft and lofty and I love the irregular quality of it. He's done a three ply as well and is spinning some blue corriedale fiber that is going to be absolutely gorgeous when he plies it up.

Prototype Kate


A short post today... a nice weekend with my parents marred only by the fact that my poor husband has been pretty miserably sick. But dad did bring me some spinning inspiration.

Prototype Lazy Kate

Dad and I have been talking a bit about spinning tools. One of the things I have complained about the most is not having a Lazy Kate that I really liked. Dad, who has just gotten to the point in his own spinnign where he needs to ply things, decided to take on the challenge. This weekend he brought me a proto-type to test out. Pretty neat, eh? Dad figured out a clever way to make the tensioning easy and adjustable, and how pretty is that walnut with the oak base and the brass pins? It's also quite solid and has enough weight that it wouldn't slide around easily.

Sadly enough, I have not been spinning all that much, so I had no way to test it out this weekend. But it has given me motivation to get back to a project that would give it a real work out: spinning the rest of my moorit CVM. I spent a little time doing that Sunday afternoon and was reminded why CVM is such a nice fiber to spin, even if it isn't dyed exotic colors.

Walnut Rocker


Sometimes Christmas brings with it more surprises than I expect. Not only did we have weather here in Chicago that was practically tropical, guess what my Dad brought for me this Christmas?

Walnut Rocking Chair, Front Facing

This chair is truly a work of art. It's made almost completely out of walnut (a wood that works well in my house) with some light wood accents. During the early summer, Dad and I went to a lumber yard that specializes in beautiful wood and we selected most of the boards he would use. He also went and found some additional walnut so that the seat of the rocker could be more dramatic.

Walnut Rocking Chair, Side Facing

The side profile shows off some the detail work on the runners and how the back slats curve to provide the perfect back support. Dad's rocking chairs are sized to match the person who will be using them. In this case, John is lucky that when it comes to leg length, he and I are not too far apart (even though he's about 6" taller than I am).

If you'd like to see a few more details of the chair, just click on one of the thumbnails below for some closeups.

20070102_RockingChairHead.jpg 20070102_RockingChairSeat.jpg 20070102_RockingChairArms.jpg
Rocking Chair Detail Thumbnails -- Click to Enlarge

I think it's so amazing what my dad can do with his tools. The seat on the chair is essentially hand carved using an orbital sander. All the joins are smoothed and shaped mostly by hand. It is entirely fair to say that dad sculpted much of this chair out of wood. I think the result is extraordinary. This chair has definitely become one of my most treasured possessions and will definitely have a special place in my heart and my home.

Clearly a chair this lovely is going to require a complementary handknit afghan, don't you think? I've been thinking that it might be time to get out my AbFab kit this winter. What would be better than knitting and rocking?

I got so many comments Friday on my sock yarn. Thank you all for being so encouraging and positive. With Thanksgiving coming up and a bunch of things at home and at work to take care of, I'm not sure I'll get the chance to email very many people personally, so I did want to express my appreciation on the blog. Thank you so much.

Today I have my dad's first guest entry. It's not about knitting, but it is about an extraordinary "FO". Rather than just post a picture, I thought I would ask my dad to tell its story in his own words. I hope even if you only show up here for the knitting, that you'll at least scroll down to see the completed item. It's extraordinary and truly a beautiful thing.

I'd like to start the rocking chair story by fat fingering or attempting to paraphrase a statement from the book I'm currently "reading". The book is The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. A excellent book by the way. The phrase is.... the beginning of an auto biography ( building a rocking chair) doesn't start at the birth of the individual in question (buying wood) but at ...... There is much more to the statement but that is as far as I can go with it. The rocker story really starts in 1987 when Bobbi and I are starting to build our house and I mean build our house. We started the build in October of 87 with a foundation in the ground and the purchase of a trailer so that we could live and work on site 24 7. From that moment until completion (???.... completion defined as a home occupancy permit because I'm still working on the house) Bobbi and I worked every day after work until 11 or 12 at night and on weekends from 8 am to 10 pm. This routine went on without interuption until the home occupancy permit was issued 10 months later in July of 88. In May of 88 I was phyically and emotionally running on empty. It is at this time the Keyboard Biologist returns from college. She saw the state of affairs instantly and said "I can't live in this trailer we are going to move into the new house now!" and we did move in that very day never to go back to the trailer. The energy and spirit she brought re energized and motivated Bobbi and I to complete the project and you know what she is still providing that motivatonal service today. Thank you T. So when I was in a bit of the dull drums during the early part of my retirement I heard that familar voice say " I would like a special rocking chair" and the fire was lit again. But now I hear the other significant female voice in my life say "why don't you make the first rocking chair for me so that you can debug the process for T's chair ?". So now the building of the rocking chair story can begin. I went on the internet and finally found the right rocker to build. Hal Taylor builds this rockers for a living and also teaches others how to build them. If you would like to see some of his rockers you can go to his website.

The project begins with the wood. Cherry is the wood of choice for the first chair. Well actually it was the only choice at the time because the mill only had cherry in the thickness appropriate for the rocker but as you can see by the following pic it wasn't a bad choice.


The next and perhaps the most significant step is laying out the pieces to take best advantage of the grain and general characteristics of the wood. Since the head board and seat are the two pieces which catch your eye first they get first choice of grain patterns. This effort can be seen in the next pic of the seat and head board wood before any gluing or shaping is done.


This same process is done with all the other parts which are the arms, legs, and rockers. The rockers are the lowest priority bescause they are made of laminations so only the very top of the rocker is visible. Once you've made your best shot at this effort the next step is to start machining the various parts of the rocker. The following pic shows the seat with the leg joints machined in.


The next pic shows the seat with the roughed out legs fit into the seat but not glued yet. The joining of the legs to the seat is the most sophisticated part of the wood working in this project but not the biggiest part of the project. I did not appreciate this but the lion share of work on this chair isn't the joinery but the shaping of the wood through grinding, filing, planning, carving, and sanding.


Speaking of shaping the wood the next pic shows the amount of sawdust I had on the table next to where I ground out the seat shape. (disclaimer) Whenever I do any of this type of work I wear a dust mask and I have a powered air filtering machines filtering the workshop air because in most cases when I am working in the shop my fathful companion Ufer is resting on his bed just 10 feet away. I can't get the Rottweiler to wear a dust mask though.


Moving on the next pic shows the previous image but with the somewhat shaped arms. The arms still have to be chamfered and sanded yet but you can get a sense of the grain with respect to the seat.


The last pic before the finished chair pics is of the seat, legs, and head board. At this point the legs are glued to the seat but the head board is just fit into its position. One of the techniques of this project is to do all of the shaping before a part is attached to another part. In this pic the head board fits the opening but does not have its finished shape yet. Once the part is fit then it is disassembled, shaped, and is given a semi final sand.


Once all parts are shaped and sanded then they are glued together. Then the whole chair is sanded with a 320 grit, a 500 grit, and finally a 1000 grit sand. After the 1000 sand the wood has a glossy look which appears like it has already been finished. The next pic is the finished chair as viewed from the chair's left.


The next pics are of the head board, then a top view, then a front view, and the last pic is of the joint of the front right leg to the seat.





That is what the finished chair looks like and Bobbi tells me it feel very good, rocks real nice, and it would be very appropriate for................... oops but that is another story. Since T and I already picked out the walnut wood for her chair that project will begin right after the Thanksgiving holiday. If there is any interest I can give progress reports.

There will certainly be some interest from me in hearing more about his chairs! Dad and I are also thinking about developing a special spinning chair. More on that as it progresses, as well!


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