New use for firewood and a coathanger
My crafting in the last week has been more at the hard end of the spectrum than needlecrafts. First, I made a stand for my soldering iron because I was sick of trying to make it stand up with a bulldog clip. It was only a matter of time before I burnt the kitchen worksurface, something had to be done. I had a look in Maplins and wasn’t impressed by the quality of their soldering iron stand that costs, I think, £8. So, on a rare sunny day I decamped to the garden (aka my workshop) and took the mitre saw to a block of hardwood I’ve had lying around since I rescued it from my brother’s logbasket. Someone near him is selling offcuts from a window frame manufacturer as firewood and honestly, many of the pieces are far too good to be burnt. But I digress.
Having cut a suitable length of wood, I measured the diameter of both the business end of the soldering iron and its handle and then looked around for something with an intermediate diameter. A cooking spoon was perfect, and it even had a hole in the end to anchor the wire. I just used a coathanger for the wire, bashing it flat with a mallet before wrapping it around the spoon handle. It took all of my strength and I was glad I hadn’t picked a beefier coathanger.
Then I needed to make a hole to take a little dish to hold a damp sponge. We only have one Forstner bit – they’re expensive, and it was bought to fit the hinges into the kitchen cupboards. I searched the house for something of the same size as the bit that would serve as a dish and eventually discovered that the lid of a 35mm film canister was a good fit.
I bent the base of the coil to the right shape, trimmed the excess wire and filed off the sharp edges, then screwed it into a pre-drilled hole. For the sponge, I cut a circle from a washing-up sponge.
The finished stand does the job perfectly. It looks good after a coat of linseed oil, and I can’t tell you how much easier it makes a soldering task.
Drills that may become a spinning machine
Another success has been an advancement in my plan to make an electric spinning wheel similar to the Electric Eel Wheel. I decided a while ago that trying to source all the components in the UK was going to be too difficult – it is US-designed – and I might do better to put together my own design from readily available parts. Playing around with a cordless drill seemed a good place to start, seeing as they come with a DC motor, power supply, switch, gearbox and other useful components that could be repurposed. After asking around, a friend-of-a-friend told me he had three old drills in his garage looking for a new home. He makes heavy use of his power tools and, when the batteries fail (as they all do, eventually), he buys a new one because it costs little more than a replacement battery. As a result, I am now the proud owner of three cordless drills that I can experiment with.
I started by stripping an 18V model. As usual, finding all the screws was the hardest part of the task – why do manufacturers go to so much trouble to hide them? Once I was in, I found: a cheap (but hopefully still serviceable) Chinese motor; a trigger switch / controller which I’m guessing contains a pulsed width modulation circuit; a neat planetary gearbox; and a clutch mechanism to protect the motor from excessive torque. I can’t see why this lot couldn’t have a second life as a spinning machine. I reckon I’ll need a different power supply because the one supplied for battery charging is only rated at 400 mA and I’m guessing that the motor will pull a lot more than that, although spinning shouldn’t be as power-hungry as masonry drilling. But I’m conscious that I know next to nothing about spinning, and it’s perfectly possibly that I’ll blow a few motors, power supplies and other components in finding out. I have 3 drills to play with though, which didn’t cost me a penny, so I can afford to experiment. Now all I need is some warmer weather because for some reason my dear husband has banned me from doing such experiments in the house.
Local yarn shop move
Knitting-wise, I paid a visit to the new Baa Ram Ewe shop with a couple of friends shortly after it opened. The Chapel Allerton shop is larger than the one it has replaced in Headingley and it even has a small café area. I resisted buying anything, although my companions weren’t so restrained and a few skeins of the lovely Titus yarn came home with us.
I’ve finished the first sleeve of the Natalie sweater. I was thinking of joining the shoulder seams and knitting the neckband next, but then came the realisation that I have already washed the grease out of the back and blocked it, whereas the front is in its greasy, unwashed state. I can’t see that I could have done anything else, because I needed to know that the fabric of the back looked alright and that it was the right size before I embarked on the front, but I hadn’t considered the difficulty that presents for the neckband. I’ll obviously have to wash and block the front first, but I can’t sew up the shoulders and knit the neckband with unwashed yarn, can I? I’m assuming the tension will be all wrong if I do.
My plan is to work out how much yarn I need for the sewing-up and the neckband, take it off the cone and skein it, and then scour it when I wash the front and sleeves. At least then I will be knitting a neckband onto a fluffy, clean jumper using similarly fluffy, clean yarn. I must remember to measure 10m of yarn off the cone while I’m knitting sleeve no. 2 and then count the number of stitches I get from it.