I’m knitting a summer jumper in fine linen yarn, in the round. It’s going slowly and, frankly, it’s rather boring: 224 stitches per round and all of them knit. And the worst of it is, I have to knit several more inches (at about 10 rows per inch) with no shaping or other excitement before I reach the armhole and can stop and do the sleeves.
Apart from the dullness of all this plain stocking stitch, I have been suffering the annoyance of having all the yarn on a cylindrical package that is too heavy to unwind easily. Not being a cone, it won’t pull readily from the top, and even if it did I’d be wary that I was putting extra twist into the yarn and would end up with an askew sweater. (TECHknitting has written an interesting and illuminative post explaining how pulling from the centre or the outside of a package – whether a ball, a cone or a cylinder like mine – introduces twist. The way to avoid it is to pull from the outside while rotating the package.) I’ve been knitting with the cylinder of yarn lying on its side next to me on the sofa, and I have to give a hefty tug every so often to pull some more yarn free. I’m afraid I might break the yarn because it’s so fine – 2-ply / laceweight at a guess – so I’ve been using two hands to do it, one to pull and the other to help the package to rotate, a process which doesn’t half interrupt the rhythm of knitting. What I need is a gadget to take the weight of this 1 lb package and allow it to spin freely when I pull on the end. In other words, a sort of lazy Susan/Kate.
I don’t think it’s strictly correct to call a one-package yarn delivery system a lazy Kate – don’t they have multiple spindles to allow spinners to ply two or three yarns together? But whatever the name, I’ve been meaning to make one for some time now. I even bought some fidget spinner bearings with that in mind (as well as a few other projects) last year. Necessity, as they say, is the mother of invention, so today I have made a start on my lazy Whoever.
I chose a piece of oak for the base. I bought it on a whim from the late-lamented Boddy’s of Boroughbridge for the princely sum of £1.44. I thought it was American oak when I posted on the bearings, but it turns out it’s European.
The oak plank was about 6” wide so I cut a 6” square from it. I am absolutely hopeless at cutting wood straight unless I’m using an electric jigsaw that I can run along a straight edge or I use a mitre box with a hand saw. I couldn’t find any suitable blades for the jigsaw, which meant it had to be the mitre saw.
Then the difficult part. I want a base that’s basically round, but with one corner for a yarn guide in case it’s needed for certain types of package. As I can’t cut straight without a guide, there was no way I was going to be able to cut a teardrop shape by hand. And in any case, this oak is like iron, it took me forever just to make the single cut to make a square. (If forever is about an hour.) It was time to master the router.
My dear husband bought our router 15 years ago when we renewed the bathroom with bamboo flooring and panelling and needed something that would put fancy rounded edges on the shelves, skirtings, etc. He made a good job of it but found the powerful router rather scary to use and hasn’t touched it since. I got out the instruction manual and spent quite some time studying it and familiarising myself with all the knobs and controls before I dared put in a bit and try routing a piece of scrap timber. Then I practised using the device that allows the router to cut perfect circles. It took a lot of experimentation to find out the optimum combination of rotation speed, depth of cut and speed of cut – cut too deep or move the router through the wood too fast and the wood splinters resulting in a ragged cut, but moving too slowly means the bit overheats and scorches the wood.
After several practice runs, first on softwood and then on the unwanted corners of the oak square, I routed for real, cutting three quarters of the way round the circle a few millimetres deep at a time. Then I tidied up the fourth corner before fitting a round-over bit and going all the way round the edge of the teardrop shape to put a curve on it. I haven’t done it perfectly by any means, but I think it will look all right once I’ve sanded it and given it a polish.
I’ve drilled out a hole in which to sink a bearing, and I have a length of dowel that fits neatly into the centre hole of the bearing. A platform of some sort needs to sit on the dowel, to hold the cone or ball. I’d have liked to use oak again for the platform, but a 6” diameter circle is about as small as it’s possible to go with the router. Instead, I had a look in our log pile and rescued a length of branch which looks like it might be from a beech tree we pruned the winter before last. I cut a slice from it, leaving the bark on – “live edge” tables and shelves seem to be all the rage nowadays, so why not a live edge lazy Kate? It will do until I find something better.
As of Sunday evening, after working on this all afternoon, I’m pretty much there. Just the sanding, finishing and assembly still to do. I’m really looking forward to being able to sit this on the table in front of me and just give a gentle pull when I want to unwind some yarn.