18 Nov

national spinning day 2015

October 3rd it was the Dutch National Spinning Day again, also affectionately called LSD which is short for “Nationale Spin Dag”. Over 200 women and some men traveled to Conference center Mennorode with their spindles and spinning wheels to spend a day together. And yours truly was there as well for the very first time!

The national spinning day is organized annually by The Dutch National Spinning Group. The Spinning Group brings spinners in contact with one another since 1999 and also collects and provides information about spinning materials, techniques and the further processing of spun yarns.


First, I had to think about which spinning wheel I would take with me. I first thought of my beautiful Saxony wheel Noortje. But Noortje does not quite fit in my car and is somewhat temperamental to spin on. So better to go for one of my trusty castle wheels “schippertje”.

Of course, a decision also had to be made on the spinning project to bring. After some deep digging into my stash, I found these gorgeous self-carded batts: A blend of gray and blue merino, blended with tussah silk.

It’s LSD time!

Because all the fun would start around 9.00 in the morning, the alarm was put on the usual weekday schedule. After a quick breakfast, I left my husband and children to dedicate my day to everything related to spinning. Of course my schippertje first had to be secured in my car. Then I went on my way to Mennorode in Elspeet!

After having installed myself in the main conference room, I took a good look around me: So many different spinning wheels! The hall was soon completely filled, with an amazing number of spinning people together, truly a sight to behold.

After the opening, there was first a market with all kinds of spinning supplies. I had not realized that it would only be possible to use cash there. That got me in somewhat of a pickle: so many things and no means to bring it home with me! Fortunately, the reception of Mennorode was able to help me out, so I could buy the things that made my spinners heart beat a little faster.

After lunch, which was very good indeed, there were workshops for those who had subscribed. I myself just decided to socialize and spin with the other ladies. I had loads of fun and managed to get quite a bit of spinning done.

All in all a very nice National Spinning Day, I’m going again next year for sure!

04 Nov

types of spinning wheels

Types of spinning wheels - by La Visch Designs

I find spinning to be a very relaxing pastime. Do you think Queen Victoria (pictured below), also spun for relaxation? In my first post on the anatomy of spinning wheels, I told you about the various parts most spinning wheels have in common. Now that you know something about the different parts, I can also tell you about the various types of spinning wheels out there.

Mind you, this is not an exhaustive list, but rather a very rough classification based on the appearance of most common western spinning wheels. Wheels like the Indian Charkha (used to spin cotton) I left out of this overview.

Types of spinning wheels

Saxony wheel

Saxon spinning wheels are characterized by a horizontally oriented table with the wheel on one side and the spin head with the flyer on the other side. The table itself usually is placed a bit on an angle. The spinning wheel shown below is a typical example.

Types of spinning wheels

This particular wheel is indeed a very special one. Noortje (yes I have given my spinning wheel a name, a wheel with character deserves a name!) is in fact handmade by the grandfather of an acquaintance: Wim Vogel. He was a carpenter and made in the 70’s two spinning wheels in his spare time, based on plans by the Norske Husflidsforening. Noortje is one of those two wheels.

Castle wheel

This type of wheel has a vertical structure with first the table top, then the wheel and above this the flyer assembly. Because of this construction, this type of spinning wheel requires relatively little space. This was the feature that ensured that these spinning wheels were very popular with barge captain’s wives. On ships, room happens to be a scarce commodity. This is also the reason that this type of spinning wheel is in the Netherlands, also known as “schippertje.” This translates roughly to “little skipper”. Some modern castle type wheels can even be folded for compact storage or travel.

Types of spinning wheels

My schippertje picture here is Dutch-made: It was made by Jan Lobs from Oostvoorne. Lobs had in the 70’s a spinning wheel atelier where these wheels with their distinctive design were made. Being very robust, I encounter these wheels regularly on the Dutch version of Craigs List (Markplaats). I myself have two wheels of this model.

Norwegian spinning wheel

This type of wheel is very similar to the Saxony spinning wheels. Norwegian spinning wheels have usually also a big wheel, 3 to 4 legs in combination with a horizontal build-up with the flyer next to the wheel. The table is however entirely horizontally and is sometimes combined with a smaller upper table in which the flyer assembly can be found.

Types of spinning wheels

Modern spinning wheels

Besides the already mentioned types of spinning wheels, there are of course also the modern wheels. In these wheels, modern technology is combined with the traditional principles of spinning. Think for instance of foldable wheels to make them easier to carry and travel with them. Wheels fitted with modern (ball) bearings so they make for light treadling and hardly any noise. Wheels that automatically change the position of where the thread is wound on the bobbin. This is very handy because then you don’t need to stop to pass the thread through the next flight hook.

These wheels often have a very traditional look. Because of it, they usually fall in one of the aforementioned categories of the various types of spinning wheels. There are also spinning wheels with a totally different appearance. Spinning wheels made of plastic, or for example electrically powered wheels for those individuals who have less use of their legs. An overview of variations can be found in the picture below.

Types of spinning wheels

Modern spinning wheels come in so many variations, that there really is no common appearance. And that really makes it so much fun!

In a next post, I will consider the various working principles on which most spinning wheels operate. Stay tuned!

07 Oct

the anatomy of a spinning wheel


Anatomy of a spinning wheel

Spinning wheels, who doesn’t know them? Even if it is just from fairy tales like Sleeping Beauty and Rumpelstiltskin. Because of the fairy tales spinning wheels are also the best-known method to make your own yarn for knitting, crochet or weaving. Spinning wheels come in lots of different shapes, sizes and also have many different components. With this post, I want to make you a bit more familiar with the latter.

The anatomy of a spinning wheel

Due to the large differences between wheels, the various parts are sometimes shaped differently or located in a slightly different spot. The following components can, however, be found in most spinning wheels, in one form or the other. Much of the information on spinning and spinning wheels online, is in English. Being Dutch I found that a lot of information is not available in my own language. Therefore I have I included both Dutch and English in the notes below about the various parts and components.

Anatomy of a spinning wheel


A. Wheel (aandrijfwiel): The wheel that spins around and doing so puts the other parts of the spinning wheel in motion.
B. Maidens (spilsteunen): The vertical supports that hold the flyer and bobbin.
C. Mother of all (spinhoofd): The horizontal bar on which the maidens, flyer, bobbin and tension screw are attached.
D. Treadle (trapper/voetpedaal): The treadle that lets you bring the drive wheel in motion. Some spinning wheels have one treadle (single treadle wheels), other versions have two to be used with both feet (double treadle).
E. Footman (aandrijfstok): The part that connects the treadle to the drive wheel, causing it to rotate when treadling.
F. Table (tafel): This is the central component of a spinning wheel, where everything is built upon which gives a wheel its structure.
G. Plying rack (twijnrek): Raised pins that are used to place bobbins filled with spun singles on, in order to ply them together in a plied yarn. They can of course also be used to store additional bobbins when not plying.

Anatomy of a spinning wheel


H. Flyer (vlucht): U-shaped component with hooks at one or both sides of the arm of the U. The hooks are used to divide the yarn neatly over the bobbin. The flyer is rotated by the drive belt, causing rotation (twist) to insert into the wool. The fibers themselves are relatively weak but combined in this manner, they are much stronger.
I. Bobbin (spoel/klos): The bobbin is placed on the flyer spindle and rotates, along with the flyer. Here, the yarn is wound up, when sufficient twist has entered the wool.
J. Whorl (spilschijf): A pulley which is placed on the spindle, is connected with the flyer, and is driven by the drive belt. The different dimensions of the grooves in the whorl determine how fast the wheel is spinning and have an important impact on the ratio of the spinning wheel. With ratio is meant how many times the flyer goes around with one turn of the wheel. The higher the number, the faster the wheel spins.
K. Drive belt (aandrijfsnaar): A cord placed around the wheel and whorl, which thus transfers the rotation of the wheel onto the other parts of the wheel. Modern spinning wheels typically have a flexible plastic drive belt, I use hemp packaging twine on mine.
L. Tension screw (stelschroef): This part is used to put tension on the drive belt by moving the Mother of All.
M. Orifice (spingat): The opening at the end of the flyer spindle, where the wool goes through before it is wound through the flyer hooks onto the bobbin.

In this post, I’ll tell you about the various types of spinning wheels.

23 Aug

tour de fleece 2015

Cycling enthusiast or not, many people will be aware of the Tour de France in the Summer months. Especially the festive start in Utrecht this year, the Grand Départ, has brought many Dutch people to active cheering. What is less known is that at the same time with the Tour de France another international event takes place: The Tour de Fleece, abbreviated TdF.

What is the Tour de Fleece?

The idea is simple, for the duration of the Tour de France spinners from all over the world get together both online and offline to spin wool and other fibers into yarn. Cyclists have their wheels spinning in the round and we let our spinning wheels and spindles spin. It is actually more of a “Spin-Along” then a competition in which experiences and results can be shared. There are no hard and fast rules, the main thing is to challenge yourself and have fun!

Just like the Tour de France participants of the Tour de Fleece are organized into teams. There are several “official” teams that stay connected through the Tour de Fleece group on Ravelry. There are also a lot of “wildcard” teams that share experiences and progress in other groups. I myself join Team Karma, from the Karma Swap the Dutch group on Ravelry.


For me, this was the first time to join the TdF, which of course makes it extra special. I have not set myself targets of the type of “spinning x meters” or trying out specific techniques. That’s largely because spinning is for me pure hobby. Knitting and crochet I usually do for my own designs and patterns. So if I want to do something different, which is also finished fairly quickly, then I go spin myself some yarn. Making yarn for me is much faster than knitting it!

During this TdF I have therefore only set the target to just spin than usual and enjoy the social element. Not just online but also offline. For Team Karma we got together for a kick-off spin-in in the backyard of one of the ladies. It was very relaxing and fun!

The photos show what I’ve made ​ during this Tour de Fleece. A lot less than other folks, but I sure had fun. Next year I’m certain to participate again!

26 Apr

tutorial: dyeing wool

Dyeing wool

Being a spinner, I not only have lots of lovely top and roving in my fiber stash, but also quite a few whole fleeces. A whole sheep worth of wool can get a bit boring color-wise. So, now with Easter all done, it is time to put that leftover Easter egg dye to good use and start dyeing wool!

Easter egg dye and other food coloring are perfectly suited to dye protein-based fibers and yarns. Wool, alpaca, and silk are lovely to dye yourself. These dyes, however, can’t be used to permanently dye acrylics and plant-based fibers like cotton.

Supplies needed

  • Wool or yarn: I’m using some lovely Lleyn wool, that I already scoured last year. If dyeing or over-dyeing yarn, make sure to skein the yarn if you have it in a ball put-up. Remember to tie the skein with some pieces of cotton or acrylic to make sure your wool won’t tangle beyond rescue.
  • Easter egg dye or other food colorings
  • Vinegar to change pH value and improve the dye take up by the wool
  • Non-aluminum pot and spoon

Let’s get started!

1. Fill the pot with hot water from the tap, add some glugs of vinegar (I know, very scientific this way) and put in the wool to pre-soak. Leave it like that for 10 to 15 minutes.

Dyeing wool - a tutorial by La Visch Designs

2. While waiting I made myself a cappuccino and pondered what colors to use. I decided to use red and blue to hopefully end up with purple.

Dyeing wool

3. Added the dye to the pot and put it on the stove until the water had reached a slow simmer. Then I put the fire out and let it be. Do not let it come to a rolling boil and don’t stir a lot or vigorously, we don’t want to felt our wool!

Dyeing wool

4. Checking the progress, you can see that the red dye has disappeared completely from the water. There is however still a lot of blue in the water and not in the wool.

Dyeing wool

5. A couple of hours later I’m satisfied with how much dye has been taken up by the wool. Other colors may need less time. Now it is time for a rinse. I have filled the sink with hot water and gently swooshed the wool around int it, to rinse out any leftover dye. Only use cold water, if your wool is also completely cooled down. Rapid cool-down can also cause felting. Therefore I always use hot water for rinsing, just to be sure I don’t accidentally felt my wool.

Dyeing wool

6. Then it is time to remove all the excess water from the wool. After a gentle squeeze, I use my dedicated salad spinner for this. You can, of course, also use a stand-alone spin dryer. When using the one in your washing machine, make sure it does not automatically involve rinsing as well, because that may again cause felting.

Dyeing wool

And there you have it: a nice crate full of purple wool! Dyeing wool is pretty fun, isn’t it? When completely dry I had even more fun carding the wool into batts for spinning, read all about it here.

Dyeing wool