Monthly Archives: September 2014

Meet the Mazurka

Among the work, and the starting school, and the work, and the preschool stuff, and the work…

I got a new wheel.

But you just SOLD one! I hear some of you cry. Yes, I did. I sold the Baynes castle wheel I got in May 2013 to Cats this past Easter. And then I discovered that I really missed having a small upright I could move around with me. This was painfully obvious in August when I had the kids home full-time and had to be downstairs with Owlet if she was watching a movie and Sparky didn’t want to. I have to be doing something with my hands, apparently, and knitting doesn’t fully work in that respect because I need undivided attention to knit. And this summer also demonstrated to me that spindles are nice, but frustrating in their slowness and their physical requirements. (I’m looking into supported spindles to combat that latter issue; we’ll see what happens.)

This summer my fellow spinners and I in the Kromski group at Ravelry got into discussing the very first spinning wheel produced by Kromski, pre-1999. We tend to call it the Mazurka prototype, because the design was overhauled and then presented as their first mass-production spinning wheel, the Mazurka. It’s a single-treadle, double-drive castle wheel. The prototype has a different flyer and bobbin, but it’s fully operational. You just can’t use the modern bobbins. (FWIW, the redesigned Mazurka was retired in 2011 and is out of production.)

We were trying to problem solve for a spinner who owned one, and whose flyer had broken in two. Now, it’s not generally a good idea to repair a broken flyer; a repaired wooden unit revolving at high speed under tension runs the risk of becoming a dangerous high-speed projectile (with pointy hooks made from nails sticking out!). We started trying to figure out the differences between the old and the new Mazurkas, and got measurements of the new flyers, trying to figure out if they’d fit on the prototype’s mother-of-all (for reference, if you’re a collector looking to upgrade your prototype: they won’t fit at all; the new flyers are almost two inches longer than the prototype’s flyer, and the clearance between the shaft and the arms is different, too. Also, modern whorls won’t fit because the threaded part on the prototype’s shaft is too short to allow the modern double whorls to screw fully on. You’re welcome.) And as we asked questions of one another, someone in the Netherlands popped up and said she had a prototype, and didn’t use it; she was willing to sell it, and at a ridiculously low price.

Well, yes, of course I was interested. I gave someone in the UK first rights of refusal, and then started negotiating. We were both busy, and I was waiting on one of the freelance cheques for a crazy project I’d done in late spring. She was worried I’d balk at the cost of shipping, but as others in the group agreed, her price for the wheel was so low that even taking international shipping of a spinning-wheel-shaped object into account, it was an awesome deal.

So then my cheque was late, and the safest and cheapest way to pay her was by bank transfer so I did an international money transfer via my bank to her bank, and then there was no news about the transfer resolving at the other end, and there were health issues… but it all worked out. Then I got to track my parcel from NL to CAN, which was very exciting. And then, a day or two before I expected it, my friendly parcel guy rang my doorbell at ten in the morning and gave me this:

I couldn’t let myself open it right away, because I had so much work to do that day! I let myself open it half an hour before I had to go get the kids. So I unpacked and assembled it into this:

The first couple of days were frustrating. A couple of the hooks are a bit rough and the single would break on them. It only runs in double drive, and the difference in circumference between the bobbin groove and the whorl/pulley isn’t very big, so the take-up/draw-in wasn’t as strong as I like for the spinning I do. On a double-drive wheel, that’s adjusted via raising or lowering the entire MOA assembly to put more tension on the doubled drive band, and even moving it incrementally I couldn’t get a setting I liked. I rigged a weighted line scotch brake to run over the bobbin groove to spin in single drive/scotch tension, but even that ended up being frustrating. I finally changed the drive band from the fuzzy hemp to the nice waxed cotton I bought to replace the drive band on my Symphony, and everything clicked.

She doesn’t have a maker’s mark, which is a bit disappointing, but not unexpected; in the five-ish wheels from our discussion board sample, only one does. She has a distaff, which is exciting; I’ve never had a wheel with a distaff before. I was excited for one afternoon, after which I took it off, since it was in the way of replacing drive and brake bands and going up and down stairs with it. And it’s so light! I can carry it around with a couple of fingers of one hand! The Baynes was much heavier.

Now, having been deep in discussion about other people’s Mazurka prototypes, I was already in the right headspace to carry on thinking about updating this one so that I could switch bobbins between the two Kromski wheels. HRH took a good look at the mother of all, and comparing my modern flyer from the Symphony with it, we could see that it would be too short. So I’ve ordered a modern unfinished flyer and front maiden, and HRH is working on a cap for the current MOA to extend it. It would be difficult to replace it entirely, because the MOA has a threaded hole at the back for the wooden tension screw that raises or lowers it. Reproducing that threaded wooden hole to match the screw would be harder to do, and HRH doesn’t have the tools to do it. And since it will accept the new double flyer whorls, I can use my extra Symphony ones. I’ll put in some eye hooks for a proper scotch tension brake, too.

She is quite charming, and I like her very much, even before the upgrade. I’m currently spinning dark green Corriedale top on her to make a worsted yarn to knit Sparky a Link hat.

Owlet: 37 Months Old!

Owlet has decided that all dresses and long skirts are called ‘ballets.’ “I like your ballet!” she says to anyone in a dress. “Noooo, I want to wear my butterfly ballet!” she says when we offer her any of her dresses. (The butterfly ballet is actually this dress with flowers on it. Preschooler language; you learn it or you die.)

Her favourite books are Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies and William Mayne’s The Patchwork Cat. Her favourite movie is now Despicable Me 2, or “minions” in preschooler-speak.

She has just begun her four days a week at preschool, after a month off. For the past couple of weeks she’s been having two play dates there per week, arriving after snack and playing till lunch, participating in circle time and some games. There was water play on the really nice days. It got to a point where the kids would see us through the windows as we were walking up, and start shouting that “Bee” was here, with great excitement. (Apparently that nickname arises spontaneously elsewhere, which is amusing because it’s one of our little nicknames for her within the family, too.) The play date time was open to all the kids and mums who were going to be merging into the big daycare, but Owlet was the only one who made it to all four. (The educator tells me that Owlet had the least trouble merging into the routine in the first week, and credits her attendance at the play dates for it.) I sat with whatever mum had come with her kid that day and watched everyone play. It was hard but interesting to watch her be shy, to try to fit herself into the games being played by children who’d known each other for a year or more, or who knew her but knew their immediate playmates better. It’s a new dynamic; she has to figure out how she fits in, and then the group dynamic has to resettle as well.

We got her a new My Little Pony backpack, and there was a little coil-bound coloring kit we got at the same time, which she calls her “schedule.” She wore the backpack out of the store very proudly, and as soon as she got out of the car at home she sat down on the driveway and opened it to find “my schedule, Mummy, I have to check my schedule.”

Chalk is her newest big obsession. We picked up some packs of big, soft play chalk one day in August, and we didn’t even get inside the house before both kids wanted to tear open the packaging and start drawing on the driveway. Owlet is very into drawing legs on things that I draw for her, long spindly legs that sometimes aren’t attached to the body of whatever owns them. Or even attached to things that usually don’t have them, like apples.

I had the brilliant idea of bringing the easel up from downstairs and setting it up in the enclosed side porch right next to the kitchen so she’d have an art station up here instead of having to set something up on the kitchen table every time. I bought a new roll of art paper, too, so now when she wants to draw or paint, she can sit right there and do it. It should be good through the winter; HRH just has a bit more weatherizing to do to prevent the occasional snow drift, and the plank floor will be covered with foam squares to cut the cold air from seeping up as well.

On that chalkboard she drew the first thing that actually really looks like what she said it was. “Look, I drawed a fish!” she said, and yes, she really did. The eyes and the head are in the upper left, and it swoops around and down, with the tail at the bottom centre:

(We don’t know exactly why there is an unhappy face inside the fish. That part of the narrative was not shared with us. But we can make some pretty informed guesses.)

Other new things include Popsicles, tacos (we never thought those would fly, but we are so very wrong), learning to rinse and spit with her new toothpaste, having her fingernails painted with polish for the first time, and discovering Wonder Woman thanks to Ceri, Scott, and Ada gifting her with a Wonder Woman-themed birthday present.

Recently she’s really gotten into developing and telling stories, constructing little narratives. Most recently there have been things like, “It’s so dark. It is night? Where are the spirits? Some are sleeping, and some go to the bathhouse. There is a spirit who wanted to go to the bathhouse but didn’t know how to get there, so he jumped, like a rabbit, and he turned into a rabbit, and hop hop hopped to the bathhouse.” (That’s a blend of Miyazaki’s film Spirited Away and her own little story about a spirit.)

The other odd thing is her insistence that everything is named “Dead.” At first we thought she was mangling the pronunciation of Jed, or Deb, or Jen… but no. “I see a dog! It’s name is Dead.” It’s mildly disturbing if we think about it too long and try to read too much into it, but it’s just a word to her. She’s too busy to take into account her parent’s weird hangups. There’s dancing to do.

Sparky, September 2014

Grade four has begun ( know, I know, I sense your mild panic, me too). His best friend isn’t in his class, but a couple of his other buddies are, so it’s all okay. Apparently now that they are in grade four, they no longer have ‘playdates,’ they ‘hang out,’ and they don’t ‘play’ at recess, they ‘chill.’ Good to have all the correct lingo established already.

He likes both his French and his English teachers, and his homeroom teacher is his French teacher. Instead of having everything in French (except his English classes) for the first half of the year and then switching to all English (except for French classes) for the last half of the year, this year they are doing 50/50 all the way through. Apparently a parent complained that they thought English was being short-changed last year (what? seriously? did this parent not do the math?), so it’s being done this way. Whatever.

The kids don’t have their agendas yet, as there was a printing error (oops), but they should be in by the end of this week. They’re slipping easily into homework by reviewing last year’s concepts. I was too burnt out and lacking in the energy necessary to deal with 200+ strangers at meet-the-teacher night, so HRH went, bless him. The list of chapter books they’re reading in English is terrific, and the units of discovery they have set are exciting! For example, one is theatre from classical antiquity through the Renaissance! Sparky’s as excited about that one as I am. Apparently part of this unit is music/art history/dance exploration of the associated eras, so how cool is that?

You may remember his appeal to drop cello at the end of last season. I revisited the topic a couple of times casually throughout the summer. The first round of the cello conversation went like this:

Me: I think we need to talk about why you’d like to stop entirely or take a longer break than just the summer.
Sparky: Well, I don’t like doing lessons on weekends. I want to spend time with everyone in the family, not just you.
Me: Well, that’s a good reason. We could do lessons on Friday nights, and switch our family board game night to Saturdays.
Sparky: OH, NO. We are *not* switching game night! We can stick with doing lessons on weekends. *runs off*
Me: Um… okay.

My Twitter comment at the time was: “So… I think that’s resolved? Kind of? I’ll check again tomorrow.”

A week later I sat down with him and explained that I had overlooked something. While I accept that I have to sit through his lessons and his half of the group class because I’m his parent, it’s kind of unfair to expect him to have to sit through my lesson and my half of the group class, too. That extra time plus the 45-minute commute before and after means that on weekends where we do a lesson and a group class, he’s losing two whole half-days out of his weekend. And you know, he’s nine, and he has his own stuff he wants to do. So while he considered various options (like a local teacher for him so he wouldn’t lose so much of his weekend time to waiting through my lesson and my group class) he ended up deciding that no, he really wanted to step away for a while. Okay, I said, but he would have to come to our first scheduled lesson of the season so he could discuss it with our teacher, as she might have some valuable observations and input.

I was so proud of him. He didn’t crumple in on himself or try to hide; he sat straight and explained that he thought he’d like to try something else for a while, thank you, hopefully some art classes. And my teacher handled it beautifully, being so supportive, telling him that he had music in his heart and only asking that he not ignore his cello, to pick it up and just mess around with it for fun, and giving him a hug. At that point he had to excuse himself to go to the bathroom, blinking furiously. So there we are.

He has already asked to do some drawing, painting, and sculpture instead, and our local arts centre (who runs the summer camp he did for two years) offers exactly that course for nine to twelve-year-olds, at a very affordable price. And they even allow mid-session registration, which I’m assuming we’ll need by this point. So I’ll be following up on that this week.

And this also means I get cello back to myself. It’s been fun sharing it with him, but now my time spent at lessons and classes is now only my own, too. And I can go back to weekly lessons, since I’ll be able to afford it, even taking his art lessons into account. It looks like everyone wins.

In Which the Summer Comes to an End

Hmm. I found this draft in my folder today. It’s three weeks out of date, but should be posted anyway. I’ll follow it up with the resolution below.

Yesterday, I was two days away from handing in this staggeringly large project, a project twice as long as most, done within the same time frame. Except I lost four days at the beginning because HRH was away, so instead of meeting my 45-page quota, I did maybe 30 pages total before he got home, and so my daily quotas had to be reworked until I had to pull off crazy numbers per day.

In two weeks, both the kids will be back at school/preschool full time. (Or as full time as Owlet gets, who is actually part time, having Wednesdays off.) Yesterday, I was looking forward to racing to the end of this project, of handing it in, of having the last couple of weeks off with the kids, who have been struggling but handling things relatively well this past month with both of them home and me working full time.

And then yesterday, work contacted me, and asked if I could pick up another project as soon as I handed this one in. Two week deadline. Math, of all things.

I cried, a bit. Freelancing means working when there is work and socking away the money, because when there is no work there is no money coming in. Kids don’t understand that. Sparky burst into tears when I told him and had to close his bedroom door and wail for a while.

It has been a frustrating summer. Working full time at home with both kids off school is like taking your kids into work with you every day. Think about that. Everyone’s tempers are very short, there is lots of whining, and my productivity is taking a severe hit.

I had to take it. Work has happy — my copy chief said that I’d saved them, which was nice to hear, but wouldn’t mean much to my kids.

My kids rose to the occasion, though, and allowing them liberal movie time plus working at night and overtime on Labour Day weekend meant that everything turned out okay. I’d finished Sparky’s back-to-school shopping in July (allow me to pat myself on the back here) so that wasn’t an issue. I handed the math book in on time, and decided to book off a few days, because as much as a freelancer has to make hay while the sun shines, I have been going nonstop since May. Summer is the busy season in publishing, and I was handling enormous projects with lots of details. It’s nice to know I’m valued for these particular kinds of manuscripts, but I had three in a row, and I was, honestly, burnt out. I also need to prep a four-hour workshop for this coming Saturday at Sacred Cauldron, and with my reduced brain cells, there was no way I could juggle that plus a heavy assignment again. Fortunately, there’s a lull, so I haven’t had to formally book off.

One of the huge cheques from a crazy project I did in July came in, so I treated myself to some books and some fibre, as well as a pair of hand carders. The problem is, I’ve been going full-bore for so long that even though a lovely stack of books is waiting, I keep drifting around with a work hangover, vaguely thinking there is something with a deadline I need to do first.

We did it; we survived August, a crazy, crazy month, with me working full-time at home with both kids home full-time, too. I am putting money aside every paycheque now to make sure Sparky can go to camp next summer. Not that it will be as terrible, because Owlet won’t have a break from preschool like she did this summer because her daycare closed at the end of July and her slot in the new daycare didn’t open till after Labour Day; she goes straight through.