Gifts from Southeast Asia

My wonderful, amazing, sweet, gorgeous husband not only took photos of places that would interest me during his trip, he also brought back a few mementos.

Woven Baskets 1
The woven tube contains a sample of raw yellow silk. He picked up this souvenir at the Institute for Khmer Traditional Textiles (IKTT) in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

Raw Silk 2
The small woven box contained these small pottery bowls. These came from a ceramics factory in Chiangmai, Thailand.

Small Pottery 3
This yarn is made in Thailand. My husband found a yarn shop in the Farong District, the old part of Bangkok. The original Mandarin Oriental Hotel is located in the Farong District. Around this area are countless craftsmen specializing in silk, silver, gems, antiquities and other items.

Yarn Made in Thailand 4
This is a beautiful silk scarf from the museum shop at the Jim Thompson House in Bangkok.

Jim Thompson Silk Scarf 5 Silk Scarf from Bangkok 6
Even the packaging it came in is beautiful. The paper envelope is imprinted with scenes of the silk-making process.

Silk Scarf Packaging 7
He picked this up during his visit to Chiangmai in northern Thailand. This silk scarf is from Jolie Femme, a Thai silk factory.

Butterfly Silk Scarf 8
This crumpled silk scarf is from the Old Market in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

Crumpled Silk Scarf 9
Finally, he brought these two illustrated books that tell the history of the Thai silk industry. The Thai Silk Sketch Book contains beautiful watercolors depicting the reeling, spinning, dyeing and weaving of silk textiles. The House on the Klong is a lovely picture book about the art collected by Jim Thompson over his lifetime and which is now on display at his home turned museum.

Jim Thompson Books 10
I may not have been there but he made sure to give me a sense of the place through photographs, retelling what he saw, and bringing these lovely things to make me smile.

My Very Own Ladybug

A very large box arrived at my doorstep the other day.

After much angst and deliberation, I ordered my very own spinning wheel. (Actually, I placed the order but it was a Mother’s Day gift from my husband extraordinaire).

I carefully laid out the parts.

There was a little assembly required. I wish I could say it was easy but not so. Not all the parts are labelled on the assembly diagram. This could have been simpler but the husband extraordinaire figured it out. Isn’t she beautiful?

Why I chose the Schacht Ladybug: The modern look appealed to me. It’s portable with built-in handles. The weight – neither too light or heavy – keeps it sturdy. It’s a good size – I can easily store it in a corner. The breadth of spinning ratios ranged from 7:1 to 12.5:1 (with the included fast and medium whorls) and can be expanded to slow (5:1 & 6:1) and high speeds (14:1 & 16:1) with additional flyer whorls.

I went with a double treadle (personal preference). Schacht is one of several reputable makers of spinning wheels. Each wheel is hand crafted in Colorado.

Plus it came with my very own ladybug.

The cost was in the mid-range of the wheels I researched – not cheap but didn’t break the bank either.

Now, I need to stop ogling her and actually take her out for a spin. (Yes, pun intended).

“40 Under 40: Craft Futures” at the Smithsonian

My husband was in Washington, D.C. recently on a business trip. On his way to a meeting, he saw this:

Knowing I would be intrigued, he inquired about the bicycle. The crochet-bombed bicycle is by the Polish artist Olek, one of the artists to be featured in the upcoming “40 under 40: Craft Futures” exhibit. The exhibit will take place in the Renwick Gallery at the Smithsonian American Art Museum from July 20, 2012 through February 3, 2013.

According to the museum’s website, “These 40 artists are united by philosophies for living differently in modern society with an emphasis on sustainability, a return to valuing the hand-made and what it means to live in a state of persistent conflict and unease.”

Amongst other art works in various media, these are some of the knitting and fiber arts-related works you can see and experience first-hand.

Vintage military knitting needles by Dave Cole (image source).

Glass spinning wheel by Andy Paiko (image source). Apparently, this is a fully functioning spinning wheel.

Protest knits by Cat Mazza (image source).

Crochet urban pigeons by Laurel Roth (image source).

Quilted coat by Jeff Garner (image source).

You can read about all 40 artists and view a slide-show preview of the exhibit at the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s website. Better yet, if you are in D.C., go see it in person. I hope I can.

Which Wheel?

Having succumbed to the joy of hand spinning, I figured it was time to seriously investigate getting a wheel. I received wonderful advice from experienced spinners I have met in person or through the online knitter-blogger world. I also researched various brands and read many articles on what to look for in a spinning wheel. It isn’t as simple as I had hoped.

I’ve boiled it down to the following considerations.

Traditional vs. Modern

This is largely a matter of personal preference.

{image source: top, bottom}

Portability vs. Floor Space

This is also a function of your own lifestyle. Do you plan to take your wheel with you when you travel or will you use your wheel primarily at home? And do you have room for it?

{image source: top, bottom}

Spinning Ratios

This one is a bit more technical. Here’s my take on ratios.

This is largely influenced by the kind of fiber and weight of yarn you want to spin. Will you be spinning finer yarns with fibers requiring a lot of twist or heartier fibers that require less twist? Another way to think about it is do you prefer to spin thread-like, lace weight yarn or the chunky, super bulky kind? Ratios range from 1 to 20 (simplified version). Note that there is an inverse relationship between spinning wheel ratios and yarn weights. Ideally, a wheel with the broadest range of ratios is best.

{image source: yarn weights}

Foot Pedals

The best recommendation I have received on single vs. double treadle (foot pedals) is to simply try a few wheels and choose whichever you feel the most comfortable using. I am leaning toward the double treadle. From my research, I have gleaned that a double treadle is less tiring on your legs.

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There are many more spinning wheel makers out there than I ever imagined. The good news is that there is a lot of craftsmanship that goes into making them. Here are some of the wheels recommended by fellow spinners.

{image source: Majacraft, Fricke, Ashford, Lendrum, Schacht}

Costs also vary considerably. Generally, prices range from $339 to $1350.


Happy Spinning!

With all the choices out there, and spinners willing to share their knowledge, I don’t think you can go wrong with any of these wheels.



Besides input from many individuals, these articles were helpful and offer far more technical advice in choosing a wheel: