Another Excellent Reason To Be A Spinner Nowadays

Yesterday, it snowed about 7 inches, which is the most snow young Edward has ever seen in his life. Unfortunately it’s also pretty cold; it was about 18 degrees at the warmest point in the day today, which is fortunately when I… but I’m getting ahead of myself.

I went out to shovel a few paths to key places: the walkway in front of the house, out from the garage door to where the trash cans live, and enough of the concrete pad in front of the main garage door to be able to pull the 4-wheel drive truck out should I feel like it. With that mission accomplished, I handed Edward the snowshovel at his request, and let him go to town playing with it. I had no major expectations that he’d accomplish anything meaningful; he’s just turned 9, this is about the fourth time in his life he’s seen snow at all, and it’s his second snow day ever, yesterday having been his first, so I figured what the heck. “When you’re done,” I told him, “please put the shovel in the garage, by the people door, not the big door; put it by the small door.”

“Sure, mom!” he said perkily, and I went inside. About 45 minutes elapsed, and then a totally snow-covered Edward came running to the back door. “You go in the front door, or the garage door,” I told him, “and all your wet stuff comes off immediately.”

“Okay, mom,” he said, “But I came to tell you that there is a problem.”

“What problem?” I asked him. “Hey, did you put the shovel away?”

“That’s what I’m trying to tell you,” he said. “I did put the shovel in the garage, but I couldn’t get the door closed.”

“Fine, fine,” I said, “just go to the front door and get out of your snowy clothes and I’ll take care of the door.” I headed to the attached garage and went out; but the people door, and the car door, were closed. But then I didn’t see the shovel. I went back in the house. “Edward,” I asked, “Where did you put the shovel?”

“In the garage, by the people door,” he said.

“I don’t see it there,” I told him.

“The small garage, mom, like you said, and I tried, I really really tried to close the door but I can’t make it close, and I’m really sorry, and…”

Of course. The small garage. The detached garage in which the seasonal stuff that isn’t out at this time of year lives. I went to take a look.

The lad had, apparently, opened the big garage door, and been unable to get it to close. Looking at it, it seemed like there might be snow that had drifted across the infrared sensor for the door, the thing that keeps it from closing if there’s an object there. Always check the physical layer first, I reminded myself, and shoveled that clear. I didn’t see anything obvious that would be at issue, so I walked over and slapped the “lower door” button. The door came down halfway, stopped, and rose back up as if obstructed.

“Huh,” I said, and went to move the little cable pull by the door’s mechanism that says “PULL THIS DOWN FOR MANUAL OPERATION.” It wouldn’t pull, so I looked up, following the cable. And that’s when I saw the problem: a problem I have seen hundreds of times in my life, and solved stubbornly: the tangled bobbin.

When you're good, you stop fast before the tangle happens!

There are many kinds of tangled bobbin. I know most of them intimately. There are many causes and many ways this happens, and the solutions are mostly painstaking and slow if you fix them the right way. And since “the wrong way” involves things like slicing the yarn off the bobbin, and in this case the yarn was steel cable, well…

When you can take the bobbin off, you can fix it easy too

This was a clear case of “excess slack caused a too-loose wind-on which resulted in yarn going out the shaft on which the bobbin rests, wrapping loosely, and tangling; and then when the auto-reverse kicked in and went the other way… and then when Edward pressed the “close” button repeatedly… and then when I pressed it the one time… sigh. I set up the stepladder, climbed up, jiggled the door enough to create a little bit of slack so I could pull the motor disengaging red PULL HERE FOR MANUAL OPERATION tab; and when that finally could be pulled enough, I secured it in place. Carefully, slowly, gently — well, as gently as you can when you’re talking about a wrist-thick bobbin with a 2-3 wpi cabled yarn made of steel on it — I lowered the door, unwinding the snarl around the shaft. With the garage door about a foot from the floor, and about 3 wraps on the bobbin, there was a really fabulous snag. There are grooves in the bobbin for this cable, in which the cable should wrap neatly as it takes up… and which it had jumped. Being what seemed to be 6 2-plies then plied as a cabled yarn, it was decidedly not interested in compressing, stretching, nudging, or any such tricks.

Tangled bobbin, yep

Had there but been a simple way to disengage the cable from the door, this problem would have been a trifle. There being no such simple solution, instead, it involved me going and finding a sufficiently large yarn needle (actually the handle of a steel file) and spending over an hour perched atop the stepladder (yes, on the part you’re not supposed to sit on) raising and lowering the door to get slack where I could, slipping wraps here and there, moving slack through the entire bobbin in various ways, and finally clearing all the tangles. I drove the deadbolt home, folded the stepladder, picked up the rogue snowshovel, and shoveled my way back to the house.

Fixed enough to get the door closed

The teenage neighbours aren’t home to bribe to snowblow the driveway. I gave in, and called a plow service. What the heck; this way there can be pizza for dinner tonight. The garage door guy can fix the slack problem in that cable; I’ve untangled the metal yarn in below-freezing weather and secured the garage tauntingly full of summer things. And I’m fairly pleased with myself for thinking, while up that ladder in the cold, “You know, this is a perfect time to take a crappy cameraphone picture,” only halfway through the detangling.

Truly, faced with not wanting to leave that garage door open and its contents exposed to the elements, knowing it’s getting later in the day and that it was unlikely that a garage door guy could be gotten there quickly, I really did think to myself, “Man, I’m glad I’m a fiber person who’s solved this problem countless times before, if typically under slightly less extreme conditions and with a smaller yarn needle.” So if you were wondering, why be a handspinner? Well, the answer is clearly “Just in case you ever need to fix a fouled bobbin.”

8 thoughts on “Another Excellent Reason To Be A Spinner Nowadays

  1. I always look forward to checking your site out. If not for the educational value for the humor worked in there as well. And I have to say I am very envious. I love snow and now that I live in Southern Kentucky we see very little.

  2. the multitude of uses for a full font of useless information. I guess it isnt as useless as many people would like to think . Loved it .

  3. I have recently found your blog and started reading (via Bloglines)and I just had to delurk to tell you how very impressed I was with your garage door work! Good for you being so resourceful…in the COLD. I was a single parent to a son for the entire time he was growing up, and your garage door fix took me back to all the times we (or I) had to figure things like that out for ourselves. I can’t beleive how many times the same thing helped–my knowledge of things fibery. I have always thought carpentry is just exactly the same as sewing, just a less flexible fiber.

  4. I’m duly impressed. If I’d been faced with that problem in 18 degree weather, I’d have gone back inside and snuggled under the covers.

  5. It is amazing how many mechanical things translate beyond the spinning boundary. I’m glad to see that the mechanism for your garage door is relatively new. Those cables are held under tension by a spring. We had an old one let loose in the middle of the night last year and it left a wicked dent in the front of my freezer door. So a word of caution: if the tension on the cable had let loose, it could have been deadly.

  6. I can’t decide of this is one of life’s little ironies or a great cosmic coinkidink.

    Great mysteries aside, I am firmly convinced that the ability to see parallels in apparently unrelated things, and apply one’s knowledge in unfamiliar areas, is a sign of genius.

    I’m a fan, in case you can’t tell!

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