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Electric Charkha

A charkha, for those of you who might not be familiar with spinning, is a traditional Indian hand-cranked contraption for spinning cotton. The inspiration for building this charkha came from Marilyn Rishel Sult, "Cigar-box Charkha," Spin-Off (Winter 1996), 66-72, a wonderful do-it-yourself guide to building a charkha powered by hand. I read it and put it aside, thinking that it was one of those things which I'd attempt when I had decent tools, scrap wood, time, etc. Finding raw materials here can be a challenge.

One windy day, a beam blew off our apartment building roof, smashing a cactus pot and scaring the living daylights out of me. I thought to myself, if that's not a sign from heaven, what is? So I found an old saw and cut off 3 small pieces of wood.( It's a rather thick beam with ornamental grooves along the side; that explains the "popsicle stick" effect.) I nailed them together with small nails (10 attempts, 4 successes), sanded the whole thing and drilled holes for the spindle assembly. The spindle itself is a size 1 knitting needle stuck through a wine-bottle cork (I first bored a hole with a steel crochet hook). The "stops" on either side of the wooden support are rubber test-tube stoppers contributed by my microbiologist husband. To accommodate a drive band, I whittled a crude channel around the cork with a kitchen knife. I used a C-clamp, borrowed from a reading lamp, to hold the whole thing to the table.

To attach it to my sewing machine motor, I first removed the existing drive band and made a new, longer and smaller, band with an 18" length of cotton yarn (Sugar 'n Cream, if you really want to know). A twist is inserted in the band so that the spindle spins a Z-twist single. So that's the story behind the electric charkha. It's not pretty but it works!

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