Okay friends, I’m about to get super geeky on you here, but stay with me…it’s a pretty cool thing! I made an electric spinning wheel that’s computerized and run by a Raspberry Pi. I’ll try to spare you the super technical parts.
Have you heard of a Raspberry Pi? No, it’s not something you eat that goes straight to your hips. Notice the different spelling of pi not pie? Yup! Raspberry Pi is a $35 computer board. Yes, a computer. (I did warn you on the geeky right?)
The Raspberry Pi is about the size of your cell phone, just a touch bigger than a credit card. The cool thing about the Raspberry Pi in comparison to a regular computer is it has GPIO pins. GPIO what you say? Basically, little pins you can use to run electrical currents and make stuff move and work.
I had ZERO programing or electrical knowledge before embarking upon this adventure. I was at a WordPress Conway meetup (which happens the first Tuesday of every month at The Locals) and someone brought in their Raspberry Pi which was remotely hooked up to WordPress and the internet. Hello! I was totally intrigued. I had to learn everything I could about this non fattening pi and get my head around it. Once I heard there was a competition in March, I was in. (I am the most competitive person alive)
Being as passionate about yarn as I am and knowing the ends and outs of spinning, I figured what better way to dive into this new world and learn how to do something new by creating an electric spinning wheel.
To start, I bought a Raspberry Pi kit from Amazon. The kit came with a bunch of fun gadgets I had zero idea what they were or how they worked. Lots of wires, LED lights, buttons, and something called a breadboard that didn’t look anything like bread . With an instructional book in hand and Google on my side my adventure started.
Nothing about this came easy to me…NOTHING. Things I thought would be simple took me days. Things I thought would be hard took me longer! Google and YouTube were my best friends. I barely slept. My dreams were full of coding and wires and all kinds of things that sounded like food but wasn’t.
Standing on the shoulders of the giants who coded before me, I looked into all sorts of codes to make motors run. It needed to be simple. The wheel must turn one way to spin, the opposite way to ply, and had to shut off. I ended up writing three separate programs.
There were two giant hurdles I had to overcome. First, finding a motor strong enough to spin the wheel while spinning yarn was difficult. (That was one of those things I thought would be easy). The first motor was too small…the following 3 motors were also too small. I ended up with a motor that runs with 9-18 volts of power.
Next , I had the issue of finding the right drive band. Knowing spinning wheels, I was planning on using a poly cord drive band (like what you find on most wheels today). But there was too much tension and the wheel wouldn’t spin. I went through strings, cords, and multiple size rubber bands until I found the perfect little rubber band with the exact amount of tension.
With the help of my husband, we built the stand using wood, PVC pipes, glue, and spray paint.
On a side note, I fell in love with a cute little man in the PVC pipe aisle of our local hardware store. After strolling up and down every aisle in the store and being asked by countless people if I needed help, I finally broke down and informed this sweet gentleman of my project.
He said, while nibbling on his toothpick, “You’re telling me you built a computer that makes yarn on a spinning wheel, but you can’t figure out how to make a box?”
Yup! That truly sums up my entire experience!
In the end my creation worked. I created an electric spinning wheel. There was a moment straight from Weird Science and Frankenstein where I wanted to run into the street and scream “It’s alive!!!!”. I spared my neighborhood the shout out and just turned it into a tweet.
Even though the spinning wheel is electric, this doesn’t mean the yarn coming off this wheel is not handmade. It totally 100% still is! It’s just the Raspberry Pi runs a program that makes a motor spin the wheel. I still have to do all the drafting and spinning of the yarn with my hands…this machine just gives my feet a rest.
I have started calling the invention the Raspberry sPIn and even drew a little doodle to go with the wheel. I’ve hooked up a webcam to the wheel to show off what’s being spun and even set it up to send out daily photographic pics of what’s on the wheel. Soon, it will be hooked up and live tweeting @RaspberrysPIn. It makes pretty sweet yarn too!
Next, I have to share with you the story of the Raspberry Pi Bake Off competition at Hendrix and how that all went down. But that’s a story for another day.