Wednesday, April 20, 2011

9,000 ypp worsted singles and DRS

Last winter, I decided that (in the old days), there were spinners producing 8,960 ypp singles for weaving into cloth for garments and that these singles likely also got plied up into yarns for knitting.  I wondered what such yarns would be like for knitting.  I thought I would make up some such yarns and find out.  It has been harder than I thought.

And, I did not think that I would take so much criticism for trying to learn to spin better.

I had been spinning for (only) 9 months, and was having no trouble spinning singles from Cotswold ( a coarse wool)  to a  grist of 5,600 yards per pound (10 hanks per pound). I thought, "How much harder could 9,000 ypp be?"  Well, the local spinning teachers were not teaching spinning that fine, so I was on my own.

First, I tried finer fibers rather than the coarse, long wools that I had been spinning.  9,000 ypp was still very hard.  So, I reread The Big Book of Handspinning by Alden Amos because that was the only modern text on spinning that I had, which addressed spinning fine.

He talks about differential rotation speed (DRS) as an aid to finer spinning.  In fact he spends a lot of space on DRS.  He thinks it is important.  So I took it to heart, and I learned the math.  Then, I went into the shop and I applied the math to making flier/bobbin assemblies - over and over.

The "Spinning Police" said, "Forget about all that DRS crap.  Just learn spinning skills"

With finer fibers and my flier/bobbin assemblies providing the correct DRS, I was able to spin 9,000 ypp singles. Soon after, I was able to spin 32 hanks per pound ( 18,000 ypp), and then with well prepared Shetland I was up to 50 or 55 hanks per pound (~30,000 ypp).  Today, I would say that kind of spinning is not really difficult.  Those singles need a lot of twist, so it is a bit tedious, but it is not really difficult. The correct DRS makes the process much easier.

After learning to spin finer with the aid of the right DRS, I am now able to spin rather fine, using Scotch Tension or Irish Tension.  This morning I was using an Irish Tension flier to spin a single from Cotswold wool  to a thickness of about .007".  That comes out to more than 125 wraps per inch, putting it in the range of  16,000 ypp.  Knowing DRS helped me learn some spinning skills.

How many students, studying under the Knitting Police learn those skills in their first year?

That single that I was spinning this morning is thin and strong, but otherwise, it is not "pretty".  It will get plied up into a multi-ply yarn, which will hide its imperfections, so I do not care.  If a pretty yarn was important, I would use a DD flier with the correct DRS.   Today, I can spin singles at 32 hanks per pound using ST at over 150 yards per hour. With a fairly fine wools, I would not even call such spinning difficult. However, the singles that I spin DD are higher quality for much less effort.  And, I doubt if ST will ever let me spin more than 50 hanks per pound with any wool.

No, that is not quite right.  Today, I just do all my spinning on DD with the correct DRS for the yarn being spun -- because it is a lot easier. I am lazy.  I am not even going to try spinning more than 50 hanks per pound using ST.  I would just spin it the easy way.

The moral of this tale is to choose your teachers with great care.  And, sometimes, a book is better than a classroom.

And, let's face it,  professional spinners have a financial interest in making spinning seem difficult and arcane. It increases their value as teachers, and it increases the value of their spun yarns.  Amos is not a spinner, he makes spinning wheels, thus he wants to make spinning accessible. What I really want are good woolens at a reasonable price.  Thus, I want to make both spinning and knitting accessible.  I want higher quality for much less effort in both spinning and knitting.

The old Shetland "Lace weight" yarns were based on singles spun at 16 hanks per pound or ~9,000 ypp.
Modern commercial  "cobweb" lace is a single ply of ~7,000 ypp, thus the modern 2-ply Shetland lace is ~3,500 ypp.  The old 2-ply lace was ~4,000 ypp and the old 3-ply was ~ 2,700 ypp.  The English knitting lace weight yarns were based on singles of 5,600 ypp, so that English 2-ply lace weight was ~2,500 ypp or very similar to the Shetland 3-ply. However, a 3-ply yarn is a warmer and more durable yarn construction.  Shetland lace yarn was better.

The point is that you can spin really nice lace yarn without trying to spin "fine as frog hair".


Kathy said...

Actually, a 2 ply is ideal for lace, the little "teeth" in the yarn catch eath other and permit lace to retain its open structure. I might be misreading your last paragraph, but I wanted to clarify that a 3 ply really is not better in terms of knitting lace (although it is great for other purposes).

Anonymous said...

I don't normally think assholes are worth replying to. Congratulations. Take your condescending attitude and shove it up your ass that you seem so fond of talking out of.


Aaron said...

Dear Anonymous,

We should set a face to face spinning demonstration, so that you can demonstrate that your spinning methods are as good or better than the methods I am using.

If your methods are better than my current methods, then I will adopt your methods - giving you full credit. That is the way I work, I use my real name and I give credit where credit is due.

In this post, all I take credit for is following some instructions from Howard Priestman and Alden Amos. They got it right. That is all I am saying. Priestman and Amos deserve more respect than I see them getting.


Lucy said...

Thank you very much for this post. The otherwise sweet ladies in my spinning group become vague and dismissive when I try to get them to share their finer skills with me. Maybe it's me. Anyway, I am stuck in a rut in my spinning; I know what yarn I want but I don't know how to spin it. I think I need to read Amos and see if I can get more out of him than I did Anne Field.