Friday, October 28, 2011

Fifth grade physics

Let us consider the world of Peter Teal - Hand Woolcombing and Spinning.  PT puts a lot of effort into combing, planking, and drawing off a uniform sliver of parallel wool fibers, then he put a lot more effort into drafting them "inch worm".  If he had just thought about his fifth grade physics, he would have realized that there is an easier way.  A way that was long utilized and memorialized in art.  It is the art of the distaff.

Wool is long, flexible fibers with little scales on them which tend to catch on other wool fibers.  If you have a short, neat sliver of  parallel fibers of wool, and pull fibers out of one end, then the scales on those fibers will catch other fibers, and pull the other fibers out of parallel, and into "disarray".  With the fibers at the drafting tip of the sliver in disarray, then the spinner must resort to inch worm drafting to pull them straight and parallel again.

The fifth grade physics approach is to avoid the disarray by anchoring the upstream end of the fibers by attaching the far end of the sliver to a distaff.  Then the entire sliver is under tension, and the tension holds all fibers straight and parallel.  Near the drafting triangle, the drafting hand maintains a taper from the main sliver to the drafting triangle so that the upper end of all of the draftable fibers are in contact with more fibers than the drafting end of those fibers.  Thus, there is more friction at the sliver end of those fibers and the process of drafting tends to hold those fibers straight and parallel.  The reason that the distaff was call "the rock" is because the spinner was always pulling against the distaff.

When the drafting process inherently aligns the fibers, then the drafting can be a continuous process.  As a continuous process, it can be very fast.  With a distaff, one can draft worsted style singles as fast or faster as long draw woolen spinning.  Further more, if all the fibers in the drafting triangle are aligned, then the spinner can allow twist to run up into the drafting triangle and still have worsted yarn.

I started spinning about 3 years ago.  Prior to that I was reading about spinning, and watching spinners.  I read the modern literature on hand spinning, and I go to spinning guild meetings and fiber shows.  And I spin.
Merino, spun "worsted" as 20s, and made up into 2-ply.  The grist of the above 2-ply yarn is ~5,000 ypp or just over 10 meters per gram. The yarn is very soft, very stretchy, and silky smooth.  It is not something Peter Teal could have spun because he did use a distaff.  With a distaff, it is easy.

I trashed the first few video clips I shot of this process because I was intending to spin 9,000 ypp and I was spinning 11,000 ypp and the camera could not pick up the fine thread.  Over the last few weeks, I have had to relearn how to spin thicker singles, i.e., the 5,600 ypp and 9,000 that were the base of all my yarns.  Now, I am redesigning my yarns because with finer plies, I can make nicer yarns, and finer is nicer.  It is softer, smoother, stronger, and more durable.  Nicer!

Here is the setup (with the new distaff.)  I am putting a lot of time in on distaff design, not because it is hard, but because distaffs are so important.

And here is the spinning.  As you can see, the single is worsted and the process is long draw.  The pinch from my left hand (on camera) prevents twist from running into the draft triangle which goes off to the right of the frame.


sharonwue said...

I'm really curious to see your right hand, and it's part in this.

Very nice pic of your distaff.
Is it predrafted and figure 8?
Nice to hear the purr of your treadle wheel. That's what I miss most with the electric wheel.
If I am spinning roving, I usually don't predraft- I just 'tip' the roving so that the piece that I want is grabbed by the drafting zone. If I were planning on spinning one-handed, I think I would predraft. I wqsn't planning on spinning one-handed until I read your blog. Thanks.

Aaron said...

It is not one handed spinning - it is a drafting triangle that is longer than the camera field. It is Cotswold. With Merino, the drafting triangle was smaller.

The roving is wound on the distaff, the right hand pulls on it (pre-drafts), the roving entering the right hand under the little finger is thicker than the beginning of the draft triangle between the thumb and index finger. There is some tension on the sliver from the distaff, through the right hand to the drafting triangle. Thus, the sliver needs some twist to hold it together. The amount of twist depends on the thickness of the sliver/roving.

Fibers are pulled out of the right hand and into the drafting triangle by the pull of the spinning wheel.

I do not know if this style of drafting will work with ST, Irish Tension, or DD with a high DRS such as the DRS=1.2 supplied by most wheel makers. I need to go test that : ( I do not want to go test that, because I want to go make thread, because for the first time I am really happy with my spinning.

The Left hand controls twist. Most of the time twist is stopped at the left left hand. Allowing twist into the drafting zone allows more fibers to be pulled into the drafting triangle. However, that twist running up into the drafting triangle is OK because those fibers are aligned.

Every so often, the sliver breaks between the right hand and the distaff, and it is back to inch worm. So the spinner still must know inch worm. This should happen less often as I get better at loading the distaff, and drawing off the distaff. But, it is something I must work out.

I gotta get out and teach this (as soon as I have it all figured out.) Anyway there will be a bunch more videos. When, I get it figured out.

sharonwue said...

Your distaff/hand description is very clear, and thanks for spelling it out again.
You have reminded me that I still have half a cotswold fleece that needs scouring and carding.
As I reread this post for the third time (it is just packed full of info, and I get more of the picture each time) I am realizing that (though I spin with ST) that part of the speed of my own hand spinning is that my left hand (lefty, here) is actually behaving as the distaff, drawing the roving back under tension, while my right hand (lefty, here) manages the point of the drafting triangle.
A lot of years ago, I dressed the distaff with a strick of linen, and spun. I remember thinking that the distaff was very helpful, because the fiber is very long, and without a distaff, you'd have to be quite a ways away from the orifice to spin. Anyway, spinning linen makes your hands stink, so I got sheep. Why I found the linen stink so hard to bear, and the sheep manure no trouble at all, remains a mystery. (Probably, I just wanted sheep!) At any rate, I did not revisit the distaff. Then your blog comes along...

Aaron said...

Having a distaff is like having a third hand. I put the distaff on the wheel and in minutes my grist went from 7 k or 8 k ypp with effort to 11 k ypp with ease. It is like magic.

I still have not figured out how to dress the distaff properly. Fiber gets still gets tangled around it, and the sliver breaks between the distaff and my drafting hand - then I am back to inchworm for that 4 or 5 inch long piece of sliver. I think I need a bit more twist in my sliver or maybe I need to keep my drafting hand closer to the distaff? I do not know.

I do not even know how fine I am spinning. Last night I stripped off an 210 inch long bit of Jacob single, plied it back on it's self to 4 ply and made a micro skein, and dropped it on the McMorrin yarn balance. Nothing, the balance arm did not budge.

Do you really want to enter a world where you are spinning yarn so fine it is hard to measure?