Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Fine Hanks

I said that with DRS/DD. one could spin fines as fast as one could draft.

This is done by increasing the ratio between the drive wheel and the flyer/bobbin assembly. And this works up into the garment weight yarns (5,000 -15,000 ypp) but it falls apart at hosiery weights (22,400 ypp/  40s)
Yes, it still takes me a full 8 hours to spin a hank of  hosiery single.  And I would like to point out that at one time this was a very common product, and 8 hours work is a common pay unit.

I know there is a little contradiction between my thought of a 3 hour pay unit, and an 8 hour pay unit, but it does not bother me because we know that higher rates were paid for finer yarns.  It is a point that I can look over, while my critics make much of it. The unit of production could still be a hank, with higher rates for finer yarns.  A spinner could make still more money per day spinning finer yarns.

I do not really care whether this is historically accurate, I do care what the ratios of grist, twist, and total time of productivity tell me about spinning wheel design.  It tells me that if I get me wheel all tuned up, I should be able to spin a  hank of  hosiery single in 3 or 4 hours.  And, that is  a real lesson.   By not getting wound up in little contradictions, I can take useful lessons from history.

Here the lesson is that the problem is not in my drafting, but in the way my wheel is set up and tuned.
A couple of hours later,

However, I  actually made such bobbins and flier whorls last year, during my "Fines Evolution", but at the time I was focused on "how fine" and not "how fast".  I just never did time trials to see how fast they would spin.  A time trial this morning, says that a hank of  hosiery single in 4 hours is a reasonable pace of production.   It says I can walk into any spinning guild meeting or fiber festival or Stitches and spin a 230 yard bobbin of worsted 40s  in 20 minutes, and that translates into a hank in under 4 hours.  Or, I can sit down with a couple of 1 oz batts and 140 minutes later I have 1600 yd of woolen singles.I promise that everyone that says this cannot be done is going to look like a fool. This not is not a "race pace".  This is not wild flailing. In fact, to spin this fast, I have to keep wasted motion to a minimum.  Yarn quality must be excellent or nothing works at that speed.  This morning's time trial was with 36 count Cotswold. The bobbins are for the AA#1 flier.  The AA#0 flier should be faster, but the bobbins/whorls I made for it actually have a lower ratio.   Someday, I will make more sets of higher speed bobbins for the #0  flier, but right now the wood turning work bench is my wool combing bench as I finish the warp.

A bit of engineering says that there is just no reason why spinners in Flanders could not have been running flier/bobbin assembles at ~2,500 rpm by 1550 CE. Yes, one must drop some modern assumptions such as the use of "leathers".    It turns out that wood-metal bearings actually have a lower coefficient of friction than leather-metal bearings.  The use of leathers is to reduce vibration and problems with alignment.

A couple of weeks later

Is it easy to spin a hank in 4 hours?  No, it is is work, just like half a day of cutting stone for a  flying buttress on a Gothic cathedral , or half a day at the forge making fine armor, or half a day building a carriage.  It is not hard work like building stone fortifications or making hay.  It takes real skill, and the right tools.  The second advantage is that the combination of skill, good tools, and good fiber required to spin fast is also likely to produce a high quality thread.  If you spin a hank of thread per day, you will get very good at it, and spin a very high quality thread.  If you do not spin a hank of thread per day, you will not be as good a spinner as somebody who does spin a hank a day.  These days, I am spinning 2 hanks per day, and the quality is good.  
This post was about my evolving  from taking  8 hours to spin a worsted hosiery single to doing the same spinning in 4 hours.  I had the tools.  I had the skill. I had the fiber. All I needed was the idea. I was bound up in the conventions of  "experienced spinners". It was like Bannerman and the 4-minute mile.  Everyone said it could not be done, so nobody did it.

We do not need folks telling us what we cannot do.  If you are a good spinner, sit down and spin with us. We can share ideas, and everyone can come away spinning better. If you just want to say that nobody can spin that fast or that fine, you will be embarrassed.

I am ever so tired of people telling me that I cannot possibly spin as well as I do.  I spin this well because I understand the math and physics of my spinning wheel, so I can design better tools. I spin this well because I do build the tools that I design.  I spin this well because I put in the effort to get really good at fiber preparation.   I spin this well because I practice.  The gray bin in the corner of the family room has 26 miles of my hand spun in it.  That is for one spinning project.  One of my gansey sweaters has 6.5 miles of singles in it.  Compare that to the 2.3 miles of single in a 2-ply worsted weight sweater.  And, gansey singles have more than twice the twist so that gansey yarn  has 6 times the twist of  2-ply worsted yarn.  One result is that the gansey yarn is denser, warmer, and more durable. (Lofty yarn is only warm if it has a wind break layer on either side it.  Otherwise, the flow of air advects heat right through it.   In a hand spun world that means you need to spin yarn for two layers of woven cloth plus the yarn for the knitting.  It is easier to just spin gansey yarn in the first place. ) The other result is that a spinner that making 5-ply gansey yarn gets a lot more practice spinning.

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