Wednesday, December 11, 2013


I started spinning because I wanted better gansey yarn.  So, I spun worsted, and I spun as fast as I could.  i wondered how fast other spinners could spin but never got very good numbers.

I got to the point where half a day's spinning was ~560 yards of 5,600 ypp - a worsted hank. That made the math easy. This made me think that a "hank" was a unit of work for a professional spinner. It was likely the minimum amount of work for which a spinner would be paid. It was an easy half-day's work,a nd an expert spinner could do 3 or 4 per day. I still think of a worsted hank as between 3 and 4 hours work depending on the grist, twist, and fiber prep.

If we look at AA's calculation on how fast a spinner can spin, he gets 300 inch/ minute for spinning woolen on a great wheel and he indicates that is for an active spinner.  Extending that out it is 3.2 hours to spin the 1600 yards that was woolen hank.  Add in the 15 minutes per hour for winding and steaming and we have just under 4 hours to spin a woolen hank on an average great wheel. Is that fast!?

I have been spinning the woolen weft (2,800 ypp) using Irish Tension and AA's #0 flier  mounted on the DT Traddy, and a woolen hank takes me ~3 hours, wound and steamed.  That makes it a nice unit of work, with an expert spinner being able to do 4 in a very long day.  A #0  spinning bobbin holds 230 yards of yarn at this grist, so a woolen  hank is 7 bobbins worth, and I fill a bobbin in ~20 minutes.  Is that a problem?  Do I want a bigger bobbin?  Well a bigger bobbin would need a bigger flyer, and that would be slower. (A new generation of graphite fliers may change this.)  I like the small and fast.  For weft, I leave the yarn in skeins of 230 yards, and 7 of those skeins makes it look like I have done something useful. The weft bin has about 3 kilo of skeins in it, and I have some more to do. So, I am up the experience curve, and I am motivated to work fast.

Yes, a hank (worsted or woolen) is an easy half-day's work, for a good spinner.  No, you are not going to get there on most modern commercial wheels, but there are a couple of dozen hand spinners that spin at this rate on a routine basis.

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