Tuesday, June 11, 2013


Twist is inserted when one end of a string is rotated relative to the other end of the string.

The string is tied to a spindle, the spindle goes round, the spinner holds the other end of the string, and twist is inserted.

String is tied to the spindle on a great wheel, the wheel/spindle goes round, the spinner holds other end, and twist is inserted. A bobbin on the spindle makes no difference.  If the string is tied to the bobbin, the bobbin goes round and twist is inserted when the spinner holds the other end.

On a flyer/ bobbin assembly, the string is tied to the bobbin.  When the spinner holds one end of the string, then twist is inserted when the bobbin goes round.  The flyer is not tied to the string. The flyer cannot insert twist unless the bobbin rotates.  The bobbin and flyer may rotate together, but it is the bobbin that is fixed to the end of the string; and therefor,

it is the bobbin that inserts twist.  

If the flyer rotates, but the bobbin does not, then string is wound onto the bobbin, but no net twist is inserted.

(Some small amount of twist will be inserted, but this is NOT enugh to hold the yarn together, so no actual yarn is formed. If no yarn is formed, then the bobbin is simply rotating in space, and there is no yarn to accept the twist, and "spinning" does not occur.)

If the bobbin rotates but the flier does not, then twist will be inserted, at the rate of one twist per effective circumference of the bobbin.  One twist per per effective circumference of the bobbin is not likely enough twist to make a competent yarn.  It may not be enough to even hold a soft roving together.

Confusion comes when the rotation of the flyer causes the bobbin to rotate (via yarn lock.)  In this case, the flyer drives the rotation of the bobbin, but it is the rotation of the end of the string tied to the bobbin that causes the insertion of the twist. If rather than a mass of fiber, filaments are passed through the flyer, then it can insert some small amount of twist. However, with normal fiber this is not enough twist to form a yarn, so there is no yarn to accept the twist.

One end of the string is held by the spinner, and the other end of the string is tied to the bobbin.   Only rotation of the bobbin or rotation of the spinner (or the counter rotation of both) can insert enough  net twist to form yarn from fiber.

Twist is the essence of spinning.  If one does not understand twist, then one does not understand spinning.


Spinners produce skeins so the yarn can be easily judged. In the past, skeins allowed the factors and weavers to judge the quality of the yarn that a spinner was producing.  However, what really matters is the appearance and function of  the fabric(s) produced from the yarn.

Judging a skein of yarn in the skein at a show is like judging a hunting dog or a sheep dog in a show ring.  The only way to really judge such dogs is to watch them hunt or work sheep.  Judged in the ring, you are likely to come up with a "champion" sheep dog that is pretty, but can't work sheep.  And, a sheep dog that cannot work sheep is not a sheep dog, it is just a pet.

Yarn must be judged by how it performs in a fabric, and the intended use of the fabric must be known. Yarn for a sweater is different from yarn for gloves.  And, yarn for matching sweater and gloves is another set of compromises depending on how the outfit will be used.  No! that is the mind set of a knitter using commercial yarn.  A hand spinner can make soft sweater yarn, and durable glove yarns that match.

I have been sampling yarn for gloves.  The soft yarn's do not wear well at the finger tips. The yarns that wear well at the fingertips, tend to feel harsh at the cuff. Certainly it is also an issue with socks, but it is more an issue with gloves.  This brings up the idea of spinning different, but matching yarns for cuffs and  areas of high wear.

Mostly transitions from one fiber type to another are visible where the transition is abrupt.  However, the hand spinner can make such transitions gradual and very much less apparent.  That is, suppose it is desired to put more Romney in the fiber blend over the heel and toes of a sock to increase durability. The hand spinner can change the blend over a length of  the yarn that will result in a inch of knitting, so that in the finished object, the transition from one fiber blend to another is not noticeable.  In a skein, that transition from one fiber blend to another would look like crap.   In the finished object it looks like magic. It is a touch of true craftsmanship.

Saturday, June 08, 2013

The math of spinning for weaving

One of the things that I have been persistently ridiculed over is my search for ways to spin faster.

However, lets think about hand woven cloth form hand spun yarn.  A garment weight cloth is 10 or 12 ounces per yard, and a traditional English bolt of cloth is 12 yards, or 144 oz or 9 pounds. If the yarn is 10s (5,600 ypp) then a bolt cloth will contain 90 hanks or ~50,000 yards.

With a wheel ratio of 1:12, a treadle rate of 90, you can spin about 150 yards (of 10s) per hour that comes to ~334 hours of spinning.    With a faster wheel a spinning rate of 370 yards per hour is reasonable and it is only 135 hours or 3 hours a day for 7 weeks to spin the yarn for a bolt of cloth.

Spinning fast is better.  This is why I want fast spindles. This is why I am willing to work a little harder to spin much faster.

Skeins? It is faster and easier for me to store yarn as cakes, bobbins, and cones. For knitting, I wash and block the yarn on reels, and put it up as center pull  cakes. For weaving, I wash, block, and put the yarn on little bobbins that each hold an ounce of  yarn. With 50 such bobbins, I can wind 2" of warp at a time.  There is just no way in world to juggle 50 skeins of yarn while winding on to the loom.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Spinning with a spindle

There is a story going around that I cannot spin with a spindle. It is libel.

I have even taught spinning with a spindle at some of the local spinning guilds "learn to spin" booths, including a couple of years at Stitches West.  Later, a friend who is a very fine spinner wanted a travel wheel for a trip to Southern Europe. Together, we shopped for a wheel, but decided that a set of spindles designed for the kinds of fine yarns that she wanted to spin would actually allow her to spin faster than any of the commercially available travel wheels.  So, I undertook to design suitable spindles for her.  I spent a few hundred hours getting good at spinning with a drop spindle. I used a drop spindle to spin miles of "fines".  I learned to spin fine and fast.   And, I started making spindles for spinning fine and fast. There were at least 4 distinct generations of design as my increasing skill informed my spindle design, and better spindle design allowed better spinning. The last couple of  generations of these spindles are so fast that they require the use of a distaff to permit drafting fast enough to keep up with the spindles.

A set of the Third Generation spindles was stolen and passed around fiber groups in Ohio. I expect that those spinners tried to spin 2,000 ypp singles rather than the 22,000 - 30,000  ypp singles that the spindles were designed to spin. Thus, the spindles did not work well, and the spinners did not like those spindles.  They, decided that anyone that made such spindles must not know how to spin.  And they posted such nonsense.

(I allowed the spindles to be stolen because I already had G4 spindles that were better, and I wanted to see if those spinners were honest.)

Monday, June 03, 2013

The Fall collection

We happened to be in Needless Markup as some of the fall designer collections came in.

It looks like this year there are going to be some very nice, fine wool pants.  We have not seen such fabrics in ages.  A real inspiration for the weavers. Here we can see why in the old days, spinners learned to spin fine.  It was to make the yarn for such fabrics

Ladies and Gentlemen,   Wax Your Fly Shuttles!