Sunday, July 27, 2014

(Semi-)worsted 5-ply

I keep going back to the question, "Why 5-ply?"

Worsted spun sport weight 5-ply always yields the same answers: durability and warmth at a high cost.

However, semi-worsted adds another answer - less veggy matter.

Worsted yarn is spun from combed top and is mostly VM free.  However, the combing waste ( as much as 60% of the original wool weight)  is full of VM.  The thrifty can card, and spin fine to produce a yarn with much less VM in it.  Then the fine singles can be plied together to produce a very inexpensive semi-worsted yarn. Yes, it has some VM in it, but it is durable, warm, and cheap.  My guess is that this was the origin of  wassit.

5-ply semi worsted has become one of my favorite yarns.  It is much denser and warmer than a 2-ply (semi-worsted) of the same grist.  It is softer and makes better padding than 5-ply worsted of the same grist. It does not felt or pill much.

I have said this before, but it is still true, and with every improvment o


I was a member of the ASQC and ASTM. And, I helped draft important technical standards for both groups.

I set standards of performance for my objects.  Successful objects meet their performance standards.  "Perfection" may well be the enemy of successful.  All "made" objects are a compromise of schedule, budget, and functionality.  A sweater that is not ready when one must go out in the cold is a schedule failure.  A sweater that is too expensive to buy or sell is is a failure for both the maker (not sold resulting in no income) and the potential user (not bought resulting in being cold).  A sweater produced on time, and on budget, but which is not warm enough is also a failure.

As I plan my yarns, I begin with the end in mind.  I plan my yarns so that the final object has the appropriate functionality and aesthetics.   That is "art" supported by craft.  Art does not happen without craft.

I plan my yarns so that the final object has the correct cost structure. If the yarn is not finished in time to knit the object, then the object fails, and the yarn fails.  (e.g., Xmas gifts must be finished on time and gifts to myself must be finished before they are needed.) For every craftsmen, speed of production is always an issue.

As a craftsman, I like multi-ply yarns.  In particular, I like 5-ply yarns.  They are warmer and more durable than 2-ply yarns of the same grist.  They have more drape and elasticity than 2-ply yarns of the same grist knit into fabric of the same gauge.  The problem is that they require about four times more twist per inch of finished yarn.

If I am a craftsman, can I afford to design yarns with the higher twist requirements?  If I run my spinning wheel 4 or 5 times faster, YES! In fact, there is no cost or schedule impact.  Yes, I do use more skills, but as a craftsman, I have those skills.   The the additional benefit of veggy material dropping out as fine singles are drafted is free.  Also, a spinning wheel running faster makes many kinds of spinning much easier.

Spinning short fibers such as cotton is MUCH easier with a high speed wheel.  Spinning fine singles is much easier with a high speed wheel.  And, there is a group of commercial wools that sometimes finds its way into the hand spinning supply stream that is much, much easier with faster wheel.

A couple of years ago, I got a big bin of commercial Jacob.  The fiber looked beautiful, but it was a pain to spin.  As my wheel got faster, this Jacob got easier and easier to spin.  At 700 rpm, it is still very difficult to spin.  However at 3,500 rpm, it was spinning so fast and easy that last week, I went out and made a bunch more plying bobbins to hold all the singles I was generating.

A high speed wheel makes a wide variety of yarns possible that simple are not practical with a slower wheel.

Time trials

The new 48 mm whorls for the AA #0 flier are dialed in for singles in the range of 5,600 to 34,000 ypp.

So, I brought the darkroom timer downstairs, and did some time trails.

Bottom line, spinning with DRS allows me to spin about 4 or 5 times faster than using a single drive. (Either bobbin lead or flyer lead. DRS is more than twice as fast as as conventional DD.)

The second finding was that graphite impregnated Delrin, is lower friction (faster), but the leathers made by Alden Amos run 90% as fast as the black Delrin, but much quieter.

Best Spinners


It seems that some have natural talent and some do not.


By Alfie Kohn 

Perfect, It Turns Out, Is What Practice Doesn't Make

We've long been eager to believe that mastery of a skill is primarily the result of how much effort one has put in. Extensive practice "is probably the most reasonable explanation we have today not only for success in any line, but even for genius," said the ur-behaviorist John B. Watson almost a century ago.
In the 1990s K. Anders Ericsson and a colleague at Florida State University reported datathat seemed to confirm this view: What separates the expert from the amateur, a first-rate musician or chess player from a wannabe, isn't talent; it's thousands of hours of work. (Malcolm Gladwell, drawing from but misrepresenting Ericsson's research -- much to the latter's dismay -- announced the magic number was ten thousand hours.)
It's daunting to imagine putting in that kind of commitment, but we're comforted nonetheless by the idea that practice is the primary contributor to excellence. That's true, I think, for three reasons:
1. Common sense: It seems obvious that the more time you spend trying to get better at something, the more proficient you'll become. That's why so many educators continue to invoke the old phrase "time on task," which, in turn, drives demands for longer school days or years. Common sense, however, isn't always correct. Researchers have found that only when "achievement" is defined as rote recall do we discover a strong, linear relationship with time. When the focus is on depth of understanding and sophisticated problem solving,time on task doesn't predict outcome very well at all - either in reading or math.
2. Protestant work ethic: Many people simply don't like the idea that someone could succeed without having paid his or her dues -- or, conversely, that lots of deliberate practice might prove fruitless. Either of these possibilities threatens people's belief in what social psychologists call a "just world." This sensibility helps to explain why copious homework continues to be assigned despite dubious evidence that it provides any benefit (and zeroevidence that it's beneficial in elementary school): We just don't want those kids goofing off, darn it -- not in the evening and not even during the summer! Hence the recent enthusiasm for "grit," which is basically a repackaging of age-old exhortations to stick with whatever you've been told to do. (Indeed, Andersson collaborated with grit maven Angela Duckworth on a study of spelling bee champions.)
3. Nurture over nature: "Innate? Necessarily so!" is what we've heard for centuries. Given the tawdry history of biological reductionism, which usually manages to rationalize current arrangements of power as being due to the natural superiority of privileged groups, is it any wonder we remain leery of attributing success to inherited talent? It's more egalitarian to declare that geniuses are made, not born. Indeed, that skepticism is bolstered by evidence (from Carol Dweck and others) indicating that students are more likely to embrace learning if they believe their performance results from effort, something under their control, rather than from a fixed level of intelligence that they either possess or lack.
For many of us, then, Andersson's conclusion has been deeply reassuring: Practice hard and you'll do well. But along comes a brand-new meta-analysis, a statistical summary of 157 separate comparisons in 88 recent studies, that finds practice actually doesn't play nearly as significant a role as we'd like to think. "The evidence is quite clear that some people do reach an elite level of performance without copious practice, while other people fail to do sodespite copious practice," wrote Brooke Macnamara, David Hambrick, and Frederick Oswald in Psychological Science. In fact, they calculated that, overall, the amount of deliberate practice in which someone engages explains only 12 percent of the variance in the quality of performance. Which means 88 percent is explained by other factors.
But what other factors? It's common to assume that if practice matters less than we thought, then inborn ability matters more -- as if there are only two contributors to excellence and they're reciprocally related. The New York Times headline for an article describing the new meta-analysis captured this assumption by reversing an old joke: "How Do You Get to Carnegie Hall? Talent."
That's not necessarily true, however. The question posed by Macnamara and her colleagues was appropriately open-ended: "We have empirical evidence that deliberate practice, while important, ...does not largely account for individual differences in performance. The question now is what else matters." And there are many possible answers. One is how early in life you were introduced to the activity -- which, as the researchers explain, appears to have effects that go beyond how many years of practice you booked. Others include how open you are to collaborating and learning from others, and how much you enjoy the activity.
That last one -- intrinsic motivation -- has a huge empirical base of support in workplaces, schools, and elsewhere. We've long known that the pleasure one takes from an activity is a powerful predictor of success. For example, one group of researchers tried to sort out the factors that helped third and fourth graders remember what they had been reading. They found that how interested the students were in the passage was thirty times more important than how "readable" the passage was.
All of these factors overlap and serve as catalysts for one another, which means that even if practice does predict success to some degree, that doesn't mean it caused the success. Maybe the right question to ask is: Why do some people decide to practice a lot in the first place? Could it be because their first efforts proved mostly successful? (That's a useful reminder to avoid romanticizing the benefits of failure.) Or, again, do they keep at it because they get a kick out of what they're doing? If that's true, then practice, at least to some extent, may be just a marker for motivation. Of course, natural ability probably plays a role in fostering both interest and success, and those two variables also affect each other.
But once we've introduced the possibility that interest plays an important role, we'd have to ask "Interest at what?" It doesn't make much sense to talk about the contribution of practice in the abstract. A lot depends on the task, among other things. Sure enough, Macnamara and her colleagues found, as is often the case with meta-analyses, that you can slice up the results by looking at an assortment of "moderator" variables -- factors that affect the strength of the correlation between this and that.
For starters, the importance of practice depends on how investigators arrived at their figures for how much time people spent on their activities. Practice seemed to matter more in studies where the estimates were self-reported, as in Ericsson's original research with musicians. By contrast, when the hours were logged, and the estimates presumably more reliable, the impact of practice was much diminished. How much? It accounted for a scant 5 percent of the variance in performance. The better the study, in other words, the less of a difference practice made.[1]
Mostly, though, it depends on the domain. Practice explained 26 percent of the variance in achievement for games, 21 percent in musical accomplishment, 18 percent in sports, 4 percent in college grades, and less than 1 percent in professional success. What's true of time on task, then, is true of practice -- which isn't surprising given how closely the two concepts are related. It depends on what you're doing. When the task is more complicated and open-ended, a lot of factors come into play that collectively swamp the effect of how much work you put in.
One last point. Even if Ericsson's conclusion, that expert-level performance can be explained primarily by thousands of hours of practice, had been supported rather than up-ended by this new review of research, it never had the relevance to education that some people have claimed. It never supported the value of giving students lots of practice problems. Why? First, because we can't simply assume that whatever promotes success in activities like music or chess also applies to, say, math or language arts.
Second, and more important, Ericsson was assessing the relative contribution of practice and talent. He didn't look at whether the teacher's goal was to reinforce an automatic response (borrow from the tens place, restate your conclusion in the last paragraph) as opposed to helping students make sense of ideas. In education -- as opposed to, say, chess -- everything depends on the kind of learning we want. Practice has much less of a role to play in promoting deep understanding than it does in expediting the memorization of algorithms or the reinforcement of behaviors. The Andersson finding never really proved relevant to more meaningful learning, then -- even back when that finding appeared to be true.
We may have to face the fact that our common-sense beliefs about excellence, or what we think ought to be the case about the importance of hard work, aren't necessarily true. But we can take comfort from knowing that less of a role for practice doesn't just mean that our destinies are fixed at birth.
1. Something similar has been found with respect to claims about grade inflation, which usually turn out to be based on students' reports of their own grades. When we look at actual transcripts, it becomes much harder to defend the assertion that grades are higher now than they used to be, as Clifford Adelman discovered in extensive research he conducted for the U.S. Department of Education.

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Monday, July 21, 2014

The yarn is nothing

I have said that, "yarn is important".   I was wrong.  The fabric is everything.

Wool shirting is wonderful stuff.  The yarn for shirting is delicate, difficult to handle, fragile, tends to tangle, and is a pain to spin. As spinners, we put up with all that because wool shirting is wonderful stuff.

Likewise, knitting can transform a yarn, particularly when the knitting is done on fine needles.

Spinning a yarn, and not letting it reach fulfillment as a fabric is like a chef preparing his vegetables, cooking them carefully, then letting them sit till they rot without ever serving them to the hungry.  

Just as vegetables deserve to be served and eaten, yarns deserve to be made into fabric and worn.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Not Mill Spun

Members of the spinning police are here, telling me what I am doing wrong.

I have spun pounds of 5-ply gansey yarn that looked just like the mill spun.

If I want to spin something that looks like mill spun, I do.  If I want to spin something different, that solves a problem, I do.  Mill spun 5-ply has its virtues-- and it's vices.  Sometimes I want something better, and I am not afraid to break every rule in the book to make something better!  Or, Cheaper!  Or Faster!


Competition Spinning

If one wants to spin very fast,  one needs fiber that has been oiled, combed, and drawn through a very fine diz.  You are not going to get that in a spinning competition because competitions are organized for woolen spinners. As such the fiber will be roving or batts.

Yes, DRS will allow one to spin as fast as is possible with supplied fiber, but one is not able to take full advantage of the DRS technology without the appropriately prepared fiber.  Contrary to popular belief, spinning worsted with DRS is the fastest spinning possible.


Sometimes I speak of DRS as a device on the spinning wheel, but it is much more that that.  It is also a way of thinking.

It is clear from reader's comments that they are not very good with numbers for grist and twist.  They do not understand how fast their wheels insert twist (even with super fast whorls), compared to how fast my wheel goes.

Consider the 2009 spin contest at SOAR. I look at the results, and automatically do grist and twist  calculations.  Spinners with wheels tended to spin woolen, at grists on the order of 1,600 ypp.  And they spun just under 100 yards in 15 minutes for an average bobbin speed of just under 800 rpm.  The spindle spinners tended to spin woolen at a grist of 3,600 ypp and spun just under 50 yards in 15 minutes for an average spindle speed of just  under 1,200 rpm.  In comparison, I tend to spin much finer.  My finer yarns require more twist and I run my wheel at over 3,000 rpm, and on very good days, over 3,500 rpm.  That is four times as fast as the competitive wheels at SOAR, and  three times as fast as the competition spindles.

And at those speeds, it can be used to help maintain consistency.

A well known, "intuitive spinner" used a flyer, about the same size as my AA#0 flyer to spin 58 count carded wool at 19,000 ypp. This was reported as a good use of a single drive, bobbin lead wheel.  And,  it is.  That is about as fine as I can easily spin a 60 count wool on that flyer running it single drive, bobbin lead.  With care, I can spin, 34,000 ypp using that flyer in ST mode.  However, when I switch to DRS, I can spin 34,000 ypp on that flyer very easily, and more than twice as fast.

Thus, DRS is for spinning finer and faster.   Not by a little bit, but by a huge amount.  It gives me the extra twist to spin much finer.

To want such a device, or to make such a device, or to understand such a device, one must have a quantitative, mathematical model of  yarn. Such a model allows accurate prediction of yarn properties. Only with an ability to predict a particular yarn's properties can one plan and construct the right yarn for the job.

I came to DRS purely on a quest for speed.  I stay because it produces better yarn, and more importantly, it produces more predictable yarn. I spin because I want better fabrics.  To get those fabrics, I need better, and more predictable yarn.

DRS makes me pay for the speed and predictability by forcing me to have a suite of skills. It is suite of skills not taught in modern classes on spinning. DRS tools are not sold by modern spinning wheel manufacturers.  Today, DRS is not easy.  However, DRS provides productivity and predictability not available to the "intuitive" spinner.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Commerical Rates

The theme of the last year has been, "How fast could a professional spinner in the 17th century spin?"

My answer at this time is about 30 hanks (of 560 yd) per week of 10s (5,600 ypp), or 10 hanks per week of fines (finer than 30,000 ypp).  This assumes steel against bronze or steel against wood bearings (either with lard oil) .  And, it assumes small flyer/bobbin assemblies with accelerators.

Here are my tools for spinning good yarn at a commercial rate under the apricot tree.

And, a closeup of the ~2 pounds of  sport weight 5-ply produced in ~4 days of spinning:

Note that I use an arm chair for spinning. With DRS, I do not have to wave my arms around.  And, if you are waving your arms around, you cannot spin fines.   I know that Northern Lace does sometimes spin 30,000 ypp singles using long draw, but it is done as a tour de force rather than as a routine.

The new 50 mm whorl for 17 to 20 tpi has been dialed in, and it allows me to spin 5 or 6 yards per minute   of yarns in the range 22,000 to 33,000 ypp.  It is a "kick"!  A hank of  40s only weighs ~10 grams, so I can put the whole hank on a small spinning bobbin.  This saves 10 minutes per hank.  In theory, it will allow more than 2 hanks of 60s per day, but I have not achieved that.

 It is something I was told could not be done.  My practical speed is much greater than the theoretical speed of mass produced lace kits, and I never even come close to the theoretical speed of the Ashford lace kit.  DRS provides productivity that is simply not possible with a single driveband, or double driveband with slippage.

I have been told that I spin thick and thin. Of course, when I am spinning 30,000 ypp and it does not drift apart or break off, the difference in between the thick and thin sections is not very great. I challange my critics to spin 560 yards of worsted single that only weighs 7.5 grams.  When they can do that, then they can talk about my thick and thin.  It is not a big deal, at a relaxed pace, it is less than 3 hours of spinning.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

The competition flier with the accelerator

The #0 flier that Alden made for me is back on-line with 50 mm whorls and the accelerator.

Reasonable bobbin speed is 3,800 rpm.  This allows easily spinning  spinning  560 yards of worsted 11,200 ypp single in an hour. The test was done with 60 count fiber, but I would bet that I can also do it with 30  count Cotswold.

To get these speeds, I have to control whorl diameters to about1/32".  That is ok, wood turners have been working to that kind of precision since the dark ages.  Any wook turner that could turn a spigot (that does not leak)  for a wine barrel can also turn spinning whorls with the necessary precision.  Yes, there are some jigs and tools that have to be made, but woodturners know how to do such things.

It is starting to look like a hank (560 yards) of 10s or 20s was about an hour's  (or AA's golden 48 minutes) work for a competent professional spinner.  Shirting and hosiery singles are closer to 2 hours work. Hanks of  fines  (more than 30,000 ypp) would be closer to 3 or 3.5  hours work.

It is clear that properly setup and maintained DT/DD spinning wheel can sustain spinning speeds many times higher than anybody admitted when I bought my wheel some 5 years ago.

When I was at Bechtel, productivity was something we had to get correct.  In modern hand spinning, it is a taboo subject.  Spinners talk about the size of their stash, and how many wheels or spindles they own, but nobody talks about how fast they actually spin.

Five years ago, none of the experienced spinners correctly stated the productivity that I could expect.  AA and HC limited the potential speed of their wheels by installing only one treadle.  Ashford sells DT wheels, but slows them down with big heavy flyers that vibrate at speed. Others limited drive ratios or whorl swept area to limit speed.  Nobody seemed to have a wheel that would insert twist faster than 1,600 rpm.  I was told, over and over, that if I want to spin at higher speed, I should buy a commercial mini-mill (the ones suggested cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.)  Instead, I bought an Ashford Traddy, and later a couple of fliers from AA and modified them to run at 3,800 rpm.  A minor change to the accelerator will allow even higher speeds.

In particular, nobody was selling differential rotation speed (DRS) wheels, and very few spinners seemed to be using a wheels converted after market to DRS, despite the fact that the conversion is only a matter of a couple of millimeters.

DRS opens up different styles of drafting to produce styles of yarn that cannot be produced by other spinning techniques.  On the other hand, HC and AA stopped selling DRS wheels for very good reasons. There is a lot that can go wrong with a DRS wheel.  It takes skill to get a DRS wheel running, and more skill to keep it running.  My feeling is that the skills were common among textile workers  from the 14th through the 18th century.  However, these skills were not brought forward to spinning activities of Queen Victoria's Court.

As far as I am concerned, DRS is half the craft of spinning. It is a very powerful tool for wool, cotton, silk, and linen.

Board like? !

The classic mill spun gansey yarn has several virtues.  It can be knit fairly loosely, (not too warm) and still have the stitch work that  Pops! Or, it can be knit firmly to produce firm padding to protect the wearer in a hazardous environment (e.g.,  booms and spars being swung into sailors as the sail boat rolls).  

The disadvantages of  mill spun gansey yarn is that when it is knit tight enough to be be weatherproof, it lacks drape and becomes stiff like a board .   If you need warm suit of armor, it is a good fabric, if you do not need armor, then other fabrics may be better.

I was very proud when, I first thought I could spin a good approximation of the mill spun gansey yarn.   As I knit fabrics for different purposes, I understand that the mill spun gansey yarn is NOT likely not the best yarn for many for many purposes. And I found that I could spin a world of yarns, that mills could not spin, and some of those yarns have real virtues.

One thing  I found, is that some of the yarns that do not look so nice in the skein, produce wonderful fabrics. The proof is always in the final fabric. (And the proof of the fabric is in the wearing!) Firm multi-plies with soft ply twist can produce weatherproof fabrics with a nice hand and great elasticity. Wearing such fabrics is like having a second skin. 

I discovered thick an thin singles by mistake. I had a big bump of commercial fiber with a lanolin based spinning oil that started getting oxidized and sticky on one side of the bump, but I spun it, as it was, anyway. The single looked like crap, but the 5-ply knit up into a rather wonderful fabric.  It is not in the books,  It is the kind of thing that is only discovered by trying a lot of stuff that does not work, but keeping one's eyes open for stuff that does work.  It was something that snuck up on me - the early singles from that bump were properly uniform, then I left the bump sitting for a few months, and when I came back, it spun as thick and thin. As 5-ply, the yarn still looked like crap, but it knit up into a fabric that I like a lot. Now, I have found other ways to produce a thick and single without trying to age a bump of  commercial fiber. 

The thins give the fabric hand, and the thicks tend to full and bond the yarn together. However, the net effect is different from simply plying singles of different grist and twist together.  Over all, the yarn is much softer than the mill spun gansey yarn, so stitches do not pop, and it is more difficult to knit into firm padding (e.g., boards).  On the other hand,  it is much easier to knit into a very warm, very elastic fabric that is as comfortable as a second skin.  The thins give it luster and durability, the thicks give softness.  The fabric has almost the feel of a fabric knit from woolen spun.

I have a kilo of 5-ply sport weight from such thick and thin singles, in a bin, ready to be knit on #0 needles. Also in the bin are a pile of swatches of various fabrics knit from the yarn,   Twist in the singles varies from about 7 to 9 tpi, but it is 5-ply and it averages out into very competent singles. All singles are continuously tested for competence (tensile strength)  as they are plied.  Ply twist is much less than standard, so the yarn is soft and stitches do not pop as much as with mill spun, but on the other hand, the plies spread to fill gaps and needle holes resulting in a fabric that is warmer any you can get from mill spun gansey yarn, and the fabric has a reasonable drape. The yarn is aggressively washed and steam blocked prior to going into the knitting bin.

All in all, it is a reminder to respect the materials and the process, and not to get caught up in imitating mill spun.  Handspun can have intrinsic virtues that are not in mill spun.  We CAN make yarns that mills cannot.  And, some of those yarns are very, very nice, not because they are different, but because they have virtues. We have forgotten some of these virtues because mills cannot produce such yarns.   Wassit was hand spun 5-ply.  This last bin of hand spun 5-ply gives me new respect for what 5-ply hand spun can be.  

I like the hand.  I like the fill.  I like the warmth.  I like the stretch and elasticity. I like the durability. I have been spinning it from 60 count long wool with good luster. Soon, I will be back to spinning Rambouillet from Ann Harvey up in Calpine.  Then, fabric from fine wool has less durability and luster and is much softer. And, of course the  Rambouillet is white, not ecru.  Still the drape, fill, warmth, stretch and elasticity are all there.

All in all, I figure about 6 hours for a hank of worsted sport weight, 5-ply.  Worsted 2-ply at that grist has a poor drape, so a 2-ply would have to be woolen spun. It takes me about 3 hours to spin 560 yards of 2-ply sport weight, woolen spun yarn.  So the worsted 5-ply takes about twice as long as woolen 2-ply.  That is, I can spin the 5-ply worsted  for a sweater in 24 hours and the 2-ply woolen in only 12 hours.  However, I am going to spend some 90 hours knitting a fine sweater.  That 90 hours makes it worthwhile to invest the extra 12 hours for the extra drape, fill, warmth, stretch, and elasticity of 5-ply.  If I do not want the warmth, then I go up a couple of needle sizes and I have a faster knit sweater that still has drape, stretch, and elasticity.

Wassit was popular and inexpensive. It was popular because it was good stuff.  It was inexpensive because a lot of it was produced.  I stared looking at 5-ply because it was warm and durable for fisherman's sweaters. I keep looking at it because I like the "hand" of the fabric.

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Ott Lamps

Ott lamps have a strobe effect that can be used to detect nuances in flyer speed in real time.

DRS and History

Alden Amos and I are not on Henry Clem most favored list.  We write about DRS, so people want to buy differential rotation speed (DRS) spinning wheels from Henry.  However the spinners do not have to skills to make the wheel work well so they are not happy and want to return the wheel.  This is real problem for Henry because he wants to sell what people want, and he wants people to love his products.

The problem is that the modern spinning community does not have the skills to operate a DRS wheel.  DRS is a taboo subject.  Alden Amos talks about the math, but does not go into the care and feeding of such a machine.  And, if you try to treat such a machine like your ST wheel, the result will be nothing but tears.

What could Henry do?  Demand that every customer take a long workshop on how to use a DRS wheel?  He would have to charge a couple of thousand dollars for that, and "experienced", spinners think that they they know how to spin on any wheel, and are not going to go to a long workshop on the basics of using a wheel.  In short, extended customer training is not a way to sell spinning wheels.

Even Alden had this problem as some of the DRS controlled wheels that he sold were returned.

Thus, we have a chicken and egg situation.  There are few DRS controlled wheels around for spinners to learn on, and therefor few spinners know how to use DRS.  There are few spinners that know how to use a DRS wheel, so few wheels are sold.  Even hand spinners doing restoration work do not understand DRS.

I strongly believe that flyer/bobbin assembly technology developed in the very profitable and secret Italian silk industry starting as early as the 12th century. In the beginning, it was the miniaturization of  room sized silk throwing equipment.   It was valuable industrial equipment used by operators that were extensively trained. It likely followed the same cycle as modern industrial equipment. An operator is trained, gains experience on equipment, makes some improvements on his equipment, and trains the next generation of operators. I think the silk throwers had DD/DRS controlled industrial winding equipment in the 14th century and  the technology was transferred to the aslo secretive and very profitable wool industry not much later.  In short, flyer//bobbin assemblies were likely common in the wool industry long before they show up in drawings.

Don't believe me?  Learn the difference between yarn spun on  DRS wheel equipment and  that spun on an ST wheels and various spindles.  Then, go look at old textiles.  1500 is a good place to start.  Compare threads spun in Italy, Flanders, France, and England.  They are different.  They were produced by different technologies. Ask yourself, how were the threads from Flanders spun?  Ask yourself, " How would I replicate that thread?"  If you understand DRS, you know.

Understanding DRS is part of the craft of spinning.  When you understand the craft of spinning, and you look at old textiles then you realize the entire timeline of  spinning technology as presented by modern historians is wrong, because they are not considering DRS. A Ph.D in history from a major university does not ensure that one is a master spinner.  The very best spinners that I know do not have  Ph.Ds in history from major universities.  I think it takes a good bit of spinning to become a good spinner, and getting a Ph.D in history from a major university takes away from one's spinning time.

(Am I a good spinner?  Not by 16th century Flemish standards!!)

If you want to replicate 16th century textiles as worn by the great and powerful, go DRS.  It has a long steep learning curve, but it is the way to produce high end, luxury thread.  It is how to spin a loom web for a bolt of cloth and get it done before you die of old age.

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Spinning productively

Why, Oh Why, comb top, and then knock the fibers out of alignment before spinning?  It is doing the work twice.  No professional does the same job twice, unless they did a poor job the first time.  No the comb/diz did their job, but the spinner destroyed the alignment when held the fiber to keep the flyer/bobbin assemble from pulling the whole top into the orifice all at once, like a hungry grizzly bear eating a Big Mac.

Silly!! The spinner that knows their craft simply keeps the fibers straight, and aligned parallel all the way through the process. The combs /diz can align the fibers better than fingers hurriedly inch-worm drafting.  More, better, faster drafting to realign the fibers is not the answer. The Answer is: Do not mess the fiber up!

The answer is use differential rotation speed (DRS) so that fiber is drawn into the orifice only as fast as twist is added..When, I am spinning 10s at 9 tpi, my flier/bobbin assembly draws in 1/9" of fiber stream and inserts 1 twist.  I do not have to pull back on the fiber stream to retard its entry into the orifice, because it is only going to take in as much fiber as is needed for the twist that is being inserted.

Alden Amos and others have tried selling such wheels but there was no market.  Modern spinners do not have the skills to operate such wheels.  That is stupid because the concepts and math are fully explained in the spinning manuals from the beginning of the 20th century.  And, Alden Amos in his Big Book of Handspinning walks us through the math and concepts.

Still modern spinners insist on messing up their top by using Scotch Tension wheels, and in the discussion of what kind of wheel to buy there is no discussion of  DRS.Even Alden does not discuss the advantages of DRS in his big blue book.

When, I started using DRS, I thought that it was faster because there were 2 drive band contact areas, and hence more friction to drive the flyer/bobbin assembly faster.  And, that is certainly part of the story, but it does no explain the full increase on productivity.  The other side of the story is that DRS speeds spinning by making fiber in take much more efficient.  And, instead of a fiber drafting process there is a very efficient top/roving attenuation process.

So here is the deal. A DRS wheel is inherently faster than single drive wheel - and that includes e-spinners.
A double drive wheel that does not use DRS is somewhat faster than a single drive wheel, but not nearly as fast as a true DRS wheel.  And the difference between a not DRS DD wheel and a true DRS wheel is only millimeters - you cannot tell without measuring unless you work with DRS all the time.

My take is that any spinner that wants to spin productively, will put the effort into learning DRS; the concepts, the math, the tools, and the technique.  How productive is DRS?  Well, it will let me spin 560 yards of lace weight worsted spun single in ~70 minutes.  How long does it take you?  Yesterday, I was tuning my whorls, and running back and forth between the wheel and the lathe.  In the process, I spun a couple of thousand yards of lace weight singles.  How much did you spin yesterday?

50 mm whorls

The new whorls are about dialed in. I am pleased that they allow sustained bobbin speeds in the range of 3,400 rpm.  That is not peak bobbin speed, but is sustained bobbin speed. When spinning 5,600 ypp worsted (10s), that is 10 yards per minute.  Suddenly, turning out a knot free hank of 560 yards in less than 90 minutes is not a problem.  The intended weight of such hanks is 45 grams, and mine are running between 40 and 50 grams.  I think pretty good for hand spinning.  Spinning 20s (22 grams) goes at about the same rate or even a little faster.

My critics look at my pix, and say that I spin "thick and thin".  Perhaps!, but the average comes out to the grist that I want.  Can they sit down and spin their "uniform" singles, to produce 560 yards of the grist that they intend in 90 minutes?

With DRS, and these speeds, the spinning process is different.  There are videos of the way that I spin on this blog.  The top is wound onto the distaff, and is pulled off with my right hand.  DRS controlled takeup pulls the yarn out of the tip of the drafting triangle, while  my left hand controls how much twist runs into the drafting triangle.  The fibers in the top are parallel, and remain parallel in the drafting triangle, so that the final thread is full worsted. In other modern worsted drafting techniques, the fibers have a tendency to become skewed in the drafting triangle, and thus they must be pulled out straight and parallel again. This skewing of the fibers is inherent in the tension required to oppose the continuous take-up from a flyer/bobbin assembly not controlled by DRS.  I do not have  to resist that continuous take-up so I do not bunch up the fibers and push them out of their parallel alignment. My right hand controls attenuation, and my left hand controls twist, I do not draft per se.  This is not a process that works with Scotch Tension, Irish/German Tension, or double drive where DRS is not strictly controlled. It works better with finer singles. This is the fast and easy way to hand spin fine worsted singles.  And, If I have the drive band in the correct groove in my whorl, I know that the resulting hank will be close to the intended grist.

A video of the process shows me sitting there, making tiny hand motions.  It looks like I am treadling and nothing is happening.  The flier is moving much too fast to be captured on video. And, the video does not capture the thread being formed and wound.  At higher grists, the thread just disappears, so it looks like I am just sitting there treadling with no evidence that thread is being formed.

Yesterday, I did make a whorl for shirting/hosiery singles (soft and firm twist 40s, 22,400 ypp).  In a world where much of the wool was 40 count, it may very well be, that for spinners, it was faster to let the fiber flow through their fingers as above, to produce 40s, than to put extra effort into drafting thicker singles.  That is, the spinners traded more treadling effort for less drafting effort. And, the weavers gladly accepted the finer plies because it gave the fabrics a much nicer drape and hand.

Wood blanks to make whorls for "fines" are stacked  on the work bench beside the lathe. These will be for the #0 flier, but I have not designed that bobbin yet.  And, there is a real chance that fines will need a higher ratio accelerator.

A good production rate for shirting using these tools/techniques is 5 or 6 yards per minute, and the drafting technique works better at rates above 3 yards per minute.  This makes it seem like 240 yards per hour (bobbin =3,000 rpm) was a good commercial rate for a hand spinner.  Thus, a spinner could likely produce 4 worsted hanks per day.  Woolen spun requires more twist for the same grist, and thus with a wheel, my woolen yarn production at this grist is close to 200 yph.  For spinning fines, I have pushed bobbin speed as high as 5,000 rpm, allowing fines (more than 30,000  ypp) to be produced at 5 or 6 yards per minute.  This is fairly high effort and noisy, and I am not sure whether this could be a commercial rate.  

This rate of production can be easily sustained without ball bearings.  A wheel running at 3,000 rpm using leathers, bronze against steel and wood against metal bearings can sustain such speed when lubricated with lard oil. It is noisy, but all those bearing surfaces seem to last for at least 4,000 hours of use.

All in all, I think that professional spinners with flyer/bobbin wheels could have spun between 200 and 400  yards per hour of singles in the range of  5,600 ypp -10,200 ypp and between 200 and 250 yph  for grists in the range of  22,400 ypp (e.g., shirting and hosiery) .

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Better DRS

I knew I was going to do this within minutes of sitting down with the accelerator.  I  just did not know when,  I was working on a big pile of 10s, and the advice from AA was spin each project on a single spinning bobbin. The I figured that with 5-ply it did not matter so much.  And today, I did it.

A new spinning bobbin for the AA #1 flier with a whorl of 50mm to make turning precise flier whorls easier.
I also moved up to a bobbin core diameter of 0.95" (from 5/8").  And it has ball bearings because that was what was on hand.

I also increased the ratio of the accelerator, so the treadle cadence is actually a bit slower for the same bobbin rpm.

With the new flier whorl, I am getting more precise control of twist insertion, yielding a better quality single at about the same speed. I like this system.  Of course I liked the old system.  That was the only hand spinning system that I knew which would allow me to hand spin 10s at 500 yards per hour.  The new system lets me spin better 10s at 500 yd/hr.  It is made out of some scrap oak that I had laying around, and looks kind of clunky, but it works very well.  It is heavy enough that I would not try using to spin 60s s with Scotch Tension, but it works well with DD/DRS.  The only flier whorl I have for it at this point has grooves for 10s, 20s, and 40s. I am going to try an make the bobbins for the #0 flier also 50 mm, so I only need one set of flier whorls.  I need to standardize and simplify.  I have dozens of spinning bobbins and flier whorls that can be combined to yield the DRS for hundreds of different grists.  Pages and pages of my spinning journal are devoted to the DRS from different bobbin/ flyer whorl combinations.  That stuff should all be dumped and replaced by 2 bobbins and 4 flier whorls.

On the other hand, those spinning bobbins and flier whorls were variations on the spinning bobbins and flier whorls that Alden Amos made for me.  And, by making and using variations, I came to understand the system.  This leaves me in no doubt that professional spinners tools from prior to 1770 were optimised for speed, while spinning tools sold after Queen Victoria came to the throne, were optimised for ease of use.

Anyway, about half of this project will be spun on one spinning bobbin with a 30 mm diameter whorl and the rest of the project will get spun on the new spinning bobbin with a 50 mm whorl. By the time, it is all plied, washed and blocked, nobody will be able to see the difference.  Twist is a bit softer, likely closer to 8 than the 9 tpi I have been aiming for  - but that may change once everything has a finish on it. Make it work, then make it pretty.  I spun ~  thousand yards on it this afternoon.  It works, and I like the bigger whorls.  I do not have them all dialed in yet, but I like them.

Over all ratio is close to 1:35.  That does not sound like much, but there is no slip so it is very productive.  I may have to do another time trial here to see if the 500 yd/hr number is still valid.  Sacrifices to the Gods of Speed and all that.  On the other hand, LdV, has plans for much more productive spinning equipment.