Sunday, July 06, 2014

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.

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