Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Truth About Spinning Finer

There is a story in the spinning world that the very fine threads are spun by assembling bundles of only 5 fibers.  I know you have heard this story.

In truth, the finest bundle of (wool/goat/camelid) fibers that can be spun at commercial rates is ~20 fibers, and results in the traditional spin count singles.  The finest bundle of fibers that can be hand spun is ~10 fibers.  With any fine wool, a bundle of 10 fibers produces a grist that is far, far beyond the world record.   If someone is not spinning far, far, far beyond the world record, then they are not spinning a bundle of only 5 fibers.

I pointed out that my singles composed of ~20 fibers of Rambouillet were finer than a particular spinner’s threads that she claimed had a cross section of only 5 fibers.  I exposed the fib that was the basis of much of her status in the lace spinning community.  She was very unhappy.

She made a point of seeking out one of my suppliers out, and talking about me.  I expect that there was a lack of truthfulness, and possibly slander.  In any case, their accounts of the conversation differ markedly.

Her lace designs are wonderful.  The yarns she spins are wonderful and fit the styles of lace that she makes much better than they would if the yarns were much thinner. I looked at her stuff because I admire fine textiles, and hers are excellent. Her yarns do not need to be thinner.  So, why is she pretending that they are bundles of only 5 fibers? 

An aspiring lace spinner would read her posts on Ravelry, and simply sit down and try to spin 5 fibers together, and be frustrated.   The aspiring spinner would think that anybody that could spin 5 fibers together, must be a genus spinner.   Thus, the story of 5 fibers keeps others from learning to spin fine.  Thus, her story is restraint of competition by  -  fraud.

I certainly went down that path - worsted spinning best Rambouillet into a bundle of 14 fibers to make yarns in the 100,000 ypp range.  However, it was not real spinning; it was too slow, and the yarns were too weak and too fragile. 

I went back to my knitting.  Later,  I set out to learn to spin at the spin count (a bundle of 20 fibers), and then noticed that my spin count yarns were (often) much finer than the yarns which some were claiming had only 5 fibers in the cross section.  That was physically impossible. Then, rather than posting a rational rebuttal, they got indigent, and told me that I should not bother with spinning because there is no money in it.

If you want to win the “Longest Thread Competition”, you can spend a thousand hours spinning a bundle of 14 fibers of wool as found at your local fiber supplier.  Or, we can get some 11.75 micron Merino from commercial channels that can be spun into a bundle of 20 fibers that will result in 1,500 yards of 2-ply yarn that weighs 10 grams (e.g., singles @ 150,000 ypp).  That would be a world record and  likely a winner.  Your DRS will need to insert 36 tpi.  With a wheel running at 2,000 rpm, it is 50 or 60 hours of spinning.  Fiber available at local fiber stores (Merino 15.5 micron) will get you to singles @ 95,000 ypp, which when all plied up will get you into the honorable mention class.  I have gone far enough down this road to know that it can be done.  In some cases, I used Guanaco from Dana over at Royal fiber rather than wool. Sometimes, I just used the best few grams of the best fleece Anna Harvey could sell me.  It is a matter of craft, not an Olympic challange.  I have no doubt that some Longest Thread competitors do choose the small bundle path.  However, it is clear from the analysis referenced above that that some winners have not been honest about their approach. The grist of their entries proves that the yarn singles have a cross section of more than 5 fibers.  The numbers do not lie.

I stay busy, so these days, I do not bother to spin anything finer than its spin count, and with the fine Rambouillet that I am getting from Anna Harvey, that is sometimes pushing 60,000 ypp.  That is about the grist of the singles from which men's fine tropical wool suits are woven.  (Take you linen tester down to the mens section of the local Needless Markup Department store and tell them you want to look at Super 110 tropical suits.)  The best suits are woven from even finer yarns.  From here, I do not see any reason to go there. So why bother with spinning the 60,000 ypp?  That is just part of my evolution to improve my skill with a twisty stick to grade fine wool.

twisty stick

With some practice (take it to fiber shows), your trusty twisty stick will always give you the spin count of the fiber. For all the virtues of micron analysis, just being able to quickly estimate the spin count of a fiber with a cheap, portable, tool is very nice.  And, a spin count will allow you to estimate micron count.  It is not exact, but it is close enough for hand spinning.

For example, Merino is generally classed as our finest wool.  However, 3 minutes with my trusty twisty stick tells me that the best of the Anna Harvey Rambouillet is finer than any of the Merino in the house.  It also reminds me that the most expensive Merino in the house, has lowest spin count (e.g., highest micron count.)  I admit it.  On the day I bought that pricey Merino, I did not have my trusty twisty stick.  There is a lesson there.

With my trusty twisty stick close at hand, I have a big bin of Anna Harvey Rambouillet on order and none of the pricey Merino on order.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Size the day

When I bought the loom, they proudly told me that they (RAC) had just replaced the harness springs.

I thought, "Good" (a set of springs is not cheap)

However, the replacement springs that they bought are much stronger than the springs that AVL designed for weaving garment weight fabrics.

Less spring tension seems to have much reduced my warp abrasion problem. (And makes weaving much easier.)  Research on sizing has been put aside.

A Victorian was taking a survey of what kind of sizing the various weaving factories were using.  At one factory he was told, "We don't use it.  We know how to weave."  That set me thinking that perhaps I needed to read the manual. And there it is; large or heavy warps require more spring tension.  One reason that I had bought this loom is that I heard stories about the original owner using it to weave very fine  fabrics.  The original springs had been intended for much finer warps than the students at the RAC wanted to use.  No, if they were going to weave rugs on this loom, they needed much stronger springs.

Anyway, I am to the point where I am sampling garment weight cloth from hand spun, and am working out how to live in the realm of 24 to 30 epi.

When you see the loom that you want: Carpe Diem.  However, carp always have bones so having seized the day, and gone fishing, "Caveat Emptor".   

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Spinzilla II

I did not enter Spinzilla.

The way to win Spinzilla is to spin a low twist, low grist yarn.

In the last year, I have spun over 120,000 yards of yarn, with more than 100,000 of those yards, "lace weight."  In the next year, I plan to spin a quarter-million yards of 40s ( ~22,000 yards per pound.)

I am not going in the direction of low twist, low grist yarn.  If I do spin that week, it will be lace weight weft.  I have a lot of warp, and I have to admit that I am enjoying spinning woolen weft from Rambouillet.

The ultimate fiber stash

I got to thinking, what is the ultimate fiber stash?

For me it is 5 lb of each of the following:

  • Long wool/40 count (Cotswold or Romney)
  • Medium fine /56 count  (Shetland or Jacob)
  • Downy / 56 count (Suffolk)
  • Fine / 76 count (Rambouillet, Merino, Cormo) 
It is large enough that I can spin almost any project from stash, but small enough that I can spin the whole thing in a few weeks.  It is about what is on hand right now, but more is on order.  

In fact, today is a sort and clean day in hopes of finding enough bobbins to warp the loom using the sectional beam.  I did  find enough bobbins even before getting to the big box of  weft on bobbins. With that weft on pirns, I will have a surplus of bobbins- perhaps for the first time in my spinning life  I do not believe it.

I have not found a way to wind off from the spinning wheel to a pirn, so I end up winding off onto a storage bobbin, and then from the storage bobbin to a pirn.  I like my wood lath as a pirn winder.  It is fast.

knitting belts, knitting sheaths and stainless steel needles

A year ago, I switched to knitting needles made of hollow stainless steel for much of my knitting. Mostly, I bought inexpensive needles from Hong Kong. The sizing is weird, but if one knits gauge swatches (and all good knitters do) then one can find a size that works very well.

Knitting sheaths tended to break these needles, so for the past year, I have mostly used a leather knitting belt.  The leather is easier on the needles than the wooden knitting sheaths.

However, in the last couple of months, better knitting technique has allowed me to use the hollow needles with my knitting sheaths. And, frankly knitting sheaths have advantages.  (Shetland knitting pouches have different advantages!)

Thus, these days I  am back to knitting  mostly with a knitting sheath.  There is a gansey that was started on a knitting belt, but I will switch from belt to sheath when I get to the pattern.

These days, my sock knitting kit is in bag originally made as a shaving kit for travel. The needles do not go through the heavy plastic material. This way, I do not have to carry my big (leather) for just socks.

These days, I can have any style of sock yarn that I want - I spin it myself.  The yarns that I like for cold weather socks are remarkably similar to the yarns that I like for my cold weather sweaters -  50 to 60 count wools, spun into firmly spun worsted, lace weight singles, and then softly  plied into sport weight yarns.  Hiking socks and working ganseys get spun up from coarser wools such as Romney.

All  those socks that I knit from MacAusland were very good socks.  I do not regret them at all.  I still recommend MacAusland yarns for outdoor gear for folks that knit, but do not spin.  Today, I hand spin better yarns that make better objects.

On its face, none of this is cost effective.  110 hours for a sweater?!! Any economist could tell me that I would be better off working at Mcdonalds and buying a sweater.  But, I have to be somewhere, for the rest of the day, and I can put in the time when I am not working to good use - that 110 hours can be time that would otherwise be lost - as it while I watch the evening news, or sit and chat or . . . . The last time somebody complained about my knitting during a business meeting,  I recited all the typos and errors in his powerpoint presentation.  He turned red and shutup.  Actually,  The truth is - the time is free.

There are fancy soft fibers (and yarns) out there for high prices.  However, there are also reasonably priced fibers of very high quality.  Both the Woolery and Halcyon carry a blend of American  wools for about $16/lb. It has a lanolin based combing oil on it that will oxidize  and go sticky, so it must be stored in air tight bags.   At some point it needs to be washed/scoured.  As long as you are washing it, you might as well dye it to the color that you want.

Then there is Anna Harvey's Rambouillet ( http://www.annagotwool.com/ ) . Yes, she has "a spinner's flock" but she also has that lovely bright white, fine, Rambouillet. Yes, it is meat sheep!  but that does not keep it from being one of the very best textile wools in the world.  Yes, Merino gets all the press.  Merino needs the press because the great textile mills making the fine fabrics for the couture designers use Rambouillet.  Compared to other fiber in the hand spinner's world, Anna Harvey's Rambouillet is inexpensive. If you cannot scour it yourself, Sherry at Morrow Bay (www.morrofleeceworks.com/) will do an excellent job on it.  I hear of problems at some other (mills) - particularly for Alpaca.  PS Anna's flock won lots of ribbons at the last wool show.  Anna's flock is about as good as a commercial flock can be.  My suggestion is to get your guild together, order a bunch of fleeces.  When they come in, sort and grade the wool.  That way you will have enough wool of a single grade for a project.  Then, have a guild work day and wash all the grades of wool.  The result should be bins of graded wool that are far, far superior to anything on the commercial market, or anything a single spinner can do, all at a cost that is far, far below that of  commercial grade fine wools of a lower quality.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Hand Woolcombing and Spinning

Peter Teal did some very good work, but he makes a number of serious errors.  He holds opinions that I strongly agree with, and then sometimes he just sort of lapses into nonsense.  Such books are worth reading because they train us to keep our wits sharp.

At the core of Teal is the fact that worsted yarns do have extraordinary virtues, and good hand wool combing is the path to those virtues. Most other authors do not say this as strongly or discuss worsted in as much detail.  Worsted yarns are more expensive to produce and are more effort to produce, so they are much more expensive.  Worsted yarns are not as commonly produced by hand spinners.

On the other hand, added to all their other virtues, worsted yarns require less twist to be competent, and thus, a very smart hand spinner can ultimately produce a worsted yarn at a faster rate.

Any fiber can be spun worsted, it is just a matter of having the correct fiber preparation and drafting process.  the fibers easiest to spin worsted are the long wools.  The shorter, fine wools are more difficult.

The glory of worsted yarns is best displayed when they are spun into singles of 18,000 to 30,000 yards per pound.  These have a silken quality.  If the fibers are are consistently oriented butt to tip, the silken effect can be extraordinary.

However, worsted is most easily spun from longer wool which tends to be coarser. Spin at lower grist, such wools tend to be harsh.  Since, many hand spinners do not spin finer than 15,000 ypp, some think of worsted yarns as always harsh, unless they are spun from very fine wools such as Merino and Rambouillet.

Certainly one can spin worsted from Merino and Rambouillet.  However, if you try to comb Merino and Rambouillet with the combs that Teal suggests for fine wools most of the fiber will go off as waste.  Thus, if you follow Teal, you have the expense and effort of making (or buying) 8-pitch combs, and then the on-going cost of very low yields in combing rather expensive fine fibers.  The cost of such combs is greater than the cost of Teal's book.  The cost of a few grams of Merino waste is more than the cost of  Teal's book.

This was not fair to Teal's readers.

To prep fine wool for worsted spinning:
1) Buy fine wool top, oil it, comb it as necessary, diz, and spin.  If the top is good, then single pitch combs will be enough to loosen and realign the fibers with minimum waste.  If it is nice fresh top, that has not been dragged around to a a bunch of fiber shows, the combing may not be required if you are using DRS.

2) Buy a fine fleece, sort and grade, then wash it according to Alden Amos's instructions.  Oil the wool, and comb it with single pitch combs to remove all VM.  Then run it through the carder a couple of times.  Then, comb with 5-pitch combs, and plank.  The comb waste can be carded and spun woolen.  8-pitch combs are not needed.  I have been spinning Anna Harvey's Rambouillet at 45,000 ypp, and there is not an 8-pitch comb in the house.  The yarn is beautiful.  I made up some 15,000 ypp 2-ply (e.g., 30,000 ypp singles)  It makes gorgeous lace.

If I were spinning fine wool into worsted singles and woolen weft for the industrial production of very fine wool flannels, I would likely use 8-pitch combs as was done in the day of industrial scale, hand combing.  However, at this time, the finest warp on my project schedule is 22,000 ypp.  I do not need 8-pitch combs.

A good spray bottle will distribute oil just as accurately as PT's syringes.  It is just a matter of working consistently.

The second problem in Teal, is that he is blinded by Victorian recreational hand spinning and does not see the older professional traditions of hand spinning.  Moreover, he does not look at professional textile engineering references, such as Priestman.

On page 95, he provides Fig. 78,  a drawing of  yarn passing through a Saxony spindle purporting to show how twist is inserted. However, in reality, twist will be inserted on one side of the orifice and removed on the other side of the orifice so that the flyer inserts no net twist.  Twist is inserted into the yarn by the rotation of the bobbin - to which the yarn is attached.  It is that rotation of the attached end of the yarn that inserts the twist that makes the yarn.  My point is that Teal never worked out how a flyer/bobbin assembly spinning wheel actually  works.

Granted that when he wrote that, the Big Blue Book had not yet been published, but there are many older references that do get it correct, and if he was looking at Leo's note books, he should have seen other references that do get it correct.

As a result, all of his twist and take-up math is nonsense, because he neglects the concept of yarn lock and twist accumulation during yarn lock.  He misses the point that most of the time while spinning on his wheel setups, the flyer and the bobbin rotate together, and no wind on occurs. Then, with his very high DRS setups, wind-on occurs rapidly, thereby trapping the previously accumulated twist. That whole discussion in Chapter 7 is not useful. It is an intellectual briar patch, without the rewards of fruit or flowers.

He did not understand DRS.  He did not do the grist/twist math.  He  wants the bobbin whorl much smaller than the flyer/spindle whorl - in my terms, he want a very large DRS (e.g., ~1.6).  Certainly that will ensure fast take-up, but it also ensures continuous slippage that will slow the wheel down and reduce self regulation.  For example Fig. 86 is a Shadowgram that he says ,"will produce over twisted yarn on an empty bobbin and that the two diameters on the spindle whorl are so close as to be pointless."  In fact, it looks remarkably similar to the ratios of the flyer/bobbin assembly that I used to spin 16,000 yards of fine worsted wool warp last fall.  It worked very well.  He did not understand the design of that flyer/bobbin assembly.  It is worth noting that the flyer in Fig. 86 that he does not like is from an old wool wheel, while the flyer in Fig 87 that he likes is from an old flax wheel.  I expect that the wheel in Fig 86 would be very well suited for spinning worsted singles in the 7s to 8s range.

However, I would strongly agree with his comment on pg 113 that, "no one wheel of fixed ratio can cope with and infinitely variable range of fibers and yarns, but that it is a relatively easy matter, once you know the twist requirements of your yarns to have another whorl made so that your wheel is able to produce those you require most of with the minimum effort."  That is a sentiment with plenty clauses that comes out of the fight with another verb in its teeth. However, he is correct - whorls are cheap.

In the additional material (Chapter 11)  entitled,  25 Years On , he has drunk the Kool-Aid, and bought a modern, mass produced, scotch tension spinning wheel.  It is a good wheel for a teacher, because that is the kind of wheel many students have.  However, it is not particularly fast and it is not particularly suited to spinning fine. And, while in the early days, he makes a big deal of consistency and excellence in hand spinning, a ST spinning wheel will not produce near the consistency of a DRS controlled wheel.  I am not saying that DRS is the only way to produce consistency, I am saying that it helps.

Back to slippage

Once you have a flier/bobbin set with whorls designed for spinning 60s (30,000+ ypp) then a very small amount of slippage will let one spin 80s (45,000 ypp) on the same rig.  For worsted, that is only a slippage of 3 tpi. This small amount of slippage does not seem to significantly affect rpm.

For over-all effort (making flyer bobbin assembly and spinning) this may be the easiest path to 80s.  It also means that a 3/4" thick, gang of 3 flyer whorls can cover a range of grists.  At this point, one flyer whorl gang for spinning 10s and 4-run woolens (6,400 ypp) accurately; and,  a second gang for spinning worsted 40s, 60s, and 80s are at the wheel. Mostly, these two whorls get me through the day. If there is a problem, I have a drawer full of flyer whorls with slightly different DRS.

At this point, I can make several sets in a morning. The other day, I started spinning some woolen weft and discovered that I needed some additional ratios, so with a whole drawer full  of whorls, I made some more.

Making such whorls is no different than a wood worker making a jig so s/he can repetitively cut or drill pieces faster and more accurately.  Look for example at the jigs that Peter Teal used to make combs.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The big blue book

Having published my notes on  intentional spinning, it is only fair that I publish my notes on Alden Amos's Big Book of Hand Spinning.

pg 15  Good!
pg 19   Twisty sticks were a standard tool of wool sorters and wool buyers for at least a thousand years.

pg 42 Diz also controls rachet.The process is critical to the structure of the yarn.  This needs to be considered as commercial slivers of top are used.  It is often worth washing, combing, and dizing, commercial top to get a desired rachet

pg 44  For objects requiring high collapse rates, the wool can be scoured, and reoiled. This gives a more uniform collapse, and a much more durable object.  Lanolin can be recycled. Since the modern Welch blankets are patterned we can assume that the yarns were (sometimes) dyed and thus scoured.

pg47 Good!!  I have gone around the block on wool washes, and am back to soap with soft water.  Alden's advice on cleaning fleece is still among the best.

pg 73  AA should have included mechanical details of DRS.

pg 123 AA should have included spinning techniques for DRS systems.  They are different.

pg 131 GOOD!  Grist is dependent on yarn tension.

pg 185 There are pix of accelerator wheels  but no discussion of their virtues and vices. Virtues include less slippage. Their great vice is that the drive bands are a problematic.  Everything is going faster, so a thrown drive band can catch and break a flyer arm. Everything is going faster, so oil is essential and thrown oil a problem.  In high speed worsted spinning, a resonance can set up at the drafting triangle resulting alternate over spin and under spin.  The solution is a softer fiber prep to isolate twist propagation.  comb and diz.  On the other hand, such singles look like "hand spun".

pg 190: Double treadle systems will transfer more energy to the flyer/bobbin assembly. A double treadle system will put less stress on the wheel for the same energy transfer.  Double treadle systems will have less slippage.  Fine spinning requires huge amounts of twist.  The only way you are going to get there is high speed, and that implies big ratios - hence double treadles.

pg 210 The the flyer/bobbin assembly derived from the 11th century miniaturization of a large device used to wind thrown silk near Florence, Italy.

pg 210 Leo was looking at winders for the silk throwing industry.  Here Alden misses the point that Leo is working for the ruler of a city where there were 400,000 textile workers in fierce competition with the 400,000 textile workers in the adjacent city. Leo worked as military engineer, and would have been making rope from hemp for military use. Leo also did  work for families that provided banking, insurance, and factor services to the textile industries in Italy, France, and Flanders.

pg 210 A DRS controlled flyer/bobbin assembly can produce twice as much woolen yarn per day as a great wheel, and 4 times as much worsted yarn per day as a drop spindle. A DRS controlled flyer/bobbin assembly can produce more consistent yarn than either a great wheel or a drop spindle. This had value for spinners producing yarn for weavers. Weavers do not pay for singles that are too heavy or too light.

About that time, such singles were also plied up as hosiery yarns.  It is a very useful grist to be able to spin quickly and reliably.

pg 211 DRS controlled flyer bobbin system can have slack between the drafting triangle and orifice.  In commercial use, such systems are used for winding rovings and slivers that would stretch under tension.

pg 240 AA should have noted that a DRS system can easily produce at twice that rate.

pg 94/383 Factors should be discussed in more detail including effect of fiber.

pg 385 Factors should be given for better grist to WPI conversion.  I have gone back and forth on whether this is an omission or simply a matter of style.

pg 378 Bobbin capacity is highly dependent on tension and how rapidly the yarn is advanced across the face of the bobbin. Yarn construction also affects capacity, eg, less woolen than worsted.

Over all, Alden's sins are those of omission, and I cannot fault him for taking the space to explain things more clearly rather than going into DRS where the market had already told him that it was not interested.

I find it amusing that Interweave fact checked AA, but let JM's errors in heat physics slip through.

I use flyers made by Alden Amos, but I modified both the bobbin whorl and the flyer whorls.

Notes on intentional spinning

We were looking at wool pants in Needless Markup the other day, and saw some things that dramatically contradict some points in JM's IS.  It is time to list my issues with that book.

p28: Dyed wool has been scoured.  If you see a blue fisherman's sweater, it was knit from scoured wool. The seamen/fishermen on the great Norfolk fishing fleets of the 14th century wore blue sweaters.   The oiled wool was a result of oil being added after knitting.

Making textiles from wool in the grease is a matter of ignorance either of the textile worker or the end user.  Prior to 1780, the countryside was full of textile workers that knew spinning was faster, and a better yarn was produced when working with clean wool.  This is not to say that today some end users do not want wool spun in the grease.  Every fashion house sells expensive garments made of  impractical fabrics. Wool spun in the grease belongs to that class of expensive, impractical, fashion objects.

p55 All dry, naturale textile fabrics release heat as they are dampened. Both cotton and linen will release more heat than wool.  However, damp cotton and lined will wick moisture to your skin, where heat from your body will evaporate it causing the linen or cotton to feel cold.  Damp wool does not wick water, and the wool reflects heat from the body back to the body making the wool feel warm.

p64: No mention of differential rotation speed.

p64: Worsted yarn and woolen yarn are both as heavy as their grist dictates. Worsted yarn is denser.  If I spin a pound of woolen yarn and a pound of worsted yarn at 5,600 ypp they will both be the same weight, but the woolen yarn will take up more volume.  Both yarns will be the same length, and thus about the same amount of yarn will be used for a knitting or weaving pattern.

The fibers in the worsted yarn will be closer together than in the woolen yarn.

There is "thermal inertia", which more a factor of your body than of the textiles around it. And there is thermal insulation, which reduces heat loss or heat gain.  Air does not provided "thermal mass".  That is an error in JM's physics that was not caught by the editors/reviewers at Interweave.  Thermal insulation is what textiles provide. Heat loss can be by heat advection in air, conduction, radiation, or heat advection by water vapor.  To insulate against heat advection in air, one needs to stop air moving from the skin outwards. This is almost always the big source of heat loss, and it is prevented by tighter fabrics.Worsted yarns are tighter constructed and threrefor allow less air to move through them.  Air molecules are tiny compared to wool fibers, so the wool fibers need to be very close together.  If you want to trap air in the fabric, then the wool fibers and wool threads need to be on the order of 40 microns apart.  Yes, trapping air does work, but wool fibers must be very close together to make that work well.  Wool fiber that are 40 microns apart will work well to insulate against conduction.  To insulate against heat radiation, you need to make sure that there are no gaps in the fabric.  A test is to face a bright window and hold the fabric up 1" in front of your eye.  If you cannot see an outline of the window than the fabric will insulate against heat loss by radiation.  Such a fabric will also insulate against heat loss by advection in air. Wool does not wick water to the skin, thereby reducing heat loss as water vapor. In wet weather, this can be a huge effect.

If you want a nice warm wool cloth, try a wool flannel with worsted warp and woolen spun weft. No, my dear, warmth is related to how close together the fibers are rather than how they are fabricated.

p82:In weaving, the weave will lock the yarn in place - 2-ply is not required. Many of the great textiles of old were made from single ply yarns.  Today, 2-ply is used because we do not need the fill for warmth and we do not full the cloth. And, single plies are harder to handle - and she does not want to open that can of worms.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Twist and grist in Chaucer's time

From the nomenclature in commercial trade, I expect that in the 15th century spinners could consistently and routinely produce hanks of singles with a tolerance of 3% to 5%.   That is, a commercial spinner (in Flanders) could be expected to consistently produce hanks that weighed between 11.5 and 10.9 grams (e.g., the weight of singles in the 40 - 41 class). The spinner would aim for a weight of 11.2 grams, and a variance of ~3%  would result in a 40 - 41 class.   Overall, it seems clear that weavers on the continent at that time were ordering yarn with grist specified at a precision of plus or minus 3%.

I do not see many modern hand spinners that can do that. It requires a high level of craftsmanship, and I think doing it on a commercial basis indicates the use flyer/bobbin assemblies controlled by DRS, If you do not think that DRS controlled flyer bobbin assemblies were available, then show me how else such control of grist could have occurred on a commercial basis.  That is, show me that you can consistently spin hanks that weigh between 11.5 and 10.9 grams (e.g., 40s - 41s) without using DRS!

This tells us that the flyer/bobbin assembly had moved out of Italy and into France and Flanders, but perhaps not all the way to Yorkshire.  This would explain why Edward III was still seeking to induce textile craftsmen from Flanders to come to Britain. He wanted England to learn the secrets of better spinning.

In Chaucer's time, Italy, France, and Flanders still had a competitive advantage in spinning.  Now, that is a hard thing to explain away.

For back ground see:

and look at Fiske's work on the Dutch.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Twist and grist

I said, that for a hand spinner, inserted twist defines grist. A test is reported below showing that hand spinners can control grist to plus or minus 5%.  Can you control grist better?

This summer I have been spinning "10s" - worsted 5,600 ypp singles.

I wound a dozen hanks of 560 yards and weighed them.  Each should weigh ~45.4 grams.

I used a particular set of flyer bobbin whorls, spun 7 or 8 grams of single, then wound it off onto a storage bobbin. Then, I wound the storage bobbin on to a skeiner, blocked the hank with steam, and weighed it.

Mostly the hanks weighed right in the range of 43 to 48 grams.  Thus, by using DRS to control twist, it is possible for hand spinners to control grist to within plus or minus 5% over samples of 560 yards and maintain a specific grist over projects of many hanks.

Smaller samples tell me that this can be done with 20s or 40s.  I did samples of finer singles in the middle of the above test.  It is possible to spin 10s, then spin much finer 20s and 40s, and then go to back to spinning 10s at the same grist as before.

The 8 lb of  5s loom warp that I did last year with the smaller and less precise whorls, runs about plus or minus 12%.  (At the time, I thought the yarn was reasonably consistent for hand spun, and was very happy to have hanks anywhere in the range of 80 to 100 grams.)

By planning twist, one can control grist.  This is deep inside the world of  "the intentional spinner." The only path here, that I know, is DRS.  Without DRS I do not think you are going to be able to control grist to within 5%.  Without DRS, it is going to take you much, much longer to spin 7,000 yard of 5,600 ypp,  2,240 yd of 11,400 ypp and 1,120 yd of 22,400 ypp singles. Really, how many tries would it take you to spin a 560 yd hank of single that weighs between 10.5 and 12.5 grams? With DRS, I can be reasonably confident of spinning such a 40s on the first try.

It was not always like that.  Better tools brought better skills.  Better skills let me design and make better tools, and so forth.

Today, I find the omission of DRS by Judith Mackenzie to be grievous.  When my variation on grist  with DRS was 12%, and SG told me she could maintain grist within 10%,  I could give a pass to intuitive spinners who did not discuss DRS.  However, now that I know more of the control that DRS can provide, then failure to discuss DRS is a serious error and omission.  Alden Amos at least brings the topic up and discusses the math, even if he does not get into the details of hand movements and mechanics.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Mean while, back in California

The weather was colder, and the "slot" breezier (gusts to 55).  The Blue Monday sailed like an old Clorox bottle, blown and tossed by the wind across a meadow of sheep. Monday, night as we sat on the hook at Paradise Cove, we were in the mood for too much beer.

The skipper was math major at Columbia, and after he had talked of the beauty of the math related spheres, we moved on to DRS. A math major from Columbia admitted that the math was "interesting".  He suggested that I restate the math.  The mark of a great mathematician is that they can make excellent suggestions, even after several beers.

Core to the idea of DRS, we need a mathamatical model of yarn that allows us to plan our yarn in terms of type of construction, fiber, grist, and twist.  Set any 3 of those and you  have defined the 4th.  And, twist can control grist, and grist can control twist.  The grist:twist relationship can only be changed by changing  construction and/or fiber, or by great effort by the spinner.   This is taking Judith MacKensie's intentional spinner and make it quantitative.  As Ed Deming would tell us, "You get what you measure!"

If you are spinning wool at a particular twist, then the grist will tend to be very uniform. If you are spinning wool at a particular grist, then the twist will tend to be very uniform.  If you want to spin finer, increase the twist.  If you want more twist, then increase the grist.  These are both easy.  If you want a finer yarn at the same twist, then you are going to have to put more work into drafting.   Oh, yes, 95% of my spinning skill is on page 383 of Alden's big blue book.

Let us look at the model in more detail;

Let us begin with a flyer/bobbin spinning wheel with drive wheel diameter of "Wd". The bobbin has a effective diameter for winding up yarn of "Bc".  The Bobbin has a whorl circumference of  "Bwc".  Flyer is driven by a whorl with circumference "Fwc".

Thus, the differential rotation speed;

DRS  = Bwc/Fwc.

This is the ratio that I go on and on about.

The DRS is important because it controls the inserted twist, and inserted twist controls grist (G).  In fact we can calculate/estimate grist from twist (T) and twist from grist.

G=(TPI*TF*FF*CF)^2,; where "TPI" is twist per inch, "TF" is twist factor, "FF" is fiber factor, "CF" is construction factor for woolen or worsted. FF are typically in the  5-10%  range and  can be ignored for hand spinning, and the construction factor is in the range 1,04 to 1.2 and  become large enough to be of interest to hand spinners, but I often lump it in with twist factor leaving me with:

G=(TPI*TF)^2; and TPI= square root (G) / (TF) .

In yards per pound, it is easy, in metric, it is hard.  This set of relationships makes working in yards per pound worthwhile.

Now given a particular bobbin whorl, or bobbin effective diameter or flyer whorl, we can calculate the other two components to produce a particular twist or grist, making spinning a particular grist or twist very easy.

Looking at tpi for 10s; we know that 10 hanks per pound is 5,600 yards per pound, and the square root of 5,600 is ~75. Looking at AA pg 383 we see the TF is 0.11. Using TPI= square root (G) / (TF) we get 75 * 0.11= 9 tpi. If I am going to spin worsted "10s", I need to insert 9 tpi. Any other tpi is more work.

Last spring, I put some effort into making a bobbin with a 3" effective diameter (Bc) and a whorl of 1.986" (Bwc).  My wheel diameter is 22".

In making 10s with 27 twists in every wrap of the bobbin, the bobbin must rotate 27 times while 3" of yarn are wound on.  As the bobbin rotates to insert twist, the flyer must rotate with the bobbin plus or minus 1/27th of a rotation relative to the bobbin. This tiny difference in the relative rotation speeds of the bobbin and the flyer allows twist accumulation; and take-up to occur continuously, and uniformly.

Thus, if (DRS) is = Bwc/Fwc=1.03 the flyer will wind one wrap around the bobbin as the bobbin inserts 27 twists into the yarn.  If the effective diameter of the bobbin is 3" then twist will be 9 tpi, and effort by the spinner in drafting will be small. In this case, Bwc is 1.986" and Fwc is 1.912" and the difference is 0.07" (a little more than 1/16").  With DRS, very small differences between the diameter of the flyer whorl and the diameter of the bobbin whorl make very large differences in the grist that the wheel wants to spin.  A hank per hour is a reasonable pace to spin this grist.  Spinning any other grist with these whorls takes significant effort from the spinner.

However, once the wheel is set to spin a particular grist, spinning that grist is very easy, and much of what I would call spinning effort just goes away.  In particular, most single drive wheels have much more slippage than is recognized.  Rules of thumb for slippage in the published spinning cannon are for low speed, and  drive band slippage increases dramatically as faster spinning is attempted. With double drive/DRS there is much less slippage, and hence much less spinning effort.

If DRS is  = Bwc/Fwc=1.02; now the flyer will wind one one wrap of yarn in 50 rotations, so that twist is ~17 tpi, which is just right for 22,000 ypp which is 40 hanks per pound or 150 wpi.  With a DRS of 1.02,  one can easily spin Romney or Cotswold at its spin count. All of that magic ritual and hocus-pocus of spinning fine goes away, and one can just sit down and spin at the spin count.  (That said, I freely admit that a whorl groove that should be producing 40s wants to do 56s. (It is 1/32" too small!) It is not the end of the world, it is ~ +3 tpi. That whorl will get relabeled, put away, and taken out for use for when I want to spin 32,000 ypp. ) At twice the twist, these 40s get spun at half the pace as 10s.

If DRS is  = Bwc/Fwc=1.016. Now I can sit down and spin combed 56 count wool at its spin count of 32,000 ypp by using 20 tpi resulting in a spinning pace ~240 yards per hour.  I oil the fiber and divide it into slivers of pencil thickness, but that is all very quick, the wool very cheap, and the result is singles that are much thinner than most of the Orenburg lace singles we see today.  These singles ares about 60 meter/gram making them finer than any of the wool/Alpaca/goat singles yarns that Lacis sells.  (Of course, my fine worsted singles do not have the soft halo that gives Orenburg its lovely softness. My singles do not have enough visual bulk for the Orenburg patterns.)

If DRS is  = Bwc/Fwc=1.014, then I am up into 25 tpi, and able to spin Rambouillet and other very fine wools into 80s (45,000 ypp or 91 m/g). I know they are 80s because the staples are finer than 19 microns and there are between 18 and 22 fibers in the cross section of the single.  The actual spinning is slow at a couple of hundred yards per hour -- even when working with freshly oiled and combed fiber.  Fiber combed with English (5-pitch) combs works very well.  The little lice combs work, but are not necessary, and are so slow as to be considered an academic exercise at best.  Lice combs are not suited to spinning a useful amount of yarn in a reasonable time frame. I spoil about a third of the flyer whorls in this range that I try to make. If I made more of them, I would get better at making these whorls.

Note well, that small changes in DRS can result in very large changes in grist. Between DRS of 1.016 and 1.014 grist changes by 15,000 ypp.  With my current bobbin whorls, 0.1 mm makes a large difference in grist. This process takes a craftsman's attention to detail,  but it works.

This is very different from single drive systems or DD with slip, where there is either twist accumulation (during yarn lock) or take-up.  For one thing, with less slip, it is faster.  For a second, twist, and hence grist is predictable. For 3d, fine yarns can be spun without a tendency for them to drift apart before they accumulate enough twist.  For a 4th, the fiber can retain its orientation, so there is no need for inch-worm drafting to produce true worsted  lace weight singles. Without the need for inch-worm drafting, worsted can be produced as fast as long draw. (Since worsted requires a lower twist factor, production of worsted can actually be faster than long draw producing the same grist.)

Sunday, September 07, 2014

More blocking

These days, I block singles spun at the fiber's spin count on the skeiner.

I wind off from the spinning bobbin, on to a storage bobbin, and when I have a full hank (560 yd), I wind from the storage bobbin on to the skeiner. The I steam it in place, on the skeiner.  I tie the leases, and store it away.  The whole thing takes maybe 10 or 12 minutes, so one gets ~54 golden spinning minutes per hour  if one is  spinning 280 yards per hour.

Steaming 40s on the skeiner does not seem to generate enough tension to damage the skeiner.

On the other hand, singles of 40s and finer need to be blocked before they can be handled, and a hank of fines cannot be reasonably blocked by hanging a weight on the wet hank.  I have had experienced, know it all spinners, tell me it could, but we go back to them and ask, "Have you ever blocked 560 yards of 22,000 ypp single by hanging a weight from it?"  The answer is invariably "No." They are reciting the modern  conventional wisdom for things they have NOT done.  And, they are reciting without thinking.  AF still thinks she can spin "fines" on her drop spindle using a hitch.  Maybe she can, maybe she can't, but she has never just sat there and spun a hank of fines (30,000 ypp and finer singles) in her life. That is a particular skill set, and when she talks about it, she is not speaking from experience.  If she had to produce a quarter million yards of 22,000 ypp singles for a bolt of shirting, she would find a better way.  And yes, the folks in Flanders were producing boat loads of shirting long before they had flyer/bobbin assembly spinning wheels.

Saturday, September 06, 2014

spinning at the spin count

The other afternoon, I looked down into the basket beside my spinning chair and it was empty.

What had been a 6 or 7 pound bump of combed top was 60 or 70 hanks of singles.  However, I have stash beyond reasonable life expectancy so I went upstairs and got the last of the Blue Romney, oiled the wheel, and started spinning.

The drive band was on the outer whorl - set to insert 18 tpi. Of course the result was worsted single with a cross section of about 22 to 26 fibers or staples.  I spun a hank of 560 yards and it weighed ~ 12 grams, so I spun a couple of more.  I did not measure them, but I expect that they are close to 22,400 ypp.

Yes, it sucks up twist, but the actual spinning is remarkably easy. At about the spun count, yarns just sort of self assemble. That fiber had to be drafted and coaxed to form a 5,600 ypp single for gansey yarn (containing ~320 fibers in cross section).  It has to be drafted and coaxed to form an 11,000 ypp single, and that drafting and coaxing takes a certain effort. It takes less drafting effort to turn it into a yarn with a grist equal to its spin count.

Some of those singles will become warp for flannel shirting.  The weft for that will be spun from Rambouillet. I will be back to drafting and coaxing yarns with a cross section of  ~100 fibers, except that these singles will have a grist of 22,000 ypp.  From here, it seems that I have made some bad choices in fiber selection and spinning Rambouillet at 22,000 ypp will involve significant effort.  On the other hand, I do not know any other way of producing a very soft shirting flannel.  Perhaps shirting flannel is just a lot of work any way it is done - something about 8 pounds of the stuff requiring a quarter million yards of single.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

The basics

The Feynman Lectures on Physics


Too bad this set of his lectures does not include more of his thoughts on fluid dynamics.

Still, you can throw it up on your big screen TV to read as you spin.

Distaffs for worsted spinning revisited

When I was spinning slower, I used thicker slivers and used tension between the drafting hand and the distaff to attenuate the sliver.

Now, I am spinning thinner yarns, faster, using thinner, more fragile slivers; and, the slivers tend to part as I unwind them from the distaff.

Thus, I am moving toward coiling the sliver loosely into a tub or basket.

For the current project, the slivers are ~6 yd long, weigh ~12 gr, and are spun into  ~ 200 yards of single.

However, I am starting to seriously look toward the production of 40s, where hanks of 560 yards will weigh less than 12 grams. For 40s, a 6 yd sliver only weighs a couple of grams and yields ~ 100 yd of single.  Why the leapfrog to the smaller sliver? I do not know, but that is what seems to work.  

One line of thought is that I was using fatter slivers because everyone else was. Then, tugging the sliver off the distaff provided some attenuation and made the work of the drafting hand easier.  There is much discussion in older books on hand spinning on how wonderful the human hand is for spinning because of the great attenuation it can achieve in one process. Such attenuation in mills requires several steps. My current feeling is that regardless of how wonderful the hand is at attenuation, the spinning goes faster when the drafting hand has less work to do. This can be done by using a distaff or by using thinner slivers.

Over this past summer, I have spin almost 20 miles of fine singles, mostly from commercial top prepared and packaged for commercial mills.  Those singles are suited for their purpose. They have a clearly handspun appearance that I do not regret.  However,  when I take the time to oil,  comb, and diz the wool, the singles are more uniform, and spinning goes faster. For the 5-ply singles of the grist that I have been spinning, the net advantage is modate.  For 40s the net advantage is very significant. For 60s the advantage is gargantuan.  Simple combing with 5-pitch English combs is all that is needed.

Some teachers of spinning lace offer elaborate rituals of fiber preparation.  These will make you feel better, but what will allow you to spin better lace is a properly setup wheel.

I admit it. This summer has been like an adolescent love affair, where every day I learn something wonderful about differential rotation speed (DRS) and how to better employ it. Years ago, I learned to spin 30,000 ypp singles on the Ashford DD flyer, but those singles on that flyer was real work. Those singles on my early DRS fliers could be produced routinely - without ritual and ceremony.  With the 50 mm whorls that I made last spring providing more accurate control,  spinning 30,000 ypp singles from 60 count fibers has at long last become very easy.  I can look back and see that most of the modern conventional wisdom on spinning fine is just ritual and ceremony and does not help with the actual spinning.

Two spinning gurus told me that "such and such" a fiber prep was necessary, and with the wrong wheel, it is. I bought the equipment, and spent weeks learning the technique.  However, with wrong wheel, fine spinning was still very difficult.  Now, I know that with a correctly setup wheel, that fiber prep is not necessary, and spinning such fine singles can be easy. What the gurus should have talked about was the correct wheel. They wasted my time and money.   Then, any good fiber prep would work well.  The difference between the correct wheel and the wrong wheel? About a millimeter (1/25")!!  I kid you not.