Tuesday, September 02, 2014

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.


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