Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The end of needles

Why are knitting needles pointed?  Really, why?

The taper to the point acts as a wedge forcing the legs of the stitch open.  And, for knitting fibers such as linen with low elasticity, the taper gives clearance so a loop of  yarn and the needle will all fit through the working stitch at the same time.  And, a taper does facilitate some decrease stitches and many lace stitches.

However, the downside of the taper is that if the yarn is wrapped around the taper, then when slid on the full diameter shaft, that stitch will be tighter - a reasonable trick for knitting tighter fabrics.  However, one can get greater uniformity of tension/gauge by simply using smaller needles.

Hand knitters need the wedge effect to help them poke the needle into the working stitch. However, a knitter using a knitting sheath has leverage, and does not need the wedge effect.  In fact, the taper to a point makes it more likely that stitches will be dropped, the yarn split, and the taper requires that the knitter make larger motions (e.g., inserts needle past taper for even gauge).

A good rule of thumb is that smaller motions allow faster knitting.  Thus, a knitter with a knitting sheath can use cylindrical needles (no tapers to points) to reduce the size of their motions and knit faster.  Um, some skill is involved.

For ordinary fabric, I  have moved to knitting needles with flat ends.

Using the US1 needles that taper to points, my knitting motion is about 12 - 15 mm.  Using the needles with flat ends my knitting motion is about half that and is noticeably faster.   These days, I have sets of gansey needles (US00, US0, US1)  with flat ends for knitting faster. (Cable patterns require pointed needles.) And,  the smaller motions allow using shorter needles and still being able to use the spring action. This is the small object solution that I was seeking. The needles above are 9" long, and they can still deliver the gansey knitting spring action.

However, I think swaving (rotating bent, blunt needles held in a knitting sheath) is still the technique of choice for fine gloves and socks.

On a sail boat, short, blunt needles are are better.  

These days, I also use a lot of  yarns that are rather "splitty".  Flat ended needles work well with splitty yarns.

Now the flat ends are a real bitch for the decreases at turning the heel and toe, but that is less than 1% of the stitches in a boot sock, and I can either struggle with those stitches or I can switch over to pointy needles for those rounds.   (Revised to say that the flat ends require a special trick, but once the trick is acquired, decreases are fast and easy.  It just took me a while to visualize and implement the technique.)

And, again, flat ended needles are not for hand held knitting - one does not have enough leverage and control to make them work. And flat ends do not work for lace.  Otherwise they are another tool that with another set of skills allows knitting better and faster.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Myth and certainty

I find that I must spin a few hundred yards of  fine thread to be certain that I am spinning that wool at at its spin count. A picture really does not not say anything about over all grist. A control card is not certain because different yarns have different loft, and hence different thicknesses for the same grist. A short length of thread can differ from the average of the hank.  No! Spin count is spin count.  You know you are spinning at the spin count, when a hank (560 yards) has about the correct weight for that spin count. And, a full hank of 560 only needs weighting to the nearest gram.  6 grams and it is an 80s (or maybe a 76s. Who cares? close enough for hand spinning).  10 grams and it is a 45s. 45 grams and it is a 10s.

Weighting hanks of a full 560 yards is no extra work, because, without spinning many, many hanks of about that grist you are not going to be a good enough spinner to spin wool at its spin count.  So really, all you need to be certain of your grist is a skeiner and a kitchen gram scale.

I spin and weigh many hanks,  I am certain of the grist that I spin, and I frequently spin wool at its Bradford system spin count.

And, still the myth in the modern hand spinning world is that wool cannot be hand spun at its Bradford spin count. (Or, at least that I cannot spin wool at its Bradford count!)  I get this myth spit at me over and over by people that do not have the elan to try and spin fine.  It is a myth perpetuated by laziness and ignorance.

If other spinners would only try, they also could spin wool at its Bradford spin count. Along the way they will spin many, many hanks that miss their target grist, but with a skeiner and a kitchen scale they can be sure of when they have arrived, and are spinning wool at its Bradford spin count. However, modern spinners are so wound up in the myth that it is impossible to spin so fine that they do not even try.  In fact, they do know from the results of spinning contests such as the Longest Thread that it is very possible to spin at the spin count and even finer.  It really comes down to a question of how fine a yarn can be spun at a useful rate. And, that is a matter of tools and skills.

Wool singles spun at their Bradford spin count are not particularly fine compared to say yarns spun for competitions.  Bradford spin count singles are robust enough for handling in a commercial weaving environment.  Bradford spin count singles were the standard product of  commercial hand spinners, whose customers were weavers.  It was a commercial product that was produced at commercial rates -- hand spinners spun Bradford spin count singles at a rapid pace.  This is what professional spinners did for a living for hundreds of years.

Modern spinners have abandoned these tools and skills, and the myth is that they cannot be reclaimed.  You may not want to use the tools of a professional spinner or acquire the skills of a traditional professional spinner, but reciting the myth will not keep others from using those very useful tools and skills, and you will look like a fool.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Spinning at more than 210 wpi

I recently mentioned that 56 count wool spun at its spin count is a bundle of 20 fibers. Such a bundle  is just over 125 microns in diameter. The best parts of the Rambouillet fleece that I get from Anna Harvey are 80 count or ~18 microns in diameter, so a bundle of 20 of those fibers will be just over ~90 microns in diameter -- easily much less than 1/210 of an inch, so we can expect wraps per inch of 210 or more from a bundle of 20 fibers.

Drafting 20 fibers from 80 count wool is not that different from drafting 20 fibers from 56 count wool. Making yarn from those drafted fibers just takes some 22-24 tpi, fingers sensitive enough to control the flow of twist up into the drafting triangle, experience to know what the single you want looks like, and the courage to spin that fine.  Oh!, and very well prepared fiber that drafts easily.

The path to spinning 80s (210 wpi) is:

  1. Knowing it can be done.
  2. Wanting to do it.
  3. Having the tools.
  4. Building the skills.
Today the main problems are that most spinners do not know it can be done and the tools are not widely available.  However, any wood turner with the skill to make a functional wine barrel spigot has the turning skills to make the appropriate bobbin and whorls.  You can find somebody like that at any wood working club, and there are wood working clubs everywhere.   Alden Amos's Big Blue Book will give YOU a path to the calculations for the necessary whorl diameters.

ANYONE who says singles of 210 wpi cannot be spun is ignorant of both science and history.

I will say that double drive, with  differential rotation speed is far, far, and away the easiest way to spin 80s. Then, a spindle of ~15 grams - I use a drop spindle with a removable whorl so as the copp builds, I can take the whorl off and use the copp as the whorl.  Then, comes Scotch tension.  And this afternoon, I just cannot seem to be able to tweak my IT enough to spin 80s on a practical basis.

The steps from 10s at 75 wpi to 56s at 175 wpi are easier than the step from mediums at 175 wpi to fines at 210 wpi.  Thus, I suggest that anyone planning to spin 80s make up the whorls required for 10s, 20s, 40s, and 60s, and the build the skills required for spinning each of these threads in a step wise fashion.

=> I use flyers where the flyer whorls are threaded to fit onto the threaded end of flyer shaft.  Then I use threaded inserts in the center of the flyer whorl.  The threaded insert is placed in the whorl blank, and then the whorl is turned on a bolt screwed into the insert, and held in the jaws of the lathe. Required precision for turning flyer whorls for spinning 80s is about 1%, so a 50 mm whorl needs to be turned within 0.5 mm or 1/50" of the design dimension.  Lower count singles require much less precision in their whorls.

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Best

One of my sculpture professors was friends with a world class silversmith/artist. The silversmith would come up and visit several times a year, and we would gather to hear his wisdom.

Once, he told us about how lonely it was being the best. He said, that when you are the best, there is no teacher.  The best must develop their own skills and likely design/make their own tools.  He said if you want to stay the best, one needs to spend 20% of one's time developing new techniques, learning new skills, and making new tools.

In the past, craftsman spinners spun for craftsman weavers. Most of the spinner's products were threads in the 5,600 ypp to the 45,000 ypp range. (This s the range of the Bradford system of  fiber/yarn measure.)  Such threads were used (or plied into yarns) for garments, upholstery, and even tapestries and sails.  Look at the old master paintings and (and tapestries) remember that every bit of cloth in them was woven from hand spun yarn.  Spinning for weaving is an old tradition.
There was a lot of spinning in a senator's toga.

Today, most hand spinners do not produce singles in that range of grists, and many who do are focused on entries into spinning competitions such as Longest Thread.  Thus, very few hand spinners are producing such threads primarily to be used in making other objects.  And, in fact, when I set about to make my first 5-ply sport-weight gansey yarn, I was told by "experienced" hand spinning historical enactors that it had not been done and could not be done.  Such advice conflicted with both history and science.  I find that many spinners have a poor grasp of history / science.  This is not to say that they will not try to floor you with dates.

Thus, spinning singles suited to weaving (and plying into very high quality knitting yarn) is a lonely place.  However, the yarns constructed from fine plies are nice - better than what the pack of spinners are spinning. While we have become accustomed to the fragility of knitwear made up of loosely knit 2-ply, many retailers offer knitwear of rather firmly knit 4-ply yarns that are much better. And, when I say better, I mean warmer for the weight, more durable, better drape, and nicer hand. Why would any spinner/knitter allow LL Bean and Costco to sell better sweaters than what the spinner/knitter is producing? NO!  If it worth making by hand, it is worth making as good or better - that is the craftsman's way.  And, like it or not, that means more and finer plies.  (If you wanted your toga to drape properly, you had it woven from fine, multi-ply yarns. Look at the Roman spindles! Many were highly optimized for spinning rather fine singles.  Those spindles will produce fine singles faster than most modern spinners can produce such singles on their wheels.

And, higher grist yarns are thinner and have a smaller tolerance for errors and defects.  Thinner yarns must be made to higher quality standards.When 560 yards of yarn weighs only 20 grams, there is not much room for slubs.  And a thin yarn without enough twist is more likely to drift apart.  A thin single must be more consistent. Again, thinner yarns are better.

This morning, I dug out the 20 tpi whorl and am spinning ~30,000 ypp (67 meters/ gram) singles from 56 count (25 micron) medium wool. The wool is lustrous, and strong. The single is a bundle of ~20 wool fibers. The hand-dandy electronic micrometer says the single is 0.005" in diameter - about 1/200"; that makes them a comfortable 175 wpi. The tachometer says the flyer is running at 2,400 rpm, so the bobbin is running at ~2,500 rpm, and the single is being spun at 124 inches per minute or ~ 160 yards per hour (145 m/h).  Not bad for someone that has not spun that grist since before Christmas.  I will spin 10 grams/ 670 yards and stop. (Then I must spade the tomato bed, and that will spoil my hands for such spinning for a few days.) These are soft singles, suited to a senator's toga or a lady's robe.  I do not need such singles just now. It is practice to maintain skills.  It must be measured as a test of my current skills.  I did not bother to re-comb and diz the roving I am using to spin 10s (worsted 5,600 ypp singles) that I do want now.  10s, I can spin after gardening.)

The trick is to spin such high  grist singles fast enough to make them useful.  Frankly, I do not know of any other hand spinners that spin garment weight yarns as fast as I do.   I do not even know of any hand spinners that come close to my speed.  And yet, I am certain that 300 years ago many spinners in Bruges could spin much, much faster than I do.  If all those spinners that claim to have the wisdom of ages actually had that wisdom, they would spin much faster than I do.  

Because fine singles do produce better fabrics and objects, I do expect other spinners to eventually follow me. I do believe in merit of product. By then I will have developed new techniques, new skills, new tools, and I will have moved forward.

What I am saying is that I am an Autodidact, and snide remarks and insults from the pack do not affect my spinning.  If you are a craftsman spinner, I am happy to exchange hints with you so that we both may become better spinners. And just as many folks play football, but there are not many NFL quarterbacks around, we should not expect that there are too many craftsman spinners around.  
Edited to add that the grist of the first 625 yd was only 52 m/g or (24,000 ypp, 150 wpi).  I guess that is what happens when I do not spin mediums for 4 months.

Edited to add: after soaking my hands in hand lotion all night, removing the film of belt dressing from the bobbin whorl, and  combing/dizing the fiber,this morning I was spinning 30,000+ ypp/  8 grams per hank.  It takes competence, but spinning wool at its spin count is not that difficult.  Wool fiber can be spun much thinner - 9 fibers in the single can be spun. For 56 count wool that would produce a single on the order of 60,000 ypp (250 wpi), but that is a very fragile yarn - OK for contests, but not for commercial weaving. Spinners spin a few feet of that, take a pix, and say, "Look how fine I am spinning!" 

People compare my singles to those pix and say, "You are not spinning as fine as XYZ!"  No, I am not, I am spinning miles of usable yarn.  On the other hand, my usable yarn can be spun from 56 count wool spun at 175 wpi. Part of its usability is that it is well measured.  If I have not been doing it on a regular basis, sometimes it takes some warm up to get back in the groove.  However, once I am  back in groove, it is every so easy.  I guess, I need to go get back in the fines groove.  Where is that that 24 tpi flier whorl?  (The oil finish that I put on them before storage last fall took the labels off
  :  ( 

The 20 fiber bundle was a grist that could be spun at a commercial rate (quickly) and it made a yarn that was robust enough to be handled in commercial weaving operations and when woven, made a good fabric.  

Saturday, April 11, 2015


There is a group that says,"If there is no picture, it did not happen!"

They want me to take pictures of what I do, or they do not believe that I did it.

They do not pay me for my work, or even say, "Thank you!"  They do not come up with new ideas or technologies or even improvements on the old technologies. The just like  to look at pictures.

In the distant past, I often obliged.  Then, I was taking a video of  finer spinning, and at internet resolution, it looked like  pantomime.  The fine thread just disappeared!   I could put more effort into doing the photography, but taking pix of threads that are 0.005" in diameter does take a lot more effort.

I have stopped pandering to people that just want to look at pix.  Their belief or disbelief does not affect my spinning.  However taking good photographs does suck up time when I could be spinning.

I hear a new Star Wars movie is coming out.  All of the folks that just want pix, can BUY a copy.  It is time they paid for pix.

Some things are true, whether or not there are pix, and sometimes pix do not prove that something is true.  

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Household Economy

I can spin 2,500 ypp woolen singles and make 2-ply sport weight yarn in 3 passes (each ply + plying) through the wheel, meaning that it takes me ~ 2 days to spin the yarn for a jumper. Or, I can spin 5,500 ypp worsted singles and make sport weight yarn in 6 passes through the wheel, so 5-ply worsted yarn for a jumper takes me about 4 days to spin.

Then, it takes me about 10 days to knit a good sport weight sweater (on US #1 needles.).

The 5-ply worsted is warmer, and much more durable, and if I am working with long wool, it has more luster.  On the other hand, by saving 2 days of spinning I get a softer sweater that is not as warm and not as durable.

The knitting wins. It is thriftier for me to spin better yarn and spend less time knitting.  This analysis makes spinning 5-ply worsted well worth the effort.  A similar analysis applies to hose and sock yarns, plied up from even finer singles.

 Or, it is better for me to buy the best available yarn and save the effort of knitting more frequently.

Of course, I could spin (or buy) worsted weight yarn and knit it on big (US 7) circular needles in couple of days. That would give me a decorative garment in only 4 days  that gives the appearance of warmth, but which is cool enough that it can be worn in a centrally heated environment - and if I need to go OUTSIDE, I can always put on my cold weather gear from Marmot, NorthFace, LL Bean, Patagonia, or Needless Markup.

I am not a snob.  The last time I was sailing on the Bay, I wore a sweater from LL Bean.  As backup, I had one of mine in my bag, but the LL Bean was enough for the day.  That works on sunny warm days, but when it is murky overhead,  and the wind begins to blow, I like hand knit. And, hand spun because that is how one gets the long wool that endures.

DRS, Accelerator Wheels, and Low Grist Yarns

Many of the commercial double drive wheels come with a differential rotation speed of ~1.6. this would seem to make them ideal for making singles for worsted weight 2-ply yarns.

However, such thick yarns rapidly change the effective diameter of the bobbin as they accumulate on the bobbin.  Changes in the effective diameter of the bobbin change the DRS,  To keep grist/twist within ~10%, DRS need to be kept within  ~10%.  When you accumulate 1/4" of yarn on the bobbin, the diameter changes by 1/2" and the DRS changes by a lot and one needs to either change flyer whorls or wind off or allow slippage.  Slippage is the easiest, but why go to the effort of having a DD system, if you are just going to let the drive band slip?  I mean, at these grists we do not have to worry about breaking fine singles.

My first choice for spinning a single with grist of less than 2,500 ypp is single drive, bobbin lead (Irish tension).  These yarns do not require at lot of twist, so one does not need the very high rpm that requires 2 drive bands.  With these yarns, two thousand rpm will produce 10 yards per minute, which is about as fast as you can draft quality yarn.  With 90 rpm as a comfortable treadling cadence, that means a good ratio is ~1:24.

Whorls less than 2" (50 mm) in diameter tend to slip, so if you really want 2,000 rpm, then you need a whorl of 2" and a drive wheel of  48"!!  Forty-eight inch drive wheels are a big pain.

Enter the accelerator wheel.

When I first went looking for more speed for fine singles, I went to higher ratios by decreasing the size of my whorls. It was more an education than a success.

Today, I use the Ashford Jumbo flyer in Scotch Tension mode with the accelerator wheel for plying, and I routinely ply at more than 2,000 rpm.  I could just as well be spinning singles at (more than)  9 yards per minute. I have done samples and tests but no production spinning with that plying setup. Since with Scotch tension, worsted yarn does not self assemble as it does with DRS, it is all long draw woolen, rather than worsted. The speed is limited by my drafting, rather than the speed of the equipment.

Since low grist worsted tends to be harsh, when I want thick worsted yarns, I ply them up from fine worsted singles and have no interest in trying to figure out how to use DRS to spin low grist yarns.  On the other hand, this means that I have a great desire for fine singles.

Bottom line -- DRS for low grist yarns is a waste of effort.  DD without DRS is a waste of effort.  The only reason that people do it is that they have heard myths about the power of  double drive wheels  And, DD does have power.

DD with DRS can do things that SD simply cannot.  DD with DRS is a very powerful tool for spinning singles in the range of 2,500 to 45,000 ypp (5 m/gram to 90 m/gram). With DRS, true worsted and true woolen can be spun with almost the same drafting technique - what differs is the fiber preparation. Woolen is spun from a pile of carded rolags and worsted is spun from a distaff of combed sliver.  In particular, DRS allows spinning true worsted singles faster than long draw woolen singles of the same grist can be spun. (Woolen requires more twist than worsted of the same grist.) With DD/DRS, true worsted 5,600 ypp singles (10s) can be hand spun at 10 yd/minute on a sustained basis.  However, this puts very high demands on fiber preparation to avoid "twittering", which is variation in thickness of a single as a result of variation in the density of the sliver being spun.  Even with minor twittering, DRS allows spinning 560 yard hanks that are consistently within 5% of the desired weight.

And now you know why I have such respect for Clemes and Clemes.  Better fiber preparation is at the core of better and faster spinning.

On the other hand, minor twittering will not affect the final quality of 5-ply sport weight yarn.  The folks who say it does do not make enough of such yarn to make many objects from it.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Baby Talk

I have been accused of talking to my readers like children.The following sites talk to spinners as if the the spinners are babies and not a spinner complains! 


In contrast, I give examples with actual measurements.  And, I tell you how to get better results.  Try asking Kromski how to spin fines! 

Spindizzy invokes the the same differential rotation speed (DRS) that Alden and I talk about.  We  do the math, and CAJ does it qualitatively.  The thing is: DRS is a clockwork mechanism, and  to make good clock work mechanisms, one needs to do the math, and get it correct. Then, one needs to fabricate the correct clockwork mechanism.  When spinning fines, a difference of 1 mm (1/25 ") in whorl diameters is important. DRS is simply not something that can be done qualitatively.

Joy of Hand spinning extols a high degree of twisting efficiency in DD,  just like I do.   Except, I use a tachometer and do the math. I tell you how much twist efficiency you can actually expect, and how you can improve your twist efficiency. These details are learned by doing.

Kromskina notes that DD generally spins the finest yarn.  I say, "DD will allow spinning fine yarns, much faster, but to use DD to spin the fine yarn quickly, the spinner needs the correct DRS."  The DRS that comes standard on Kromski is ~1.6, which is very good for spinning 1,600 ypp singles. Note that Kromski does not  supply the DRS for its whorls. By having the correct diameter of whorls to provided the needed DRS, I avoid slippage.  
 It is terrible for trying to spin 5,600 ypp lace singles. It will do it, but it is no faster or easier than Scotch Tension. The 5,600 ypp lace singles want a DRS of ~1.04, which is very different from a DRS of 1.6.  And, the flyer whorl that provides a DRS of 1.04, will NOT allow you to spin the singles for worsted weight 2-ply. As expressed, the Kromski statement is nonsense baby talk, but nobody complains.

If my wheel is set up at a DRS of 1.04, AND I need to spin worsted weight, I either change flier whorls or I run it single drive.  

I assure you that one can spin 45,000 ypp singles running single drive, but that you can spin such singles, twice as fast using DD with the correct DRS. And, 3 times as fast using DRS and an accelerator wheel.  That is the magic of DRS.

The continuous and limited take up of yarn as controlled by DRS allows the self assembly of the yarn. It is not discussed in the Big Blue Book, but it is this the self assembly of  yarn that makes DRS so productive. It is similar to the formation  of  yarn in the old flyer frames circa 1820. This self assembly of worsted yarn is rather similar to the formation of woolen yarn from a long draw draft. It means that the difference between true worsted and true woolen is simply the fiber preparation.  It means that one can spin worsted yarn much, much faster than one can inch worm draft such yarn.  I am sure it is why Alden gave the topic so much space in his Big Book of Handspinning.

The single drive setups are like pliers or adjustable wrenches.  DD is more like a mechanic's socket drive set. The socket drive set is fast, powerful, protects the nuts and bolt heads, but you need the full set.  The pliers and adjustable wrenches are handy, but they will not get into places that a socket drive set will get into, and adjustable wrenches are not as powerful or as fast as a good socket set.

Good mechanics have pliers and adjustable wrenches, but their socket wrench set(s)  let them work quickly and do high quality work.  I have a socket set for working on machines, and I have a set of DD whorls to provide the proper DRS for working on fiber. They allow me to work quickly and do high quality work.

These days every good mechanic uses a power screw driver/ nut and bolt driver.  It improves productivity.   Likewise, I use an accelerator wheel to improve my productivity.  Just as power bolt drivers work better with sockets than with adjustable devices, the accelerator wheel works much better with DRS than with single drive flyer bobbin assemblies.  Spinning worsted with single drive systems requires drafting techniques that cannot be sustained at those speeds, while with DRS and properly prepared fiber, worsted yarn of the correct grist/twist will self assemble a the end of the drafting triangle. A typical commercial spinning wheel can insert twist at about 1,000 rpm. With DRS and an accelerator wheel, spinning at ~3,000 rpm is easy, and spinning at 4,000 rpm is sustainable, and 4.500 rpm is possible when highly motivated.  The drafting process for woolen is very similar, but carded rolags are used instead of combed pencil roving.

Some readers have noted that some of my 10s are "twitted", (the term of art for thick and thin yarns resulting from small variations in roving density as a result of storage or transport). It is easily avoided by re-combing (or by spinning ever so slowly and inch worming the draft) .  On the other hand, when my hanks are within 5% of the correct grist and the twitting does not affect the final objects, I do worry about it.  Sometimes it is nice to be able to use roving out of the bag.  

I judge my final objects, not my yarn. I simply make sure that my yarn is within specification to make a good final object. And always I ask, " Did I get value?".  Or, Did I go over budget? Or, was my level of effort too high?  An object that goes over budget is just as bad as an object that is not functional.  In fact, I would say that a small amount of twitting is desirable, as it adds 'home spun" character without detracting from warmth, durability, drape, or hand. 

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

The Gaurdian

The Guardian has become one of a very few voices of reason in the circus tent called mass media:

Climate change: at last a breakthrough to our catastrophic political impasse?

We are in a spot of trouble.  It is time to work together to get out of trouble.  IF we survive, there will be time to point fingers.  

Children II

Twenty or 30 years ago, several wheel makers did try making wheels using DRS and accelerator concepts. They did not gain market acceptance. And those wheel makers found they could make more money selling slower wheels  -- and teaching.  For teaching they used the kind of wheels their students liked, and the high speed wheels disappeared, almost without a trace.

Yes, spinners as a culture are responsible for the absence of DRS and accelerator wheels that will spin faster than a child.  That culture is still out there, and you wonder why I am not respectful of the old spinners.   As a group, I blame them for not conserving the more productive technologies of old hand spinning.  I blame them for the extra work I had to put in to reconstruct these old technologies.

There are folks out there that want me to respect those old spinners that chose to spin low grist yarns slowly.  If they had done that out of an informed aesthetic, that is, after they had explored the possibilities of finely spun yarns, I might grant them great respect. However, if they spin low grist yarns because they never bothered to learn to spin fines, then I give them no respect - they are like  children that did not do their homework. Why do I talk to most highly experienced spinners the way I do?  It is because I think that they never did their homework to learn to spin fine (and learning to spin very fast to make high grist/high twist spinning practical.)

Now, I assure you that Stephenie Gaustad used DRS and accelerator concepts back in the days when Alden Amos made such wheels. She can sit down at my wheel, and spin wicked fast. However, mostly she teaches theses days, and as a good teacher, she teaches what the students want to learn. So, she brings her wheel that is like the wheels the students have, and she teaches spinning slowly, even when the name of the class is ,"Production Spinning".   Being nice person, she does not mention  that there are wheels that spin faster.

Now, you may not believe that I can spin as fast as I say I do, but that is the nice thing about technology - it works whether you believe in it or not. I really do not care what you think or do not think.  I spin yarns that produce textiles that I like. I judge my yarn by the finished objects that it produces.  And, I treat people that deny the virtues of DRS and accelerator concepts as children that have not done their homework.

Some spinning projects are better done without DRS and accelerator concepts, so I do not use them for every project, but they are tools that I use when I need them.  They let me get high grist/high twist
 spinning done in a reasonable time frame.


Typical of the way modern spinners are taught is the Northern Lace Fine Spinning Workbook by Lovrick.  I certainly bought a copy and studied it. It was right there on the work bench, the first time I spun 30,000 ypp singles (60s, 65 m/gram) from Shetland wool.

However, it makes spinning such singles into a lot of work.

First, it assumes a Scotch tension wheel - and it assumes the wheel is slow - the wheels Lovrick uses are slow Scotch tension wheels.  Such wheels insert twist slowly and such fine yarn require a lot of twist, so it takes a long time for the yarn to become competent - and all the while, that Scotch tension is pulling on the yarn.  Even after the yarn is competent, the Scotch tension pulls, and likely buries the yarn so yarn management on the bobbin, and tricks to prevent the yarn from burying are required.

And, the slow twist insertion requires that fiber prep be perfect.

This approach is almost required because the assumption is that nobody has a DRS wheel, and certainly not a very fast DRS wheel.  This is a very good assumption because spinners tend not to be very good at math, and therefore wheel makers do not make DRS wheels.

With a DRS wheel there need be no tension on the fiber as it is drafted and twist inserted - thus the proto-yarn does not get pulled apart.  This makes such spinning infinitely easier.  In the Big Blue Book pg 215, Alden talks about spinning 56 count fiber on a bobbin lead system to produce 19,000 ypp woolen singles.  I have spun similar wool on similar bobbin lead flyers.  However with DRS spinning that fiber at 30,000 ypp is much easier. There is less tension on the yarn as it is wound on the bobbin so it is much less likely to bury - this makes yarn management much easier and all the special tricks to avoid burying the yarn go away.  Then too, DRS wheels can be run much faster, allowing much greater productivity.

I can put the Ashford ST Lace flyer on my wheel and spin 60s at about 400 yards per long day, if I hustle. In contrast, with my DRS system, 1,200 yards of 60s is an easy 6 hours work.

In addition, with the DRS system, I can easily work with a lower grade of fiber preparation.

How would I teach a spinner to spin fine? I would teach them the math for DRS. Then, I would tech them how to use the DRS.  Then, and only then, I would teach them to spin fine. The result would be spinners that spin much faster and can spin finer.

The truth is that despite her many more years of spinning experience, Lovrick on her Bliss spinning wheel cannot keep up with me when I use my  DRS wheel. At any given grist, my wheel can form yarn 3-times as fast as her Bliss. Likewise, my wheel forms yarn much faster than any of the wheels Stephenie Gaustad  uses these days. Lovrick and Gaustad have more experience, but my wheel is just so much faster. At the same grist, I produce yarn much faster. It seems very reasonable to me that if a beginning spinner is going to be spinning for 30 years, it is worth spending a few hours teaching them the math and function of DRS, so they can spin 3-times faster, but this is NOT the way spinning is taught.  Rather, students are taught the slow and difficult way to spin. And, DRS is not discussed.  

I am still very pissed-off that when I started spinning,  NOBODY was willing to teach me the easy way to spin fine and fast.  I had dig out the clues and develop a workable implementation of DRS.  Then, I had to dig out the clues and develop a workable implementation of an accelerator wheel.  In both cases, concluding that there was an easy solution was the hard part.  There, I have saved my readers a lot of work.

A competent spinner (with a DRS wheel with an accelerator) can spin any wool at its spin count, at a "commercial rate".  A reasonable standard for commercial rate is a hank /hr for 10s (5.600 ypp, 11 m/gram), a hank/2 hr for 40s, and a hank/4 hr for 80s. Spinning soft 5s from well prepped wool should allow spinning ~50,000 yards in a 56 hour work week.  Anything less is for amateurs and children. If one is spinning at the wool's spin count, the grist should be spot on.  With DRS, it is reasonable to spin fine wool as 10s, 20s, or 40s and keep the grist within 5% of desired.  Many of my 10s are within 2% of the desired 45.4 gram weight.  Those standards are for an old man that has only been spinning for 7 years.  A nimble fingered young person with bright eyes should be able to do much better.

On the other hand, if I have not been spinning for a while, it always takes me a while to get back in the "competent" groove.

I spin these singles because they are good for weaving, and I have come to like yarns that are plied up from fine singles for knitting. Being able to spin fast, makes using such yarns for knitting feasible. Fabrics knit from such yarns have better drape and hand.

The advantage of not being a child is that I do not have to do what the teacher says.