Wednesday, April 01, 2015


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.


buckfastbee said...

It's Lovick, not Lovrick....

buckfastbee said...

For heaven's sake - make a wheelmaker selling proper DRS-Wheels at a reasonable price and I will buy it right now.

Aaron said...

I am working on that very hard.

Liz said...

It might be nice if you bothered spelling Ms Lovick's name correctly while you're demolishing her book. If you can't even read the author's name from the cover, it makes us wonder what else you haven't read.