Sunday, August 23, 2015


Craftsmen (male, female, or other) make quality goods. They make better quality goods than folks that are just out to make a buck.  Hobbyists may actually produce higher quality objects, because they are not limited by resources.  That is, a hobbyist can put unlimited time and resources into an object, but craftsmen must keep the cost of objects within the price range of their clients.  Craftsmen produce the best possible product at the most reasonable price, all things considered.

If  someone needs a warm object, then a craftsman knitter will knit an object that is as warm as is required.  If someone needs a durable object, then the craftsman knitter will knit an object that is a durable as it required.  If someone needs a lace christening gown, then the craftsman knitter will knit an object that is elegant enough to uphold the status of the family. Along the way, for each product, the craftsman will make the compromises needed to meet the requirements including cost and schedule. The craftsman can work to a bid/plan/schedule so the cost of the object is as agreed with the client, and the craftsman does not lose money on the project.

Most modern spinners see spinning as a hobby.  They do not care about the cost of the yarn that they produce, or speed of production. And, they are not interested in making better yarn, they only want soft, pretty yarn.  

In contrast, I see spinning as a craft. I want better yarn. I want stronger yarn, I want more flexible yarn, I want more durable yarn and so forth.  And, I want less expensive yarn. I want yarn that has fewer man hours invested in it. I put a lot of effort into working out how to spin faster with less effort. I want yarn that that is just as good but is made from lower cost fibers. That is, I seek to find better fibers at a lower cost. And, I seek yarns that require less fiber, for the same warmth, durability, or strength.  Every spinning project that I do has requirements, schedule, and budget.  When a spinning project does not meet its requirements, schedule, or budget, I pull the plug on it. 

I started spinning because I was a knitter, and I was not happy with the available mill spun yarns. I wanted better.   When I started spinning I was told that it was not possible to hand spin the  worsted spun, 5-ply sport weight yarns, called "gansey yarn".  I was told these yarns had never been hand spun.  It took me 9 months before I was hand spinning such yarns, but the process was so slow as to be impractical.  The yarns I was making were better than mill spun, but they were too expensive.  I had to work out how to make them less expensively.  The obvious solution was to spin faster.  Today, I spin much faster.  That means that my yarn is much less expensive.  I like better yarns that are less expensive.

The first step to spinning faster was to understand differential rotation speed (DRS) as discussed in Alden Amos and the Victorian authors. DRS allows the flyer/bobbin assembly to run at much higher speed, and it changed the nature of the drafting, allowing true worsted yarns to be produced much faster. Part of this step was learning different spinning techniques that allowed me to take advantage of DRS. This really was an effort. This development of other spinning techniques was perhaps the single most important aspect of the spinning faster process. 

The second step was to have Alden Amos make me faster flyers.  I considered having him make me a custom wheel, but the Ashford Traditional drive wheel actually produced more speed than the wheels Alden was making at the time.  That is, an engineering analysis selected the Ashford drive wheel over the Alden product.  It was not a capricious or sentimental decision.  Part of this step was the development of "gang whorls" so that as the effective diameter of the bobbin changed,  I could change whorls rather than stopping to wind off.  I had to design and fabricate the gang whorls. This facilitated the production of longer, continuous singles.

The third step was to make an accelerator for my Alden Amos/DRS/Ashford hybrid.  Again it was an engineering analysis.  It was not a capricious or sentimental decision.  The result was the accelerator/Alden Amos/DRS/Ashford hybrid with advanced drafting technique.

The net result is that my wheel spins woolen singles between 2 and 4 times faster than any  wheel on the market.  My wheel spins worsted singles between 3 and 10 times faster than any wheel on the market.  This was not an accident. It was attention to detail, and doing the engineering correctly.  It was understanding the technique so I could make the required tools.  It was understanding the tools, so I could develop the technique.

Since spinning/twist insertion is the single largest cost in spinning, my yarn is much less expensive than other hand spun. I (the knitter and weaver) is the customer for I (the spinner).  I (the knitter and weaver) like the lower cost of the faster spinning. I (the knitter and weaver) like the shorter delivery times for the faster spinning. All around, I like the faster project development and production cycles. 

This allows me to (inexpensively) dream-up, produce, and test yarns that are not made by mills and which I have never seen before.  I learned to make more flexible yarns.  I learned to make stronger yarns.  I learned to make more durable yarns, and so forth. I would never have had time for this experimentation if I had to spin as slowly as most spinners spin. Without DRS, you will never really understand sock yarn. 

I can plan an object, spin and test samples of a yarn that I have never before spun, and then spin and produce the object, all in a reasonable time frame. I (the knitter and weaver) know in advance what the cost of the yarn will be that I (the spinner) will produce for the project. 

I am a craftsman spinner with just one rather demanding client.  Myself.  If I spin better and faster, then I improve my product and lower my costs.  Then, I am happy.


Holin Kennen said...

And please tell us when you last sold (if ever) more than one skein of your yarn to anybody? You can plan all you like, but if nobody wants your product, then it's useless. I plan my yarns for my customers, and SELL THEM. Can you say the same? Since you don't claim any customers, we can deduce that you have none because your product doesn't meet basic standards for acceptable yarn for ANY purpose.

Aaron said...

Holin, I do not have enough for myself, so why would I sell it?

And, if I spin for others, they will not learn to spin for themselves. Everyone should lean to spin very well.

Different objects have different uses and requirements. For some uses the requirements are well satisfied with mill spun. Mill spun is much cheaper, so where ever it is suitable, I use mill spun because I do not have enough hand spun.

Holin Kennen said...

But you claim to be able to spin five hanks per day., and say you've spun hundreds of miles of yarn, yet you have nothing to show for it. Your excuses are so transparent that a kindergartener could punch holes in them. We can all see through you.

purplespirit1 said...

"And, if I spin for others, they will not learn to spin for themselves. Everyone should lean to spin very well."

The point of selling spun yarn is you're offering a service to others who either can't do it or can't do it well (or choose not to.)

The same logic could apply to any field. Why have restaurants when people can cook for themselves? Why have autobody shops when people should learn to fix their own cars? Why have grocery stores when people can grow their own food?

A Fisherman Lies said...

If you spin so quickly, how is it possible you don't have enough handspun yarn? We know you aren't weaving it, and you don't appear to have knit it into anything either, apart from some dodgy swatches. Where's all this miracle yarn going?

Aaron said...

I do knit and I do weave. I may or may not show a pix of a prototype object that are different or unique, but I do NOT show pix of routine objects. They are old news. I have no interest in old news.

Go through Priestman (e.g., Principles of woollen spinning), and tell us how many how many samples of spun yarn he displays. Off the top of my head from the last 3 of his books, I can only remember half a dozen illustrations of spun yarn.

Holin Kennen said...

>I do knit and I do weave.

Photos, Aaron, or it didn't happen.