Monday, September 28, 2015

Fractured History

Ok, you have this model of history - does it inform your spinning and make you a better spinner? Or it just interesting?  Or, does it hold you back and keep you from being a better spinner?

First, I see spinning as an inherently economic activity. They spun to make clothes for the family which was an economic benefit.  Or, they spun to make money by selling the yarn.

You may enjoy spinning, and you may like spinning the yarn to clothe your family, but if they need new clothes, it is a chore, not spinning for fun. You may enjoy the chore, but it is still work, with an economic benefit.  You are only spinning for fun if the yarn is never used for any useful purpose. (In my case, the useful purpose is working out a different spinning technology. Solving technical problems is what I do.  It is work.)

Thus, for the great majority of hand spinners living in the industrial centers of Europe, India, China, Africa, and the Americas, spinning was a job. And often the customer was a weaver that wanted thousands or tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of hanks of fine yarn, all as consistent as possible.

Thus, from the very beginning, all of the spinning masters, owners, factors, and managers were looking for spinning equipment would allow them to spin faster and more consistently.  Certainly, this search was long underway in Italy in the 12th century.  Enter, DRS.  Then a room sized device used by a man and a boy for winding thrown silk.  Over the next couple of centuries, it was miniaturized to become a one person device for winding silk and then for spinning hemp and linen, and finally for the twist loving fine wools.

From the time of its development, DRS flyer/bobbin assemblies provided hand spinners with very high productivity, ability to spin very stable grists, and the ability to easily spin very fine.  Everywhere that it was available, DRS was the flyer/bobbin assembly of choice for professional hand spinners.  Think about it, if you are paid by the hank, and DRS will let you spin twice as much and get paid twice as much which kind of wheel are you going to choose?  If you are a factor and get paid a percentage of what all the spinners you work with are paid, then you will make twice as much if they use a DRS wheel.  Which wheel do you want them to use?  Economics tells us that DRS was the wheel that was used.

Alden Amos tells us that single drive, bobbin lead is the easiest flyer/bobbin assembly to design and fabricate.  He implies but does not state that DRS is far and away the hardest kind of flyer/bobbin assembly to fabricate. It is.

With the rise of yarn mills circa1800, not only were spinning skills lost, but spinning wheel making and repair skills were also lost.  By about 1820, subsistence spinners no longer had the skills to use a DRS wheel, and local craftsmen no longer had the skills to make or repair such wheels.  The concept of DRS was not lost.  All the textile equipment engineers knew about it.  All of the mill managers knew about it, but subsistence hand spinners had forgotten the technology.  And, the ladies of  Queen Victoria's court were not going to the mills for a lesson in old style spinning.

The technology did popup on some models of the Canadian Production Spinning wheel, which resulted in its reputation for being so fast. A CPW wheel I spun on had been "fixed" so the DRS no longer worked.  Thus, the wheel was slower than my Traddy that did have my implementation of DRS.  Good  photos of  other CPWs show them having been similarly fixed.  One wheel repairman who had fixed CPW said, "Fixing the wheel was easier than teaching them how to use it."

So, I look at modern yarns such as
 and I look at old yarns such as

And, I like the old yarns.  I want to spin like that! However, when you look at them up close, you see that none of the restoration yarns are as fine as the original.  When they were doing restoration, they did not know the right tools (they were influenced by the hand spinners at QV's court),  and they did not have the skills.

I am just now getting the tools right.  Now, I can start getting serious about developing some real skill.  But, history that tells me that DRS is the right tool for spinning fine, fast, and with great uniformity.

If one is going to spin like that, then one needs the right tools,  One needs the skills to fully utilize the tools.  Working with my wheel on a regular basis tells me that DRS makes spinning fine so much easier that nobody that has not tried it would believe it.  They do not know what they are missing.

DRS not only opens up spinning faster, it opens up spinning much finer, with much less effort.

On the other hand, setting up the wheel to spin the desired yarn is a matter of some skill.   It works in a factory environment, where an expert gets the wheel set up, and then the spinner can sit down and spin very fine and very fast, very easily.

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