Monday, July 11, 2016

Learning by doing

Bobbins from green wood

Spinners, knitters, and weavers, all use bobbins. When I first met AA, we talked about bobbin materials, and he laughed at my idea of making redwood bobbins, so I went back to making them from fruit woods and maple.  Royal Fibers sold me some black walnut (both green and well seasoned), so there was a long series of bobbins from black walnut.

Then, I got a source of  FREE, green redwood.  I made some redwood bobbins of various sizes and shapes  just for fun.

When I got my loom, I needed small bobbins that would fit on the AVL bobbin rack, so I went back to my source and got some more of their green 2" by 2" scrap, and started turning bobbins from green redwood.

There are about 72 of  them on the bobbin rack right now, and another 80, in various yarn bins, and another 20 or 30 in process in the shop.  I have made enough of them, that by trial and error, I found the skew chisel angle that works well with the soft redwood.  I do all the turning by eye. It is good practice.  I am down to about a 10% failure rate.  Mostly, the problem is turning the barrel too thin, so the barrel breaks during turning.   I know 2 or 3 ways to get it perfect every time,  (the barrels of my spinning bobbins are very precise.), but doing it by eye is very good practice and very fast.  If I go too deep, what do I have invested? - 3 or 4 minutes of my time!

Yes, I have a couple of hundred redwood storage bobbins that tell us that it is  perfectly possible to turn bobbins from green wood.  If I do them in batches of a dozen, when there are other things to do in the shop, each bobbin takes much less than 5 minutes.  (Working with green wood requires good clean up afterward !)  When I need more redwood, I call a local fencing contractor with their own mill.  Then, when they have a large job near me, I stop by in the afternoon and fill a tote or 2 from their on-site scrap pile.  The crew likes me, as it saves them the trouble of hauling it away.

Each little redwood bobbin holds about 100 yd (8 grams) of weft singles for the loom.  They also fit my Lazy Kate. Thus, 500 yards of 5-ply sport weight plied up from singles held on such bobbins requires the singles from 28 such bobbins.  The 5-ply "gansey" yarn for a sweater requires the singles from more than a hundred such bobbins. Therefore, I have moved to plying 5-ply, sport weight from cakes of singles that sit on the floor under my Lazy Kate; which then acts only as a tension box.

Finer, higher twist singles are less well behaved, and work better being plied from bobbins.
Thus, 6-ply, 1680 ypp, sock yarn is plied from 6 of  these bobbins to make the yarn (200 yd/ 48 gm)  for one sock.   These bobbins will hold a full hank (560 yards) of  Shetland or Suffolk spun at their spin count (~30,000 ypp, ~60 meters/ gram). Thus, these bobbins support plying hanks (500 yds) of  10-ply or 12-ply hoisery yarns ( e.g., 2,700 ypp ) from continuous singles.   And, these little redwood  bobbins will hold ~1,000 yards of  good Rambouillet spun at its spin count.

In my world, lots of little bobbins are a good thing.  These days, my Lazy Kate is configured to ply yarns up to 15-ply, and it is easily reconfigured to make yarns with more plies. 
Lazy Kate configured for sport weight 5-ply
back in the days of big maple bobbins.
Wound carefully, they will hold a full
hank of  10s.
Moving from bobbins to cakes was an incremental process.

The subject rough bobbins are suited for worsted spun singles at grists of less than 35,000 ypp.  For soft woolen spun or "fines" I give the bobbins 2 coats of Danish oil, and polish all yarn contact surfaces.  Bobbins of fines on the Lazy Kate also may need steel washers under them as bearings and oil on their axles. 

Quick and easy bobbin for fines, 
turned from green redwood.

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