Saturday, August 20, 2016

Alden Amos, revisited

Alden Amos', Big Book of Handspinning (2001) (aka Big Blue Book, BBB) is the best book on hand spinning wool.

At one time, I thought there were as many as 9 glosses in it, but no actual errors.  this puts it far ahead of every other book on hand spinning, which all that contain actual errors.  For somebody wanting to learn to spin ordinary yarns, BBB is the best book,  and every hand spinner should have a copy.

Glosses that I recognize today include:

  • It does not discuss practical mechanisms for differential rotation speed (DRS) flyer/bobbin assemblies.  In truth, 3- gang whorls work very well with 4" bobbins/ 500 m skeins at grists down to 10 m/g,; and, gang whorls are not required for spinning skeins of 500 m weighing 10 grams or less.
  • It dismisses the value of high-ply yarns (e.g., 5-ply, 6-ply, 10-ply).  In contrast to what the BBB says, high-ply yarns have virtues for knitting very warm and/or very durable fabrics with a pleasant hand, drape, and touch.  High-ply yarns knit up faster, and spinning is faster than knitting.  While BBB gives the best directions for basic plying, it does not address producing 5-ply and higher yarns.
  • Double treadle/ fast spinning is more healthy than spinning at a lower level of activity. 
  • It does not discuss how to spin fine threads. I believe that any spinner with a good teacher should be able  spin super-fine threads of 40,000 m/g (44,000 ypp) within a few months of starting spinning.  The elements of learning to spin fine, are knowing it can be done and  having good tools that are properly set-up.  DRS makes fine spinning much easier, starting to spin fine on a ST wheel is an exercise in frustration. that become perfectly easy after some practice on a DRS wheel.  Why?! Because fine singles can be plied into fine yarns with both puns intended.
  • There is limited discussion on the handling/management of very fine singles.
  • It understates how fast a motivated spinner can actually spin. 
  • Limited discussion of accurate use of, and correction factors for, wraps per inch (WPI).
  • Limited discussion of accelerators.

All the glosses are only of interest to advanced spinners, and do not detract from BBB's value for beginning and intermediate spinners.  

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