Sunday, August 31, 2014

fraud and technology

 Witchcraft to the ignorant, .... Simple science to the learned!
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

"Magic" dominates modern spinning.  Spinners of fine threads claim to be working with singles that are bundles of only 5 staples. This claim evaporates into fraud when the light of science and technology is turned on it. For example one of the spinners of Orenburg lace tells us that her singles contain only 5 fibers. However these singles have a grist of about 30,000 ypp, Orenburg fibers have a  spin count of about 60,000 ypp, so we know her singles are bundles of about 40 fibers. Such singles are then plied (or more precisely, core spun) with silk.

A beginner that attempts to spin singles that are only 5 staples thick will fail, because that is not how one makes such yarns. For one thing, a single of Orenburg fiber that is only 10 fibers thick has a grist of 120,000 ypp (240 meters/gram or 350 wpi). Even with plies of silk to stabilize it, it is too thin.  In a knit pattern, it just disappears.  And it is very fragile. A single with only 5 fibers would be much thinner and much more fragile.  The puff about 5 fibers is bluff trying to support a world of magic, where people do not do STEM.

Saying that there are only 5 fibers in Orenburg lace singles is a lie.  In particular, it is not fair to beginning spinners.  Such lies are one reason I am so resentful against the spinning establishment. 

In fact, a 80s single from a fine fiber such as Rambouillet is actually going to be thinner than an Orenburg lace single. The 80s will have a grist of about 45,000 ypp, while the Orenburg lace single has a grist of about 30,000 ypp.  The 80s single is worsted spun and has a compact nature, while the Orenburg is woolen with a soft halo around it.  Thus, both by grist and visual appearance, the the 80s single is thinner than the Orenburg lace single.

Granted that an 80s single is not as soft as an Orenburg lace single, but it is thinner, and with the right tools, it is faster and easier to spin.  In my world "softness" is not the only virtue. 

Saturday, August 30, 2014


When I started spinning, I wanted certain yarns.

I saw that certain skills and certain tools were required.

I set myself a group of evolutions to learn the skills.

I bought tools, and modified them to make the yarns I wanted.

Together the tools and skills allow me to spin fine and fast.  They allow me to make the yarns that I want on a practical basis. I spin "lace" weight singles at 600 or 700 yards per hour. (These are actually for weaving and 5-ply.  When spinning lace, I spin more carefully and slower.)  I can sit down with Romney fiber and spin  40s (150 wpi/ 22,000 ypp / 45 meters/gram) at more than 300 yards per hour.  This is not bragging, it is a report of results.  I can sit down with the cheap, flock run 56 count American wool right out of the shipping box (from Halcyon Yarns) and spin 30,000 ypp worsted singles at a couple of hundred yards per hour.  I know the fiber, I just finished spinning 28,000 yards (16 miles) of  10s (75 wpi) from it.  I can do this anywhere.  I can do this in front of a courtroom with trial  judge and jury watching.  I can do it in the Ravelry Corporate Offices. I do it at guild meetings. The accelerator wheel that I had at CNCH last spring was about 40% slower.

This is not about me, it is about a set of skills and a set of tools.  Anyone with the skills and tools can spin that fine and that fast.  These skills and tools were common 300 years ago.

If you do not have the tools and skills, that is not my fault, do not blame me. On the other hand, I believe in picking my teachers with care and my students with more care.

In my evolution on spinning finer, I pushed to the finest yarns that can be spin from wool. There is a lot of practical and theoretical science on the topic.  Once you understand the physics, it is just a matter of  making the tools.  You need DRS set for 35 tpi.  That will actually meet the needs of spinning 7 staple bundles, which is about as fine as wool will tolerate. Finer than that and the wool fibers kink and break before they get enough twist friction to hold together.  Do not worry, you can win Longest Thread and set a new world's record with singles that average 7 or 8  staples in the singles.  If someone tells you that they spin singles of only 5 staples, ask to see a sample and examine it with your microscope, and count the staples.  All textile artists need a microscope.

With good tools and skills, singles comprised of a bundle of 20 staples can be produced quickly and easily. That fact was the basis of wool grading and trading. It defined spin count.  Every competent spinner could spin wool at its spin count at a commercial rate. Commercial rate was much faster than most modern spinners dream is possible.

Practical yarn needs to be produced at a useful rate, so I made my wheel faster.  When I started spinning, folks told me it was not feasible to spin 5-ply gansey yarn.  They were ignorant, and they paraded their ignorance. With my wheel, these days, it only takes ~ 7 hours to spin and ply 500 yards of gansey yarn that is MUCH better than the mill spin. I did not need to buy a power mini-mill for the little bit of yarn that I want.  If you spin 4 hours per evening, you can spin the yarn for a gansey in a week. I am not bragging, I am saying what reasonably can be spun.  Some people do not want to spin that fast.  I do not care how fast they spin.  I want to get it spun, and knitted.

Spinners who do not have the appropriate skills and tools try to make this about me and say that I have a bad personality or psychological problems.  I am a nerd, a geek, and that about sums it up. Those skills and traits helped me find and follow a path to faster and finer spinning.   I chose to learn to spin fine and fast.  Others chose not to learn those skills.  That is not my problem.

Friday, August 29, 2014


At one point, I was fully metric.

However, as I spin finer, the logic and simplicity of the old Bradford yarn terminology becomes more and more apparent. The Bradford system was based on the number of hanks that could be spun from a pound of the fleece. It assumes that one is spinning as fine as possible.

My "lace weight" singles now have 8 gradations by twist and grist. I know how long each will take to spin, and how many yards I can spin from various kinds of wool, and I can do all of that in my head.

Yes, I can do it in the metric system, but then I need to remember or calculate ~40 conversion factors. The sliding scale of "spin count" takes all the possible variations of  fiber diameter into consideration.  It is a very elegant solution.

On the other hand, if one is not spinning at the "spin count", the Bradford system is merely a clumsy anachronism.

Sticks and Stones

When I started spinning, I saw that traditional hand spinners had produced 80s (worsted 45,000 ypp / 90 m/gm) singles as a commercial product.

I asked, "Who will teach me to spin such things?"
Nobody stepped forward.  They had forgotten how to spin such things, and even forgotten that such things  could be hand spun.

So, I worked it out for myself.  The process works. In addition to letting one spin finer, it allows one to spin faster. I did not invent the process.  It was developed in 12th century Italy. Both Priestman and Alden Amos reference the technology and tell us that it is very important. I merely worked out some practical details.

Now, other spinners would rather stand in the back and call me names than come forward and see how it is done.

Shame on them.

Thursday, August 28, 2014


Last night's guild meeting sorta became a celebration of Spinzilla.

This morning as I flip thorough some of the material, I have some comments.

At there is a discussion by Stephanie Flynn Sokolov on whorls.  However, she neglects to mention that as the whorl size gets smaller, it is more likely to slip against the drive band resulting in less speed of the flyer/bobbin assembly. I suggest a bit of drive band dressing will do more to give you more speed.  There is a recipe in Alden Amos.  It works.  It can double your spinning speed.  Get the powdered rosin from a sporting goods store - it is cheap.  Get a very small amount of turpentine from artist supply store (unless you use it on a regular basis),

Make some.  I put mine in the little 2 oz plastic containers that the local burrito place uses to package salsa. One of  Alden's recipes will make 5 or 6 cakes and a cake will last a busy spinner a long, long time.  The only excuse for not doing this is if you use plastic drive bands.  Otherwise have a project day at the spinning guild and make everybody a 1/2 oz cake of drive band dressing.  A dab will do ya!

Double drive is likely to be fractionally faster than any single drive wheel.  Modern DD wheels are made with a DRS that is about right for 1,600 ypp woolen, and that is likely to be the fastest yarn to produce.  Most (wheel) spinning contest winners end up producing ~1,600 ypp woolen,  For Spinzilla that means you will need a lot of fiber and will end up with a lot of worsted weight, 2-ply knitting yarns.  Not a bad thing if you like such yarns. 

Spinzilla is biased against spinners that produce fine yarns.  1,600 ypp woolen needs about 4 tpi, and 5,600 ypp worsted needs about 9 tpi, so somebody spinning the finer single must insert more than twice as much twist per inch as they make yarn.  That means that spinner doing lace weight either needs to treadle twice as fast, or work twice as long or have twice as fast a wheel.  And usually faster wheels have smaller whorls with less swept area resulting in more drive band slippage.   

You can reduce drive band slippage by increasing drive band tension, but that puts more stress on the bearings, increasing treadle effort.  It also means that you drive band will fail more frequently.  If you are going to be running at high drive band tension, have a spare drive band standing by, ready to go. 
Sara Lamb at   talks about spinning @ 2,000 ypp and it takes her 6.5 hours to spin a pound for a pace of just over 300 yards per hour which means she was inserting twist at ~800 rpm. Twist for 2,000 ypp is about 4.4 tpi.  

That likely sets standard for typical spinning pace, that is more realistic than the 90 yards in 15 minutes at SOAR  spinning competitions. For various reasons, I do not think spindle spinners will be competitive.  If there were divisions for finer yarns, it would be a different story.

Jacey Boggs says she finds thinner spinning faster, and likes the fact that bobbins do not fill as fast, but does not address the issue of finer singles requiring more twist. The truth is that fine yarns require a lot more twist, and twist is effort, and that effort has to come from somewhere.

Stephenie Gaustad recommends long draw woolen at low grist. 

Ergonomic factors will likely limit total spinning to around 8 hours per day, so even very dedicated spinners will likely spin no more than 50 hours for a total production on the order of 15,000 yards, call it 26 hanks. And, if you are spinning 1,600 ypp woolen, you will use almost 10 pounds of fiber.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

How long to spin a yarn for a bolt of shirting?

A bolt of shirting is about 8 pounds, so it is 320 hanks.  At 22 hanks per week, it would take one spinner about 4 months to spin the yarn for a bolt of shirting. Not very convenient for the weaver, and not easy for a factor to maintain consistency and quality.  However, 4 spinners could do it in a month, and 16 spinners sitting together in a spinning room could turn out the the yarn for a bolt of shirting in a week.  Very convenient for the weaver. Very easy for the manager to maintain quality and consistency.

Thus, 16 spinners and a dozen support staff including talented professional combers and dyers, could spin the yarn required for 50 bolts of cloth per year (circa 1520).

It took me all fall to spin 7 lbs of wool as 6 hanks of loom warp/weft at 3,000 ypp. It only took me a couple of weeks to spin the 30 hanks of 5,600 ypp warp. That increased speed of spinning, allowed in part by the use of an accelerator wheel, so excited me that I put weaving and my new (to me) loom aside for months, to improve my spinning. It was very worthwhile.  Today, I can spin 3 hanks of 40s in a day. It can be done.  With modern ball bearings, it can be quietly. Spinning was the critical competitive advantage in textile production.

Modern spinners do not want to believe that a hand spinner can spin that fast.  That is ok, they should come watch me spin. (  I will have my wheel and some 40 count wool.

Friday, August 22, 2014

The end of another chapter in this blog

Using only bushing bearings of bronze-steel, wood-steel, and leather-steel available in 1500, a spinning wheel using DRS can run at 4,000 rpm on a sustained basis. This is based on multiple 6 and 8 hour trials.

In contrast, contestants using spinning wheels at SOAR spinning contests operated their spinning wheels at ~ 500 rpm for 15 minute race periods.

It is clear that a motivated spinner that understands the craft can spin 8 times faster than the average wheel spinner in a SOAR spinning contest. In the 2009 contest, the spindle spinners spun 2.4 times faster than the wheel spinners. However, a motivated spinner that understands the craft and has an appropriate wheel can spin 3.3 times faster than the spindle spinners can spin for 15 minutes, then the wheel spinner can continue spinning at that same rate for another 7.75 hours, so this is not at all a fair comparison.

Working with a wheel running at 4,000 rpm, a spinner circa 1500 could spin about a million yards per year of worsted single with a grist of 10,000 yards per pound.  That would be about 2 pounds of yarn or  40 hanks per week.  Many spinners would require between 44 and 48 hours of to spin 40 hanks, so it would be a long, hard week.  Twenty -two hanks of 40s or or 48 hanks of 10s would be a similar amount of labor.

With that, I am moving on to ball bearings, and other marvels of the 20th century.  With ball bearings the wheel is quieter at 4,500 rpm than it was with bronze bushings at 3,500 rpm.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

More on spin count

The distaff is dressed with 60 count flock-run long wool, and the task at hand is 40s (150 wpi) for weaving warp. I need a good bit of the warp, and I am working on it diligently.

However, spinning 60s from 60 count wool is so easy and so relaxing that I do find myself accumulating bobbins of 60s - and this is only with flock run fiber -  and not well graded fiber. After "working" on the 40s for a while, I flip the drive band over to the 20 tpi whorl and spin 60s for fun.  I may just change my mind, and just spin the warp from 40 count wool.  I had intended to spin the weft as 22,400 woolen singles from 80 count Rambouillet.  Samples of woolen singles of from 40 count fibers are not that soft, but they are faster and easier to spin.    Frankly, at this point, I find worsted singles in these grists easier to handle than woolen, and singles management is becoming a big deal.  

This rather upsets things as I have a lot of fine (80 count) wool ordered for this project- all based on the conventional wisdom that it would be easier to spin 22,000 ypp singles from finer wool. As I get into this, what I find is that it is easier to spin 22,000 ypp/150 wpi from 40 count wool (34 micron)  than from 80 count (20 micron) wool - - if you have the correct equipment.  And this goes for both worsted and woolen singles.

Let me say this over and over.  If you have a single drive wheel, then yes, it is easier to spin 40s/22,000ypp/150 wpi from finer fiber.  If you are working on a DRS controlled spinning wheel then is is easier to spin 40s from 40 count wool, and 80s from 80 count fiber.  And, a DRS wheel will let you spin 40s about 5 to 8 times faster than a single drive wheel.  NOT twice as fast, but more like 5 times faster -- or even more.  This is spinning.  Why do not the "experienced" spinners / teachers talk about it?  Because it takes some math and skill in setting up the wheel.  I think spinning 8 or 9 times faster is worth a little math.

The bobbin core on the AA#0 flier is 0.95", the bobbin whorl is 45.00 mm in diameter, and the flyer whorls for 40s, 60s and 80s are 45.9, 45.72, and 45.63 mm respectively..   These must be calculated, and not guessed. And then, a bit of dirt on whorl can spoil everything.  These combinations insert approximately 18, 20, and 23 twists per inch to produce 22,000, 30,000 and 45,000 ypp singles. That flier runs at over 4,000 rpm. The bobbin whorl on the AA#1 flier is 50.00 mm, and its flyer whorls produce 10s, 20s, and 40s. That flier runs at over 2,500 rpm.

I need a quarter million yards of 22,000 ypp (40s) singles.  I need easy!!  I need fast. Last winter, before the improvements on the wheel, I thought the path to fast and easy was finer wool.  Now, I know better. If I am going to write a check for $1,500 for the fiber for one project, I want to make sure I am buying the correct fiber.

The extra speed of from the new accelerator and the additional precision from the larger ~(50) mm DRS seem to facilitate the spinning.  Over all DRS as a technology resolves most of the difficulties enumerated by other authors discussing the spinning of fine singles. I am going to revisit this real soon.

However, watching the fine thread slipping through the fingers at 3 or 4 yards per minute does tire the eyes and ultimately bring on vertigo.  This can be avoided by spinning by feel.

I can watch DVDs while spinning.  The only thing is that I must limit wood working to retain sensitivity in the finger tips to allow spinning with minimal looking. However, with limited woodworking, I can spin even 80s (200 wpi) mostly by feel.