Sunday, October 19, 2014

A heavy heart

Some say that one cannot spin very high quality fine yarns when one has " a heavy heart".


If one is trained so that one believes that cannot spin very high quality fine yarns when one has  a heavy heart, then a heavy heart becomes an excuse not to spin well.  Having an excuse not to spin well,  allows one not to spin well.

If one is trained that one should be able to spin very high quality fine yarns any where, any time, no exceptions, no excuses, then one tends to be able to spin very high quality fine yarns any where, any time.

If you want to train people to spin well and consistently, then you do not give them any excuse for spinning poorly. One encourages spinners to spin well under all conditions. 

Friday, October 17, 2014

the evolution of a yarn

I started spinning because I wanted better gansey yarn.  Worsted spun 5-ply sport weight was my very first goal and my first spinning project.  I cannot tell a lie, handspun gansey yarn is better than mill spun.

However, more recently I have been spinning woolen weft, so I have those singles around and -- they get plied up into various knitting yarns, including 5-ply.

The woolen spun 5-ply is softer, but not as smooth as the gansey yarn.  It is stronger and much more elastic than 2-ply (woolen or semi-worsted) sport weight.  The additional elasticity gives fabrics/objects a wonderful drape.

Is it worth the additional effort?  The objects are nicer.  Are we doing this for fast objects?  Or, for nicer objects? And, I have the singles around.  Lazy Kate is beside the wheel, and can make me a ball of  knitting yarn faster than I can bike into town and back.

(Perhaps this is just a reaction to doing 10-ply cable yarns.  They had virtues, but were less elastic, and took a lot of attention to knit to fit.)

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Luster in fine wool

A couple of years ago, our guild had THE expert on wool come in for a lesson on how to buy a fleece.

At one point she said that the "fine wools" were never "lustrous".

I asked a couple of questions on this point, to make sure I had heard her correctly and had properly understood her  She is the expert, so I accepted the point, and have restated it here.  I took some flack on the point from "Anonymous".

However, the Rambouillet fleece that Anna Harvey just sent me is fine and lustrous.  The trusty twisty stick says the fiber is fine - mid 80s count - call it 18 or 19 microns, and it is lustrous.  It gleams. It sparkles. There is no oil on it, no resins, no dyes, it is just clean, white lustrous wool.  If I did not know better, I would say it was synthetic, or had been treated.

However, the fleece came to me, just as it came off the sheep, and I washed 3 samples from 3 different fleece with things like Ivory soap or Kirkland dishwashing detergent that do not leave oil residues or optical brighteners as in laundry detergents.  The expert was wrong.  When fine wool is coated to protect it from the sun, it can be very lustrous.

All of a sudden, I have no interest in spinning anything but Rambouillet.  I like the sparkle!

Anyway, for once "Anonymous" was correct.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Better accelerator bearings

Spinning has been a series of sacrifices to the gods of speed.

I settled into double drive and differential rotation speed (DRS) controlled flyer/bobbin assemblies in the pursuit of speed.  I went to smaller fliers from Alden Amos in pursuit of speed. I went to an accelerator in the pursuit of speed.  By the time I had spun my first fine warp (5 lb of lace weight worsted singles) I expect that my wheel was one of the very fastest in the world. Production of 5,600 ypp worsted at sustained rates of more than 8 yards per minute with peak production rates of more than 10 yd/min is easy.

Nevertheless, I spent a good part of today making better bearings for the accelerator from graphite/Delrin provided by Henry Clemes.  The result is another 800 rpm in the flyer/bobbin assemblies.  And the wheel runs quieter, with less vibration.

This raises the production rate of higher twist yarns. Every time, I thought that my wheel was going as fast as possible, I have found rather straightforward ways to it make go faster. I cannot believe that I am the only one.  Between the invention of DRS by silk throwers in Italy during the 12th century and the advent of  powered spinning frames circa 1780, millions people had a strong financial incentive to improve the spinning wheel in various ways.  It was a very large, very competitive industry, with huge incentives for very small increases in spinner productivity.  The competitive nature of the industry ensured that useful improvements were kept very secret, until they were obsolete. Thus, textiles were generally unique to a locality, because other localities did not know the details of how those fabrics were produced.

The way to determine what tools and technologies were used, is to become expert in textile production technology and reverse engineer the technology from found textile samples.  Proof is in my spinning wheel.  No historian viewing history through the prism of modern commercially produced and sold hand spinning wheels could conceive that a 16 th century hand spinner could have a production rate of  8 yards per hour. And, yet this afternoon as I tested the the new bearings, anything less is silly.  It shakes and rattles, but it spins faster than any wheel you have ever seen or heard. I have no doubt that wheel makers in Flanders were making faster wheels by the end of the 15th century. There is nothing in my wheel that they could not do with the tools and materials that they had.  Yes, the materials they had might have resulted in a bit more lard-oil splatter, but in a commercial spinning factory, that does not matter. Any historian who says that 16th century professional spinners that did not spin that fast, simply does not not know the craft of spinning.

As Ed Deming told us over and over, "You get what you measure.  If you do not measure it, you do not get it".  Professional spinners measured production - it was called income.  Modern spinners do not measure it, and do not get it. Modern historians do not have a clue about the productivity of traditional hand spinners. Since spinning  was the base of textiles, and textiles was major item of trade and a base of the economy,  modern historians do not have a clue about the economy of the period.

And it solves that great question: Why 5-ply? A) Because they had DRS wheels set for 10s, and 5 plies of 10s knit into a fabric that was warm enough to keep a sailor from going hypothermic.

Now that I am spinning a lot of warp, hand spun 5-ply has become my go to yarn.  I always have pounds of 10s around and plying up some 5-ply is just natural.  It is a way of using up left overs.  It is a stash buster.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

More on Diz your roving

You can use a length of dowel to wind the roving/pull the fiber off the drum carder through the diz.  Now the roving is wound around a nice dowel, rather than being juggled above the carder cylinder.

I use my distaff, as my dowel.  thus, the fiber from the diz is wound directly onto my distaff and is ready for spinning. It then unwinds nicely, except for the bottom layer - that gets slid off the distaff and treated like a rolag.

 Sometimes I put 1 tpi Z twist into the roving to stabilize it.   This takes care of the bottom layer issue.  Once you get accustomed t the motion, it is fast and easy.

Monday, October 06, 2014

Using a diz to strip roving off the drum carder

Folks are using a diz to take a strip of batt off the drum carder as continuous roving.

It is fast and easy, and it works very well -- to get carded roving.  However, carded roving going to spin up as semi-worsted or semi-woolen.  I like both  semi-worsted and semi-woolen yarns for many things, but not for everything.

This approach is great for most knitting yarns that do not need great durability or warmth.  I would say it is very well suited for 95% of the spinning that I see.  And it is how I intend to prepare the fiber for a sweater for my wife.

I have made my own diz for a long time.  They were not the best for this technique.  Clemes & Clemes worked out diz that work for this technique -  they make better ones.  Get one, or get a set for spinning different grists.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Pix of 20 fiber bundles

You have seen them. Every serious spinner drafted out super fine as they added lots of twist and the result is a few inches or a few feet of a spin count thread - a bundle of 20 fibers.  It is the natural result, you just did not recognize it for what it was.  There are lots of photographs of such fine threads on the internet. See for example by li12345 on Ravelery and

What is less common is folks that spin miles of such threads in a reasonable time.  

I do not seem to have a teacher, so I am still working out the process.  It is slow work.  As I explain it, I get a lot of push back.  I would rather spend my time working forward, than dealing with the same pushback attitudes over and over.  I have a few students, and do not worry about the public.

In 1400, spinners did spin  spin miles and miles of such threads very quickly.  Most modern spinners cannot do what spinners in 1400 could do.  Why is that?  Taking pix of the threads is not a big deal.  Taking pix of how to do it quickly is hard.  At internet resolutions, the moving thread just disappears.  It looks like I am making new clothes for the emperor out of frog hair, so I just post pix of the equipment. Smart ones will figure it out.