Saturday, September 28, 2013

Long Draw

Long draw with driven spindles was one of the enabling technologies that made wool cloth less expensive, increased warmth for the masses, and made civilization in Europe possible.

Long draw with a great wheel is the traditional way to spin a lot of fine woolen yarn quickly.  See AA, The Big Blue Book, page 240.

However, with all due respect to AA and the big yellow strobe light that indicates the precise speed of all rotations at Dragonfly Farms, 20 years after AA wrote that, he made me flier/bobbin assemblies that do routinely spin at speeds between 2,400 and 3,600 rpm as indicated by my digital tachometer.

The great advantage of long draw is that it allows one handed drafting, while the other hand drives the spindle at great speed.

If I can drive a flier/bobbin assembly at a higher average speed, then my  flier/bobbin assembly can produce more yarn than the driven spindle.  And, since I use both hands to control fiber flow, I have more drafting options.  I can produce a pure worsted yarn.  Or, with a tiny change in hand position, a tiny change in how I pinch the yarn, and a change in fiber preparation,  I can allow twist to run into the fiber mass and produce a pure woolen yarn.  Since my flier/bobbin assembly is inserting twist as fast as a great wheel, I can produce pure woolen yarn as fast as I could using long draw and a great wheel.

On the other hand, long draw produces a more consistent, and higher quality yarn.  Maybe.  Maybe not.  I do not really see a difference in fines or mediums. If there is an advantage, it would be with short fibers such as cotton.

The bottom line is that for a long time, I wanted a great wheel, but over the last year, that desire has gone away as I learned to produce similar threads at similar speeds on a  flier/bobbin assembly.  Since, I have both hands available to draft, the need for long draw has also gone away.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Horses for Courses

Last night, our guild hosted a "free" come one, come all class on spinning cotton, taught by Stephenie Gaustad. There was a huge turn out, but Stephenie really is a master teacher, and a good time was had by all. She can look at a spinner, and instantly tell whether the problem is in the spinner's technique or in how their wheel is is set up.  And, she knows how to explain spinning.  She can instantly adapt to the spinner's needs, whether it is the basics or the fine points of a master class.

Anyway, her book on spinning cotton, flax and hemp is finished and will be out at the end of February, 2014.  Now, she again has some time for teaching. I suggest that everyone take advantage of this, and learn as much from her as possible.

Make up your list of questions, and take a class from her.  Soon.  She is not going to be out there teaching forever.

She had not seen me spin since Alden made the competition flier for me. Last night, her comment to me was, "You spin on a knife edge, with no room for error."  True.

I was spinning Irish tension, but while spinning DRS DD it had become my habit to hold my hands too close together.

The Master Teacher corrected a bad habit that I had acquired. Am I back to long draw on IT?  No, but I keep my hands farther apart and my drafting triangle is longer. There is still almost no visible motion in my hands.  Is this more ergonomic than long draw?  Not sure, but it is much faster.  I let the wheel do the work.  Why do I need to move the drafting triangle away from the wheel? To give me time to even out the yarn as it accumulates twist?  Why not just draft an even thread to start with?  What advantage is there to waving my arms around that I cannot achieve by proper wheel adjustment?

If I draft evenly, then I do not need to be waving my arms around, and keeping my drafting arm still helps me draft more evenly.

Here is what I think.  Long draw allows the storage of 100 to 200 twists to allow the twist to even out over a length of yarn. If you are spinning 1600 ypp singles, it takes 30" to 60"  inches to store that amount of  twist, and that requires long draw.  If you are spinning 40,000 ypp singles, then it only takes a few inches of yarn to store 200 twists, and long draw is not required.  However, these days nobody ever spends all their time spinning fines, and as they spin thicker threads, long draw becomes a habit, that carries over to when they are spinning fines.

If you disagree, meet me at the Lambtown Races.  I will be the guy spinning fines from Ann Harvey's Rambouillet. Buy me a couple of pints, promise to drive me home, and I will change my mind about long draw and twist.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Irish Tension

When I started spinning, I started with an Ashford Traddy because I knew it would be easy to work on and adapt.

As I got to be a better spinner, and was spinning finer, the Traddy was slow with somewhere around 800 usable rpm. If I was doing singles for 2-ply worsted weight yarn, that would be about as fast as any beginner  can draft.  However, my goal was 5-ply and I wanted 5,600 ypp singles.  Producing 5-ply on a stock Traddy was slow going.

I took a long and meandering path to more speed, and a lot people said very rude things and called me every kind of stupid. I went through the whole double drive with differential rotation speed, and everyone called me a bunch of rude names, but the technology works, is fast, and produces beautiful yarn.

Tonight, the Alden Amos competition flier is on the wheel in Irish tension mode. It delivers a full 3,500 rpm and will easily spin 30,000 ypp singles. If those folks calling me names had wanted to be helpful, they could have just said, "Get a smaller flier with less windage!",  so we know they were not trying to be helpful, they were just being boss cows.

So, I am going to say it, fine yarns want smaller fliers with less windage.  (And get high speed dynamically balanced fliers while you are at it.")

Am I sorry I went to the trouble to learn DRS and make all those gang fliers?  No!  DRS controlled spinning really does produce better singles. When, I am sampling, I may not bother with the DRS, but when I need pretty yarn, I get out the DRS gear.

However, for very fine yarns (above spin count), I now use a quill mounted in the Traddy.  I do not like the Ashford quill, so I had to make my own. It is better than a great wheel, or a supported spindle because it is hands free, so both hands can draft. It is better than a spindle because it can give me sustained 3,500 rpm. It is better than Irish tension because twist can be inserted at almost zero tension. And ,  DRS systems for very fine yarns take some effort to make up and get right.

The bottom line is that DRS is a very powerful technology for someone that needs to produce a lot of very uniform singles, but it may not be worth while for everybody.  In particular, spinning wheels with small fliers may not get as much advantage from DD.  And, setting DRS up on many wheels is more difficult than for a Traddy.