Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Its Woolly Wednesday in Wovember

Its Wednesday and its November so it must be Woolly Wednesday and time to talked about woolly things!

There has been a lot of discussion on Ravelry about whether it is right to celebrate all things woolly in November by using the synonym Wovember, because it is degrading the Movember movement which raising money to research prostate cancer and testicular cancer.  I don't want to into the rights and wrongs of using similar names, just to say that I support both!  I love all things woolly and Mr S used to sport a very stylish moustache until his diagnosis with Sleep Apnoea made it impossible.

Right Woolly things - and particularly spinning and spinning wheels.  I have been a very lucky/naughty/bad/good (delete as you think appropriate) girl as in the last two weeks I have acquired two spinning wheels.

Frances - A Frank Herring
Nellie - this maybe an early Williamson (Timbertops) or not! (The jury is out at the moment)
Why you may ask does anyone want/need more spinning wheels?  I would counter this with 'why not'!  Every spinning wheel is different - yes I know that a wheel is a device for putting a twist in fibre and then storing it - but different wheels have different ratios and it is ratios that make for very different finished yarns. 
Ratios - love them or hate them - are necessary if you are going understand the properties of the finished yarn.  Basically high ratios make fine yarns and low ratios make thicker yarns.  To work out the ratio of your wheel count the number of times the flyer/whorl goes round for one turn of the drive wheel, if you have more than one groove on your flyer then you will be able to spin with different ratios and therefore make different yarns.  For example Nellie only has one groove and a ratio of 3.25:1, which means that I am going to able to spin some lovely art yarns (more about art yarns later), and is lower than the old Ashford Country Spinner! 
Frances is a double drive wheel and has three ratios  7:1, 6.75:1, 6.25:1 this means that she will make finer yarns than Nellie, but not as fine as my Ashford Joy which has four ratios, 6:1, 8:1, 11:1 and 14:1. I use the 14:1 to spin my lace yarn.  There is the twist per inch brigade, and I think that it is too easy to get hung up on this - obviously tpi is important, but it is more important that the yarn you are producing has a even quality and more importantly spinning and plying should be enjoyable, so unless it is really really important to you to know exactly how many tpis there is in your yarn - my advice is relax, it can't be good to be sooooooooooooo hung up on counting the twists that you have lost all the pleasure.  But if it is important to you here is a short explanation:
For a yarn with 10 tpi, place the drive band in the groove of the flyer/whorl size closest to 10:1. This means is that one revolution of the drive wheel will put 10 twists in one inch of the yarn. Therefore, if you draft one inch of fibre, hold it for one revolution of the wheel and let the yarn wind onto the bobbin, you will be spinning a yarn with 10 tpi. You can vary this - for example you let in more fibre you will get less twists, or stick to one inch and do two revolutions you will get more twists. 
Then there is the worsted versus woollen debate, which I mostly get wrong, but here goes!  Worsted spun yarn uses combed fibres which all lie parallel to each other (usually called top or roving in the UK), and the yarn is spun from this. Which means that the lustre of the fibre in enhanced and you get a strong dense yarn without too much trapped air.  Woollen uses carded fibre where is fibres are rolled up and spun, which means that the fibres are all over the place and you get a lot of air in the yarn which makes them more bouncy and lighter, but without the sheen of worsted spun yarn.  Hope that makes sense .  Obviously different fleece is more suited to either woollen or worsted eg Longwools are better spun worsted and shorter fibres, like Downland breeds are better spun woollen
Writing this has just brought to my attention that I really don't have a wheel with a lace flyer - this will obviously have to be addressed in the very near future and I am in deep discussions with Mr S over a remedy that doesn't include the purchase of another wheel..............
PS Hope you remember to put your clocks back last week!


  1. Thanks for the ratio and tpi information, difficult stuff to make clear in a few sentences. And congratulations on the new acquisitions!

  2. Thank you - it was a useful excerise for me as I always get woollen and worsted muddled up!

  3. I've learned something new here. I think I must be too much of an instinctive spinner, and I just spin without worrying about tpi etc. Perhaps I ought to try and get my head around it sometime, and your post here, has certainly given me a starting point. Thank you.

  4. Celebrate Wool definitely, all year! (I saw the discussion too but have not commented).

    Lovely new wheels, and I for one never question the "why another one?". Why not indeed, and they are both lovely, certainly looks like the Williamson Jimbo wheel.

    Loving the math! Had a recent discussion with a friend on this who counts things precisely. I guess I used to but now go with my own instincts and rhythm but in there some of the math has developed. Reading Mabel Ross got me got me interested in it, and it's something I think I will experiment with more one day.

  5. Part of this was to justify two new wheels to Mr S

  6. I think that I am an instinctive spinner too, but would like to be able to plan..........

  7. A girl can't have have too many spinning wheels or pairs of shoes. They are unusual wheels, you are right each design is different and spins differently.


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