Technology!

Technology is amazing. 3-D printing is a relatively new technology, but it is already being used in the world of spinning to create some high quality bobbins for us spinners. The company that makes these 3-D printed bobbins is called Akerworks and is located in Tennessee in the US; Akerworks make custom bobbins for a wide range of spinning wheels. (They also make spindles, but I have not tried one yet, so I cannot make any judgment. They also produce a lazy kate; I got one for Christmas, and it is fabulous. But I’ll save the kate for another day.)

The bobbins are not cheap, but they are affordable and come at a price that is comparable to (and often a little less than but sometimes a little more than) the OEM bobbins. But unlike the OEM bobbins, the Akerworks bobbins come apart so that they can be stored flat, are totally customizable with 20 colors and  6 whorl patterns from which to choose, and are virtually silent when in use.

After each model bobbin is designed and developed, it is then tested by spinners. The bobbin isn’t offered for sale until it receives passing marks from the test spinners. I was lucky enough to be chosen back in October to test spin the newest Akerworks bobbin, a double drive bobbin for the Ashford sliding hook flyer. After using it to spin in double drive and ply in Scotch tension, the bobbin got an A+ from me. It is totally silent as it spins on the shaft of the flyer, and it is very smooth. I highly recommend this bobbin to anyone who has an Ashford sliding hook flyer.

Here’s my review, in pictures and captions. Enjoy!

The bobbin arrived in a small padded mailing envelope. The bobbin comes in a mesh pouch with a separate compartment for the core. The flat-pack design means the bobbins take up much less space when stored or packed for traveling.

Two whorls and the core. They fit together easily and stay together until you decide to take the bobbin apart. Akerworks has a video on their web site/YouTube demonstrating how to assemble and take apart the bobbin, but to be honest, it is totally intuitive. I didn’t discover the video until I had put together and take apart the bobbin several times.

Here’s what the bobbin looks like once it is assembled. Mine is the Lotus pattern in Berry Blue. The core is carbon fiber.

The Akerworks bobbin is just a hair longer than the Ashford Sliding Hook Flyer bobbin, and the core has a slightly smaller diameter, so you can get more yarn on the Akerworks bobbin than on the Ashford bobbin.

This is the end with the big pulley. Normally I would use the large end for spinning in Scotch tension, but I’ve never been able to get that to work on my Traveller with the Ashford bobbins. I just put the brake band over the small end, and I use a cotton brake band instead of the nylon band the Ashford comes with. I did the same thing with the Akerworks bobbin, and it worked well.

This is the end with the small pulley. I love the openness of the Akerworks bobbin.

Here’s my Akerworks bobbin set up in double drive on my Traveller using the smallest pulley on the sliding hook flyer whorl. The gold yarn on the bobbin is the leader. The purple and green are the yarn I was spinning.

The bobbin looks quite lovely on the spinning wheel. I think the blue goes very nicely with the cherry finished of the NZ silver beech of the Travvy.

An added bonus of the Akerworks bobbin is that when the bobbin is spinning, you can actually see through it. No more excuses for forgetting to move the sliding hook. Seriously, this makes it much easier to get a nice, even bobbin.

Because this bobbin is so big, I was able to spin a 4-ounce bump onto it with tons of room to spare. I could have easily fit 2 more ounces on this bobbin.

I used the Akerworks bobbin in Scotch tension to ply the singles I had spun. The yarn is a 2-ply spun from both ends of a center-pull ball. The bobbin is nearly full, but there is still room for more yarn on it. These bobbins have a good capacity; they will hold a little bit more than the Ashford Sliding Hook Flyer bobbins, which are nice big bobbins in their own right.

If you have been thinking of purchasing Akerworks bobbins for your spinning wheel, do it!

Fall In The Springtime

Apropos to nothing, I drive my husband, who is a retired editor, just a little bit crazy with the capitalization I use in the titles for my blog posts. I capitalize the first letter every single word, even the articles and prepositions. I know they are not supposed to be capitalized, but I like the way the titles look when the first letter of every word is capitalized, so I do it even though it breaks the rules. It’s my blog, and I can do what I want. 🙂

Now on to the serious business of knitting and spinning. It seems like it has been ages since I blogged about knitting. The only knitting I have OTN is a very boring “vanilla” sock in gray that I cannot even finish until I find the rest of the yarn. I know it’s somewhere in my house, but I’ll be damned if I can remember where I put it. I’ve looked in all the likely spots, but no joy. I also seem to have misplaced my knitting mojo. If you happen to see it, please tell it to phone home. I miss it.

On the other hand, there is no question as to the location of my spinning mojo. It’s right here where it belongs. And since there is no knitting to talk about, let’s get started on the spinning.

Last fall I bought a 3-installment, double-shot fiber club from Sweet Georgia Yarns. The owner, Felicia Lo, is an absolutely brilliant dyer who uses very saturated colors that produce fiber/yarn that seems to glow with its own internal light.

The first installment of my club, which for some reason I spun last, is a 50/50 blend of Merino wool and silk that spun up with a beautiful sheen. The colorway is called Fall Bouquet.

The silk content and the rich colors make this fiber practically glow.

I decided to spin each braid end to end, then ply the two singles together for a subtle barber-pole effect.

I packed a lot of yarn onto the first bobbin.

When plying this yarn, I did a little experimentation. I love spinning in double drive. In double drive, the drive band is doubled in a figure 8 and one loop goes over the flyer pulley while the other loop goes over the bobbin pulley. When you treadle, the drive wheel turns both the bobbin and the flyer, but at slightly different speeds. This results in a gentle but steady take-up onto the bobbin. This works really well for me when spinning, but I haven’t yet gotten a feel for plying in double drive. I need a stronger take-up, especially when I chain-ply my singles. For this reason, I normally ply in Scotch tension, which is also called flyer lead.

In Scotch tension, the drive band is just one loop that goes around the drive wheel and the flyer pulley, and there is a separate brake band goes on the bobbin. When you have tension on the yarn, the bobbin and flyer spin at the same rate, and this puts twist into the fiber. When you let up on the tension, the flyer spins faster than the bobbin because you are slowing the bobbin with the brake band. The result is that the flyer wraps the yarn around the bobbin.

As much as I love my Ashford Traveller, I’m not very fond of its Scotch tension set up. I really need to play around with it and try to find a set-up that works better for me. I had been doing my plying on the Lendrum, which is a single-drive wheel (Scotch tension only), or on my Ladybug, which is a multi-drive wheel that works really great in Scotch tension. But I really wanted to ply these singles on my Ashford because of the larger bobbins, so I tried something new. I plied this yarn using Irish tension.

Irish tension, which is also called bobbin lead, gives the spinner a very strong take-up, that is, the yarn is pulled onto the bobbin pretty hard. In Irish tension, the drive band goes over the drive wheel and the bobbin, so that when you treadle, the drive wheel turns the bobbin directly. The brake band goes over the flyer pulley. When you hold the yarn under tension, the bobbin and flyer turn together at the same rate, but when you let up on the tension, the flyer slows or even stops, and the yarn winds onto the bobbin.  You usually don’t need much, if any, tension on the brake band when using Irish tension. Just the friction of the band material itself often provides all the braking you need.

I found the Irish tension set-up on my Travvy was much more to my liking than the Scotch tension, so for the time being, until the spirit moves me to fiddle around with the Scotch tension set-up, I will be using Irish tension on my Travvy for plying.

But for spinning, double drive is still my spinning heaven, and my Traveller is a sweet dream in double drive.  I used the sliding hook flyer, which has larger bobbins than the Ashford standard flyer. Four ounces of fiber fit on a SHF bobbin with room to spare, so I spun each braid onto its own bobbin.

But when I plied the singles, I couldn’t fit all eight ounces of 2-ply onto a single bobbin, so when I wound the yarn off the bobbins onto my niddy noddy, I actually spit-spliced the yarn to join it and ended up with a single skein. A big single skein. 220 grams, 837 yards of a heavy fingering to sport weight yarn.

The yarn is soft and shiny because–Merino, silk!

If you are wondering whether the other two installments of my Sweet Georgia Fibre Club turned out as well as this one, you won’t have to wait long for the answer.

 

Spring Is In The Air

Since the move to Pittsburgh, I’ve been doing a lot more spinning than knitting, but I haven’t kept up with blogging about my projects. I’m trying to remedy that. So here’s a quick, down and dirty, picture summary of one of my recently finished spinning projects.

The fiber is the third of three installments of a Bee Mice Elf club. I bought a double shot–8 ounces instead of 4–spun each braid end to end, then plied the two together. The fiber content is 40% Merino wool, 40% superwash Merino wool, and 20% silk.

Two 4-once braids of beautifully handdyed fiber

Two 4-once braids of beautifully handdyed fiber

I fractal spun the fiber in double drive on an Ashford Traveller using the sliding hook flyer and its larger bobbins. The bobbin on the left is the split fiber.

 

I plied the two bobbins of singles together using Irish tension (bobbin lead). The 2-ply yarn wouldn’t all fit on one bobbin.

 

Here’s the plied yarn straight off the niddy noddy. It looks overplied, but a nice soak in water will help the twist relax.

Here’s the finished yarn. See, I told you a soak in water would cause the twist to relax. Both hanks are skeined together. Isn’t it purty?

I did a fractal spin with this fiber. I spun one braid end to end onto one bobbin. The I split the second braid once lengthwise, spun each length end to end onto another bobbin, spinning the colors in the same order. Then the two bobbins of singles were plied together using Irish tension.

I ended up with eight ounces and around 792 yards of sport weight 2-ply yarn. I’m very satisfied with how the plying turned out. Although I am a real noob at using Irish tension, the results are more than satisfactory.

 

 

New City, New Life

Things are starting to calm down a bit after the big move from Carlisle to Pittsburgh. Sort of. A lot of the unpacking has been done, but a lot of stuff is still in boxes and will remain so for the foreseeable future because we will be starting some big projects soon to get the house spruced up, and if we unpack everything, we’ll just have to pack it back up when the work begins. (How’s that for a run-on sentence?)

But I did finally buy a new desk for my computer

My new computer desk. The old desk didn't make the move.

My new computer desk. The old desk didn’t make the move.

which means I finally got my iMac back up and running, which means I’m finally getting around to updating my blog with pictures. Yes, pictures.

I haven’t been doing a lot of knitting, but I have been spinning like a fiend ever since I got my Travvy and my Lendrum unpacked and set up.

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A River Runs… Loop Bullseye Bump for December, 2014

 

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The yarn off the niddy noddy before setting the twist

 

 

Field of Dreams from Loop Fiber Studio

Field of Dreams from Loop Fiber Studio

 

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Chain plied. The twist has not been set yet.

Both of these Loop Bullseye Bumps were spun end to end on my Ashford Traveller in double drive using the sliding hook flyer, then chain plied on my Lendrum using the regular head. I started the Field of Dreams back before we moved. I was almost half way finished with the spinning when we started packing up just before Thanksgiving, so it was untouched for almost two months. When I started it up again, it felt wonderful to be back at my wheel.

It may seem odd that I have been doing so much chain plying lately. I used to be quite vocal about my dislike of chain plying, but with practice, I’ve gotten more proficient at it, so much so that I have started to enjoy doing it. And having knitted with my chain-plied handspun, I have discovered that the “bumps” don’t show. I was skeptical when spinners/knitters said that the “bumps” don’t show, but now I know they are correct. 🙂

I have lots more spinning to share with you, but it will have to wait for another day. I’m just happy to be back to blogging. With pictures! 🙂

 

 

 

Tour de Fleece 2014 Day 2

I should have posted this yesterday, but I didn’t, so sue me. 🙂

Day 2 wasn’t much different from day one. I took this 12-gram piece of dyed tussah silk sliver

I remembered to weigh the dyed sliver before I started spinning it.

and spun it into this singles.

The colors are very subtle.

I plan to ply it with the singles I spun yesterday on Day 3, which is today. 🙂

I also spun more of the Greenwood Fiberworks merino.

The bobbin is getting fuller, but it will hold a lot more.

It’s lovely fiber, but I’m still having difficulty drafting it as evenly as I would like. When I ply it back on itself, though, it looks pretty good. I have a lot of this fiber left to spin, so I will keep plugging away on it. “Plugging away” probably isn’t the correct term to use. I am very much enjoying spinning this fiber, and I’m happy I still have lots left to spin. But I am having a senior moment and just can’t think of the idiom I want. As my dad would have said, Golden years, my ass. More like the rusty tin years. 🙂