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!

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! 🙂

 

 

 

Does This Count As Finished?

Yes, it’s FO Friday, and I’m posting this even though it isn’t technically finished.

I took this lovely braid of BFL from Turtlepurl,

Boys Have Cooties is the name of this colorway.

split it “fractally” and spun it into singles onto two bobbin on my Ashford Traveller in DD,

A bobbin full of Boys Have Cooties

A bobbin full of Boys Have Cooties

 

Both bobbins on the kate

Both bobbins on the kate

plied it on my Travvy in ST into a 2-ply yarn,

Plying in progress

Plying in progress

and ended up with this lovely light-fingering weight, 2-ply yarn.

Boys Have Cooties straight off the niddy noddy

Boys Have Cooties straight off the niddy noddy

Blue and green make pretty. 🙂

I haven’t set the twist yet because I ran out of wool wash. I could use a little dish soap or shampoo, but that would require rinsing. And I’m too lazy for that. I’ll just wait until the Eucalan I ordered arrives to finish the yarn.

Visit Tami’s FO Friday to see more lovely hand-crafted stuff.

 

Tour de Fleece 2014 Day 3

The third day of the TdF is nearly over. Today I made my first-ever 100% silk 2-ply yarn. I plied the two chunks of tussah silk sliver I spun on days 1 and 2 together to make this beautiful yarn.

Pretty 2-ply silk on the Ladybug

I think next I will try my hand at spinning silk hankies.

I’m also making good progress on my Greenwood Fiberworks merino top that I’m spinning on my Ashford Traveller.

The bobbin is starting to fill up.

I think I’m starting to develop a good rhythm with this fiber, which is improving my consistency. Or maybe not. Regardless, I am enjoying spinning it, and it is going to make a lovely yarn that will knit up into something spectacular. 🙂

Tour de Fleece 2014 Day 1

Last year was my very first Tour de Fleece. I went a little overboard and spun up an incredible amount of fiber. This year I decided to take it easy and keep it a bit more low key and laid back.

But that doesn’t mean I’m not challenging myself. I’m on two teams this year, Team Schacht and Team Ashford. For Team Schacht, I am using my beautiful Schacht Ladybug to spin silk. I’ve spun lots of silk blends since I started spinning two years ago, but I have never tried spinning pure silk. So, I bought a Treenway Silks fiber kit from The Woolery, and some Ashland Bay undyed silk hankies,

A box full of silk fiber and a bag of silk hankies

and today I dug in.

I started with the undyed tussah silk sliver, which is a preparation that is very similar to combed top. The fibers are all lined up and the drafting is easy. I spun it all today with my Ladybug set up in Scotch tension using the medium pulley with the drive band in the smaller groove, which is a ratio of 9:1.

A bobbin of tussah silk singles

The singles is a lace weight that when plied back on itself makes a heavy fingering weight yarn. I have a length of dyed tussah silk that I will spin in the same way, then I will ply the two together to make a 2-ply silk yarn.

For Team Ashford, I’m spinning on my Traveller in double drive using the sliding hook flyer and the middle groove on the pulley that comes with the flyer. The ratio is 8:1, which is normally too slow for me, but my goal is to spin a singles that will make a worsted weight yarn when chain-plied. I just naturally tend to spin very thin singles, so I have to work at getting them a little thicker, so the slower ratio really helps.

The fiber is a braid of merino wool from Greenwood Fiber Works in Holly Berry that I have had in my stash for quite a while.

Greenwood Fiber Works merino in Holly Berry

Merino can be a little tricky to draft because it tends to be pretty sticky, and I haven’t spun a lot of merino, so it’s not autopilot spinning for me. I am trying to keep the singles as consistent as I can because I will be chain-plying it. Chain plying isn’t as forgiving as doing a 3-ply.

Here’s my day 1 progress:

Merino singles on the Ashford sliding hook flyer

 

So Much To Learn (Plus A Finished Object)

A little while ago, I was telling yinz about spinning in double drive on my new spinning wheel, an Ashford Traveller. I mentioned that I love spinning in DD on it when using the regular flyer, but that I had all kinds of trouble when I tried DD using the high-speed flyer. I chalked it up to operator error/inexperience.

I can be a bit stubborn persistent when I get something in my head, and I really, really wanted to remedy my inability to spin in double drive using the high-speed flyer. So after I finished up this project–

Lovely BFL pin-drafted roving from Sunset Fibers

The roving unwound for dividing in half

After dividing the roving in half lengthwise, I had two bumps to spin. I spun one bump as is; the other I divided in half lengthwise again and spun it onto one bobbin end to end.

I spun the roving in double drive using the regular flyer.

I plied the singles from the two bumps together to get this gorgeous, 2-ply, lace weight BFL yarn.

I decided to give the high-speed whorl another whirl in double drive. (Did you see what I did there?) So I removed the regular flyer and put on the high-speed flyer. But this time, instead of using the shorter and thinner drive band I had used before when I tried the fast flyer, I just used the regular drive band.

I had to tilt the MOA a lot to get the band tensioned properly, and I was worried this would cause a problem.

The mother of all is tilted pretty far to the right, looking from behind the wheel.

You can see how far up the tensioning screw is.

But then I started spinning a braid of superfine Merino top that I bought from Spinneretta’s Studio,

Lovely superfine Merino wool from Spinneretta’s Studio in a colorway called Bloody Broomstick

and–OH MY! It was heaven. There is a bit of vibration in the maidens with the MOA tilted back so far, but it’s not enough to be annoying. And it’s nothing compared to the vibration I get with the bulky flyer on my Lendrum.

This is the thinnest and most consistent yarn I have ever spun, and it’s effortless.

The first bobbin. Note that I’m using the larger pulley. I was afraid to try the smaller pulley because I don’t know how far I can tilt the MOA before I start having serious problems.

Can you see how thin these singles are? Pretty much sewing thread.

Of course, I’m only on the first of four bobbins I plan to spin and ply to make a 4-ply yarn destined to become fingerless mitts, and the spinning gremlins might show up at any time, but so far, so good.

There’s always something new to learn in the art (and science) of spinning, and I’m learning something new with every project I start. And I don’t know what I would do without the community of spinners and knitters on Ravelry and in the blogosphere. The are the most helpful and generous folks on the face of the Earth.

Don’t forget to check out Tami’s FO Friday to see what other fiber artists are up to.