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Hand spinning on a production scale - tools of the trade  RSS feed

 
r ranson
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I want to make this: 



from here

I do a fair amount of production handspinning (that's spinning large amounts of the same kind of yarn for sale or personal use).  Making yarn by hand is one of my main income sources - which I admit isn't very much - but I only spin (or prepare fibre for spinning) about an hour a day.  I want to get that up to at least 12 hours a week.  I also want to make more productive use of my time when preparing fibres as this is where my main time sink is.

So, I thought, why not a thread about production handspinning in case anyone else is interested in it.   Maybe someone has some thoughts on how I can improve my tools, and maybe make myself a peddle powered drum carder.  I have old drum carder and I have old exercise bike with a nice heavy flywheel with a groove in it which could be used for a belt to drive something... is it possible? 
 
Sharon Kallis
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Yes what a great idea!! My brain is not of the sort to figure out the how alas...but I have been thinking about how bikes might be possible to power certain steps of flax processing(scutching) and also like the idea of a stationary bike spinning wheel.. someone else could draft and walk.
A bike carder would be fabulous at a community farmers market as both a lure to get your fibre prepped with youthful assistance and educate folks about natural fibres and perhaps sell yarn as well?
 
r ranson
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Peddle powered scrutcher!  What a wonderful idea!

Our group is not yet ready for lovely cottage industry equipment like this, but something peddle powered would be fantastic!  Breaking and scrutching (for those of you new to flax, check out this thread and this one) seem to take the most amount of time and elbow grease so they would be the ones to do.  My brain is practically vibrating with ideas.  I have an exercise bike with a lovely big flywheel.  Put a drive band on that, make some sort of gear system like a ... Oh, I can't think of what it's called.  It's like the whorls on a spinning wheel to change the speed or the thing the belt goes on for a lathe.   Something like that which could hook up to different machines.  Brilliant!

I've got some reading to do.  Maybe a miniaturized version of the old water powered equipment would work when pedal powered? 
 
Niele da Kine
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I mounted one on an old treadle sewing machine base.  A big wooden disk was cut out that was the diameter of the drum carder's handle's spinning circle.  That was mounted onto the handle by whatever method worked.  A groove on the edge of the wooden disk was lined up with the cord from the treadle base.  You could do the same with the bicycle wheel.


Another option could be to set up a flyer on your exercise bike and spin while exercising.

What wheel do you use to spin on?

Pattern support really helps sell yarn, too.  Making a pattern to go with your yarn will help folks buy it with confidence that they'll be able to do something with it.
 
Sharon Kallis
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What wheel do you use to spin on?

I finally bucked out and bought myself a new wheel this past summer- 30 years of on-again/off-again spinning- more "on" of late- I had to admit it was not just a passing phase and I deserved a pro wheel- I am SO thrilled with my majacraft suzypro!! My spinning has taken off like I could never have imagined as far as technique development goes...(  I am NOT being paid to say that regardless how much I sound like an ad) my friend and spinning guru was always telling my  yarn was under spun, I never seemed to be able to get enough twist in my wool or linen on my student level louet and did not have enough variables to work with in tension and yarn uptake.

I was lucky to have several friends with various wheels I could try before deciding what fit me best to invest in. What I liked about the suzypro was that the two treadle is responsive from both heel and toe- like riding a bike where your shoes click in so you have full power in complete rotation not just the forward motion.
When I sit down to spin i tend to be compulsive and be there for 4 or more hours, on my louet which was single treadle i kept throwing my hip out from my hips being off-kilter for so long. One of the two treadles I tried i could tell long term I would get shin splints from the constant  toe work. What I like about the suzy pro is the wheel is very heavy and it requires very little foot energy- I can sit reclined in a chair "lazy boy style" and still spin! As a related note- i have a quirky spine, and cannot sit and work at a laptop on a desk without throwing my neck out and getting a migraine- i realized the same holds true for sitting looking down at the wheel for extended duration - so sitting low profile to spin ( also a good abdominal workout!) as a shift is good, and I have also trained myself to spin while watching subtitled shows on netflix- so I am forced to keep looking up away from my work! I wish I could say my language skills improved at the same time but alas not the case.
In my community of spinners we chatted about knee back and hip issues, and one of our solutions was to build a walking wheel- I commissioned Arlin ffrench to make one for us last summer that can be mounted in moments on the side of our shipping container storage bay in the park we work in. He made it from shipping skids, bike parts and the fly wheel is a skateboard wheel with a groove cut in it. the tension band is marine cable. it works like a dream and is great for teaching new spinners on as it is slower spinning to understand drafting. It also has a satisfying click click click sound that hearkens back to 70's gameshows of my childhood!
We just had the walking wheel complete in the fall and look forward to getting it going in a big way when the winter is over.

So far we are loving it and is a great hook to grab interest from those new to spinning and textile related skills.
my big spinning achievement last year was spinning kite line from our local linen for the kites we made from local plants ( plus hideglue from a local sheep). Nailing the Navajo 3 ply technique has rocked my fibregeek world! I have also just spun linen bowline for a local bow maker but haven't had a chance to get it to him yet- it was a 18 ply, singles line linen, 3 plied, then 3 plied again, then 2 plied.
Advice for anyone looking to buy a wheel: sample various types- dont just go by someone else's choice- and listen to your body for how it fits and feels for your feet, legs, hips, back and neck! If you plan to spin for long durations I would advise 2 treadle as more ergonomically balanced.
if you are curious about our kite making project, here is the short documentary we made.
20161001_144410.jpg
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Sharon Kallis
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I am not sure if this is the right place for this, but thought I would mention in  case you are not aware of this group or project, check out taproot fibre- east coast of canada- making small scale production equipment to bring back cottage industry textile production from seed to clothhttp://taprootfarms.ca/TapRoot-Fibre-Lab" target="_new" rel="nofollow">webpage
 
r ranson
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I've been thinking about this a lot lately.  I want to up my production speed.  There is a lot of local demand for handspun yarn.

Here are some of the tools I use and some thoughts I have about them.

A faster spinning wheel.

Most of my spinning is done on my Ashford Elizabeth spinning wheel.  This wheel is great for the kind of yarn I like to spin.  It's double drive, which makes a more consistent yarn than single drive with tensioning systems.  It's fast, and most importantly, it has lots and lots of bobbins.  I usually fill up 9 bobbins before winding the yarn off into skins.  Each bobbin fits about 100g of yarn, which isn't bad.  If I'm making a lot of the same kind of yarn, having many bobbins means I'm not restricted to how much yarn I can fit on the bobbin.  I can make each skein the same size which makes it easier for customers to see how much yarn there is.  This was an expensive buy but it's made it's money back many times over.

For people who like to spin bulky yarn, the Ashford Country Spinner is my favourite.  It spins bulky yarn and it spins it well, but it isn't good for fine yarns.  For those who want to spin both, I actually recommend the Kiwi2 as it has a regular flyer and one can get the super flyer which holds one heck of a lot of yarn.  Most people think of this as an introductory wheel because of the price, but it's super-versatile. 

My other main wheel is an antique Quebec wheel.  This too is double drive but has a larger drive wheel and faster spinning speed than even my Elizabeth.    But it only has one bobbin, which breaks up my spinning time.  Also, I wore it out.  That's the problem with antique wheels - you can't get the parts.  I'm getting them custom made, but still...

There are lots of other wheels out there.  The number one quality in a wheel for production spinning is that the wheel is a good match for the spinner.  If one doesn't get on well with their wheel, they won't want to spend time with it. 

Portable tools


Hand tools can be more productive than stationary ones.  A spindle can be carried with you and used almost anywhere.  Hand cards, likewise.  Drum carders and spinning wheels are great for when one has time to sit at them, but what about all the other moments of the day?  It ups productivity if one can take the work with them.

Bigger tools

Eventually, we get to a point where we need bigger tools.  Right now I do most of my carding by hand or on a narrow wild carder.  The wild carder makes <40g batts.  The wide drum carder produces 100g batts.  This would just about double my carding speed... but is it enough?  Would treadle power help?  Or peddle like the first post?  Or save up and go electric?  I'm no so fond of the electric, but it's something to consider.
 
r ranson
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Another useful tool is something to count the yardage. 

People want to know how many yards are in a skein of yarn. 

I recently got a click reel (also called clock reel or weasel) that I can use to winde the yarn off my bobbins.


As the yarn goes around, it rotates a gear.  Each time that gear makes one circuit, there's a click.  On my reel, one click equals 80 yards.  If I want 400 yard skeins, then I count five clicks.  Very simple and very easy to make each skein the same length. 

There are other tools that also count yardage.  Some have a counter that latches onto the yarn and counts the actual yardage, others count each circuit of the reel.  My click reel is my favourite of the ones I tried. 
 
Henry Jabel
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You might enjoy this video about weavers who have persumably died out by now in Ireland:
Donegal Weavers Video

I learnt a lot but then again I know nothing about weaving! It mentions in passing they used lichen, bog water etc to dye yarn which I never would have thought of.
 
Gretchen Austin
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Hello all you spinning people!
I'm new here, but feel such a connection to the whole site, I am motivated to keep doing things on my farm here in Northern Ontario, just because... making stuff by hand is cool and satisfying. I spin (not often enough) and weave (also not often enough) and knit (whenever I can unless I'm reading instead) and have horses, sheep, alpacas (just 5 males), chickens, ducks, 2 geese, shaggy cats, and a Great Pyrenees dog. And 3 boys who are very active! I have an Ashford Traveler wheel, and was thinking the other day, that it would be possible to make by hand a replacement bobbin for an antique wheel using a polymer clay or lost wax method. Or even repair a bobbin that is missing some of the grooves for the drive band. Then also one could make enough bobbins to have as many plies as you wanted.
 
r ranson
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We did it, we made a cycle drum carder from the old exercise bike and ancient carder.  It was the work of several people.  Some helped with the design, others sourced parts, others put it together and most of all, we had lots of fun testing it.

We are using it mostly for flax tow fibre.  Tow is amazing because it's easy to spin and makes a deliciously textured yarn. 

Because the drum carder we used is old, it's not the best.  The teeth are short and far apart compared to modern drum carders.  This makes it great for coarse fibres, but terrible for fine ones like alpaca.  It also doesn't hold a lot of fibre in one go, so we have to frequently get up and empty the drum.  But even with these challenges, it is loads faster than a hand powered one. 
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cycle drum carder.
 
Sharon Kallis
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Fantastic R!! Thrilled to see the drum carder bike... I will add that to my list of reasons to get over to victoria!
 
We've gotta get close enough to that helmet to pull the choke on it's engine and flood his mind! Or, we could just read this tiny ad:
Learn, Design, Teach, & Inspire with Permaculture games.
FoodForestCardGame.com
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