Spinninglizzy's Weblog

Falling down the slippery fibre slope

Bobbin Winders For Spinners

Sounds like a campaign slogan to me.  Tax cuts for every citizen!

I was so ecstatic about purchasing my first bobbin winder earlier this May, I wanted to share about it with everyone.  I didn’t have a blog until June, but it has been been on my mind to to post about since.  Between wanting to write and finding time for it, I probably would not have gotten to it if not for recent discussions with fellow Ravelers on this very topic.

I purchased a used Harrisville Designs manual bobbin winder for a little more than what I would have paid for two spinning wheel bobbins.  At the time, I had nary a notion of weaving; it was purely for spinning purposes.  With apologies to all who are tired of hearing me talk about my Lendrum spinning wheel being a walnut anniversary edition; but that had much to do with my search for a bobbin winder.  Regular Lendrum parts are in great demand; finding walnut parts being even more challenging.  Because I had only four bobbins at the time, I was not able to create a four-ply yarn.  (For non-spinners: you need a bobbin for each ply, plus an extra to take up the plies.)

Judith MacKenzie-McCuin told me that she felt a spinner should have no fewer than thirty bobbins for spinning, but with bobbin prices the way they are (Lendrum bobbins are currently about $17, while Schacht bobbins are about $36), it makes sense to have a bobbin winder and inexpensive storage bobbin spools instead.

Oh no, I’m forgetting — my bobbin winder pre-dates my taking her class.  (Sorry, I’ve lost many, many brain cells from the sleep deprivation I suffered during my son’s infancy.)  So much of what that riveting, soft-spoken woman has said has been repeated by those fortunate to have been in her presence, that my own memories of her words have reverently increased in stature.  I remember rightly now: It was “The Alden Amos Big Book Of Handspinning” that first prompted me to look for a bobbin winder.

Closeup of the metal rod that is split to grip a bobbin in place:

Once I started using the bobbin winder, my yarn improved dramatically.  This is because, when you wind onto a storage bobbin over a long distance (six feet or more), you even out the twist in the yarn.  Singles that have been re-wound onto storage bobbins before plying create a much more consistently plied yarn.  I eliminated many problems of breakage and overtwist by using the bobbin winder.  Even re-winding a plied yarn over a distance to a storage bobbin can re-distribute and even out more twist to improve the quality of the ply.  You can also re-wind a yarn with the intention to add or subtract twist, depending on the direction of winding and other variables like unwinding the yarn from side or end.  In these cases, I am referring to yarn that has not had its twist stabilised by heat and washing, but re-winding affects the twist of stabilised yarns as well.

Now, everything I spin is wound off onto a storage bobbin, whether it will be plied or not.  The bobbin winder makes that much of a difference.

I found this very old electric bobbin winder at a yard sale earlier this summer:

I have not used this winder much, since it is much faster than I’m used to.  In one of her books, Peggy Osterkamp recommends rigging an electric winder with a dimmer switch for more speed control.  Just another of the many items on my to-do list!

I chose to invest in Leclerc storage bobbins because they were the least expensive, most readily available, and came in three sizes.

The small bobbins cost under a dollar, and hold perhaps half an ounce of singles, while the longer bobbins (about fifty cents more) may hold up to two ounces.  These two bobbin sizes are used by weavers in boat shuttles to carry the weft.

The largest bobbins cost about three dollars each, and can hold at least six ounces of wool.  These spools are used by weavers to wind off yarn for sectional warping.

I didn’t realise until taking the picture how very close in size the Leclerc spool is to a Lendrum bobbin.

Another benefit of the Leclerc polystyrene bobbins is that they are heat-resistant.  I have not yet, but there may come a time when I will want to heat-set (steam or boil) yarn singles wound on them.

I also purchased a large lot of wooden pirn bobbins from eBay, for what amounted to about twenty-five cents apiece.  They are just so pretty to look at!

Some of the brown wood pirns even contained some antique wool thread!  It’s very instructional to see how a pirn should be properly and tightly wound.  After I started weaving, I even found a shuttle that they will fit into, although the shuttle is quite heavy and bulky.

Before I had a bobbin winder,  I was always reluctant to sample any new rovings.  I had to have my bobbins available for plying, so I had to commit to spinning and plying all the singles in a project before I could play with anything new.  Now, being rich in storage bobbins, I may even try out something crazy, like an eight-ply!  And I have the freedom to spin up something new, at any time I wish.  I know I won’t waste any yarn, as it will tucked safely away on a storage bobbin.  (Finding it later will prove the challenge, and I’ve learned long after the fact how important it is to label the wool!)

I found a safe place to store away the two (!) sets of bongo drums that sat, untouched, atop my bookcases for more than two years.  They were purchased at a time when I was convinced my son would be a percussionist, we’d be the world’s first mother-son team…  Bringing the drums home put paid to that notion!  (I’m not insane, I’m a first-time mother; and no, I haven’t learned how to play them, yet.)  Now this space is dedicated as a permanent home for my winding equipment.  Before having this setup, I was always looking for a place and a free chair to attach my bobbin winder to.  It’s amazing how much time I save by not having to locate it, dig it out, affix it somewhere, then take it down and re-store it, over and over again.  I had not realised the vexation that it was until I experienced the lack thereof.  And, so delightful, the experience of the uninterrupted rhythm of creativity.

Earlier this week, I finally received a walnut bobbin for my wheel from an order I placed eight months ago. I had ordered three extra bobbins; four arrived, but in the end I chose to purchase only one.  I’m very happy with my final total of five Lendrum bobbins — the number chosen as what I think is the most I’ll ever need for a workshop (to create a four-ply yarn).  If I were only spinning at home, with my handy bobbin winder, just one bobbin would suffice.

And, yes, when I first got my bobbin winder, I did have the fleeting thought: “Perhaps this may be useful in the event I ever decide to weave…”  Who knew the mischief that would ensue?

ETA 23 January 2010: see this post for an ultra-portable bobbin winder.

Advertisements

17 October 2008 Posted by | Spinning | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Weaving On A Budget Of Practically Nothing, And Feeling My Mortality

At a family barbeque two weeks ago, my brother asked me conversationally: “So, is that your latest loom you’re working on?” What could I say, except: “Ummmm… no?”

I’m currently the owner of six looms.  Remember, I started two months ago on Father’s Day.  (Edited to add: I wrote most of this post two weeks ago, but waited until now to publish it since I didn’t have pictures of everything at the time.  As of today, I’m actually the owner of eight looms.  Stay tuned for a post introducing the two latest arrivals…)

I was weaving on my Easy Weaver (size A, small), a rigid heddle loom made by Harrisville Designs. These come pre-warped by the manufacturer, using the ingenious method of attaching velcro on both front and back beams to quickly warp the loom.  Mine was used, and two-thirds of the warp was already woven.  I impatiently finished off the last part (letting my son weave a few picks) so I could tie on a warp I prepared for my first try at tablet (or card) weaving.

Before the BBQ, I quickly tied on that first card-weaving project, “Sample Band A” from Candace Crockett’s “Card Weaving” book.  I started the first picks in the car.  It caught the interest of one of my nephews (a belt), so I’m already received my first commission!

I’m very happy with this sweet little loom.  It does exactly what I wanted it for, weaving in the car.  (The passenger seat, silly.  I can already “weave” when I’m in the driver’s seat!)  It was inexpensive, since it was used and missing one shuttle.  It’s the older model, so there’s no heddle block mounted on the base to interfere with tablets.  And it is perfect for my son to use if he wants.  I had a little difficulty getting the warp tight enough with my tablet weaving, since the apron rods I added on tended to slip and loosen the warp and cloth; I will try drilling holes through the rods (for the cording) to see if that will keep them from turning.  I finished off the belt (it’s horrible, made of jute, with lots of mis-turnings) and beamed on a second during a four-hour road trip to Vancouver, BC.  Alas, I ignored the advice to avoid using jute in a first project, for it proved finicky to handle as well as too rough and bulky for belts; they might be salvaged as luggage straps.

The tablets I used were purchased along with others of varying sizes, tiny shuttles, heddles and a backstrap belt with harness for a few dollars at a garage sale:

Then I snagged this electric bobbin winder for even less:

It was cheap because the motor was Danish and made for 220v electrical; I took it into a repair shop, where I was fortunate to find a used 110v motor to replace the original.

The day after the Easy Weaver arrived in the mail, I was practically gifted this 24″ Kromski Harp, with stand, by someone who ordered it new but never got around to taking it out of the box.

With an decoratively flourished heddle:

I don’t know if I’ll keep the Kromski.  Somehow, I just can’t love it as I do Hedy (Schacht), even though the Kromski has a larger weaving width and can accept two heddles, whereas Hedy is limited to one.    I’ve been dragging my heels on the very last bit of the assembly, tying on the apron strings and rods — some bother about finding a candle to melt some nylon ends together.  The ornate woodworking of the Kromski just doesn’t move me as do the quiet, square lines of the Schacht.  Also, I’ve received a few offers for it already, so I may not have it long.  I will add a later post with pictures to compare these two looms..

Last, I came across this handsome fellow, a 25″ Rasmussen table loom that had been stored for thirty years in perfect condition.

His name is Gil (Hebrew for Joy), he folds for portability,

and he came along with four books, including “Warping All By Yourself” by Cay Garrett, and Marguerite Porter Davison’s “A Handweaver’s Pattern Book”.  I don’t understand why, when I take out the bottom screw that locks the castle upright, the hole it comes out of misses alignment (when folded down) with a third hole to lock it when collapsed.  The difference in alignment is very small, but large enough that I don’t believe the difference is due to any warping.  Plus, it’s the same on both sides.  The hole that doesn’t match up is the one pictured below on the upper left:

I think I tried removing the screw on the upper right (instead of the bottom one), and found it doesn’t work, either.  Or perhaps it didn’t make sense to me, since the castle would have to tilt away from and not lock down the reed, and would not collapse as compactly.  I’ll try calling Montana Looms, the company now manufacturing these.  Gil’s collapsing feature isn’t quick or easy compared to my other table loom (Bergman Treasures And A Reprieve), plus he is bulkier and heavier.  It’s more likely that I’ll end up taking out the booster seat and putting down the back seat of the car rather than collapse this loom again.

In compensation for spending practically zilch on looms, I have been bankrupting myself on books –Peggy Osterkamp’s second and third, and “Mastering Weave Structures” by Sharon Alderman — plus accessories.  I purchased two hundred new metal heddles for Gil (more expensive than the loom), to bring him to five hundred.  And placed an order for a Schacht auto-reed hook (shockingly expensive) that I can’t wait to use.

OK, so the budget wasn’t practically nothing, but only because I kept stopping in at The Weaving Works to badger the nice people about my Lendrum fast flyer (hence the new books and accessories).  I’m learning that even if one buys everything top-drawer, and retail, those expenses would be nothing compared to the time investment involved.  Rather, that even if all the looms, tools, education, and yarn were free, weaving is incredibly expensive, time-wise.  (And if so much time is to be spent doing this, isn’t it a necessity to use the tools one likes best?!)

I think I’ve just made the argument that weaving cannot be be inexpensive, if one values time.

Reading through the used weaving books recently acquired, I’ve found names written inside, and small notes.  Most of the used books are circa 1970’s, with pictures of authors usually in their 30’s or later.  Why are so many weaving texts out of print, where are these people now, are they still weaving, and did they fulfill their dreams?  I muse on these things, and when looking at the authors, realise that many of these women may already have passed.  At least four of my looms are older than I, and with care may probably last longer.  Perhaps it’s silly, but I’m wistful, at the thought that my time to use each of these looms is running out.  There will be some point when I too must pass them on to the next weaver.  How can I possibly weave enough when dressing one loom has taken me more than twenty-four hours?!  My slowness at knitting never bothered me.  I’m not slow at spinning; but I suppose recently I am, since I’m never spinning, but always weaving warping.  I touch these older looms, read these older books, and I see my life dwindling down and I wonder why I am doing this, what am I accomplishing, is this adding meaning to my life, will my family survive this, should I stop before I’m in trouble, and why do I enjoy this?  Because, I truly don’t need another scarf.

9 September 2008 Posted by | Weaving | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments