Tag Archives: Ask Nancy

Ask Nancy: Spinning Solutions

Nancy & Barry Schacht in the Woolery Booth at Convergence 2016

Nancy with Barry Schacht in the Woolery Booth at Convergence 2016

Got weaving problems? Stumped by your spinning? Our resident expert Nancy Reid will answer all of your burning questions in this new regular feature! Previously only available on our newsletter, we are moving Nancy’s informative column over to the Woolery blog for easy reference. In this month’s edition, we are sharing a few questions about fiber prep; to ask your own question, email weavernancy@woolery.com or click here to post your questions in our Ravelry group

All the Best,

Wave, Perri, and the entire Woolery Team

Q:

AshfordKiwi2I am new to spinning and in the market to buy a wheel.  Trying to choose a wheel is challenging as I have been reading and learning what characteristics are important.  

My confusion is with ratios: looking at the Ashford Kiwi 2, it says it has 5.5 and 7.25, which, if I understand this correctly, makes it a slow wheel that is good for spinning coarser wool. I would like to spin a variety of wool, but also alpaca-especially since I was given 2 processed fleece. Will this ratio work for alpaca?  Will I need to adapt the wheel or get additional kits for the Kiwi 2? Are there other wheels I should look at with a broader ratio?

A:

You are correct that the Kiwi 2 is a slow wheel, but there are ways to speed it up; we recommend the Kiwi Hi-Speed Kit, found here. As a beginning spinner, you need to balance the ability to go slowly enough that you can actually learn on it with the scope to take you past the first month and on into the rest of your spinning life; the Kiwi speed kit will certainly help with that.

Slower speeds are not precisely for spinning coarser wools, but rather for fatter yarns. The fiber is immaterial – it’s the diameter of the yarn that is affected by ratio. Skinnier yarns take more twist to keep them together than fat yarns do; given a steady treadling pace and a consistent drafting rate, you’ll need more twist to make a thin, sound yarn, and so will need a faster rate in order to keep making yarn at the same rate.

ladybugAlpaca, because of its warmth, is usually spun finer than wool (otherwise, it’s unbearably hot); so it is spun at a faster speed in order to keep consistent body mechanics, i.e. drafting rate and treadling rate.

There are many wheels with a broader scope than the Kiwi which also have the ability to slow down enough to be able to learn on them; the Lendrum Original is one of those. The Ashford Traditional and Traveller are also nice wheels with a lot of scope, as is the Schacht Ladybug. The Kromski Interlude and Sonata are possibilities, too. In general, the thing to do is to sit and treadle all the wheels that you are thinking about; the one whose action you fall in love with is the one to buy, whether you can spin on it yet or not.

Q: 

I have been spinning for about a year, and I am trying to teach myself supported long draw. The problem is that when I try to get started, the yarn feed onto the bobbin will separate from my leader or it will grab a large amount of fiber, creating large thick spots. What am I doing wrong?

A:

There are a couple of issues here; we’ll address them one at a time. For starters, with your leader, there are two ways to get past that:

  1. Tie a loop into the end of your leader, and if you put the end of your spinning fiber through a loop, it will usually be easier to get started.  
  2. Go ahead and spin worsted for a few inches rather than starting right in with a long draw, or just hold and accumulate a lot more twist before releasing the pinch to allow twist in to the drafted fiber.  

SpinnersToolboxRemember that a supported long draw lets in twist gradually from the hand in front repeatedly releasing the pinch to allow more twist in, and then pinching again so that you still have the ability to draft out your slubs (before too much twist gets added in); it’s a delicate back-and-forth. You may also have a little better control if you don’t run your arm out too far at the beginning, but go out gradually in steps as the twist is added.

Lastly, the key to a uniform yarn is as perfect a prep as possible; you can’t get nice slub-free yarn from a funky prep, and there’s no substitute for a consistent rolag.

In writing this, I realize that long-draw is a tough thing to verbalize; one of those cases where a picture (especially a video!) is worth a great many words. If you get a chance, Judith Mackenzie’s A Spinner’s Toolbox DVD is a good reference.

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Ask Nancy: Fiber Prep

Ask NancyGot weaving problems? Stumped by your spinning? Our resident expert Nancy Reid will answer all of your burning questions in this new regular feature! Previously only available on our newsletter, we are moving Nancy’s informative column over to the Woolery blog for easy reference. In this month’s edition, we are sharing a few questions about fiber prep; to ask your own question, email weavernancy@woolery.com or click here to post your questions in our Ravelry group

All the Best,

Wave, Perri, and the entire Woolery Team

Q:

I have a ton of fiber (most of it very dirty) that I need to get carded so I can spin it. I do have wool and cotton carders, but the problem is that I now have some shoulder and elbow issues, so the carders are a little bit hard. I’ve looked at drum carders, but they are very expensive and it seems like you still have to really prep your fiber (plus you have to crank it), so it may not work for me. I like processing the fiber myself; I don’t want to send it out.

From what I’ve seen of combing from videos, it appears to be a little easier on the elbows than carding. If I can clamp one comb to the table and then use two combs (one in each hand), I should be able to get it done fairly quickly.

Would you agree that combing is easier physically, or just as challenging as carding? Can you recommend some combs, please?  I have wool and alpaca (very dirty) and also lots of cotton that I grew myself, so I will be processing both short and long fibers.

A:

All fiber prep will be wearing on the hands, wrists, and shoulders. If you are finding carding tiring, you will find combing to be equally so; there is no prep technique that will not have your arms screaming to be put down after half an hour. There is also no such thing as getting it done quickly; even with a drum carder (and there we have expense and still needing to hand-crank the thing), the best rate that you will get is about a pound an hour. Hand carding or hand combing will yield you about 4 ounces an hour, at best if you are lucky. The best strategy is a mental one; one is prepping for the enjoyment, it is all part of the game, and all things in moderation.

For alpaca, fine double-rowed wool combs are the best; they will also help get the debris out. For wool, you don’t mention the grade or length, so it’s a little tough to advise on that; but probably fine single row. For the cotton, cotton hand cards are best; the fiber is really too short and challenging to hand-comb at home. Hope this helps!

Q:

Hello, I have been spinning for a few years now but have always had my fiber processed by a mill. This year I have a fleece from an older alpaca I want to play with carding myself. What size or rated hand carders would I need for Alpaca?

A:

For most alpaca, cards in the 90-110 range will do just fine. In size of cards, the full-size are always going to be the most efficient. If you have any wrist or hand issues, then scale down to the student-size or even the minis, to give your wrists a break; though efficiency will suffer.

Don’t forget to check out our YouTube channel for more answers to your fiber and weaving questions! In the above video, we talk about the differences between combing and carding; click here to see more videos in the Ask the Woolery series.

Ask Nancy: Reid on Reeds

Ask NancyGot weaving problems? Stumped by your spinning? Our resident expert Nancy Reid will answer all of your burning questions in this new regular feature! Previously only available on our newsletter, we are moving Nancy’s informative column over to the Woolery blog for easy reference. In this month’s edition, we are sharing a few questions about reeds sent to us by new weavers. To ask your own question, email weavernancy@woolery.com or click here to post your questions in our Ravelry group

All the Best,

Wave, Perri, and the entire Woolery Team

 

reedsQ: How do I find a reed to fit my specific brand of loom? 

A: Most looms are pretty generic in their demand for reeds; the top batten sley (the top of the beater/reed holder) usually rides in vertical slots, allowing for some height adjustment for the “tall” of the reed.

Most looms will take 4” to 5 1/2” of reed with no difficulty at all; you can measure your beater to confirm that. Standard reeds today are 4 3/4” or 5” tall, and as long as your beater will accommodate that, you are fine ordering a standard reed. If not, we can always do custom.

As far as width goes, at 42” of weaving width (the way reeds are ordered), the actual width will be 43”. 42” is not a stock size, so you can order a 45” reed, and we can cut it down for you, or you can do it yourself with a hacksaw. Modern reeds are securely epoxied down the length of the top & bottom rails, so they can be cut without falling apart.

Q: I am new to weaving and am wondering what size reed is recommended for using 8/2 cotton on a floor loom? My used loom came with several reeds, but the dents look rather large and the size not indicated on reed frame. Help!

A: Talk about lobbing easy shots!  This one is simplicity itself; to figure out what dent size reed you have, lay a ruler on it and count the spaces; 10 spaces per inch is 10 dent, 8 spaces is 8 dent, and so forth.  8/2 cotton (usually) takes a 10-dent reed, double-dented for a net EPI (ends per inch) of 20 for a plain weave structure.  In a twill, the usual sett for 8/2 is 24 EPI, so doubled in a 12-dent is normal.  Depending on which reeds you have (and your budget for buying more reeds), you might need the aid of a reed conversion chart to get the sett you need out of the reeds you have; there’s one in the back of nearly every weaving text (p. 210 in Chandler), or on our website, found here.

Please note also that there are just 2 answers to every weaving question, “it depends,” and “always make a sample;” the numbers given above are pretty average setts for something of the drape qualities and density for dishtowels of blouse material; you’ll want a firmer sett for upholstery and a looser sett for curtains (maybe).