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The Warmest Yarn is Not Qiviut – Shocking Test Results!

Hello fiber lovers!  We have all wondered what is the warmest yarn to spin and knit.  If you ask the internet what is the warmest natural fiber the consensus says Qiviut. While researching this, I couldn’t find a site that explains how this was tested so I decided to test it myself.  I went into this expecting to see Qiviut was the warmest fiber and I just wanted to see by how much was it the warmest. My testing results were shocking!

I also made a video covering this topic. If you prefer the video format you can see it here.

Results

I’m not one to build suspense so the results are directly below. These results show how well different knitted test swatches insulate compared to no insulation. The testing methods section at the end of this post goes into the full details of how the testing was done.

These are not the results I was expecting. I collected results multiple times just to make sure the results were consistent and they were. All the test swatches are as close to the same density and thickness as I could get. I did some measurements on the thickness and they are all between 4 and 4.7mm. Even if I adjust for the slight difference in thickness it doesn’t make a difference in the rankings here.

From my testing this is how I’d rank these different yarns from warmest to coolest.

  1. Alaskan Malamute
  2. Merino
  3. Alpaca
  4. Silk
  5. Angora
  6. Qiviut
  7. Rose

Paper Towel (Control)

This was included to give a control to compare against. Obviously a single sheet of paper towel isn’t a great insulator, but it is significantly better than not having any insulator. It took 3.2 times as long to heat through a paper towel than it took to heat the water with no insulator between the hot plate and the water.

Alaskan Malamute

The Alaskan Malamute is a dog that was bred to haul heavy freight as a sled dog. So it should be no surprise that the their hair when turned into yarn is extremely warm. It was my warmest sample I tested by a significant margin. The yarn only uses the dog’s soft undercoat so in addition to being very warm it is extremely soft. The sample was probably the softest of any of the samples I had and it had a beautiful halo.

The problem with this sample is this isn’t a common type of fiber which makes it hard to get and really expensive. The good news is the next warmest fiber on my list is much easier to get so let’s look at that one.

Photo by SCMW – CC BY 3.0

Merino

This is the type of wool people say to use when you want a warm sweater, and it didn’t disappoint. It suprised me that it was the second warmest yarn in my tests. I expected some of the other exotic yarns to do much better, but after rerunning the tests several times I’m convinced in my testing with my samples it is the second warmest yarn. An added bonus is this is a fairly easy to get yarn and less expensive than most of the other yarns on this list.

Photo by Fir0002 – GNU 1.2

Alpaca

Alpaca’s performed well in this test. It turns out it isn’t quite as warm as Marino, but it did get third place in my testing. Alpaca’s are native to cold environments in the Andes Mountains and their fiber is an excellent insulator. I did some looking online to see how arm Alpaca is and it was certainly classified as a warm fiber. like that my testing shows how it compares to others.

Photo by Lesbardd- CC BA-SA 4.0

Silk

I wasn’t sure how silk would perform with insulating since it is from a silk worm that uses the silk to form a cocoon to protect themselves during metamorphosis, where as wool is there to keep sheep warm. That said, silk did a good job in my tests. It took around 5 times as long for heat to permeate the silk test swatch as compared to having no isolator. Silk is also a light weight and soft fiber.

Photo by Fastily – CC BY-SA 3.0

Angora

Angora fiber is the undercoat of Angora rabbits. When I searched for the warmest natural fibers it was usually Angora and Qiviut at the top of the list. So it was a shock that this fiber came in fifth place. To be fair the fibers that placed third through fifth were all very close so you could argue that Angora was basically tied for third. Still based on what I read online I was expecting this to do better than Merino wool, but it is well behind that. On the plus side this fiber was extremely soft and had a great halo.

Photo by Ross Little – CC BY-SA 2.0

Qiviut

The internet says this fiber from a musk-ox is warmest fiber. Many places say it is eight times warmer than wool. This is where my testing completely disagrees with those statements. I found Qiviut was not even close to as warm as Merino wool or a bunch of other fibers. The sample I purchase, which is the most expensive yarn I’ve ever purchased by the ounce, was from what seems like a reputable Qiviut fiber dealer and it was very soft.

I’m still a bit in shock that that Qiviut tested so poorly in my testing. I have verified my test swatch is similar in thickness to my other samples. I would like to test another sample of Qiviut someday, but I just can’t justify that expense for this blog post right now. That said even if I find a sample that is much warmer, it would still be difficult to beat some of the other fibers tested here.

Photo by Quartl – CC BY-SA 3.0

Rose

This knitted test swatch was the worst insulator of the knitted test swatches I tested. There are certainly times where you want a beautiful knitted garment, but you don’t want it to be too warm. Maybe it’s a warm summer night, but you want to wear that shawl on the beach. In those cases Rose yarn would be a good option.

This is fiber made from rose plants and turned into yarn. It is a cellulose fiber so I didn’t expect it to be a good insulating fiber. While I didn’t test it, bamboo would probably have similar properties and is more commonly found in yarn.

Photo by JLPC – CC BY-SA 3.0

Does Human Body Warm Impact These Results?

Testing how warm people perceive different fibers is a completely different test. I’m including this section because it’s going to be a common question and I want to try and address it.

The human body is constantly generating heat at some point the insulating properties of the clothing you are wearing keeps enough of the heat on your body comfortably warm. So while the percentages above can help you see the relative insulating properties of different fibers, you shouldn’t take these numbers to be how warm they keep you in all cases. The human body is constantly adapting and switching from warming to cooling states so there is fairly wide range of temperatures you can be comfortable. Because of that even though some fibers might be better insulators, you might not even notice a difference in many situations.

From talking with many spinners and knitters, I believe softness of a fiber likely impacts how warm people think a fiber is. The mind is powerful, and just as sugar pill placebos can help reduce certain ailments I’m pretty sure people’s perception of what a warm fiber is will help keep you a little warmer. This isn’t going to keep you warm in really harsh conditions, but if you are comparing two different sweaters on a cool fall evening perception your mindset could well make a difference. I don’t have any papers directly addressing this this type of behavior so feel free to treat this point with some skepticism if you require that kind of proof.

Some fibers keep you warmer when wet. This page does a good job of explaining why wool has this property. In certain conditions this effect will affect how warm clothing feels.

Thickness is going to matter. If you have two scarves made from the same type of yarn, but one is knitted so the scarf is thicker then it will feel warmer. Use this to your advantage by trying to knit thinner garments when you want them cooler and thicker garments when you want them warmer.

So taking all this into account if you really wanted to figure out what knitting clothing feels the warmest, a scientific way to do that would be to create simliar thinkness/gage mitten out of several different yarns. Then have a lot of people try it on and put their hand in a cold box. You shouldn’t let them see the mitten or know which one it is. Ideally you would even put some extra covering over their hand so they couldn’t feel the fiber so that perception had minimal impact on this test. Then ask them to rate the warmth of the different mittens on a scale of 1 to 10. While I’d be interested in this kind of test it was beyond the scope of this post.

Testing Methods

I want to explain how I am testing this for a few reasons. The first is I couldn’t find anyone explaining this and as I mentioned in the introduction it’s important. Another reason I’m explaining my testing method is because it isn’t a standard method. The best way to do this testing would be to use thermal conductivity meter, but these chambers seem to cost over $10K USD which is way beyond my budget. I am using a modified version of the guarded hot plate method which is one of the most commonly used methods for measuring the thermal conductivity of insulation materials. Chapter 2.1 in this document explains this method. My version is modified because I only cared about a the relative difference in the insulation properties and thus didn’t need the much more complex Poensgen apparatus described in this paper.

Here are the tools I use in my method:

  • Thermometer (I’m using a Fluke DMM with a temperature probe)
  • Scale (I use this to measure 50 grams of water)
  • Stopwatch
  • Hotplate (I’m using a solder reflow plate because it’s accurate and has a controllable temperature)

The basic procedure is I put 50 grams of room temperature water into a small beaker. Then I put the insulator (a knitted test swatch) on the hot plate set to 120 degrees Celsius. Then I put the beaker of water on the insulator and measure the time it takes to raise the water by 10 degrees Celsius while using a 3d printed cover for the beaker to hold the thermometer in a consistent position. The longer it takes to heat the water the better the knitted test swatch insulates the beaker from the hot plate.

The main issue with this test is I don’t have it calibrated to give an output of thermal conductivity in the standard units of watts per meter-kelvin. It would be nice to have that, but a system that does that is more complex and beyond the scope of this project. Instead my measurements are only useful to compare them again each other. My testing methods work because I want to find the warmest yarn and my test will tell me which of the yarns I’ve tested is the warmest relative to the other yarns.

I want to give a huge thanks to Kathryn, who goes by the the alias CraftMeHappy on Ravelry for donating many of these test swatches.

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Electric Eel Wheel Newsletter – October 2020

Dreaming Robots Newsletter

October 01, 2020


The hot days of summer are over here in Massachusetts, and the cool nights of fall are here.  It's an excellent time of the year for spinning, knitting, or your fiber craft of choice. Yippy!

I started posting a daily fiber related image to Instagram. If you are on Instagram, consider subscribing to my Instagram account to see some great EEW photos.

EEW 6.0 Review

The first public review of the EEW 6.0 has been posted here by Tanya one of my beta testers. Go check it out if you want to see what another person thinks about the EEW 6.0.

Spin Anywhere Contest Winners

Last month there was a photo competition. Joyo was the overall winning with the photo below.  Congrats Joyo!

I'd also like to congratulate all the daily winners.

  1. Joyo
  2. Gwyn Krause
  3. Joyo
  4. Amanda Hannaford
  5. Linda Samuelson
  6. Erica Campbell
  7. Lisa Sawyer

EEW Yarn Counter Update

I released a new video of my latest Yarn Counter prototype. I'm pretty happy with how it's functioning at this point and I've given out prototypes to a few beta testers to get more feedback at this point to find out what I else I can improve.  A community poll helped me see what software behavior most people in the community want and have already updated the software to match the winning votes.  That poll also showed the community overwhelmingly wants me to do another Kickstarter so I will do that when this product is ready.  I still need to do a bunch more work refining the design and starting to get it ready for manufacturing so it will still be awhile, but I will keep you all updated. 

There was another yarn counter video about how yarn size causes error in all the yarn counters that I know about and a possible solution I'm proposing.  Based on the feedback from that video I have added the WPI solution I mentioned in the video and am seeing what my testers thing of it.

Here are the results to some of the yarn counter poll questions I sent to the community.

Antique Circular Sock Machine First Stitches

As I've mentioned before I'm restoring an antique knitting machine to learn more about these machines so I can decide if I want to make one for the community.  I am still undecided on that question, but I made a lot of progress with my antique machine this past month.  You can see a video here where I made a 3D printed cylinder and then started knitting with it.


– Maurice Ribble
(Inventor of the Electric Eel Wheel)

www.dreamingrobots.com
EEW Facebook Group
EEW Ravelry Group
EEW Youtube Channel
EEW Instagram Account

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Electric Eel Wheel Newsletter – September 2020

September 1, 2020


I hope you all have been enjoying your summer.  The pandemic has caused us to cancel some of our travel plans; however, we have adapted and it’s been a fun summer for our family.  We’ve done some socially distanced camping and hiking.  My daughter has been learning to swim, and we practice nearly every hot day at our neighbor who has a small beach on a nice swimming lake.

Spin Anywhere Contest

I’m running a contest where you can win gift certificates to my store.  You can submit photos either as explained in the full rules here, or another option is to just reply to this email with your photos, name, and email.  The contest starts September 20th and runs for 8 days.  You will be able to vote for your favorites each day on our Ravelry or Facebook group. #spinanywhere

EEW 6.0

During this past month I finished what should be the final prototype of the EEW 6.0.  Now I’m focused very much on manufacturing and improving the documentation. This Kickstarter update has a lot more information.

Cone Winder

First off I want to thank you all for the suggestions and support you gave me on the last cone winder update. I took all that feedback and made a new functioning prototype and that is what I show off in this video. This is still in an early prototype stage and it needs a lot of refinement, but I’m happy with how things are going. If you have any suggestions or feedback let me know.

Circular Knitting Machine Restoration

I posted a third update to my project to restore a circular knitting machine.  In this update I get some needles for it and then run into a new issue with the cylinder. Overall I’m happy with this project. I still haven’t decided if I’ll try to make one for my store, but I’m learning a lot and have been sharing that knowledge so the project is already a success.  Here is a link to this video.

Spin Off Magazine Advertisement

Here is a photo of an ad I put in Spin Off Magazine.  I have done a little digital advertiseing in the past, but this is the first time I’ve ever done a print advertisement for the EEW.  Advertising in general is an area I don’t have much experience and is a skill I want to to grow.  As an engineer I used to think that a good product will sell itself.  While there is truth to that, advertising is important way to reach people who would want a product, but haven’t heard about it.  Of course the best advertisement and the most important one for the EEW is word of month.  So if you ever think you know someone who might be looking for a spinning wheel please tell them about your experiences with the EEW.


– Maurice Ribble
(Inventor of the Electric Eel Wheel)

www.dreamingrobots.com
EEW Facebook Group
EEW Ravelry Group
EEW Youtube Channel

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Spin Anywhere Photo Contest

The portability of the EEW lets people spin anywhere they want. On a couch, in a train, on a boat, or when camping. I’ve seen people using their EEW in all of those places and many more. This contest lets you share your favorite photos of interesting places you have used your EEW e-Spinner.

The way the contest works is you can email me your photos. Then September 20-26th 2020 each day I will be making a poll with several of the photos sent to me and will post a poll to the Ravelry and Facebook EEW groups. The photo that gets the most valid votes each day will get a $20 gift certificate that you use on my store. At the end I will have one more vote with all seven daily winners and the grand winner of that poll will win a $100 gift certificate to my store.

To enter send an email to support@dreamingrobots.com titled “Spin Anywhere Contest” with your photos attached. Please include your name so I can give credit for the photos. If you can please submit full resolution jpg images and keep the total size of each email under 20 MB. You can send multiple emails if you have over 20MB of images.

By submitting photos to this contest you are giving me permission to reuse them in any way I want to market current and future EEWs. This does not give me exclusive rights so you can still use the photo yourself however you want. I will email any winners, and will also announce the winning photos to the EEW community.

Email me your submissions right now, or go and take new photos with your EEW so you can enter those. I will upload photos as I get them to this album.

You may only enter if your local laws allow it and you must have the rights to use your photo in this manner.

#spinanywhere

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Electric Eel Wheel Newsletter (August 2020)

Dreaming Robots Newsletter

August 05, 2020


Welcome to the August 2020 edition of the Electric Eel Wheel Newsletter.  This month I've spent much of my time on several future research projects.  While the EEW 6.0 project is my top priority right now I've been spending most of my time on it waiting for samples that are required to move forward.  The same is true for the Yarn Counter and Cone Winder projects.  Rest assured those are all priorities for me, but when I am waiting on those projects I can best use my time looking at a long list of ideas people in the community have given me.  This also gives me a better chance at having more projects in the pipeline so the gaps between releases of new fiber tools isn't as large.  I don't like to get hopes too high so I don't always talk about these far out research projects, but this month I decided to release a few videos about one of these.  It is the knitting machine project mentioned at the end of this letter.

Coupon Code

I decide to try a new thing that I haven't done in the past.  I'm offering a coupon code to everyone that will save you 5% on anything you buy in my DreamingRobots store.  The code is "summer-special-5" (don't include the quotation marks).  This code is valid until midnight on August 9th eastern time (GMT-4).  Just put this code in the form asking for a coupon code during checkout and the discount will be automatically displayed on the website.

I feel my prices are fair and they are based on how much the product costs to make so I haven't done discounts in the past.  However, I can afford to give a discount so I thought I'd offer one to say thanks.  Feel free to share this code with others.  It will work for anyone, but it would be nice if you suggest they sign up for this newsletter at the bottom of www.dreamingroboots.com since this was done to thank you reading this newsletter.

EEW 6.0 Update

During the past month I received the Kickstarter funds and gave a manufacturing update.  The short summary is that everything is on track and I have been able to secure several different wall power supplies to cover the most common places the EEW 6.0 was purchased (North America, Europe, UK, and Australia).

There was another update asking the community to help make a user manual by giving feedback on my first draft.  I got a ton of feedback, and have already implemented most of it.  I'm still waiting to get final samples so I can get final photos, but thanks to all the feedback there will be a great paper user manual included with every EEW 6.0.

Circular Knitting Machine Research

I have a long list of fiber tools the EEW community has ask me to make.  I decided to start looking into circular sock machine (CSM).  One of the reasons I picked this is because the market is kind of like eSpinners before I started making the EEW.  There are some low quality 3d printed CSM machines which are affordable, but have limited functionality.  Then there are some really nice machines, but they tend to cost $1400+ unless you can find a used one.  I'm hopeful I can leverage some of the low cost manufacturing processes I use for the EEW to make a more affordable CSM that works great and document it in a way that makes it easier to use.

Before getting started making a CSM, I decided to buy a cheap non-working CSM from ebay and see if I can fix it so I can learn in depth how these machines work.  I'm recording a few videos about this process.  So far I made one video where I took apart the CSM, and then a second video where I started fixing it.  It's been a really fun project and I hope others find these videos interesting.  There is still a long ways to go, but I am now hopeful that after getting this old machine working it will help me decide if I really want to go forward making my own CSM.



– Maurice Ribble
(Inventor of the Electric Eel Wheel)

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www.dreamingrobots.com
EEW Facebook Group
EEW Ravelry Group
EEW Youtube Channel

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Electric Eel Wheel Newsletter (July 2020)

Dreaming Robots Newsletter

July 05, 2020


Welcome to the July 2020 edition of the Electric Eel Wheel Newsletter.  Last month some people had issues reading the newsletter and others got two copies.  I’m really sorry about those issues.  I’ve tried to fix them with this month’s letter, but if you are having issues let me know.

It’s been a very busy month for me.  Here is what I’ve been up to…

EEW 6.0

The EEW 6.0 Kickstarter campaign ended on June 20th.  I’ve had a lot of people asking me after it closed how they join the Kickstarter, and unfortunately that isn’t possible.  I do the Kickstarter to figure out how many EEW 6.0 e-spinners I should order in the first batch from my manufacturing partners and to get the funds early so I can afford to order a big batch.  A big batch really helps keep the price lower.  If you missed out on the Kickstarter you can sign up for an in stock email notification for the EEW 6.0 by clicking the “Join Waitlist” button on my website.  They will be in stock after I ship the EEW 6.0 to all the Kickstarter backers, which I’m estimating will be around February.  I should have enough to meet demand since I am making a lot more than I needed for the Kickstarter backers.

I am working on some mold updates and then getting second set of samples of the EEW 6.0 plastic parts.  Most of the molds were updated to fix things ranging from cosmetic issues to improving fit.  I even had a new mold made to try out an improved hook design which I love.  I made an update on my Kickstarter page with more details about the current manufacturing status of the EEW 6.0.

I have not yet gotten the funds from Kickstarter, but I should be getting them in the next week.  When I get these funds I will start finalizing my orders for some of the parts.

EEW Nano Quill

I designed a free 3D printable quill for the EEW Nano.  For those not familiar with a quill it basically allows you to spin in a new way on your EEW Nano.  Instead of the yarn going on the bobbin it works more like a drop spindle and puts the yarn on a stick.  Hopefully some of you with EEW Nanos will try out this new method of spinning yarn and let me know what you think.  You can check out a video for more information about this video.

Future Projects

I know there is a lot of interest from people about the EEW Yarn Counter.  I have finished all the design updates for the plastic case, circuit board, and custom keypad.  I’m working on making a new prototype based on all these updates, but it takes awhile to get these custom parts made.  While this is happening I’m working on several software updates to make it more usable.  Hopefully in 1-2 months I’ll have a some prototypes that are much closer to final and will start doing more real world testing with different types of yarn.  I will keep people updated on this project.

The level winding cone winder is something I have also spent a little time working on.  I think I’ve come up with a much more manufacturable level winding drum design.  It is actually requiring me to do a lot of new techniques in CAD to design the part so it’s been a fun learning experience for me.  If I get something working here I will be sure to share it with you, but currently this is still in the proof of concept stage.


– Maurice Ribble
(Inventor of the Electric Eel Wheel)

www.dreamingrobots.com
EEW Facebook Group
EEW Ravelry Group
EEW Youtube Channel

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Electric Eel Wheel Newsletter (June 2020)

Dreaming Robots Newsletter

June 16, 2020


Welcome to our first monthly Electric Eel Wheel (EEW) newsletter. In the past I’ve sent out emails to this group about twice a year when I had a major new product to announce. I’ve been getting a lot of requests from the community saying it is difficult to follow the news on the EEW Facebook and Ravelry groups due to increased traffic there. I can understand that so I’ll be sending out a monthly newsletter with big new announcements for the EEW community and a summary of the most interesting news from the past month. If you are not interested in these updates, you can just unsubcribe at the bottom of this email and you’ll be removed from this list.

Electric Eel Wheel 6

The biggest news for this past month has been the kickstarter for the Electric Eel Wheel 6.0. This is my new larger, high speed, travel friendly e-spinner. The Kickstarter for this is closing in a few days (this Saturday at 11:00 AM ET) so if you haven’t seen it go and look at the Kickstarter page for the EEW 6.0. There is a short video on the top that gives a good overview about this new wheel. If you are still trying to decide whether to support it, the EEW 6.0 Kickstarter updates show my commitment to this project with many updates during the past month ranging from free 3D printable parts to detailed explainations of features where the community requested more information.

I have been releasing a lot of videos recently on my youtube channel. All of them have been about the EEW 6.0 this month. If you want to see if you’ve missed any go check my youtube spin playlist. One particular video worth watching compares the EEW Nano 1.1 to the EEW 6.0.

Next Month

The focus next month will be moving fotward with the EEW 6.0 to keep that project on track. I’m expecting to have a good progress update for it. Any extra time that I have will be spent on the next prototype for the EEW Yarn Counter project. If you don’t know about this Yarn Counter I’ve created a video about my last prototype here.

That’s all for this month.


– Maurice Ribble
(Inventor of the Electric Eel Wheel)

www.dreamingrobots.com
EEW Facebook Group
EEW Ravelry Group
EEW Youtube Channel

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Electric Eel Wheel 6.0 Kickstarter Press Release

It is a beautiful new e-spinner that works great for both new and experienced spinners. If you haven’t spun yarn before, but you are interested in making your own yarn then this is an affordable e-spinner that makes it easy to learn spinning. If you are an experienced spinner then this is a fast, quite, and travel friendly e-spinner with large 8 ounce bobbins that will make you more productive.

Check out the Kickstarter for this project for more many more details on the improvements this new e-spinner it offers.

Below are some images you can use on blog or social media posts.

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Electric Eel Wheel Mini 2 Press Release

Dreaming Robots launched a new electric spinning wheel on Kickstarter.  There are lots of spinning wheels that spin wool into yarn, but this one is extraordinary in several ways.

First it has a beautiful design and solid feel.  This design not only looks great, but it’s open nature is helpful as it lets people see their yarn while they spin it.

Secondly it has been designed to help make spinning easier for new spinners.  The lower price and simple to use features makes it great for people learning to spin.

Lastly it is designed to be the ultimate travel spinning wheel.  It’s small, lightweight, and durable design when combine with it running off a USB port makes it great for spinning with friends anywhere.

In this age when people are trying to get more connected to nature spinning is a great hobby since it lets you make yarn from animal and plant fibers.  Then using a pair of knitting needles you can make that into some clothing.  This is called going from sheep to shawl.  The Electric Eel Wheel Mini is a great spinning wheel to help you do this.

For more information visit the Electric Eel Wheel Mini 2 Kickstarter.

Press, if you are looking for higher resolution images or additional content please contact us.

 

 

 

 

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How a Spinning Wheel Spins Yarn

Spinning is a fascinating process that has been around for thousands of years, but understanding the fundamentals can help make you a better spinner.

Yarn can be classified by how many strands are twisted together.  If you twist fiber so it forms a string you have single-ply yarn, or a single.  Multi-ply yarn is twisting 2 or more of those singles together.  For this article we will just be simply referring to “multi-ply yarn” as “yarn” since that is what most spinners do.

This is 2 ply Z-twist yarn.

A spinning wheel takes the animal or plant fibers and twists them together into a single.  In a separate step, the spinning wheel also plies two or more of those singles together into yarn by plying them in the opposite direction of the single.  So, if your spinning wheel is going clockwise while spinning the singles you should run it counter clockwise during plying.  If you don’t ply in the opposite direction of the singles, you’ll see that the plying over twists the singles and the singles don’t nicely wrap around each other.  Try plying in the wrong direction one time and you’ll quickly see how the yarn just won’t look or feel right.

When plying yarn, you’ll either get Z-twist or S-twist yarn depending on the direction your flyer is spinning.  In the image to the right you can see how Z-twist goes up and to the right, but S-twist goes up and to the left.  Your twist depends on the type of the spinning wheel you have, so generally the easiest way to figure this out is to spin some fiber and look at it.

The difference between S-twist and Z-twist yarn.

Now that we have covered the basics of the different types of twisting that make yarn, let’s discuss how the spinning wheel puts the twist into yarn by focusing on singles.  At the most basic level, a spinning wheel consists of the flyer and the bobbin.  There are three main types of spinning wheels that drive the bobbin and flyer in different ways.  Scotch Tension has the drive belt on the flyer, and a tension band on the bobbin makes the bobbin spin slower than the flyer which adds twist.  Irish Tension has the drive belt on the bobbin, and a tension band on the flyer makes the flyer spin slower than the bobbin which adds twist.  Lastly the Double Drive has a drive belt on both the flyer and the bobbin, and different gear ratios cause the flyer and belt to spin at different speeds.

Sometimes the tension band is called a brake band.  This is because it acts like a brake and slows either the flyer or bobbin down.

This shows a flyer in yellow and a bobbin in green. #1 is where the drive belt or brake band is attached to the flyer and #2 is where the drive belt or tension band is attached to the bobbin.

  • Scotch Tension – #1 is a drive belt, and #2 is a tension band
  • Irish Tension – #1 is a tension band, and #2 is a drive belt
  • Double Drive – #1 is a drive belt, and #2 is a drive belt

With all these different types of spinning wheels the important part to remember is the flyer and bobbin are spinning at different rates.  Making singles depends on one spinning faster than the other.  The spinning wheel is both twisting the fiber and wrapping it around the bobbin.  To see how that’s happening let’s think about what happens in some extreme cases on a Scotch Tension spinning wheel.

With Scotch Tension what happens if the flyer is turning and the bobbin is not because you have a high tension setting?  If the bobbin is not turning, the fiber goes onto the bobbin with no twist.  So, the single would fall apart because there would be no twists to hold it together.  In the other extreme, what happens if the flyer and bobbin are turning at the same speed?  Twist is being applied to the fiber, but no fiber is pulled onto the bobbin.  The fiber will keep twisting until it breaks.  This is obviously too much twist in the yarn.

For Irish Tension it’s a little different.  So in one extreme when the flyer is stopped and the bobbin is spinning there is no twist.  In the other extreme where both flyer and bobbin are spinning at the same speed there is too much twist (this case is the same as Scotch Tension).

So, what makes good yarn is the difference in the speed of rotation of the flyer and the bobbin.  A smaller difference in rotational speeds between the flyer and bobbin will result in yarn being pulled onto the bobbin more slowly and thus a higher twist per inch.  Remember, the smaller the difference in rotational speed between the flyer and bobbin the more twist there will be.

When spinning you must consider one more factor, which is uptake.  Uptake is the amount of pull on the fiber.  If you feel a lot of uptake, then there is too much tension on the bobbin.  On the other hand, if there is no uptake, then the rotation of the bobbin is zero and your single will get too much twist.  If you let the uptake pull the fiber into the wheel too quickly then your single will not have much twist.  The point here is while the tension band is what creates uptake, the final decision on how much yarn actually goes on the bobbin is your fingers, which is holding the fiber.  So, even if there is a lot of uptake if your fingers aren’t letting fiber onto the bobbin then the bobbin will spin at the same rate as the flyer, and you will have over twisted yarn.  With practice a spinner gets the feel for all this and will let the spinning wheel pull in fibers at a ratio that will give their singles the amount of twist the spinner wants.

There you have it.  If you have any questions let me know either in the comments or with our contact-us page.