In 2019, I decided I wanted to weave a plaid for the first time, using handspun. I had spun the yarn earlier that year, using some gifted roving in dark brown and cream as well as light brown and green that I purchased from the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival. I spun it very finely and ended up with quite a large amount of yarn!
I decided to warp up a twill on my tapestry loom, using it like a two-beam loom.
Recently, under a context that I don’t remember, I decided I wanted to time myself on my different spindles and wheel. Basically, I knew that I could get roughly the same yarn on all my spindles and wheel, thereby allowing myself to a cut a corner in experimental archaeology by using my wheel instead of a spindle. However, I didn’t have proof.
Here’s the proof.
Wool & Equipment
For this experiment, I used commercially prepared Corriedale top. I chose this so that my fiber’s preparation wouldn’t create an additional variable, as a hand-prepared fleece might. I decided to spin 1 ounce (~28 grams) of Corriedale on each piece of equipment.
From this, we can see that the wheel is drastically faster than all spindles. At the slowest, the wheel is more than twice as fast as the top whorl spindle (140% faster). The wheel is 277% faster than the bottom whorl spindle, and a whopping 309% faster than the Turkish spindle! All in all, spinning with the wheel is a major time-saver for me, while still providing myself with handspun yarn.
WPI and Yardage
For each test, I also recorded the yardage and wraps per inch (WPI) to determine yarn weight. While I tried to spin roughly the same yarn across the board, I allowed some variance in the yarn because I wanted to see what was different or difficult with each method. Therefore, my final yardage varied somewhat:
Top whorl spindle: 104 yards
Bottom whorl spindle: 111 yards
Turkish spindle: 128 yards
Wheel: 103 yards
This indicates that my yarn weight varied slightly on each equipment, with my top whorl- and wheel-spun yarns being approximately the same and my Turkish spindle-spun yarn being lightest.
To determine WPI, I measured at both ends of the yarn as well as a randomly selected part in the middle:
Top whorl spindle
Bottom whorl spindle
One end of the top whorl spindle ended up vastly thinner than the other, but based on the yardage, I believe that this was only at the end, skewing the average WPI. While my WPI varied across each yarn, I was able to get 22-23 WPI at some point for each; therefore, I know that I can get the same yarn with each method, even if my WPI varied across the actual skeins.
Overall, I would say that this experiment proved what I intended to demonstrate: that with some effort, I can spin the same yarn on my spindles as my wheel.
I had some additional takeaways:
The bottom whorl spindle required more flicking than the other spindles, which increased the overall spin time. With a bottom whorl spindle that spins faster/longer between flicks, I may be able to reduce this spin time.
The Turkish spindle took longer to wind on, which increased the spin time.
The Turkish spindle was harder to spin heavier on because it was a lighter weight (19 grams, compared to the other two spindles’ 24 grams), resulting in a lighter and longer yarn overall.
The wheel wanted to spin slightly heavier, and I neglected to adjust the equipment and my style for this. However, I know that I could achieve the WPI from the other yarns (32 through 24) if I made these adjustments, as I have done so in the past, and I still achieved 22/23 WPI on each yarn during this experiment.
Yup. I spun nearly 3 miles of yarn. When accounting for the fact that half the skeins are two-ply, half are singles, and one skein was chain plied, I actually spun 10655 yards, or over six miles. This includes the merino that I spun and used for the madder adventure. Almost all of the yarn is pictured above, excepting a skein that I gifted, and it took up almost half of my bed (I had to stand on a footstool for the picture).
Wool breeds include merino, Dorset horn, Shropshire, Jacob, and some unidentified breeds. Blends included merino/silk and wool/bamboo/silk. A lot of the spinning was from roving, but the entire bottom row in the picture, the madder-dyed merino, and a handful of other skeins were hand-processed from fleece (about half also washed or re-washed by me).
Oh, and this isn’t actually all of 2020 — it’s just what I counted since March.
In 2020, I started inkle weaving what I called “ugly bands.” This is a bit of a joke, as the work is actually quite attractive. However, I named them “ugly bands” because a significant amount of the warp is always yarn that was less-than-attractive in the skein form, whether it was a random color combination from a blending experiment, an uneven spin from a demo, or some chaotic combo of both. I combined these with a solid-colored narrower warp to unify the bands, and they all came out absolutely lovely. In the future, I hope to give these as gifts and largesse.
Several years ago, my friend Liz passed a washed merino fleece off to me. During summer 2020, I decided to finish processing it and spin it. The staple was quite short, so I decided to card it into rolags. Carding was a little difficult, because I didn’t have the right density of teeth in my cards, but by the end my rolags were looking pretty nice. I spun the rolags using a short forward draw, because it gave me a lot of control over the really short fibers.
Once the yarn was finished, I decided it was the perfect amount to split into smaller skeins for my madder dyeing adventure (coming soon!).
In addition to sewing Mistress Ysabeau’s Laurel cloak, I spun the wool for her vigil shawl. Ysabeau has made several vigil shawls for other people, so my friend Lucy (Lucy of Wigan) and I decided that we must make Ysabeau her own. Unfortunately, I don’t have any pictures of the yarn-in-progress. The wool was off-white merino from Paradise Fibers, and it was an utter delight to spin. Once the yarn was spun up and washed, I threw together a simple triangular shawl pattern, did a tab cast-on, and passed it off to Lucy to knit. Once she was done with her beautiful knitting, we blocked it together.