Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Learning to love ratios

I've been spinning for a little over 2 years now and am finally starting to feel competent at it. Competent, not proficient. I've still got a lot to learn. But I'm getting there. Reading books, watching videos and just spinning all contribute to learning more.

Just about every yarn I've spun has been on the 1st (slowest) ratio. I've ventured occasionally to the 2nd ratio, but that's about as far as it went. Ratios control the number of times the flyer on the spinning wheel turns in relation to the number of times the drive wheel turns. On my Minstrel, I've got 4 ratios. On the slowest ratio, for every time the big wheel goes around once, the flyer turns 6 times applying six twists to the fiber. Each subsequently smaller whorl is a higher ratio, each applying a bit more twist than the previous ratio. So I've read this umpteen times. I get it. But I've never really tried it. I mostly spin worsted range yarns which don't require tons of twist and that slow ratio is ideal for that type of yarn.

But recently, I've been desiring to spin sock yarn. Sock yarn is thin. The thinner the yarn, the more twist it needs to hold together. I successfully spun the Crown Mountain BFL into sock yarn a few months back on the second ratio (8.5 to 1). To achieve the amount of twist necessary to hold the few fibers together to form the fine singles I was treadling 6 to 8 to sometimes even 10. This works, but is labor intensive and takes FOREVER.

I moved on to my next project, more sock yarn, and continued in this same manner. My singles are lovely but I was getting frustrated at how long it was taking. I've got so much fiber I want to spin! So when I got to the last third of this current roving, I decided to give the 12 to 1 ratio a try. <<<>>> The difference was immediate and amazing. I spun through that last third in maybe half or a third the time it took to do the other bobbins. I'm able to treadle only a few times per draw to achieve the correct twist. I feel enlightened and excited at the prospect of actually being able to spin up sock yarn at a respectable rate.

And to top it all off, I've still got one more ratio to go...can anyone say lace weight?!

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