More than you ever wanted to know about storage bobbins

Rosemary asked me to dish the dirt on storage bobbins, and I am only too glad to oblige! (Lots of pictures on this entry, but I’ve made them small for faster downloading.) One of the main reasons I use storage bobbins is because I only have 3 bobbins for my Drudik wheel. Without extra bobbins, I might be limited to only three spinning projects, and it would certainly take some fancy maneuvering to make a 3- or more ply yarn.

I buy LeClerc 4″ styrene spools, which are almost 1/10th the price of Drudik bobbins. I like these spools because they are cheap, sturdy, and large capacity. (If it’s important to ply under tension, Ashford bobbins are probably some of the cheapest ones you can buy.) I write the weight of each bobbin on the end, in case I’m trying to get the same amount of fiber evenly distributed across a set number of bobbins. Depending on the yarn, I can get 4-5 ounces onto each one.


So – after I spin a bobbin full of singles, I let it rest overnight. (It’s very tired!) This helps calm the active twist energy and makes the subsequent steps less frustrating. I put the bobbin onto a sock yarn warping board I mean a makeshift Lazy Kate. This is clearly not a tensioned Kate, I just let the weight of the bobbin and gravity do their thing.

Lazy Kate

I set the bobbin winder up pretty far away from the Kate. Now my draft is pretty long – at least a yard, if not more – and I am always striving to spin with the most even draft and twist possible. However, since I’m not a machine, I figure there will still be a little bit of variation between drafts. I have a lot of clearance room during the transfer and plying stages to allow the twist to equilibrate over a long distance. (The twist will set a little bit during the overnight rest, but it certainly hasn’t gone dormant.)


I use a homemade bobbin winder that I purchased from Donald Walker, it is electric and controlled by a foot pedal. Mine is an earlier model (single-ended). After using it regularly for a few years, the wooden spindle no longer pressure-fits and needs to be reshaped. (Don’s offered a trade-in deal, I’ll probably take him up on it this summer.)


One mitted hand brakes the bobbin, the other guides the yarn. The motor winds a little too fast (the barest touch on the foot pedal sends it to a gazillion mph in <2 seconds) and gives me "yarn burn" if I'm careless. BobbinStart

The bobbin is loaded as evenly as possible, and I try to maintain an even amount of tension as the bobbin fills. This helps during plying – as each bobbin decreases in weight, the tension decreases, and I want this gradual change to proceed as evenly as possible. I tend to pack yarn on a little too firmly, I think, because the yarn stretches and compresses a little bit. (It will puff up again when the yarn is washed, though.)


I fill up as many bobbins as I need, and get ready to ply. Again, I put the bobbins far away for this step, too.


Another possible reason to use storage bobbins – some people seem to feel that the plying is better when you go with the “grain” of the yarn. That is to say, if you ply directly without moving the yarn to storage bobbins, you are plying against the grain, leads to fuzzier surface, etc. I don’t know if that’s true, certainly I’ve never noticed a difference. If I made a 4-ply worsted spun yarn, maybe it’d be more obvious?

Well, that’s all there is to say about it! There are probably a bunch of things I’ve forgotten to mention, please ask if you think I’ve left something out.

PS. Thanks to everyone who sent good health vibes last week. I’ve been eating and drinking lots of ginger in an effort to combat the nausea – it works, sort of. I’m unpleasant to be around when I’m nauseated. (Just sayin’.) Evil doxycycline! Evil bronchitis!

6 thoughts on “More than you ever wanted to know about storage bobbins

  1. This is exactly what I do, but with Ashford Jumbo bobbins & an AA winder; I think it makes a really discernible difference in the consistency and quality of the final yarn. It’s easy to know how much you’ve got and when to stop spinning & it also cuts down on all those wasted bits of singles that you get when plying off wheel bobbins. The only thing I do differently is that I tension the singles as I wind them on, so that the twist can even itself out (not that I ever spin inconsistently, cough) over the taut single; I also wind wheel bobbins off as soon as I fill them. How do you join the different singles stored on a bobbin? I spit join them myself, so that I get one continuous single on each storage bobbin. Storage bobbins are great. I wouldn’t do it any other way anymore.

  2. Way cool – thank you! Re the tension decreasing as the bobbins empty: Is that significant? I keep the tension even with my drafting hand, and only use the bobbin tension to prevent the spools from unwinding too fast.

    I was thinking of buying more bobbins for my Journey wheel, but never even considered that my Ashford bobbins would fit right in my bobbin winder. Duh! (hits self in head)

  3. Thanks for all the info. Actually had been looking at the bobbin winder on ebay but hated to commit without seeing one or knowing someone who had one. Glad things are improving healthwise.

  4. Most of the time, I use el cheapo cardboard storage bobbins. I have 4 bobbins for my AA electric spinner, but they are weighted to spin optimally at four different grists. I prefer to do all the spinning for a project, then do the plying in one batch — I’ve found my overall grist to be much more consistent that way. Love the oven mitt!

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