Production spinning

If you talk with enough handspinners, the topic of “production spinning” eventually will come up. The definition of production spinning varies, but the basic premise is such that a spinner makes as much yarn as fast as possible with the least amount of physical strain.

The way I see it, you need 2 things to spin quickly. (I am assuming that you already have the skill to easily churn out the kind of yarn you want to sell.) The first thing you need is a fast wheel. Whether you use a large drive wheel and a high ratio or a blinding fast electric wheel is personal choice. The other thing you need is amazing fiber prep. The fiber has to be clean and free of VM, and it has to draft easily. If you are struggling to remove burrs or spending time predrafting fiber, you will lose time, and for most businesses, time is money.

In the past few weeks, I spun what was perhaps the best prepared fiber that I’ve ever touched. This was naturally colored Shetland wool roving, made from the fleece of jacketed sheep, and pulled into a pin-drafted roving. I purchased this 2 years ago from here, and the price back then was $6.60 + shipping for 4 oz (don’t know what the price is now). It is fantastic stuff. Among other assets, it was not prickly, it didn’t have coarse outer coat (kemp-like) hairs, I saw absolutely no VM or neps, and it was beautifully consistent throughout. Truly, it was a dream to spin.

I spun the fiber on my Butterfly electric wheel with Woolee winder, and I finally had a taste for what production spinning could be like. It was effortless, smooth spinning – I started the wheel at a high speed and stopped it only when I was tired of spinning and ready to do something else. (In contrast, the pygora spinning is stop-and-go slow because I have to pick out broken guard hairs and continually struggle to draft the partially felted roving.) With the automatic level winder, I didn’t have to stop to change a hook, and the pin drafting meant that fibers slipped easily into the drafting triangle and didn’t require flipping (common for wide, flat tops or rovings) or additional “predrafting” before spinning. All spinning should be such fun!

I put the singles on storage bobbins – I’ve now switched to putting most of my yarn on weaving shuttle bobbins (instead of sectional warping spools) because it doesn’t strain the bobbin winder motor as much. I do have to keep swapping in bobbins when plying, and that breaks the rhythm of the process, but it’s better than overheating the motor of my bobbin winder. As a side note, the Forsyths actually recommend this method (see the Jennie Plier) as a way of balancing out singles spun across different stages of a project, but my singles are fairly steady throughout.

The singles were plied into a 3-ply yarn because I’ve recently decided that, unless I’m spinning specifically for lace, I prefer to knit with rounder yarn. I made a normal 3-ply yarn and plied until I had only 2 bobbins remaining. I took the one with the smaller amount of singles, used it to make an Andean plying bracelet, and plied that with the singles on the remaining bobbin. When I ran out of bracelet yarn, I did a Navajo-style 3-ply for the last couple dozen yards.

And a closeup of all that round, yarny goodness:

Specs on the yarn – ~4 oz (it’s raining here, the yarn gained mass overnight), ~327 yards, translating to ~1,300 ypp or a decent DK weight.

14 thoughts on “Production spinning

  1. Wow and after I just bought a book Handspinners Guide to Selling by Paula Simmons. She was talking about the very same thing! But you forgot actually do the spinning regardless of the equipment and skills.

  2. That looks like a lot of work! I wish I had the time to do that kind of spinning — or maybe it’s a matter of taking the time to spin that much. Congratulations. That’s quite the project.

  3. That yarn is just dreamy. I can’t even fathom production spinning. I’m hardly able to spin for my personal demand 🙂

  4. Oh my, loveliness. It looks like one big skein, but it sounds like you would have several smaller ones. On a separate note, would you recommend the Butterfly?

  5. Thanks for the tip on using weaving bobbins for plying. I have more of them than spinning bobbins and the plying went very well. They held a lot more yarn than I thought they would.

  6. Hey June!

    I just got my invitation to Have you joined yet? It is still in beta but there are tons of cool features for knitters, spinners and pattern makers. Hope to see you soon!

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