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Beyond Your Default Spin-along Day 2
October 6, 2020
Welcome to Day 2 of the Spin-along!
Today we’ll be focusing on tension.
You know that when you spin at your wheel, you turn fiber into yarn and then let go, so the yarn will wind onto the bobbin. It’s not magic—it happens because the bobbin and pulley (also called a whorl, and it turns the flyer) rotate at different speeds, and all of them rotate faster than the drive wheel.
What creates and controls those speed differences? It depends on the tension system or mode of your wheel. There are three modes: double drive, Scotch tension, and Irish tension (also called bobbin lead—we won’t explore it here, but you’ll find many good resources online). All Schacht wheels except the Sidekick can spin in any of these modes; the Sidekick spins in Scotch tension mode only.
A wheel set up for double drive has two bands going around the drive wheel. One band loops around the bobbin; the other goes around the pulley. The tension between these two bands creates draw-in or take-up, which pulls spun yarn around the bobbin. Schacht bobbins have a large end and a small end—always place the small end at the back of the flyer for double drive spinning.
On the Matchless, you can increase (tighten) the tension by raising the rear bearing, which also holds an additional whorl at the back of the wheel. Decrease or loosen the tension by lowering the rear bearing. Adjust the bearing’s height by turning the mushroom-shaped knob (the drive band tension knob) at the top of the wheel.
When you begin a spinning session in double drive, set the flyer parallel to the mother-of-all (MOA). Tap on the drive bands—there should be a little bit of bounce. Start spinning, then increase or decrease the tension to get the amount of take-up you want. A tiny adjustment will not have much impact; you’ll have to turn the mushroom knob a lot to notice any change. Double drive mode is best for finer yarns, especially laceweight.
In a Scotch tension set-up, a tiny adjustment will affect take-up. This is the tension mode most of us learn first, because it’s so responsive. The wheel’s single drive band loops around the drive wheel and the pulley. The brake band—a loop of linen string connected to a spring—controls the bobbin’s speed. On the Matchless, there’s a big groove in the MOA. The spring sits inside the groove, and the loop goes around the large end of the bobbin.
Most wheels, and all Schacht wheels, have a Scotch tension peg that adjusts tension. You can see the bake band tighten or loosen as you turn it. If the brake band has a spring, it will stretch out or relax.
Combining Tension & Twist
Now, at last, we’ve reached the first way to change your default yarn: Change tension modes or adjust the take-up!
Fat yarns need less twist than skinny yarns. If you increase the tension, even a little, the yarn pulls onto the bobbin more quickly. You’ll automatically have to spin bigger yarn so it doesn’t drift apart and break.
For her default yarn, Stephanie uses just enough tension to pull the yarn onto the bobbin. The bobbin fills quickly, and she has to increase the tension frequently. Scotch tension works best in this situation.
- When she wants to spin fatter, she increases the tension. The bobbin will fill up even faster, so she sticks with Scotch tension.
- When she wants to spin finer, she switches to double drive. The finer yarn will not fill up the bobbin so quickly, so she doesn’t need to change tension as frequently.
Practice: Play with tension.
- Identify the tension system on your wheel as it is currently set up. Get comfortable increasing and decreasing the tension as you spin some fiber. How much adjustment do you need to feel the difference?
- If your wheel can work in more than one tension mode, experiment with the mode you don’t normally use. How do you adjust tension in this mode, and how much adjustment does it take to make a difference?
- If your wheel can work in more than one tension mode, practice switching from one system to another. For Schacht wheels, don’t forget to turn the bobbin! Large end at the back for Scotch; small end at the back for double drive. (Bonus mnemonic: you’ll want a large Scotch when you’re spinning. Choose whatever kind of Scotch you prefer—tape, alcohol, butterscotch, a man in a kilt. Get creative and you’ll never forget this rule.)
We’ll see you tomorrow! Enjoy an interview with spinning rock star: Maggie Casey
Maggie Casey has taught spinning in many venues to many, many people. You may have learned from her book Start Spinning (Interweave, 2008), her videos and online workshops from Long Thread Media, or her classes all over the country. Or you may have walked into Shuttles, Spindles, and Skeins (her now-closed spinning and weaving store in Boulder) for a class, a spinning night, or an unexpected impromptu lesson. No matter how you learned from Maggie, you’ll always remember her wealth of spinning knowledge and her clear teaching.
- Maggie’s first spinning experience
- Maggie’s favorite teaching venues
- Maggie’s favorite wheel(s)
- Ravelry groups
- Maggie’s top 2 spinning tips