How can I fit more yarn on my bobbin?

Bee SkeinsBy Amelia

Wheeeee! As you all know, I'm having too much fun with my new Bee wheel :)

There's nothing like having an open threading for being able to interrupt a plying job in progress to head off to my LYS to teach some new spinners (they all 'graduated' today -- three more spinners in the world, yay!)
Bee plying, interrupted

As I mentioned in my review of the Bee, it does have travel-sized bobbins (ummm ... that's a euphemism for small, folks!) Not too tiny, probably a hair more volume than Ashford's standard bobbins, but definitely smaller than Majacraft's very healthy bobbins. I got 2.7 ounces of 2-ply light worsted weight on a Bee bobbin: it came to 152 yards, which is 900 yards per pound if you think about it that way. That's the black/brown/white skein in the middle of that upper shot. In today's test, I got 3.95 ounces of 2-ply laceweight on a Bee bobbin -- that came to a hefty 570 yards, so about 2300 yards per pound. That's the blue skein in the upper shot. The other one? didn't fill a bobbin -- 2 ply of even finer yarn, 2 ounces, 418 yards, so, 3344 yards per pound. Wow, I impress myself :-)

I used all my methods for maximizing bobbin contents in filling these, so it's worth sharing them with you. Be your bobbins large or small, these can help maximize your yardage on your bobbins.
  • Full Bobbin, laceweight, on the BeeDon't let the tension get sloppy -- keep a reasonably strong draw-in when plying especially. This packs the yarn on the bobbin.
  • Change pegs or hooks, or move your slider, fairly often. Don't let the hills that build up have landslides -- a sloppily built bobbin wastes room. I get into a routine with mine, up one side and down the other, to build up a bobbin smoothly.
  • If you have pegs or hooks on both sides, then use both sides. Having them on both sides of the orifice usually means they are offset from side to side, so you can build more hills, and pack yarn onto the bobbin better. If you have them only on one side, consider adding them, offset, on the other side. If you have a slider, move it often, for more complete coverage.
  • A 2-ply yarn takes up more space than twice its length in singles. So if your goal is to spin singles and then ply onto another bobbin, two full bobbins of singles will fill more than 2 bobbins in 2-ply yarn -- consider not filling the singles bobbins to avoid this, if you don't want the partial bobbin. And if you fill a bobbin and then ply from a center-pull ball, consider not filling the bobbin with singles. How much more space? Ummm, I'll let you figure that out. I'm sure there's math involved, but I just go by "feel", leaving say half-a-finger of visible core on my singles bobbins.
  • Or heck, just spin singles, for maximum length skeins :-) I'm not sure which "wastes" more space, a 2-ply or a 3-ply, packed well onto a bobbin. I'll leave that as an exercise for the reader ... do let me know in the comments though, I love learning new things!
  • Full Bobbin, worsted weight, on the BeeSpin finer -- the finer your yarn, the more yardage (and weight) you can fit on. I got 2.7 ounces of thick yarn, but 3.9 ounces of fine onto the Bee's bobbin.
  • As your bobbin starts getting full, change pegs, hooks, or slider position even more often.
  • As the yarn starts (barely) rubbing against the flyer arms, if you want to stuff more onto it still, squeeze the yarn on the bobbin with your hands, to pack it in a bit more.
  • Butterfly and FrogIncreasing the tension on the bobbin can help draw yarn in as the bobbin's contents are rubbing against the flyer arm, but eventually even this will max out. At that point either you are done, or you can force the bobbin to wind the yarn onto itself as you ply each new length. I didn't force-wind on the Bee bobbins, as I wanted them to be a fair showing of stuffing bobbins, and manual winding just seemed like stretching the point a bit. But I have done that, as shown in the thumbnail, on another wheel when trying to finish off a plying job.
  • A Majacraft "plying" bobbinIf there is a fair amount of air between the outer diameter of the bobbin and the flyer arms, you can continue filling the bobbin beyond its diameter. However, this can be dangerous near the ends as the yarn may collapse over the edge of the bobbin -- eeek. I've been known to add spacers cut from milk bottles (yogurt lids would work well, too) to make sure my bobbin contents didn't collapse over the ends -- sure, I was using regular bobbins on my plying flyer on my Majacraft, and it wasn't pretty, but it worked!
  • Spunky Club's Think Spring and MalabrigoNow I admit, changing hooks/pegs/slider position often can be a drag ... but the fullest bobbins I get are with my WooLee Winder, which isn't called a "level wind system" for nothing. It evenly winds up and down along the bobbin, maximizing yardage on the bobbin. It's like constantly altering the hook used, infinitely along the length -- the outer limit of packing as much yarn on as can be done. So, on wheels with WooLee Winder options, that's another possibility.

Is there something you do, to pack more yarn onto your bobbins? Please post it in the comments -- I'd love to learn some new ways to get maximum yardage on my bobbins!
posted 17 March 2009 at


Mary said...

Wow, the Bee looks really neat! I've been saving up for a Majacraft's does this compare?

Dorothy said...

OH WOW!! what a beauty. But not sure if I have room for another wheel, even a folding one :( I have an Ashford Joy and find that the orifice is a bit low, so I'm inclined to lean forwards, bad for my back. This wheel looks taller, what's the orifice height?

Kim said...

I haven't written before, but I love your blog! Thanks for the great tips on filling the bobbins... can you believe I never noticed the offset on the 2 arms? I am self taught, and have reinvented the wheel several times...

Judy said...

I don't really try to pack on my bobbins, but when I spin on my Ashford Joy, I ply on my Louet. It has monster bobbins!