How do I choose a speed setting on my e-spinner?

HansenCrafts miniSpinner with 5.5 oz handspunBy Amelia © April 20, 2010

The explosion of interest in e-spinning, sparked in part by the cute-and-amazing Hansen miniSpinner, is generating many interesting conversations over on Ravelry, on the electric spinners group and the recently formed HansenCrafts MiniSpinner group.

I've been contemplating for a while how you would approach explaining electric spinners and their use, both to non-spinners learning to spin on one, and to wheel spinners who have their built-in rhythm of treadle and draft. So, here are some thoughts on the topic of choosing a speed setting on your e-spinner.

I like to think of the speed dial on the e-spinner (and all the ones I've spun on -- Fricke, Ashford, Butterfly, and Hansen) as a clockface. Your particular maker's e-spinner may turn through the whole face, may only turn from 7 o'clock to 5 o'clock, or may have an even shorter "range" on its clock face -- so be sure to consult any documentation that came with it, and don't push the knob further than it is capable of going. My "times" here will refer to the Hansen miniSpinner -- you may find some variation in your own.

So, let's say you're spinning along, and stop to check out your yarn.

If there’s not enough twist in your singles, then increase the speed; that’s the fastest (no pun intended!) way to get more twist in them. Another thing that can help is minimizing the scotch tension -- I usually set mine so that any less would have me at no draw-in at all. That lets you hang on to the single a little longer before it is drawn onto the bobbin, so more twist can get in your yarn. I did a post about testing singles for underspun-ness a while back, if it’s helpful to add more, it’s here. The third alternative is to hold on to your new yarn for a beat or two before allowing it to be drawn onto the bobbin -- this adds more twist, as you aren't drafting, and twist is still going in to the yarn.

If there's too much twist in your singles, then decrease the speed. This will put twist in more slowly. You can also increase the scotch tension, so the bobbin pulls the yarn onto it more aggressively. If you are a relatively new spinner, it is likely that you are not drafting very quickly. Over time, you will find your drafting speed increases, and the amount of twist in them decreasing -- refer to the previous paragraph on how to handle that.

A great book about controlling twist is Judith MacKenzie McCuin’s The Intentional Spinner -- she covers a wide range of manual wheel information for speed control. What she says about scotch tension we can carry through unchanged. But where she talks about pulleys and changing ratios, we can adjust our engine’s speed. If JMM tells me to use a smaller pulley/higher ratio, I will move my dial clockwise a bit more. If JMM tells me to use a larger pulley/lower ratio, I will move my dial counter-clockwise a bit more.

I usually adjust my Hansen miniSpinner speed dial “by the hour”. I use 9:00 for low twist fat singles, 12:00 for moderate twist “default” singles, and 3:00 for high twist cobweb (very, very fine) singles. I’ll use 10, 11, 1, and 2 for points in-between, and may make finer adjustments to suit my drafting speed at that moment. Now, that’s me, and every spinner has their own pace -- so your settings may vary. Also, I know the Woolee Winder has more drag than the hook/slider flyers, so models of the same e-spinner with hook/slider flyers have a higher top speed than the Woolee Winder models.

I usually adjust my scotch tension brake “by the minute”, that is, I make very small adjustments to it to increase or decrease tension -- a tiny little nudge on it can make a huge difference when I’m trying to get down to that almost-nil draw-in, and only a tiny nudge is needed, typically, to maintain draw-in once the bobbin is 3/4 full.


3 ply CVMAnd, a few months in, how am I enjoying my miniSpinner? Quite a bit! It's helped me increase my treadling speed, I can ply super-duper quick, and I've finally created the perfect (for me!) 3-ply sock yarn. And did I mention that it's quiet? Lovely for spinning in the evenings during the family chat in the sitting room. Next up: the perfect 4-ply sock yarn :-) and a whole bunch of laceweight pygora, since the first 6 ounces was a total blast!

The singles on the bobbin in the opening shot were part of a skein I sent to Humanity Handspun -- and it sold :-) I'm a huge fan of what Tina's doing with HH, raising money for a good cause and supporting fiber artists at the same time. So you're likely to see more of my yarn in their online store in the near future.


© April 20, 2010 by Ask The Bellwether, posted at


Molly said...

One of the best things about the way speed is regulated on an e-spinner, for my money, is that it can go much slower than a treadle wheel. For teaching rank beginners, or for helping more advanced beginners to break bad habits, it's really handy to have something that will crawl along steadily at a speed that just wouldn't work if you were trying to treadle it.

(Theoretically I also like the high speed, but to be honest my CPW is as fast or faster than my Butterfly.)

Amelia of Ask The Bellwether said...

@Molly, those are great points! And you are right -- so far I've helped one person learn to spin from scratch on an e-spinner, and we were definitely at "crawl" speed. Very handy, like park-and-draft on a spindle.

For the readers, CPW = Canadian Production Wheel. Very cool treadle wheels, high speed and usually Saxony-style. Several different makers make this style of wheel. Here's a great shot from Habetrot of a collection, with their spinners: