What is the Hopper?

meet the hopper
By Amelia © February 24, 2010

The Hopper ...

Let's say you want to spin art yarns. And you want to take classes. And you want to go to spin-ins. Your Mach I or Mach II is great, but boy, it's tall! and heavy to lug around. SpinOlution comes to the rescue again ... meet, The Hopper!

This wheel has a cool innovation even beyond what SpinOlution has already done, and I'm not talking about its size (after all, if we want small, we can also look at the Merlin Tree Hitchhiker, the Spinaway Holiday Wheel, or the Pocket Wheel). I'm talking about its treadling.

Mike (the man behind SpinOlution) took the rocking, side-to-side treadle and raised it off the ground a few inches. Your heels or the arch of your foot goes on the treadles. What raising the treadles did was evolutionary: the Hopper's treadle uses your large-muscle groups, quads and glutes; your ankle needn't move at all.

I've seen two initial reactions to this wheel, and it depended really on the person's height. My own reaction was echoed by other tall people: "ummm, this seems hard to treadle..." but in reality, we weren't sitting high enough. I moved up from my slouchy sofa to a dining room chair, and treadling was amazing. Totally different leg motion from the Bee, light as a feather in the lower ratios and still easy as a traditional treadle in its higher ratios.

Shorter people, in pretty much any chair, take to the Hopper instantly. It's amazing to see them sit down and get it, no matter where. Almost makes me wish I was short. But, I did find that my Majacraft spinning stool was the perfect height (18" high) for my 5'9" leggy frame. So, Hopper and stool go as a pair to spin-ins.

Both heights ask, after a few minutes of treadling -- isn't this going to make me sore? They can tell right away it's using different muscle groups. In my own spinning, I've not found any next-day soreness as a result of one-hour-to-two-hour sessions on the Hopper, which is very pleasing indeed. Now, when my ankles are sore from other things, I have an alternative to my electric wheel: the Hopper!

So, you're walking up to this wheel, you have a good chair, and you are aware that the leg muscles you're moving are moving. But what about the wheel? After all, isn't this about spinning yarn?

Ahh, let me tell you ... it's lovely! I mostly spin a DK-weight 2-ply these days (that's CVM wool 2-ply there in the picture), moving into laceweight for weaving, and occasional forays into art yarns. The Hopper comes with the Art Yarn flyer standard, but even my regular spinning filled a bobbin evenly, using the offset pegs on both sides of the flyer. It was up to the task for me, and has easily accomplished singles and plying alike.

The bobbin is the same as that on the Mach I/II (they're interchangeable!) so it holds 8-10 ounces of spun, plied yarn -- very generous! I can spin two bobbins full of singles on my Bee, then ply on the Hopper knowing it will all fit and then some.

For laceweight singles, I use a couple of standard techniques to decrease the empty-bobbin drag: lacing the yarn back-and-forth across the pegs like one shoelace in a shoe; and adding a foam pipe-insulation around the bobbin's core to decrease the distance from flyer to the yarn storage surface. All told, I might still spin my finest singles on my Bee, with its generous 35:1 top ratio, but plying on the Hopper at its top ratio of 19:1 is very tempting, to get two Bee bobbins' worth onto one Hopper bobbin.

The Hopper folds up so it can be stored in a 19 x 20.5 x 7.5 inner dimension carrier (a black canvas zippered tote is in the works, too ... one raveler found a 22" cymbal carrying bag that works perfectly). But it also has a great handle up at the top for pick-up-and-go. The one 'improvement' I've put in a request for, is a way to latch the wheel rest in the open position; it latches closed, but when open, there's nothing to keep it open when you lift the wheel. I've considered a judiciously placed thick rubber band, so I can tote my wheel around the floor at spin-ins as I bounce from friend to friend, visiting as many as I can.

Can you learn to spin on this wheel? Yes. Ratios go from 1.5:1 to 19:1 (1.5:1 is shown here), so it will grow with you from starting to sock yarns, and handle the low-ratio art yarns just fine as well. We had a new spinner going great on the Hopper at Madrona Fiber Arts Festival, and he was even spinning Suri Alpaca, a tricky fiber to master; the Hopper handled it all like a champ.

The Hopper has all the flyer innovations found in other SpinOlution wheels:
  • pegs and hook for open threading, so you can interrupt a plying job without breaking your singles; everything slides past, thick, thin, and even boucle.
  • cordless scotch tension, so when you change bobbins, there's no need to reset a brake band.
  • magnetic quick-release orifice arm, so changing bobbins is simple.
I've found it to be reliable and enjoyable, and know that I will have a lot of fun with my Hoppy Hopper in 2010 and beyond! If you're interested in others' views on the Hopper, I'd recommend the Ravelry SpinOlution! group for insights from others, as well as my own recent comparison of the Hopper and the Pocket Wheel.

I know, I've skipped over the SpinOlution Mach II, an upgrade from the Mach I; and the SpinOlution Echo, a great wheel to learn on and for those on a budget. I'll fill in the gaps, in future posts.

SpinOlution also makes a Keep it Simple Kate - see their YOuTube video on its use. It fits the SpinOlution bobbins, and is designed specifically for them.

You can also use a Nancy's Knit Knacks Kate, an Alexandra's Crafts Vertical Mini-Kate (shown here with the Hopper in an Eddie Bauer tote), a Will Taylor Clever Kate (no website, see my flickr), or the new Ogle Designs Kate (ask for 7-3/4" rods, though!). Each will fit the Hopper's bobbins, and several tip the bobbins at a 45-degree angle, so there's no need for an auxiliary braking system. Any upright Kate should also work -- put a rubber band across pairs of posts with bobbins on them to add a braking system, since the Hopper bobbins do not have a groove in them.

Yes, The Bellwether does sell these wheels, and I'd be happy if you purchased one from me. That said, finding a local vendor makes perfect sense, and you can find a list of those on SpinOlution's website. I will have the wheels with me at the Spindrifter's Spin-In (Bellingham, WA) on March 13th, at the Whidbey Spin-In (Oak Harbor, WA) on April 10-11, and at Black Sheep Gathering (Eugene, OR) in June. And they are always available for a test-drive at my fiber studio.
© February 24, 2010 by Ask The Bellwether, posted at http://askthebellwether.com/blog

Where can I get my fleece processed?

By Amelia © February 20, 2010

It will soon be that time of year again -- you'll find a wonderful fleece at a spring wool show, be handed one from a friendly neighbor, or go through your stash and decide you just aren't going to get it all done without help.

So, take a good look at your fleece, and decide how you want it processed, and if one of these well-known mills (in the US) would be the one for it to go to. These are all places I've had fiber processed (all with good results).

  • Ohio Valley Natural Fibers: sent them several large, greasy Romney fleeces and got back wonderful pin-drafted, clean roving that was great for the learn to spin kits.

  • Zeilinger Wool Company: sent them several rounds of VMy and/or muddy California Red fleeces, always get back lovely soft, clean, VM-free roving.

  • Wooly Knob Fiber Mill: the spinner's friend, these guys will keep a fleece to itself and give you back clouds of soft roving. They've done some of the one-fleece runs for Amelia's Mill as well as the Shetland/Alpaca roving.

  • Stonehedge: lovely to work with, did a great job dealing with my VMy llama, and made a nice blend of llama/CVM wool for me -- that's the blend, shown below.

  • Morro Fleece Works: wow! hands down the best there is, very worth it for your fine Cormos and Merinos that might nep on the other mills' machines.
I have a few other mills on my to-try list, because I like seeing how each operates and what type of roving they produce. I'd recommend all of the above mills, and I'm sure I'll use them again in the future.

There are also smaller mills, locally operated -- I know of one near me, Taylored Fibers in Quilcene, WA with a PG Exotica machine. So ask around, you may find something nearby that can handle your wool. Barry Taylor's done a great job on a variety of medium wools for me, Romney cross, Jacob, Ryeland, and Dorset.

When deciding if a mill is right for your fleece, consider the type of fleece, what the mill can handle (Zeilinger's says right up front that fine fleeces are likely to nep), what the mill can produce (roving, top, pin-drafted roving, batts), the likely backlog at the mill -- call them and ask, and the cost of processing -- be sure to ask about specials when you call.

Related posts:
What do you look for in a fleece?
What fiber preparations are there?
How do I know what sheep breed to look for?

And check out this recently updated post:
What online fiber forums are there?
© 20 February 2010 by Ask The Bellwether, posted at http://askthebellwether.blogspot.com/

Do I need a different twist angle in my singles for different plies?

3 ply CVMBy Amelia © February 18, 2010

I know it’s counterintuitive, but you want less twist in your singles for the 3-ply, to have the same twist angle as the 2-ply will. Think of it this way: you have 3 strands contributing twist to the plying – so the same TPI (twists per inch) in the 3-ply would result from singles with less twist in them - each single has to contribute less twist, since there are more of them. Oh, and … Mabel Ross, in The Essentials of Yarn Design, goes into this in detail. OOP but well worth scooping up if you find a copy, if this sort of thing excites you (it does me!)

I have tried this out; I usually spin, these days, a fairly high-twist single for a nice bouncy round 2-ply. If I forget and spin the same single for a 3-ply, it seems a bit harsh to me, too high a twist angle for softness of the fiber to come through. So, I spin the 3-ply singles with a little less twist, to get the same bouncy round yarn I enjoy with my 2-plies.

Besides not needing as much twist in your singles for a 3-ply (so you can regain some of the time spent spinning that third single), another benefit of a 3-ply yarn is that it averages out the irregularities of the singles a bit better. In general, a 3-ply yarn looks more consistent than a 2-ply yarn from the same singles. Yeah, Murphy's Law can strike and there might be areas that magnify errors, but in general a true 3-ply hides more than it reveals. That's why the local county fair judge comes with an Ott light and a magnifying glass -- she knows this, too!

California Red Navajo-pliedI would note that I mean a true 3-ply; a Navajo/Chain-ply tends to magnify inconsistencies since it folds a single on itself locally -- remember local minima and local maxima from high school trigonometry? A Navajo ply is like taking the derivative of your single, magnifying fineness or thickness along the length of each chain made. Only by taking three separate bobbins of singles and plying them together can we mask the irregularities of one bobbin with the irregularities of the other two.

Of course, we can also work on making our singles more consistent, so that no matter how we ply our yarn, it will be consistent.

Related Posts:
How do I spin thicker plied yarns?
How do you make a good looking 2-ply yarn?
How can I fix the twist in my 2-ply yarn?
How do I spin a more even single?
How much twist does singles yarn need?
How can I divide roving evenly for a 2-ply or a 3-ply?

© 18 February 2010 by Ask The Bellwether, posted at http://www.askthebellwether.com/

What is Andean Spindling?

By Amelia © February 16, 2010

What is Andean Spindling? That's what I wanted to know, so I signed up for Kaye Collins' class on the topic at Madrona Fiber Arts Festival.

The Andeans use very simple bottom whorl spindles -- by USA standards, they seem pretty crude. But the weaving and knitting Kaye brought with her bespoke the marvels produced with these most basic of tools. The strap in the photo is handspun, dyed, plied, and woven (in that order -- they dye their singles, then ply them!)

The biggest relevation for me was their drafting method; it's a double drafting similar to what you see in this wheel-spinning youTube video. July2010 Update: and here's a good video of a Peruvian spindler double-drafting!

And the real shock was how much twist is in their singles -- Kaye had several spindles with Andean handspun on them, and the twist, well -- let's just say that corkscrews were fairly regularly present. There is a reason; the Andeans spin tightly, weave tightly, and knit tightly to give their fabrics water repellancy.

The little bit of white wool on the spindle is some of what I spun in class -- I had to take it off and add more twist, and really, it still doesn't have enough to match what I saw. Amazing!

Interested in Andean spindles?  I couldn't find a website for Kaye, but she had some for purchase in class. The Spinning Loft may also have some.

There are several books available on Andean Textiles:

Weaving in the Peruvian Highlands

Woven Stories: Andean Textiles and Rituals

Andean Folk Knits

Now, I'm off to go and add some more twist to put an Andean spin on my yarn!
© February 16, 2010 by Ask The Bellwether, posted at http://askthebellwether.com/blog

What do you teach in Exotic Fiber Spindling?

By Amelia © February 5, 2010

Ooooh .... alpaca, cashmere, camel, yak ... luscious fibers! Enjoy these tactile sensations even more on your spindles. In Exotic Fiber Spindling, we'll work on fine spindling, learning which spindles spin fine fibers, ways to control fiber and drafting for spinning the finest we can. Top whorl spindles and Akha spindles will be used in class.

Supplies to bring: (completely optional) if you have them, bring any sub-ounce top whorl or bottom whorl spindles, Akha spindles, and handcards, and any short-staple or fine fibers you'd like advice on spinning.

Level of Experience necessary: Must be a spindle spinner, able to spin and ply on a spindle.

Materials for each class: fiber and handouts. Spindles will be provided in class for students to spin on, and some handcards will be available.

Not able to take the class? I am now preparing complete instructional handouts for most of my classes! So you can "take the class" from Ask The Bellwether, wherever you are. The Exotic Fiber Spindling e-booklet can be purchased at TheBellwether.com. It also includes a lovely shawlette knitting pattern, a terrific use of your spindle-spun fine yarns.

If you'd like a taste of the class itself, here's my YouTube clip on Akha spindling:

Class Synopsis:

Spindle Choice
  • Featherweight: 3 grams to under an ounce; 1/2 ounce typical
  • top whorl, bottom whorl, Akha (mid whorl)
Fiber Preparation
  • Cloud, top, puni
  • Staple length
  • Drafting Triangle
  • Amount of fiber =>Yarn thickness
Point of Twist Drafting
  • Hand placement
  • Making it yarn, Akha style
  • Making it strong, thigh roll
  • Akhan plying balls
  • Peruvian plying ball
  • Speed hand roll
  • Speed kick start
  • Skein with figure - 8 ties
  • Wash and whack
Post Class
  • Keep spindling
  • Cotton’s harder than cashmere
  • Merino/wool may not be easier (it ’ s stickier — sometimes helpful, sometimes not)
For a list of all classes see this post.

Akha spindle posts:
How do you spin long draw on a spindle?
How do you spin on an Akha spindle?
What's sideways spinning?
What spindle do I spin cotton on?

Fine spinning posts:
How do you spin short Guanaco fiber?
What tips do you have for spinning lace?
How can I spin a fine yarn?
A Yarn Story: Cotton Tales
How do you join cotton when spinning?
Where can I find cotton hand cards?
Why does my yarn drift apart when I'm plying?


© 5 February 2010 by Ask The Bellwether, posted at http://askthebellwether.blogspot.com/

How much yarn can you wind onto a Turkish spindle?

yarn cake on turkishBy Amelia © February 4, 2010

One of the questions that came up in a recent Productive Spindling class was: How full can you fill a Turkish spindle?

The answer is: You can keep winding yarn onto your Turkish spindle (for how, see here) as long as you can reach the shaft and arms to remove them. If you wind on past the bottom of the shaft, you may not be able to push it out of the yarn ball. If you wind on past the ends of the whorl arms, you won't be able to pull them out, either.

Like this little over-full spindle:

Stuffed Turkish spindle

Now, all is not lost -- I can barely see the bottom tip of the shaft, so it's likely I can push that out of the yarn-ball. And, once I start unwinding, I'll expose the arms and eventually be able to remove them, as well. Since this is a plied ball of yarn, I'll just be skeining it up to wash it.

The fiber is a yummy cashmere/silk blend, a tasting gifted by a friend at last year's Madrona Fiber Arts Festival. Interestingly enough, I made the spinning an exercise in stubbornness: the singles were spun on a very heavy mid-whorl Maggie, and then the plying was done on the super-light (10 grams, maybe) Turkish shown here (from Knotty by Nature Fiber Arts in Victoria, BC, Canada).

The 2010 Madrona Fiber Arts Festival is currently in the headlights, I've been preparing for the Exotic Fiber Spindling class. Emptying this little spindle will provide a useful example of skeining up finely spun yarn.

Related posts:
How much yarn can I spin on my spindle?
How do you wind on a Turkish spindle?
What Turkish spindles do you like?
Click for a list of all spindle posts on Ask The Bellwether.

And you can see more of my Turkish spindles in my flickr queue.
© 4 February 2010 by Ask The Bellwether, posted at http://askthebellwether.blogspot.com/