Part 2: Equipment and Fibers

Section B: Spinning Equipment

Spinning wheel

To spin with the flyer spinning wheel, attach a leader to the empty bobbin and thread it through the flyer hooks or loops and out the front of the orifice. Image 10 shows a flyer with an adjustable loop and image 11 shows a flyer with hooks. Image 12 shows a delta orifice, a triangular loop instead of a hollow tube. If the wheel cannot be threaded with the fingers, most modern manufacturers include a threading hook. If not, use a crochet hook or bent wire. Turn the drive wheel with the treadle or treadles, pumping up and down with the foot evenly to turn the wheel at a constant speed. Draft while the wheel twists the yarn; when you relax the tension on the yarn, the flyer pulls it in and winds it on the bobbin. Do not let go of the end, but keep drafting and treadling. Stop occasionally to check the bobbin and move the yarn to the next hook (or adjust the sliding loop) to wind on evenly. Continue until the yarn is level with the bobbin whorls.

Almost all flyer spinning wheels have some means of twisting yarn faster or slower by changing the ratio of the drive wheel to the flyer or bobbin whorl. A higher ratio twists faster. Take-up tension is controlled by a brake system that retards either the flyer or bobbin. The stronger the brake tension, the more it slows and the faster the yarn winds on. There are three types of flyer systems, each with different adjustments for take-up tension. The tension decreases as the bobbin fills for the bobbin lead and flyer lead systems but not double drive.

The design of the drive wheel, treadle or treadles, bobbins, whorls and flyers varies by manufacturer, so it is not possible to give a general set of instructions for changing bobbins or whorls or the exact location of adjustment mechanisms. Adjustments for the three types of flyer systems are described below.

Bobbin lead, Irish tension
The bobbin lead system drives the bobbin and brakes the flyer. Most of these wheels do not not have a drive band tension adjustment and instead use an elastic cord as a drive band. It goes from the drive wheel to the bobbin whorl in a single loop. The wheel will either use bobbins with more than one size whorl or several different types. Change the bobbin whorl to change the ratio. Adjust the flyer brake band to control the take-up tension; when you release the yarn, the flyer slows to wind on. Image 9 shows a Louet bobbin lead wheel, the drive band is on the bobbin to the left and the leather brake band on the flyer to the right. With this wheel, you can unfasten the brake band entirely for minimum tension. A bobbin lead wheel cannot be adjusted to have no take-up tension.

Flyer lead, Scotch tension
The flyer lead system drives the flyer and brakes the bobbin. Some of these wheels have a drive band tension adjustment, others have an elastic drive cord and some have both. Adjust the drive band tension if needed by moving the base of the flyer assembly ("mother of all") away from the drive wheel. This is typically done by turning a screw knob. The drive band goes from the drive wheel to the flyer whorl in a single loop. The flyer has several whorls of different sizes, move the drive band to another whorl to change the ratio. Some wheels offer different flyers or entirely new flyer assemblies to provide different ranges of ratios. The brake band over the bobbin controls the take-up tension, typically it is also adjusted with a screw knob. Tighten the bobbin brake band to increase the take-up; when you release the yarn, the bobbin slows to wind on. Image 10 shows a Lendrum flyer lead wheel, the drive band is on the flyer whorl to the left and the brake band is adjusted with the knob on the right. The screw knob below adjusts the drive band tension and can be removed to install additional spinning heads.

Double drive
The double drive system drives both the flyer and the bobbin at different rates. These wheels use a firm drive cord that does not stretch. Adjust the drive band tension by turning the screw knob to move the flyer assembly away from the drive wheel. The drive band is a doubled loop with both loops around the drive wheel and one each around the bobbin and flyer whorls. When you install the drive band, twist the single loop a half turn and fold into a doubled loop. Some manufacturers recommend turning clockwise for Z spinning or anti-clockwise for S spinning rather than treadling the wheel in the opposite direction. The take-up tension is controlled by the ratio of the two whorls and the tension of the drive band. To increase the tension, increase the drive band tension or change to a different flyer whorl. It may take many attempts to get the correct combination of band tension and whorls to achieve the desired take-up. The groove on the bobbin whorl is more shallow so the drive band can slip when the yarn is held under tension. Image 11 shows an Ashford double drive wheel, with the drive band on both the bobbin and flyer whorls. The drive band tension is adjusted with the screw knob on the left.


This item is scored with its associated yarn.

Examiner 1 commented that the description of changing the drive band for S or Z spinning on a double drive wheel was confusing. It was confusing for me too, I know how it works but not sure how to explain it. I tried to find several sources to use as examples but most were very vague. I made a point of mentioning this because I occasionally hear people get fussy about "Never treadle backwards" and the double drive system is one where you can actually do something about that. I suspect the word "anti-clockwise" is a problem here. Examiner 1 also noted that it is the flyer that slows for double drive to wind on. I didn't specifically mention this. I'll have to look at that next time I have a double drive wheel handy. I borrowed one for a few days and took notes.

Examiner 2 also noted the drive band thing, but also made some other comments I'm not clear about. "Tension does not decrease as the bobbin fills on Irish setup, but the take up changes." Yes, which is why when I'm talking about this I specifically mention "take-up tension." It does decrease as the bobbin fills, which is why Louet finally came out with fat core bobbins for their wheels and I hated my old wheel as soon as I got past absolute beginner stage. We appear to be talking about the same thing here, so I don't know why there is a misunderstanding. Examiner 2 also noted that the double drive system does not have a brake. Well, it does have to have something that functions as a brake, otherwise nothing would ever wind on. In this case it is the difference between the two pulleys, not a specific knob marked "brake." I guess I wasn't clear enough.