The need for speed – a few words about spinning wheel ratios

March 14, 2015

Good morning, and happy Saturday! I hope you had as fantastic a week as I had. The weather was spectacular this week and each day after work I was able to put the leash on the new puppy and take her for a little walk around our neighborhood. Other than trips to the vet, the pet store, and to obedience training, she hasn’t had much leash time, so I was really glad for the opportunity to get her more used to it. When the weather is a little bit warmer we’ll start taking taking the boys out for after dinner walks too.

Earlier in the week I received a nice little surprise in the mail. Well, not exactly a surprise since it was something I did order. Back when I got the Kromski Polonaise, I had to look up what the ratios are on the two flyer pulleys that it came with. The ratios are 8:1 and 12:1 on the larger pulley, and 16:1 and 20:1 on the smaller pulley. I found that there was an even smaller pulley available with a 25:1 ratio so I ordered one, but because the vendor I ordered it from was out of stock at the time, I wasn’t sure when it would be arriving.

The email with the shipping notification came on Monday, and my order was showing an estimated delivery date of Thursday. I was pleasantly surprised when it showed up a day early on Wednesday. Hooray for the US Postal service! All of my spinning on the Polonaise up until now has been on either the 16:1 or the 20:1 ratio, so I was really looking forward to trying out the faster ratio.

Just a side note before we go much further – while some may refer to it as a whorl, I prefer to use the term pulley. A whorl is the correct term for the disc shaped piece of a spindle that helps provide the momentum for it to spin. The disc shaped piece on the end of a flyer or bobbin of a spinning wheel, which the drive band runs through in order for the drive wheel to turn that flyer or bobbin, is technically a pulley.

The available flyer pulleys for the Kromski Polonaise

Let’s take moment this morning to talk a little more about ratios because I’ve heard spinners tell me they don’t know what the ratios of their spinning wheel are or what they mean.

Just as an example, let’s say that your spinning wheel has a ratio of 5:1. This means that for every complete treadle motion which is one turn of the drive wheel, the flyer or bobbin, depending on which is the driven element of your particular wheel, will turn 5 times. The 5 rotations of that element will put 5 twists into whatever length of yarn you have made on the outside of the orifice of your wheel. If your ratio is 10:1 then for every one turn of the drive wheel the flyer or bobbin will turn 10 times and put 10 twists into the length of yarn outside the orifice.

Now lets take a look at using those two ratio examples in relation to actually making a yarn, and let’s say, as an example, that we want to make a yarn with 10 twists per inch. Using the 5:1 ratio we would need to treadle twice to get two full rotations of the drive wheel to get 10 rotations of the flyer or bobbin for every inch of our fiber that we draft out. Using the 10:1 ratio we would only need to treadle once to put the same amount of twist in that one inch of fiber that we drafted out.

This is just an example. Your ratios on your wheel may be different, and you may be drafting out more than an inch at a time as you spin, but the principle is still the same. Without changing the speed at which you treadle your wheel you can put more or less twist into the yarn you’re making by using a higher or lower ratio. Just remember to adjust the take-up as needed so that your yarn is feeding onto the bobbin comfortably and consistently.

A double drive wheel uses pulleys on both the flyer and the bobbin

If you’re not sure what ratio(s) your wheel has available, check with the manufacturer or the vendor, or look it up on this handy and free guide from Spinning Daily. If you don’t see your wheel listed in the guide or don’t know who made your wheel, determining the ratio is really easy. Just note how many times your flyer or bobbin (whichever one of those the drive band goes around) turns for every one complete rotation of the drive wheel. Do this for each of the pulleys on your flyer or bobbin if it has more than one, and make note of what their ratios are for future reference.

As far as I know, the original (folding) Lendrum still has the widest range of ratios available from 5:1 on the bulky flyer to 44:1 on the very fast flyer. In between those is the regular flyer, fast flyer, and the quill head, each with their own available ratios. I have all but the very fast flyer for my Lendrum, and to be completely honest, I hardly ever remember the actual ratio numbers, and I rarely, if ever, aim for a specific number of twists per inch in any yarn that I spin. I focus more on what feels right and looks right for the yarn that I want and use whichever ratio gets me those results while still allowing me to treadle at my normal, comfortable pace.

The Lendrum bulky flyer, regular flyer, fast flyer, and quill head

I do know that the highest flyer ratio that I have available to me for my Lendrum is 17:1 on the fast flyer, and that very often lately it seems that isn’t fast enough for me. I have been considering investing in the very fast flyer assembly to get those higher ratios of 26, 30, 36, 44 to 1. However, the very fast flyer assembly it is a bit of an expense, and I’m not entirely sure how much I would be using it, so I’ve been hoping to try one out for a bit just to see. One of our guild members has offered to let me borrow hers for a while, so I think I might take her up on that. In the meantime, I’m enjoying trying out the 25:1 ratio on the Polonaise. &nbsp

I do have ratios in the 20s and 30s available on the quill head for my Lendrum, but spinning off the tip of a quill (driven spindle) is a much different technique and one that I don’t have much experience with, yet.
That’s it for this morning. I’m off to spin for a bit and later today I’m doing a little local fiber trekking that I’ll be able to tell you about next week. Have a great weekend everyone!

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