What in the Whorl?

We asked Stephanie Flynn Sokolov, a member of Schacht Spindle’s Spinzilla team and author of  their monthly Yearning To Spin column, to stop by the Spinzilla blog to talk a bit about a spinner’s secret weapon—the whorl.

Last night at my local spin-in at least three Spinzilla teams were represented. Maggie Casey Team Captain of Shuttles, Spindles and Skeins and owner of my LYS, offered to host a couple prep nights before the main event. We talked a lot about fiber, but what about the tools we are going to use?


Whorls (or pulleys)—a spinner’s secret weapon!

The wheels, my friends, the wheels—the secret weapons that no one is talking about is their equipment! It’s not just about the wheels, it’s about the whorls (or pulleys). During a friendly competition such as this, your whorl can be your ace in the hole. Yep, it is not about your poker face while spinning your BFL, it is all about speed my sisters and brothers.

The smaller your little whorl, the faster your flyer will spin. This is assuming you have a wheel set up in Scotch tension or double drive. If you have a bobbin lead wheel, you will need to treadle faster.

Size does matter in this battle. The smaller the whorl (or pulley) the faster the flyer turns, but this is not the only force acting on my little spinning partner the flyer. Drive wheel size is also a factor (BTW: I’m not the only one who may brag about the size of their drive wheels?) These two forces, whorl size and drive wheel size, working in combination determines how fast you can add twist. If you treadle at the same speed and increase the size of your drive wheel the flyer will spin faster.

Heed the speed

A large drive wheel will satisfy your need for speed!  Shown here is a 30-inch Schacht Reeves.

A large drive wheel will satisfy your need for speed! Shown here is a 30-inch Schacht Reeves.

All this speed is great if you can handle it. If you are new to spinning this can be a losing hand. The trick to spinning a good yarn is in choosing the most comfortable speed for your hands and feet to work in harmony together.

What is a good yarn? If you plan on entering a contest that is judged, there are rules and guidelines that will tell you what is a “good” yarn per their standards. Most of us when spinning at home don’t have these written guidelines. The question becomes, can you spin the yarn you want?

As a teacher, my goal is to watch each student carefully and offer suggestions so they can progress to spinning a the yarn they want. Much of what I do is trouble shooting, and much of that trouble shooting involves adjusting how the twist enters the yarn. A fine yarn needs much more twist than a fat yarn. You can set up your tools to do this work for you.

If you are trying to spin a fat yarn, increase the take-up tension on the bobbin and decrease the speed of your flyer by increasing the size of the whorl. The opposite is true for a fine yarn, decrease the tension on the bobbin and decrease the size of your whorl. This allows more time for the extra twist to enter the yarn before being fed onto the bobbin.

As you prep for Spinzilla, take the time to warm up your wheel and choose your whorl carefully. Who knows, the Golden Niddy Noddy may be yours this year!

Stephanie Flynn Sokolov

StephanieStephanie is the co-author of  Woven Scarves: 26 Inspired Designs on a Rigid Heddle recently published by Interweave. Stephanie teaches spinning and weaving classes locally and nationally. She lives in Boulder, CO.



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