Tuesday, October 9, 2012

A few thoughts on the Hansen miniSpinner

So I have been the proud owner of a Hansen miniSpinner for just over two weeks now. In that time, I've done my best to put the beast through some of it's paces. Here's the result:
miniSpinner output, round 1
I've done four different fiber types: BFL, Wensleydale, a mixed wool sample that came with the miniSpinner, and Targhee. The final yarns are 2- and 3-plied (no chain plying yet - the thought gives me hives!). My feelings about the miniSpinner are overall positive, but the learning curve is a bit slower then I was expecting.

First off, I'm finding it hard to adjust to a constant rate of twist insertion, to be honest. I think that, on the Lendrum, I unconsciously adjust my treadling speed as needed to get the single/plying twist that "feels right". With the constant speed of the miniSpinner, I'm finding that I'm undertwisting my singles (although that's gotten a lot better) and definitely underplying! Fresh off the Lendrum I get skeins that twist anywhere from 0.5-2 times when hanging free, and they usually end up balanced after finishing. Now I'm getting skeins that are balanced straight off the bobbin, and underspun after finishing. This is something that I'm sure will get better with time as I adjust to the  miniSpinner.

The other thing I was expecting was that the miniSpinner was going to dramatically improve my rate of production. Ummm...not so much: I'm definitely faster on the Lendrum then on the miniSpinner. Again, this is something I think will change as I get used to it, and get a better feel for where I should set the speed for spinning and/or plying, but it's not happening as quickly as I was imagining. So I guess I can't be all production spinning quite yet!

Low down on the yarns - Round 1: I had some tail ends of Leaf Peepers BFL lying around, so I spun them on the mS and compared the resulting 2-ply with the 2-ply leftovers from the first batch. Lendrum-spun:
Leaf Peepers BFL
Leaf Peepers BFL
Leaf Peepers BFL
Leaf Peepers BFL
I think you can see the difference in the two, right? They were both spun worsted-style, from combed top, and finished the same way. The mS-yarn is both overspun and looser and fluffier then the Lendrum-yarn. And much less even - you can see that my drafting is not a smooth on the mS as the Lendrum (i.e. overspun sections next to poofy, underspun bits).
Salamander Wensleydale
Salamander Wensleydale
Round 2: This is some Salamander Wensleydale that I've spun up as a gift. Again, much more underplied (and underspun) then my usual, but with a long staple length like Wensleydale, this makes for a lovely, soft, drapey yarn, so this one is a win.

Round 3: there was a teensy puff of lovely greyish pinkish fiber included with the miniSpinner, so I spun that up next. I didn't think too much about what to do with it, just threw it at the wheel (spinner?) and waited to see what came out.
miniSpinnner sample
Again, lower twist singles, lower twist plying makes for squishy poofy yarn. Nice, but not my usual default spin by a long shot!

Round 4:
Golgi Targhee 3-ply
3-ply Golgi Targhee - this is one of the colorway experiments I did before starting up Porpoise Fur, and it's been languishing in the stash ever since. I thought it might make a nice neutral cowl for a Christmas present, so I decided to spin up my default single (~30 wpi) and see if I could get a bulky 3-ply.
Golgi Targhee 3-ply
This varies from bulky to worsted - the Targhee poof factor has not failed me! And since I'm getting less twist in there, I don't have many of the overtwisted bits that I ended up with the last time I spun Targhee. Still not the most even drafting you've ever seen, but it should be ok when knitted up. I'll have to see if I can get this cast on ASAP.

The verdict is still out on the WooLee Winder - I like not having to stop and change hooks, but it alters the take-up in a way that I'm still getting used to, and I'm not sure I really like... But all in all, the miniSpinner is a big win. If you'll excuse me, I'll go off and finish up Round 5: Southdown!

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