05 December 2010

A one-bobbin solution for antique spinning wheels

I have no shortage of wheels (blush) but I wanted to come up with a solution to the 'one bobbin problem' that did not entail winding off from the antique one-bobbin wheel to one of the bobbins for my other wheels and then plying from there.
Translation for non-spinners: Most wheels have multiple bobbins, so you fill one, then take it off and put a different one on, fill that, then put the 2 full bobbins on something called a “Lazy Kate” – no, I don’t know why it’s called that – which holds them steady as you take the 2 single strands of yarn from the full bobbins and ply them together onto yet another bobbin to make 2 ply balanced yarn. If you have only one bobbin (most antique wheels have just the one), you have to put the first batch of single ply yarn ... well, somewhere … while you make the second batch, and then you need both batches of singles to be conveniently unwinding themselves as you twist them together into a balanced yarn. This is the One Bobbin Problem.
So ... I offer *The Lazy Fred* for your consideration.

First of all, it's called a Lazy Fred because although it is *like* a Lazy Kate, it doesn't hold regular bobbins - it's different. And since my wheel's a (presumed) Fred Bordua wheel, and this solution is particularly for the antique wheel crowd, I thought of it as a Lazy Fred. Just kinda stuck in my head that way. :)
Anyway - here's what it looks like:
Those are sorta-bobbins: a piece of dowelling with a wheel affixed partway up the shaft, much like a drop spindle. It's not hollow though, because the idea is that you can attach it directly to your handy dandy drill (you *do* have a drill, right? if you don't, you need one anyway, so quick, go get one!) by just inserting the end of the dowelling into the chuck, like it was a drill bit:

I put one leg up on my spinning chair, rested the drill on my knee, and used my left hand to guide the singles coming off the bobbin so that they went up and down along the length of the bobbin shaft. The wheel at the far end keeps you from going too far in that direction, and you're obviously smart enough not to get too close to the business end of the drill itself. :)

To ply, you place the Fred right beside you on the floor: the yarn comes off the tops of the cones, rather than the sorta-bobbins spinning around and unwinding, as on a normal Kate; or put it in a shoebox Kate and let it unwind from the side.

Construction details, for those who are interested - the bobbins are pretty obvious: the dowelling is a tight fit so some sanding of the end where the wheel goes is needed to get it to slide into place. A bit of wood glue holds them in their final positions.

The base is a piece of leftover wood from my floor installation, actually - I drilled six holes, just a wee bit larger than the dowelling I used, and put those 'feet' that you can nail onto the bottom of your chair legs to help them slide over the floor at each corner. This raises the board up off the floor a bit, allowing the dowels to drop through far enough that they are stable. Any kind of feet would do - you need about a centimeter of clearance below the board for the dowels to stick through, perhaps a little more if you plan to use it on carpet.

Everything was stained with Watco Dark Walnut and given 2 coats of tung oil - and that's all there is to it!
Hopefully this idea is useful to someone else! If you need one and you haven't got the necessary equipment etc to build your own, I've got a handy 15 year old who's always looking for a new revenue generating opportunity …


  1. Anonymous9:23 pm

    reWell that's a cool invention! Glad you are enjoying the spinning!

  2. Anonymous5:57 am

    What a great idea! I especially like the creative use of a power tool. Way to mix the modern and antique! Big fan of the blog, read it on my google reader as soon as you post something new. Hope you have a happy holiday, Elizabeth

  3. Anonymous9:18 pm

    Pure genius! Love the name "Lazy Fred". Cathy E from Morinville aka armydentalchick on Ravelry

  4. AWESOME! I've been very frustrated with my antique one bobbin wonder. I will definitely try this. Thank you!

  5. Anonymous6:17 pm

    Thank you Thank you!! i just got an antique wheel, one bobbin of course. i am trying to convince a friend to make bobbins for me. in the mean time your cool invention will be put to use. I am a power tool fan too. so puurrrffect!!

  6. After using this for some time, I have come to the conclusion that a horizontal kate would work better (less tangling) - so if you can get a box that the bobbins will fit in on their sides, that may be a better plying system.

    The bobbins themselves work great, and they are certainly the right price!

    If you are a weaver, you may also look into using weaving bobbins (for pirns) and a bobbin winder - that's a very similar solution and if you already use shuttles that take bobbins, well, then you're able to multipurpose your tools!


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