Tuesday, July 28, 2020

How to measure the length of handspun yarn using a counter app

There are many ways of measuring handspun yarn and I’ve tried most of them.  After a while, I learned that my most favourite method was to very slowly count the number of rotations my yarn swift took to empty a bobbin, (trying not to lose concentration), measure the length of a single loop of washed yarn and then multiply it by the number of rotations of the hank winder.  Inevitably, I would almost always end up losing count when I got into the few hundreds and so I would have to go back later and count every single loop of yarn.  Either way was either very laborious or extremely frustrating.

A few months ago, wollwebfarben posted on Instagram about a turns counter app that she had discovered to count the rotations of her swift. This was a game-changer!  I was so intrigued, I downloaded the free app straight away, played with it for a little while, bought the full version, and then put it away until I had a serious amount of yarn to measure.

Turns Counter on the App Store

It's a very simple and unassuming app, originally designed to calculate the number of turns when winding inductor coil.  I doubt very much that the developer realised just how useful it could be for hand spinners when he programmed it.  The app cleverly uses the phone's built-in magnetic field sensor to detect when a magnet has passed over it and so, with a little creativity, it can be set up to count the rotations of a yarn swift or hank winder.

I recently finished plying 500g of 6ply merino/silk to knit the Camelia cardigan from Refined Knits.

Camelia from Refined Knit

This was the first time I’d used the turns counter in earnest, so there was a little bit of a learning curve, but once I managed to calibrate everything properly, I was ready to go.

Materials needed to measure the length of handspun yarn 

The first thing you need to do is calibrate the turns counter app.  You somehow need to position the arms of your swift or yarn winder so that the ends will pass a few centimetres over your phone or tablet without touching it.  I have a 30-year-old umbrella hank winder, which did the job pretty well.  I was able to lower the main part of the yarn swift so that it sat just above my iPad on the table it was clamped to.

With the magnet well away from the phone or iPad, and the swift in the desired position, touch the zero in the top right to calibrate the device.

My yarn swift’s frame is mostly steel, which makes things interesting...  

My stack of neodymium magnets attach themselves to the swift arms securely, but initially, I found that the app was counting the end of every metal arm as it passed, so I had to experiment a little bit to find the ‘sweet spot’.  I had to spend a good few minutes altering the magnets’ distance from my iPad and increasing the threshold level until it was only counting up when the magnets passed.

If the arm ends of your yarn swift are non-ferrous you would need to either glue a magnet onto there, or wrap some steel wire around the end so that you could attach a neodymium magnet. 

It took a little trial and error, but the moment I got this to happen was very satisfying!

If you look carefully, (and ignore my shaky camera work,) you can see that I’ve got the threshold set to 50.  (All of the functions I’ve used so far come with the basic free app.)

Attach the start of your yarn to the swift using your preferred method.  I like to wrap the end of my yarn around itself several times on the second pass to hold it in place.  As I'd made two loops around the hank winder I used the plus symbol to move the counter onto 2.

Now it’s time to fill my yarn swift in the usual way...

I made this short animated gif of the turns counter in action, but I’ve made a YouTube video where you can see it in a much better resolution.

 I mentioned earlier that I’d bought the full version of the turns counter app.  This was purely because I wanted to be able to take a photo of my yarn on the swift with the turns count on the image. 

I could certainly have managed with the free version, but as I often take days or weeks to see a project through, it helped to quickly record the count in my photos app so that I had a visual reference.

To prepare your handspun yarn for washing, tie it in four places, wrapping the yarn through the middle, in a figure of eight.

Then give your yarn a wash and a rinse.  Soaking it relaxes the yarn and allows the twist to even out and set.  Washing also removes any oils that entered the tops during the blending and combing phase at the mill.  Depending on the fibre, you will probably also find that yarn will have puffed out and so it will probably be thicker and shorter than before its soak.

I tend to just add a splash of shampoo and leave it to soak for a while, then rinse and squeeze off the excess water in a towel.

...Then leave it to hang to dry. Unlike some spinners, I don’t hang a weight on my yarn while it dries as it can prevent it from shrinking and I’d rather it shrank before I knitted it.  I have read that hanging a weight on yarn is advisable if you’re going to weave with it though.

Once it’s completely dry, it’s time to measure the circumference of the hank.  It’s much harder to work out the circumference of an extremely large skein compared to one with much fewer loops

I’ve actually got three hanks to measure - two quite large ones and a small one that is 6 plied from the end of a couple of bobbins.

As all of the yarn was spun and washed in the same way, from the same fibre on the same skein winder, I can use the smaller skein to find out the approximate circumference of all of them.

Pull the hank tight with both hands and lay it down on the floor.  It’s important that you don’t put any tension on the yarn as it’s very easy to stretch it at this stage.

With a tape measure or metre ruler, measure the length of the skein in its relaxed state and double it.

In this case, the circumference of my skein is 2 x 71cm = 142cm.  Of course, the larger skeins would have a slightly larger average circumference as the yarn builds up further away from the central loops as it wraps around the skein winder, but it’s always better to underestimate how much yarn you have.

So the turns app tells me that I have 24 + 395 + 175 = 594 rotations of the yarn swift.

594 rotations x 1.42m = 843.48m

So hopefully I should have enough yarn to knit the Camelia cardigan.  

I like to wind my yarn into a centre-pull ball and attach a handspun yarn label so that I can work out how much yarn I have left over when I've finished my project.

I’m so glad I learned about the turns counter app!  In the past, I would have dithered and procrastinated when it was time to wind off and measure my yarn, but this does my least favourite part of the task for me.

This blog post contains Amazon affiliate links to similar products that I purchased myself. If you click through and purchase, I will receive a very small percentage of the purchase price.

If you enjoyed this DIY, you might enjoy some of my other spinning themed blog posts -

Free Handspun

Spinning Dog Hair

DIY Hackle

3D Printed Modular
Yarn gauge reference tool for hand spinners

Please be sweet and share the love. Leave a comment, like my Facebook page for regular updates or follow me on Pinterest,  Blogovin' or Instagram

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Modular and Universal, 3D-Printed Lazy Kate

For the last 6 months, I’ve been intermittently spinning some silk and merino top on my Electric Eel Wheel Nano.

The Nano is perfect for spinning fine singles and somehow I’m unintentionally spinning the finest yarn I’ve ever spun. Many, many spinners that have spun on the Nano for a while observe that it wants to spin fine - which, for me, is ideal as I much prefer the look of a yarn with 3 or more plies.

Copyright - Refined Knits by Jennifer Wood 2016

I want to knit the Camelia cardigan from Refined Knits, which is made in a double knit yarn, and, after swatching, I’ve learned that I’ll have to make a 6ply yarn with my singles to achieve the correct gauge.

6 Nano bobbins averaging 70g on each

If you’ve ever plied a 6 ply yarn, you will know that the two main difficulties are finding a lazy Kate (or Kates) that will do the job, and keeping all 6 singles under control so that they don’t twist up on themselves while you’re plying.  Plying from Nano bobbins adds an extra level of difficulty as they’re so small and light that they turn a little too easily.  If you’re not careful, it’s very easy to end up with a hot mess of tangled, pig-tailing yarn.

I have a few options for a lazy Kate, but none that are designed for a 6-ply yarn, so it would mean combining horizontal and vertical lazy Kates to achieve the double knit gauge yarn I want - something that is highly likely to end in disaster with 6 bobbins of very fine, heavily twisted singles!  Ideally, I'd also like a lazy Kate that's as portable as the Nano.

I love it when my passion for craft complements my husband’s obsession with technology and so I’m very lucky that we have a 3D printer at home to play and experiment with.  There are modular, 3D printed lazy Kates on Thingiverse, but I really wanted to design one that was small enough to complement the Nano bobbins, but at the same time, versatile enough to fit my much larger Hansen Minispinner bobbins.  I also wanted to design a lazy Kate that held the bobbins at a 45-degree angle as this often eliminates the need to add a tensioning system.

Copyright - I have provided the free lazy Kate stl files for personal use.  Make them for yourself or give them as gifts to your spinning friends, but please do not sell them for profit.  
If you post images of your own versions on the internet, please link back to this page. 
Thank you, Kathryn

Materials needed to make a 3D printed Lazy Kate for 6 Nano bobbins 

It’s been through a few iterations, but here is my finished modular lazy Kate.

The front 6 rods hold the bobbins at a 45-degree angle away from the spinner, adding tension to the bobbins to reduce the risk of them spinning freely...

... while the rear two rods sit parallel to the floor to stabilise the lazy Kate

I cut the rods to length with a hacksaw and then sanded them to give them a brushed steel finish.  I also sanded the ends to get rid of any sharp edges.  For a 6 bobbin Nano lazy Kate I used 6 x 5mm rods cut to 17cm long and 2 x 5mm rods cut to 23cm.  The second set of stabilising rods are cut unnecessarily long so that they can be swapped out when I want to use the lazy Kate for my larger Hansen Minispinner bobbins.

It breaks down into quite a small group of parts, which would be perfect for stashing in a small bag and taking away on holiday.

I originally designed it to fit 6 Nano bobbins, but of course, as the pieces jigsaw together, you can add more, or take some away depending on your project.
I added sideways slots in the hope that they could be used to hold a tensioning band.  Unfortunately, this doesn't work as I intended, but I kept them in because the slots could be used to thread cord through if you wanted to connect your pieces together more securely while you carry them around the house.

As it’s modular, rods can be removed, allowing the lazy Kate to be used with very large Hansen Minispinner bobbins.

In the case of larger bobbins, you can swap the rods over so that the longer rods are holding the bobbins and the shorter ones are supporting it on the floor.

After I’d tried plying using my Hansen bobbins, I added shafts to the base of the rods to raise the bobbins slightly to prevent them from dragging on the metal as they turned. This also makes plying from 6 Nano bobbins a little quieter and smoother too.

In the past, I've always preferred to knit from a centre-pull ball, but I find it’s very easy to get in a mess when I’m coming to the end of a very large centre-pull ball as the sides start to collapse in. I’ve also heard that it’s better for your ball to move around as you remove the yarn, because if the ball doesn’t rotate, excess twist will enter the yarn as you pull it off.

As I had the bases and the rods, all I needed to do was add discs that sit freely on the base of the rods and I'd made a rotating ball holder.  I'll be really interested to try these out the next time I knit ‘two at a time socks’.

I just love how my lazy Kate complements my two favourite spinning wheels and their bobbins.  It's compact enough to travel around with my Nano, but versatile enough to hold its own with the Hansen.

And it really does break down small enough for travel.

I've made a little video to accompany this post to demonstrate plying using my 3D printed lazy Kate.

Copyright - I have provided the free lazy Kate stl files for personal use.  Make them for yourself or give them as gifts to your spinning friends, but please do not sell them for profit.  
If you post images of your own versions on the internet, please link back to this page. 
Thank you, Kathryn

Recommended Posts

Electric Eel Wheel Nano Modifications

How to Measure Handspun Yarn Using an App

Free Handspun
Yarn Labels

Spinning Dog Hair

DIY Hackle

Yarn gauge reference tool for hand spinners

Please be sweet and share the love. Leave a comment, like my Facebook page for regular updates or follow me on Pinterest,  Blogovin' or Instagram

Friday, April 10, 2020

Hama Bead Rainbow

As I write this, we're nearly three weeks into the coronavirus lockdown. Within a week of being told to stay at home to stop the spread of the illness, I heard about children all over the world painting rainbows to display in their windows to lift people's spirits and to spread a little bit of joy and hope. I love this idea, as what could be more joyful than a big beautiful rainbow, helping isolated families connect with the outside world?

It's rare for us all to craft together as a family, but when time is no longer at a premium, making a colourful, Hama bead rainbow together is the perfect calming, mindfulness activity that acts as a distraction from all the uncertainty everybody is facing at the moment.

My daughter and I love Hama beads, so I have managed to build up quite a large collection over the years.  (If there's any time that I'm thankful for my many crafting hobbies and crafting supplies, it's now!)

The main reason I have so many Hama beads is that they were a very popular creative activity at my daughter's Minecraft themed birthday parties.  There is something very joyful about these tiny little pieces of colourful melty plastic that make them the perfect relaxing family activity in these times too.

Making a Hama Bead Rainbow to hang in the window.

Materials needed

I used the Procreate app to draw a simple rainbow sitting on clouds.  I then put this image through the PhotoPearls app to convert it to a Hama bead graph.

This was my first time using PhotoPearls and I was initially a little disappointed that the biggest image it would allow me to make was only three large Hama bead boards across.  However, having made it, it turned out to be a good-sized project that the three of us could all enjoy creating together, and see it finished in a couple of hours.  I love the dithering I got from using the Photopearls app. This allowed us to use a wider range of colours so that we didn't run out of one particular colour.

To make it a little easier to see, I added a graph overlay to the PhotoPearls image.

There are many different types of fuse beads available.  In the UK, Hama beads seem to be the most popular, while in the US, Perler beads seem to be more prominent.  There are also Artkal beads as well as Pyssla from Ikea and other generic brands.  Thankfully, all of these beads are the same size and can be used together to give a much wider colour palette.  As we're in lockdown, I'm only using the Hama beads that I have in the house.   

When I held the Minecraft birthday parties I bought 6 transparent beading boards from Flying Tiger, which are bigger and a lot more affordable than the Hama ones.  Also, being transparent you can place your image underneath and work straight from that.  If you use a different brand of clear beading board you will need to rearrange the printouts to fit.

Cut out the 6 sections of rainbow. (Unfortunately my printer cartridge ran out mid-print and so indigo came out as grey.)

Use double-sided sticky tape to attach the bead patterns to the backs of the transparent pegboards.

Then spend a happy hour or so placing fuse beads onto your pegboards.

We didn’t stick rigidly to the designated colours on the print outs, using 2 or 3 bead colours for each colour of the rainbow.  As it was a family project, our daughter took the lead with the colour choices and we followed.  One of her favourite facts is that a rainbow is made up of an infinite spectrum of colours rather than just 7, (she loves to tell people that Sir Isaac Newton dictated the colours, purely because 7 was his favourite number) so she didn’t want to do obvious stripes of colour.

I store my Hama bead collection in these little boxes.  When there are a few of you working with them, they are the perfect size to store individual colours, but also pass around for a group project.  It worked really well, letting our daughter take the lead as it meant that we were all working at different stages and so on our own individual boxes.

You can read more about my Hama bead storage here.

Once all of the beads are in place, melt the beads together following the instructions.

If I’m making a large piece that spans across more than one board, I like to iron each board separately and remove the sections from the board when I know that the beads are bonded together, rather than iron the whole thing as one big piece and risk missing beads.

To bond the sections of the rainbow together, place the individual pieces back onto the pegboard so that two corresponding edges meet in the centre of the board.  Press them down firmly so that the bead holes click back onto the pegs.  The edges may have lifted slightly, but this curl will disappear when the sections are fused together.

Place the ironing paper back over the pieces and iron the join until you can see that the beads have fused together.  Repeat until you’ve joined all of the rainbow pieces together in this way.

Then stand back and admire your joyful rainbow!

If you’re going to hang it in the window, you need to reinforce it to prevent it sagging.  You could iron the top side to stiffen it up, but I much prefer the look of the unfused top.

I found a hollow brass rod to attach to the back of my rainbow, but lollipop sticks or plant sticks would work just as well.  I initially attached the rod with hot glue, but apparently hot glue and a south facing window on a sunny day don’t mix!  Within an hour the rod had fallen off and the hot glue was a melty stringy mess.  I reattached my rod with two-part epoxy glue and it’s holding up well a week later.

Thread a knotted loop of clear nylon fishing line through two holes on either side of the top of the rainbow...

... and hang it in the window.

I’m so looking forward to the day when we can go for a stroll in our neighbourhood and count all the rainbows hanging in the windows.

If you liked this post please take a look at -

How to convert a photo to create a Hama bead portrait

Ideas for a Minecraft Party

Hama Bead Storage Idea

Hama Bead Christmas Wreath Card


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