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



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