Thursday, November 05, 2020

Testing the Target length setting on the Electric Eel Wheel Yarn Counter

I was asked by Maurice Ribble, of Dreaming Robots, to test out a prototype of the Electric Eel Wheel Yarn counter - an electronic device designed to measure the length of yarn.  

I wrote a blog post about its capabilities, but the more I experimented with it, the more I thought of ways that having the ability to measure and divide up yarn could really come in handy:-

Using the Yarn Counter to divide for graduated sweaters

Having played with the yarn counter now, I can think of a couple of instances in the past, where having the ability to measure my yarn would have saved me a significant amount of time and head-scratching.

A few years ago, I spun and knitted the yarn for this gradient sweater.  The fibre was purchased as two identical gradient packs from Hilltop Cloud and they came as 10 different shades, gradually fading from teal/blue to green.  I had just enough fibre to knit the whole sweater and so I needed to let the fibre dictate where the colours changed.

The pattern was Jewel Lake Pullover which is knitted in the round, from the top-down, with a seamless construction.  I wanted the sleeves to have exactly the same graduation of colour as the body, while using the different colours of yarn as efficiently as possible.  This meant that I had to divide each yarn colour into three sections in such a way that I would have the same number of rows of each colour on both the body and the sleeves.

If I’d had a yarn counter back then it would have saved me a significant amount of time and effort as I could have worked out the length of yarn that I needed of each colour, instead of repeatedly winding and weighing as I had to do in this instance.

Testing the Target length setting

I had an idea for testing the target length setting on the yarn counter, which would also demonstrate an interesting application for the counter, that could come in very handy for many spinners...

 A frequent problem that new spinners come across is:- 

You’ve spent several relaxing hours spinning a full bobbin, using up all of your precious fibre, only to realise that you need another matching bobbin full of fibre to ply it with.  An experienced spinner would chain ply it or spin a two ply by plying the beginning with the end using their favourite method.  Both of these techniques would result in zero singles left over, but also require a little practice and experience.

I wondered if you could use the yarn counter to split your singles exactly, onto as many bobbins as you wanted, and then ply those singles to get zero wastage at the end?

I made a video of this test if you’d like to take a look -

I had an almost full bobbin of fine singles that I’d spun a few months ago.  It was measuring about 35 WPI and so I set the yarn counter for 30WPI and started winding.

Unfortunately, my umbrella swift started to tighten as it filled, so I knew that my measurement by hand would not be accurate.  Never mind, I carried on trying to calculate the length and I worked out that my yarn measured (283 revolutions of the swift x about 1.36m circumference) approximately 385m.  The yarn counter had a readout of 394.

I wasn't happy with either of my figures as there had clearly been too much tension added.  Maybe the yarn had been too tightly packed onto the original bobbin, but my swift was flexing in a way I hadn't seen before, so I decided to remeasure...

I got these Bobbins Up storage bobbins a few years ago when I backed the Kickstarter for the Electric Eel Wheel 5.  They came with an insert that allows you to fill them by attaching them to a power drill.  I’ve never used this functionality before, but this was the perfect time to try it.

It's a great way of filling a bobbin without adding twist.  Wow!  I can see myself using these a lot more! 

This time, the yarn counter gave me a readout of 387metres and I was much happier that I hadn't added too much tension this time.

I decided that I was going to divide the 387 metres into 5 separate balls as it is very difficult to spin a 5 ply yarn from one bobbin. I also wanted a few plies as I wanted to see how much of a length variation I got between them.

I set the target length to 77m...

... and started winding my singles into 5 balls, with the yarn counter buzzing when it had measured 77m.

Here are my 5 balls, with (hopefully) 77m on them.  Well, I make all the mistakes so that you don’t have to...  It really was not a good idea to wind my singles into centre pull balls for plying.  I got in such a mess!  It would have been much better to wind my 5 singles onto storage bobbins so that I could keep them under control on a lazy Kate.

Never mind, after a lot of stopping, starting, and untangling, I managed to ply all 5 singles, with the last ply finishing just 1.5metres after the first one ran out.

I’m really pleased with that.  It means that there was a discrepancy of just 2%.  Given the struggle I had with plying, I think that’s very impressive.

So here’s the 5 ply yarn that I spun -

I can definitely see myself dividing my singles up like this in the future. It opens up a lot more possibilities...


I have another idea for how the yarn counter could be used to make certain knitting tasks easier, but I'll save that for another blog post...

At this point, I normally suggest similar related blog posts, however, my list of spinning-related content is becoming a little unmanageable...  If you'd like to read more blog posts about spinning and fibre preparation, please take a look at this page here where you will find links to all of my spinning and fibre articles.  

Thank you for reading, and happy spinning! 

If you've enjoyed this blog post, you might be interested in some of my other spinning related posts - 

The Evolution of the Electric Eel Wheel

How to Make an Extreme Knitting Yarn
Using the Electric Eel Wheel Yarn Counter

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