Wednesday, November 01, 2023

Rotating Distaff and Yarn Holder using the Kumikreator

Over the last few weeks I’ve been designing myself a rotating distaff using kumihimo cord, a 3D printed disk, and a rotating lobster clasp.  Most spinners are able to hold their arms up while drop spinning, but I need something to hold my fibre away from the drop spindle that will allow me to spin with both of my arms at waist level.  My aim is to make some kind of device that will hang off my elbow, and hold the fibre away from my drop spindle while I walk in my local park and spin.  

I would also love to be able to use my rotating distaff to hold my yarn supply while I knit.  

As much as I know how good it is for my mental health to get outside and walk in nature, I frequently struggle to motivate myself to go out in the country park that's right behind my house as I find walking painful.  The wonderful thing is, if I’m knitting or spinning while I walk, I don’t notice the pain quite so much.

I made myself a little ‘spinster’s reticule’ to keep my fibre or yarn in while I walk.  It’s great, but occasionally the ball doesn’t unravel cleanly, or the fibre breaks when I’m trying to pull it out of the bag.  I’ve come to the conclusion that I need something that will rotate while I pull fibre or yarn off it so that I do not constantly have to manage my fibre supply or ball of yarn.

My original kumihimo cord for my first distaff was made on a kumihimo disk out of handspun yarn.  Unfortunately, I found that the merino wool yarn, that I used originally, was a little bit too grippy for holding fibre and it didn’t come off as cleanly as I would like.  I needed to make it again using a smoother, shinier thread or string.  As much as I enjoy the slow, mindful craft of kumihimo, when I learned there was a child's mechanical kumihimo toy, I couldn't resist buying one to play and experiment with.  

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Materials used to make a rotating distaff using the Kumikreator 

(I will show how to make a similar kumihimo distaff using a kumihimo disk in my next blog post.)

The Kumikreator makes a standard 8-string kumihimo braid.  I've always loved peacock colours so I filled the Kumikreator bobbins with two strands each of black, blue, purple, and green.  The distaff uses two cords and so I filled the 8 bobbins twice.

Here’s the layout of the bobbins on the Kumikreator.

You can see that I’ve knotted the threads together before attaching them to the white tension arm.  I’ve tightened the threads on the bobbins and the knot is sitting as low as possible so that the weaving begins as close to the knot as possible.

I then wind the Kumikreator as usual.

When the first bobbin runs out I pull the cord from the remaining bobbins and knot it to prevent it from unravelling.

I repeated the whole process again so that I had one cord to hold the fibre and a second cord to hang off my elbow.

I folded one of the cords in half and attached it to the rotating lobster clasp using a lark’s head knot or cow hitch.

I then threaded both ends of the cord through the hole in the 3D-printed disk and knotted them together temporarily to hold the disk in place.  I haven’t quite decided how long I want my distaff to be, so this will do for now.  (In my next post I’ll show an alternative solution for the disk if you haven’t got access to a 3D printer.)

I then moved on to the second kumihimo cord.  I want the distaff to hang loosely off my elbow so I placed a knot to mark the circumference of the widest part of my arm.

To allow me to cut the cord without it unraveling I ran a few stitches through with a needle and thread and then wrapped the thread around tightly to hold everything in place.  I passed the needle and thread through a few more times to secure it before cutting it close to the cord.

I covered the thread ends in epoxy glue and left it to cure overnight.  This allowed me to cut the cords at the very end of the threads.

I mixed a little more epoxy and covered the inside of a pair of end caps with glue.  I also added a good amount of glue to the very tips of the cords and inserted them both into the end caps.  This glue takes a couple of hours to cure properly.

Once the end caps were secure I used a pair of pliers to open a large 12mm jump ring sideways and joined the two ends together.

I then just had to clip my lobster clasp onto the jump ring and my distaff was ready to try out.

I prepared this fibre on my homemade hackle.

To attach the fibre to the distaff I insert the end between the two cords and then start rotating the cords below the lobster clasp.  I like to hang it off a door handle to load the distaff.

I found that the fibre came off more easily (and the distaff rotated better) if I wrapped it around quite loosely.

I think I like the distaff this length, but I need to try it properly to be sure.  It’s holding just 10g of fibre here, but I’m quite a slow drop spinner.  This will definitely be enough for a half an hour stroll around the country park.

Using the Rotating Distaff to Hold Yarn

My rotating distaff works equally well as a yarn holder that hangs off my elbow so that I can walk and knit at the same time.

I tried 3 different ball types but of course, I need to be able to pass the distaff cord through the centre of all of them.

The yarn cake ball worked pretty well but I needed to wrap the ball winder cone with folded paper or card so that the centre of the ball didn’t collapse in on itself.

The nostepinne-style ball worked really well and it pulled off pretty well without too many hang-ups.

Finally, this commercial, nostepinne-style ball probably worked best of all.  I wonder if it’s because the yarn is wound on quite loosely but the distaff rotated smoothly and gave me a lovely supply of yarn to knit with while I walk without the frustration of having to adjust my yarn at all.

I’m going to carry on playing with my rotating distaff to work out my favourite ways of using it.  Hopefully, this might be useful if you're a spinner or knitter looking for an alternative way of managing your fibre or yarn supply.

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knitogether said...

What is your alternative solution for those of us who don’t have access to a 3D printer? Thank you! Really useful post!

Kathryn - Craftmehappy said...

You could use any small, lightweight disc with a hole cut into the centre. A Pringles lid or a disc of cardboard would work. My alternative solution was to make a round disc out of Hama beads. I will eventually finish the blog post I mentioned, I just got a little distracted…