If you have never heard of cross-lacing your flyer, you are not alone. I was in the dark for a long time, seeing photos of cross-laced flyers on Instagram and thinking it was just a cool technique for photographing a spin in-progress.
I wasn’t totally wrong – yes, it looks neat and super technical when photographed but it actually is a thing. It actually does serve a purpose! As a new spinner, I didn’t know anything about this but through discussions with more experienced spinners and trialing things on my own, I soon learned that cross-lacing helps my tension while spinning immensely!
First, cross-lacing involves pulling your singles from the bobbin and wrapping it first over the opposing flyer arm before placing it in your guide and through the orifice.
When I still owned my Hansen miniSpinner, I began cross-lacing because I could never get the uptake quite right. Cross-lacing helps to alleviate some of that tensioning difficulty that is sometimes noticed on certain wheels. I often have trouble with not enough uptake but after adjusting my brake band tension, I have too much. Generally, I’m talking about a millimeter or less of movement on my brake band. It sounds ridiculously finicky but when I am spinning larger projects, sometimes this is the make or break for the enjoyment of a project. By cross-lacing, I am creating a second place that creates a bit of resistance on the singles and therefore negating the need to increase my uptake slightly.
I particularly like cross-lacing when I am spinning in double drive. The smaller the whorl in double drive, the more difficult it is to tension properly due to the similar radius between the bobbin whorl and flyer whorl. For more on double drive, Alden Amos’ book Big Book of Handspinning is a good reference, although incredibly technical. This general information guide about spinning wheels from the Woolery has some useful information about double drive as well. Because I tend to tension my Matchless only in double drive, I have found cross-lacing to be extremely helpful. In double drive, I generally like the drive band at a tension that allows me to wind the singles onto the bobbin at equal tension to pulling it off the bobbin. Achieving more accuracy than that is sometimes difficult so cross-lacing gives me that small amount of added to tension to assist me while spinning, particularly when I am spinning long draw and need a slightly higher uptake* than usual.
*This is a personal preference when I am spinning long draw and discussed that here.
An unexpected aspect of cross-lacing is the even fill of the bobbin. While I started cross-lacing for the effects on tensioning, I continued for the amount of fibre I could fit on my bobbins due to the even filling. The singles moves naturally over the length of flyer arm you’ve cross-laced but is guided by your guide on the opposing arm so it doesn’t run the full gamete of your flyer arm. Instead, it moves evenly over a smaller portion of your flyer arm and therefore bobbin.
Think about the even filling of a sewing machine bobbin – same thing! I have personally found I can fill my bobbins will about 0.5 – 1 ounce more than when I don’t cross-lace. That doesn’t sound like a whole lot but when spinning for a larger project, it might be the difference between that last bobbin or not! Plying 8 bobbins instead of 9 at the end of a project is a big difference, particularly if it’s a 2-ply!
Rarely do I cross-lace when I am plying; however, I did this weekend for the first time in a long time. In an effort to ply the remaining three bobbins and knowing I had lots of singles on them, I decided to pull out my jumbo flyer and bobbin for the Matchless. I haven’t used this a lot but I enjoy it when I do. In this case, I had a faster whorl (15:1) going on the jumbo and I just couldn’t get the tension quite right. I ended up cross-lacing and found it to help immensely. After I had pulled my first bobbin of plied yarn off, you can see I had barely dented into my bobbins! I decided to keep cross-lacing to fill my jumbo as much as possible since I have quite a bit of plying left to do.
Do you cross-lace? What have your experiences been with tension and spinning larger quantities of fibre?