What Is Irish Tension? Is It Even Irish?

Irish tension is a single-drive tension system often referred to as bobbin lead. “Bobbin lead” means that the bobbin turns faster than the flyer as the yarn winds on. The drive band wraps around the drive wheel and the bobbin with its built-in whorl, rotating the bobbin. The brake band, often made of leather, fits over the flyer. A small knob attached to the brake band makes minor adjustments to the take-up or wind-on tension. Tightening this knob increases the pull; loosening it reduces it.

Irish Tension

Photos by Joe Coca.

When spinning on an Irish tension drive system, you will notice that the take-up is very strong. With the strong pull of the wheel, you will find it easier to spin bulkier yarn (and more difficult to spin fine yarn without some tricks).

No, Irish tension isn’t a drive system from Ireland, just as Scotch tension didn’t come from Scotland. There is no evidence that it was developed in Ireland. Oh well . . . but since it is St. Patrick’s Day, let’s pretend! Today we’re all Irish.

Learn more about different types of spinning wheels!


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