Pulleys and whorls and ratios, oh my!

You never know where a second look will lead you


An image of spindles (with whorls) from the Intentional Spinner.

One of the many great things about being the editor of a magazine on a topic that I love is that every time I turn around, I learn something I actually want to know. In working on our latest DVD workshop with Judith MacKenzie (due out this October) I couldn't help but marvel at what a wealth of information she embodies. I am always fascinated where a conversation with Judith takes my understanding of spinning.

One example of this is back in 2008 when I proofread Judith's book, the Intentional Spinner, before it was published. I read a paragraph about wheel mechanics and the term pulley. Like many spinners before me, I had always equated the term for the whorl on a spindle with the wheel system of a spinning wheel. But Judith pointed out that while both share a circular shape, their function is different.

While the whorl on a spindle adds weight and motion (also known as centrifugal force) and by spinning directly inserts twist into the fiber, the wheel on spinning wheel is attached to the bobbin with a drive band creating a pulley system—adding more speed the bigger the difference (or ratio) between the two wheels.


Judith points to the pulley on a wheel in the DVD that accompanies the Intentional Spinner.

And, as happens frequently, reading this little tidbit led to a conversation with Judith and an article in Spin-Off. Our Summer 2011 issue included Judith's article "Is It a Whorl or a Pulley?" in which the paragraph from her book grew into a three-page exploration of history, terminology, and wheel mechanics.

Based on my latest conversations with Judith, I was inspired to take another look at the book and was again impressed with its wealth of knowledge. It is truly a holistic approach to yarn. And while value comes from the broad base of information it covers, I find the true value is where the book takes me. I never know from one time to the next where a provocative sentence or paragraph may lead.

Happy spinning,

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