Unwinding Linen

Handwoven Magazine Ask Madelyn


It was recently suggested to a meeting of linen weavers I attended that one should unwind linen on tubes from a horizontal direction. The person speaking said that if it is unwound from a vertical position, it actually unspins itself. I have a big 3 lb. cone of 8/1 linen and lots of misc. cones and tubes that I'm looking forward to using, but I don't have any spool holder for placing cones or tubes horizontally. So I am wondering what you would say?

––Sally Scott

Hi Sally!

It is true that if you unwind from a yarn package (cone or spool) with the package on a horizontal spindle of some kind that you won’t be adding or subtracting twist to the yarn as it unwinds. Twist will be added or subtracted if you pull the yarn off the end of a tube or cone. This isn’t a big deal for plied linens (or most of the yarns we use), but it can matter for a singles yarn. You might be adding (or subtracting) twist to that 8/1 linen (depending on the direction the yarn is spun), which might not be bad, but it still might be better for it to rotate on a horizontal axle.

This is actually pretty easy to rig up without a spool rack. You can get a plastic file-type box with holes in it or use a shoe box and stick a rod (can even be an unwound wire hanger if you’ve nothing else) through it so it is horizontal and put tubes on that (or even a cone, though you’ll have to figure out how to make it unwind smoothly). There’s a cool photo of Janet Dawson’s setup for this  in the Nov/Dec 2007 issue of Handwoven, page 30.


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