Thursday, September 1, 2011
More often than not I use two distinct shapes of a cop. The first is a "cone" shape. This is the shape I started using from my very first class in spinning. It seemed logical. Start winding on with each strand aligned with the next, up and down the spindle. It ends up getting fatter at the end next to the whorl because on that end the strands won't fall off each other. It tapers towards the other end because that is the only way to keep the whole thing stable. The yarn pictured to the right is the second yarn I ever spun, made from roving that I pre-drafted to width and then simply added twist and wound onto the spindle.
The benefit of winding in a parallel manner is that since all the strands run the same direction, they snug down against each other to create a very dense cop without much air in it. The downside is that you are limited by the width of your whorl. Once your cop reaches that width it becomes increasingly difficult, if not impossible, to keep winding on. The yarn will no longer stay in the handy notch carved into the whorl and this can cause all sorts of "fun" problems with yarn flying about. Another weakness is that it is possible to develop loose loops at the bottom of the cop that want to spiral undone down the shaft.
My preferred solution to these problems is cross-winding. You cross wind by spiraling your single (or plied yarn) up and down the shaft of the spindle. Because the strands now criss-cross each other, they are able to hold down lower layers. But because they do cross over lower strands, this creates a gap where there is air in the cop. This isn't a bad thing, but it does mean that the cop builds up bulk faster than if the strands were laying side-by-side. It also means the center of the cop tends to get larger faster than the ends, creating what I think of as a "pregnant cop" or a "football cop".
I like using the best of both worlds for my cops. Personally, I like the look and feel of a tightly-wound conical cop. I usually start that way. If, at any point, I start seeing looseness in my cop or loops trying to work their way off the bottom, I simply cross-wind for a little while to "tie everything down". When I feel that I've stabilized my work, I return to straight-winding again. In this way you build a cop that is both stable and dense, maximizing how much yarn you can get on the spindle.
If, as you work, you find that you have more fiber than you think will fit using a cone you can always start cross-winding more and also concentrate your straight-winding around the center of the cop. This will build up a nice little belly that over time can get quite big.
According to Abby Franquemont, Andean spinners can get a full pound of plied yarn on their bottom-whorl spindles. Personally, that's a whole lot more than I want to do!
I really think that pictures do even more than words to show what I'm doing, so here is a series of one of my recent projects. The fiber spun is dyed kid mohair. You can see by the end that the "belly" on my cop is bigger than the whorl of the spindle, allowing me to put all my fiber on one spindle without running out of space.