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I’ve been thinking about bobbins

As the title of this post suggests, I have indeed been thinking - and I am hoping for a bit of feedback on this too please.

So here goes... Bobbins, people often measure bobbins by the weight of yarn they hold. For example, "I can fit 250gm of yarn onto my large bobbin" or similar. This is not making sense to me because there is so much potential inconsistency. Different fibres have different densities, different yarns have different densities, spinners can pack the yarn tighter or looser on to a bobbin. So if my bobbin holds 250gm of fibre, is it lace weight or something really lofty, is it Romney or Angora rabbit? There are so many variables in measuring by weight!

My thoughts are that measuring the volume of a bobbin makes more sense - the volume of yarn that can be contained on the cylinder shape made by the bobbin.

The primary issue with this is that volume measures are in cubic centimetres or cubic metres or the equivalent imperial measure. I personally find these hard to visualise (what size does 1cm^3 look like?). I thought that measuring in liquid units might be better, I can picture a litre or a pint.

I did some measuring of our bobbins and came up with the following numbers:

LACE BOBBIN - 0.25 litres or 0.5 pints
STANDARD BOBBIN - 0.5 litres or 1.0 pints
JUMBO BOBBIN - 1.0 litres or 2.0 pints

So what do you think? Is this a useful way to measure bobbin capacity? If so what units would you use (particularly in countries that use imperial measures)? Your feedback would be very valued thanks :-)


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  1. My two cents worth – when manufacturers talk about bobbin sizes it doesn’t make a lot of sense to me – I usually want to compare a ‘known’ bobbin, on which I have spun enough to know approximately how much I can fit on it of any kind of yarn, and put that side by side with any other bobbin, thats how I know what kind of quantity yarns I would be able to fit on it, guesswork. Apparently numbers of most varieties are meaningless to me.

  2. Whenever I have a recipe that calls for pints I always have to look up how many cups that is and I couldn’t tell you approximately how much a cup is without looking at a measuring cup so to me that wouldn’t be helpful.

    When I think in terms of bobbin size I’ve always thought of how much fiber I can fit on it in terms of weight. I know that fiber types change in density and spinning style can affect this as well but my spinning seems fairly consistent so I know that for myself personally I typically fit 4 oz of singles on a lace and 8 oz plied on a jumbo. Perhaps a base line needs to be set with a specific fiber that’s common such as perhaps Merino spun at a common spinning weight. This could be done with various bobbins and have a photo visual of how much each held in comparison to the others.

  3. I’m happy with cubic centimetres. Or litres, if you must. We get used to it with engine sizes, why not bobbin sizes. Most people would get that a 500cc bobbin holds more than a 250cc. And you’d soon learn that 500cc of laceweight singles is about 150grams.

  4. Thank you all so much for your feedback!

    It sounds to me like each of you have a ‘known quantity’ that you have a mental picture of and then work out sizes relative to this measure? Which I guess is where I was considering/heading…trying to find a known measure that would produce a meaningful result in the context of bobbin capacity.

  5. ccs is possibly a good measure, although I still need to see the bobbin to get a handle on the size. I get very used to the bobbins that I use – mainly the plastic ones, and all others are compared to those.

    I spin such a variety of fibre types – yarns at a variety of tensions and density – that I don’t compare weights / bobbin.

  6. What I know about my bobbins is what I learned by experience.
    I learn by trying them out, not by measuring….I know how much my traditional bobbin holds when I spun my combed fibers, light weight or my more heavy fibers like perendale or wensleydale etc.
    The silk spun on my lace bobbin or my cobweb polwarth yarn, the artyarns on my Aura bobbin.
    I think I agree with WoolWench, it is a matter of experience….
    What I would like however, is a giant bobbin, made of fiberglass and a giant flyer of the same material……the better for my spinning…..

  7. As further evidence that there is nothing new under the sun, Kyoko sent through this link to us just recently

    Right near the bottom “Bobbin Capacity”

    And here I was thinking I might have had a clever original thought :-)


  8. It doesn’t make sense to me because I would never ever measure fibre or yarn in volume. I am new to spinning, and talking about bobbins in terms of the weight of yarn they hold makes no sense to me either for the reason you discuss. I think the dimension of the bobbin is a much more useful measurement. The diameter and length of the bobbin is something I can visualise.

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