Under Tension (part 2)

First published in Creative Fibre vol.16 no.3 (December 2013)

Putting on a new double drive band

These instructions are for a horizontal wheel but if you have an upright, just imagine that it’s lying on its side with the flyer to the left and the orifice facing you. Or actually lay it down this way! Adjust the tension to bring the flyer close to the wheel, because the band will probably stretch.

It helps to start by fastening one end of the cord with a slip knot to the back maiden (it helps even more to have an extra pair of hands available). Then guide the cord over and around the drive wheel, under and around the bobbin groove, over and around the drive wheel again and back under and around the whorl. Bring it up over the whorl, undo the slip knot and fasten the two ends together.

A few afterthoughts on drive bands (January 2016)

Drivebands can be a contentious subject – no wonder, since different bands suit different wheels. I mostly get to play with vintage or near-vintage (about 40-70 years old) and if your wheel is an antique (100+ years) or if it was made last year, my comments may be very little use to you.

Thick drive band

This wheel spins exquisitely for its very skilled owner, in spite of the thick nylon cord drive band. So it doesn’t do to be dogmatic.

New Zealanders have a tendency to use rather thick drivebands, often that slippery nylon cord designed for pulling up your venetian blinds. It can be joined (if you have steady hands) by melting, but it really doesn’t grip well or fit nicely into most whorl grooves. If it has to be tightened up too much to stop it slipping, the wheel becomes hard to treadle and can get very naughty. Thinnish cotton or linen string often makes a big difference. Wheels vary in what drive band they like so it may be worth experimenting.

If a suitable driveband still slips unless drastically tightened, the trouble may be the whorl groove or the groove round the rim of the wheel, or both. If that surface is smooth and shiny, maybe you should attack it with sandpaper. A temporary fix is rosin (from a music shop) rubbed into the drive band.

Stretchy drive band

My sturdy little Fleur works well with its new(ish) stretchy drive band. As you can see, I also like elastic rather than a spring on the bobbin brake – that’s just personal preference.

What about those modern stretchy drive bands? They generally grip well. They’re no good for double drive, of course, as the band has to slip on the whorl or it won’t work. You may or may not like the way they look with an older wheel but they can work well even at a low tension so if your wheel is single drive (scotch or “Irish”) one may be worth a try.

Then there’s the join. I’ve always just made the tidiest knot I could and never had a problem with it. But your wheel (specially if it’s an antique) might hate a knot and throw off the drive band, or you might hate the way the knot looks. Then you will need to overlap the ends a little and sew them firmly, or else learn about splicing.

I do have a pet hate: that fishing-line recommended for the brake cord of certain modern wheels. It’s often (not always) rather stiff, which gives an erratic grip on the bobbin and unpleasant spinning – replacing it with something like fine crochet cotton has been known to work a miracle. I also feel it looks really wrong on spinning wheels, particularly those of more traditional design.

You are free to disagree with any or all of this. You know your own wheel and style of spinning better than anyone else. But if you aren’t happy with the way your wheel is behaving, perhaps there is something here that could help.