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About bobbins for wire

Given the current interest in working with wire I decided to post this article, which I wrote in 1980 for the 'Solutions' column of Craft Clarion, the magazine of the Crafts Council of New South Wales (Australia). Although it was written with monofilament yarns in mind, in the intervening years I have successfully used these bobbins with wire of varying weights and also with optical fibre light guides, and slippery rayon and metallic yarns.  I no longer bother to drill the dowel before sawing the slot but a hole about halfway along the dowel is necessary for anchoring the wire. The bobbins are particularly good for working with wire because the conventional hitch is no longer necessary, thus avoiding unsightly kinks in the wire, and it is really easy to slip the wire out of the slot to release extra length when needed.

For several years now I have explored the use of nylon mono-filament in bobbin lacemaking, and for much of that time found the actual manipulation of this fibre very trying because it would constantly slip off the bobbins. The thread on a lace bobbin is normally hitched in a particular way (diagram, left) to prevent it from unwinding whilst suspended from the work, but this hitch, and any variant I could devise, was useless because monofilament was both too slippery and too springy. It became obvious that I would have to design a special bobbin or abandon the use of this fibre in my work. This would have been a pity as felt that it had enormous potential both for use on its own, and with the more traditional fibres.

About six different complicated prototypes and several months later I finally arrived at a satisfactory design, which was so devastatingly simple that I felt rather foolish about spending so long over it. The diagram on the left shows how the bobbin works. It can be made from ordinary wooden dowelling of a diameter and length appropriate to the size of monofilament to be used. The dowelling is cut to the required length (generally about 10 centimetres) and a small hole drilled through it about 1cm from one end.

Then a diagonal saw cut is made in to this hole with a hacksaw or fretsaw from a point about 1.5 cm further along the dowel. The heavier the monofilament the thicker the dowel needs to be, and the longer the saw cut. Extra weight may also be an advantage and can he achieved by drilling the bottom end and plugging it with lead shot. The end of the monofilament can be simply sellotaped onto the dowel before winding, or wedged into a second finer slit sawn about .5 cm from the first.

This might seem a very small solution to an even smaller problem, if it were only applicable to lace making. In fact, any fibre craftsperson needs a simple method of containing such fibres to make their use less painful, and even if nylon monofilament is not widely used, there are bound to be other slippery fibres in the future.

© Rosemary Shepherd; 1980, 2000