This is the first of what I hope will be a series of posts highlighting bits of equipment that I love. I have paid for all of these items, they're not ones that I have been given. If I've bought them at a show I may have received a slight trade discount, but it's never been one I've asked for, and in all cases I've been prepared to pay the full price. If you're not a guild member it can sometimes to be hard to get a sense on what it's really like to use a piece of equipment. I'll be scrupulously honest, if I like a piece of equipment I'll say so and explain why. If other options are available, and I've tried them I'll explain why I don't like them.
I am a bit of a Lazy Kate zealot. It's always on the equipment list for the spinning workshops I teach, and I emphasise that the "built-in" Lazy Kate with most spinning wheels, is not a Kate, it is simply bobbin storage. A good Kate needs to be separate from your wheel so you can position it to the side and ideally slightly behind you. Techniques like chain plying are made so much more difficult if you're trying to pull the single up past your moving knees and then guide them back to the orifice.
In it's most basic form it can be as simple as a shoe box and some knitting needles, add in some plastic bags below the bobbins to act as resistance, and you actually have a very functional Kate. If I'm just doing a plain 2-ply I am content working with a non-tensioned Kate, but if I have a choice (and cough... I seem to have ended up with multiple choices), I will reach for one that is tensioned every time.
In my possession I currently have...
- A handmade upright Kate in the style of this Ashford one. This one gets used pretty regularly.
- An arched Schacht Kate. I really dislike this one, and never use it, I only still have it as it came with my Matchless spinning wheel.
- A flat base model like this one (though not this exact Kate, but it has upright spikes, and the same tension mechanism). Again, it came with a wheel, I don't use it.
My favourite, and the one I use most is this one by Louet.
It has all the features I look for in a Lazy Kate, it's simple to set up, has the ability to add slight resistance to the bobbin rotation, and will take all of my many different sizes of bobbins, and the many I've come across in workshops. It definitely takes, Schacht, Ashford, Majacraft, Louet, Woolmakers, and Hansen.
This versatility is one of the reasons I love it, a kate that uses 2 upright posts either side of the bobbin support always runs in to trouble with differing length bobbins.
It's a Kate I often take with me to workshops and usually end up lending out. During my course at Summer School numerous people borrowed it, and all were amazed at how well this really simple design works. I think a few were planning on adding it to their Christmas/Birthday list. It's not cheap...and of course the exchange rate of the Pound against the Euro hasn't helped. I suspect if you knew someone who was handy at wood working, and was capable of adding an embedded threaded tension knob it wouldn't be hard to make your own version.
The right kit really can make all the difference to how easy it is to do a task, and particularly for something like chain plying, a lazy kate that offers the Goldilocks sweet spot of resistance to the bobbin rotation is absolutely key. I've tried other kates that use a piece of string with a spring in the groove of the bobbin (in the same way as you brake the bobbin using Scotch tension), and I find that it's either got too much resistance so I'm jerking the bobbin to pull off the singles, or there's not enough resistance to prevent back spin. To add resistance for this model you just alter the angle of the whole Kate by turning the black knob, adjusting the angle, and then tightening it again to fix it in place. Minimal resistance happens when the Kate is nearly horizontal, with the resistance increasing as you bring the spikes closer to upright. I think this shape of kate has advantages over an arched kate because the singles running off a bobbin are never rubbing past or over another bobbin.
It's set up so you can use it with 4 spikes for smaller size bobbins, and then turn it over and relocating the spikes in to the 3 holes for larger size bobbins. However, in my experience I tend to leave it set up with the 4 hole configuration, as it will still hold 2 large bobbins.
So far I've not found a make of bobbin it won't hold, it even works with bobbins that breakdown like my Akwerwork ones, that don't have a flat surface on one end. The only model I can't remember testing it with, and confirming the fit is Lendrum.
The other bonus is of course it's size... if a 4-ply yarn is on your spinning list you can just use a single Kate. When I'm not using it the whole thing gets folded flat and then slid under the sofa.
If you're in the UK there are a few stockists of Louet products, the following list the Kate on their websites, other dealers may be able to order it if you enquire directly.
-Weftblown (not in stock currently, but they will order it in for you)
- The Threshing Barn (Janet doesn't yet operate a webbed shop, so you will have to see her at a fibre festival, or ply phone tag to order it over the phone)
- Hedgehog Equipment (Again, Sarah doesn't run a web shop, but you can order over the phone).
The full list of Louet dealers is on the Louet website.