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Building a Homemade Lazy Kate

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On Monday, Lee Fay asked a question that I thought was deserving of its own post:

Could you please tell us more about your tensioned home made lazy kate? I'm very intrigued.

Lazy Kate's are simple devices that are used to ply yarns off of bobbins. The tensioning of the Kate controls how the bobbins rotate. It's very simple to make your own Lazy Kate for plying.

20060829_HomemadeKate.jpg
Homemade Lazy Kate

First of all, you need a box. It can be a shoebox or a small corrugated cardboard box. The only thing that is important is that it be wide and tall enough to accomodate a bobbin. I also like mine to be long enough so that it can hold three bobbins, and can thus support a three ply.

20060829_ImprovisedAxles.jpg
Bobbin Axles

I then take three inexpensive metal knitting needles. These needles need to be long enough to go all the way through the box. They also need to be narrow enough that they can slip through the center of the bobbin, so that the bobbin can be suspended in the box and the bobbins can rotate freely on the needle axle.

20060829_KateTensioning.jpg
Tensioning the Kate

To create the tension band (a length of Lion Brand WoolEase) and thread it through two holes that you punch in lower corners of the short sides of the box (you can see where the blue yarn goes in the top picture). This yarn is drawn over the tops of the bobbins and fits in the grooves in the bobbins. In order to maintain the tension, I pulled one of the ends under the box and used a small binder clip to hold the ends of the yarn together so that the yarn remains taut over the three bobbins.

The final important element is something that will prevent the bobbins from moving back and forth on the needles. To do that, I used some random pieces of folded cardboard and cut a groove in the center that would go around the needle and could be folded so that they prevented the bobbins from moving away from the tensioining line.

So there you have it: a homemade tensioned Lazy Kate from spare junk around your house. Even if you had to buy the needles out right, it still would probably cost you 10 dollars or less. And the nice thing about this style of kate is that you can have as many bobbins as you want, assuming you can find enough needles and a large enough box. But it's also not a precious treasure, so if you don't want to keep it around, you can store or discard most of the parts easily. For these big WooLee Winder bobbins, it works much better than the Lazy Kate that comes with the Lendrum wheel, where the axles point straight up into the air and the bobbins are on a vertical axis instead of a horizontal one.

So rad. Thanks for sharing! :)

That is very clever! I like the modification that keeps the bobbins from slipping on the needles.

I love what you can do with 3 knitting needles and a cardboard box!

When I was making a 6 ply yarn I created a similar but larger Lazy kate I used boards to create an open ended box. Like this |_| I drilled matching holes through the sides and used older long knitting needles as axles. I also used waste yarn to tension my Kate by fastening the ends to screw eyes.
It worked reasonably well. 6 ply is still difficult but the yarn is nice. :-)

Theresa, I love it!
My Baynes has a built in lazy kate, as most wheels these days do but my bobbins back spin terribly when I get going. I had been thinking a while back about using old panty hose to cover my bobbins. Or Nifty Nets. But that doesnt really create too much tension, just enough to keep the bobbins from that backwards spin. I'll have to try this little invention (thank you for sharing!)
Lightbulb moment! The way my wheel's kate is set up, I could install a scotch tension set up SO easily, mounted to the base of my wheel (with the help of a spring, eye hooks and some fishing line!)

That is terribly clever! It'd work for spindles, too, if you used a narrow box (shoebox?) And you wouldn't even need the knitting needle "axles", just the spindles' own shafts. (Tensioning would be tricky, though.)

Very clever, I love it! I'm going to make me one of those, especially for the 3 plys I make because it's a bit more difficult to keep the even tension then when it's only two.

Thanks for sharing.

Absolutely ingenius.

For a little sturdier "box" I have two different sized sterilite boxes that have holes in them that will hold up to about a US9 needle I think. I have one for two ply and one for three ply.

I hadn't figured out the extra cardboard to keep the bobbins aligned though. I *love* that! I had been putting my basktest at a slight angle to keep the bobbins agains the lower side. Thank you!

Mate, that is absolutely frikkin brilliant! (please try and imagine me saying that with an Aussie accent, thumbs up with one hand and big pat on the back with the other hand)

Thanks for showing us and I'm going to try and build one right now. No more overspinning bobbins for me...

Okay. That is just flat out genius! Very cool. Thanks for sharing!

I have a similar arrangement--I love a frugal alternative to what is available at spinning shops.
I have a majacraft rose that comes with a bobbin box without tensioning, so i took a length of non braided cording like the brake is made of (available to make necklaces in craft stores) and two large rubberbands, looped them together and ran them around the box. The bobbins stick up just enough to allow the cording to run in the groove. You could do a similar thing with the boxes you make yourself. You can adjust the tension by stretching or relaxing the rubber bands. I may make one for 4-6 ply yarns. I tend to spin very thin, so it may be the only way i can manage a consistent bulky yarn!

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