When You Want More Bobbins, Make Quills

Introduction:
A quill is simply a tube. It can be made of paper, cardboard, or wood. First, I’ll tell you how to make a paper quill, and then I’ll explain the important things to know about winding them to reduce backlash and prevent the weft from spilling over the ends and tangling. This post is taken from my book, Weaving & Drafting Your Own Cloth where there is extensive information on shuttles.

I use ordinary binder paper and start by folding it into quarters. The folding lets me cut the paper for 4 quills at once for some small shuttles I have. The length of the quills is important. They should never be so long that they almost fill the shuttle cavity. Make them no more than 2/3 of the length of the cavity, so they will unreel smoothly and not get hung up on the ends of the cavity and jerk the thread. The size of the paper oval at its mid-section is the length the quill will be. Your paper ovals don’t have to be perfectly shaped.

Starting with one of the short ends, begin winding it up on the winder’s spindle, as tight as you can, to start the tube.

Just before the paper is completely wound into a tube, take the end of the weft thread and tuck it into the paper as the last few rounds are made then, continue winding tightly so the yarn holds the quill’s tube shape. For good selvedges and to reduce backlash, the way you shape the weft yarn on the quill is crucial. Read on.

First, don’t make lumps on either end as you may have seen recommended. The lumps cause the quill to spin too fast, and we know sudden changes in speed of the bobbin causes backlash.

Instead, wind the layers flat. Make each layer shorter than the previous one. The first or bottom layer should only extend to within ½” of the ends of the quill to keep the yarn from falling off at the edges.

The final layers will be short and, in the middle, making a cigar or football shape. While winding the layers, crisscross diagonally each successive layer by moving the hand holding the yarn back and forth across the quill. Keep the spirals compact—like a slinky that is very slightly stretched. The secret: wind under very firm tension. Tight quills and bobbins unreel smoothly when they are as full as possible. The criss-crossing helps, too.

Remember never to wind yarn closer to the ends of the quill than ½”. If you do, you can be assured the yarn will slip off the ends and make huge tangles.

10 thoughts on “When You Want More Bobbins, Make Quills”

  1. May I ask what binder paper is? I’ve tried a number of types of paper but none work – either too stiff or too thin that they get chewed up at either end with barely any use. thanks

    Reply
    • Binder paper is notebook paper. I have tablets of lined paper that I use. I wonder if your edges are too close to the ends of the shuttle cavity. I would say the ends of the quills should be about 1/2″ from the ends of the rod in the shuttle. Another point is that the thread should not be wound out to the edges of the quills. Maybe 1/2-1/4″ from the ends of the quills. Another thought comes to me that you can elongate your ovals so the ends of the quills are stronger with more layers of paper. Does this make sense?
      Peggy

      Reply
  2. Hi Peggy Yes that makes a lot of sense – thank you very much. I’m sure I overfill them…but so little yarn fits on them I was likely trying to fit on the most I could. I will try to make them more elongated…would it be possible for you to give me an idea about the dimensions? Otherwise it’ll take me months or years to figure it out on my own …and lately quite a few obstacles to weaving. I’m using a Leclerc shuttle – I’d prefer a Schacht or Glim but…not in the budget – thanks!

    Reply
    • Send me info on the shuttle and I’ll see what I suggest for the ovals. length of rod for bobbin. Height and width and depth of the cavity. Are the ends of the cavity rounded or squared off?
      Peggy

      Reply
      • You are so kind! rod 11.5cm cavity 11cm long 3.5cm wide 2.8cm deep – it’s a Leclerc boat shuttle – sadly the Toika shuttle is too long for me to manage. thank you very much for your help 🙂 11.5 inches (29.5cm) from tip to tip (I know you didn’t ask but since I was measuring 🙂

        Reply
        • Dear Trish,
          Sorry to take so long to reply. Am busy selling my house right now. Here’s what I suggest. The quill should be 8.5 cm long. That’s about 1cm in from, each end of the rod. Take a sheet of paper you use in your computer and fold it in 1/2 lengthwise. Measure out 8.5 cm on the fold centering it in the middle and mark the end points. That’s the width of the quill at its widest point. Then fold the paper in 1/2 width-wise. Now you have the paper folded in 1/4’s. This sheet of paper will be cut for ONE quill. Draw or cut the paper beginning at a mark for the with of the quill. Then slightly narrow it in for about 1/2 of the length of the folded paper, then less gradually narrow in until you reach the top of the paper where it should be rounded off. Open out the paper and you have a long, skinny oval. Wind that on the rod until about 3/4 wound then put the yarn in between the outer layers of the quill, which will wind the yarn in with the rest of the paper. When winding on the weft yarn: DO NOT WIND THE YARN OUT TO THE EDGES OF THE QUILL! THE YARN SHOULD BE ABOUT 1 CM IN FROM THE ENDS OF THE QUILL. Wind a few flat layers, then taper the width so it looks cigar or football shape. DO NOT MAKE THE QUILL TOO FAT. IT MUST NOT HIT THE CAVITY OF THE SHUTTLE IN ANY WAY (WHICH YOU WOULD ASSUME ANYHOW).
          Let me know if any more questions. All this is shown and described in my book Weaving & Drafting Your Own Cloth available on my website.
          You won’t get as much yarn on a quill as a bobbin because there are no flanges. Making the quill long and not narrowing in at first will make the quill stronger so it won’t get damaged. And you cannot wind all the way to the ends of the quills or the yarn will slip off and tangle madly!
          Peggy

          Reply
  3. Hi Peggy I seem to be confused – your instructions are great but I’m so visual that it’s challenging. My first question is what is the length of the paper after it is cut? Is it the length of the computer paper? And if so, then is this paper (noted above as for one quill) then double thick and the length of the paper ie 11″ long? thanks for clarifying 🙂

    Reply

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