Knotted or Sewn Drive Bands: Which Is Better?

Learn how to tie different types of knots and sew a drive band for your spinning wheel with this short tutorial.

Kate Larson May 26, 2023 - 4 min read

Knotted or Sewn Drive Bands: Which Is Better? Primary Image

Trying different band materials and joins can help you fine-tune wheels that use cotton bands. Photo by Kate Larson

Spinners have strong opinions on just about everything—including drive bands! In her great article on refreshing your wheel with new drive bands in Summer 2023 Spin Off, Amy Tyler discusses many types of drive bands—from modern stretchy bands to those made of traditional materials. In her article, Amy includes instructions for a reef knot, her go-to technique for tying on a new cotton drive band. We thought it would be fun to share several knots and a sewn–drive band technique here. What technique do you use?

The Controversy: Knot or Sew?

For those of us with wheels that use cotton or hemp drive bands, it can be fun to explore different band materials and joining techniques. If your wheel is currently manufactured, the maker likely has replacement bands to purchase. If you have an antique wheel or antique-inspired wheel, you might need to try a few options to land on the perfect fit.

Team Knot

If your wheel has medium to large grooves where the drive band sits, one of the knots below will likely work for you. People who love a knotted drive band usually find this the fastest and most efficient technique so they can get back to spinning. You can often untie and retie the knot if you start spinning and find that you need to adjust. Here are two great knots to know:

1. Reef Knot: Also known as a square knot, a reef knot is easy to remember and provides a firm, flat join for spinning-wheel bands. After working Step 1 and Step 2, tighten the knot and trim the ends.

Illustration by Angela K. Schneider; photo by Matt Graves

2. Fisherman's Knot: A fisherman’s knot is another easy-to-remember technique. After working Step 1, 2, and 3, trim the ends.

Illustration by Angela K. Schneider; photo by Matt Graves

Team Sew

If your wheel has narrow grooves where the band sits, a knot might sit too high in the groove and cause the wheel to throw the band. A sewn join can better nestle into the groove in some cases. Also, if you are a sensitive spinner and can feel a knotted join as it travels over the pulley, this smoother sewn join might be the one for you. Check out our short video tutorial to see one way to handstitch a drive-band join.

Do you have another joining method to share? Tell us about it by sending us an email.

Kate Larson, editor of Spin Off, teaches handspinning around the country and spends as many hours as life allows in the barn with her beloved flock of Border Leicesters.