Monday, December 06, 2010

In the Begining

I wore a very nice hand knit fisherman's sweater, and I about froze, so I asked the question, “How did the old fishermen stay warm?”

As late as 1844, it was hand knit sweaters. Why were their sweater warmer then our sweaters? I tried different wools and stitch patterns. None of theses were particularly warm. Then in 2004, I came across Gladys Thompson, Patterns for Guernseys, Jerseys, & Arans. Careful reading showed that all the patterns were knit much, much tighter than any of the modern hand knitting patterns.

In those days, I knit on circs – Addi Turbos. However, the Gladys Thompson gauges were so tight they were very difficult for me to knit. So the question became, were those very tight fabrics worth the effort to knit. Were they so much warmer, that they would be worth effort?

I knew from the literature and basic physics that advection (, Air is a fluid that can advect heat ) was a major source of heat loss through clothing. I set out to measure air flow through knit fabrics. I took an old vacuum cleaner and made a little device to measure the pressure drop across a small sample of fabric. I also turned an old water bed heater into a heat source to measure conduction across small samples of fabric by measuring how long it took to melt a standard ice cube. Then I knit and tested hundreds of samples. I tested commercial fabrics and products.

The results were fairly straight forward.
  1. Tighter was warmer. (in the range possible by hand knitting)
  2. Some stitch patterns (in very tight knitting) dramatically increased the warmth of the fabric.
  3. Hand knitting could produce fabrics that were as warm as the best commercial products.
  4. Knitting such tight fabrics on circ needles was not practical. (Yes, it could be done but many who tried it, ended up requiring wrist surgery.)
Since science is the systematic collection and organization of information by the making of observations, formulation of hypothesis, and testing of those hypothesis, this was good science. However, there were nothing here that was any more deserving of a peer reviewed publication than any high school student's assigned science lab exercise. This had all be done, and published long before. My work simply calibrated my materials and techniques.

The early posts of this blog describe how I then worked out (un-vented) the old knitting sheath technologies so that I could easily knit much tighter and faster without damaging my wrists. The various garments that I have knit, tested, and used confirm and validate all of the testing that I did on the swatches. The proof of my swatch testing is the garments I knit on a daily basis. The proof of that swatch testing is when I do a demonstration; and, the oldest and most experienced knitters in the room, squeal, “Oh, My God! How do you knit such objects?”

People that have not seen my fabrics, simply do not believe such fabrics can be hand knit. And, they call me a liar, or worse. It is slander and liable, but I know they are just ignorant. And, it is OK! As long as they disbelieve, I know I am knitting much better than they are. If they started believing, they would use these techniques to produce objects that are better than anything I can dream.

The a view of the other side of my world is at :


Anonymous said...

Good point, though sometimes it's hard to arrive to definite conclusions

quinn said...

I always enjoy your posts!

Laritza said...

Thanks for writing such complete analysis of your process. I truly enjoy it.