Saturday, December 31, 2011

How Fast Can Someone Comb Wool?

These days, I comb Jacob at around a half a pound per hour. It is slower than Cotswold, but is similar to Shetland that many people comb these days.  Even a pound per hour is much slower than professional wool combers prior to 1850, but it is about as fast as I can go at this time. I could make myself bigger combs and work faster, but for the small amount of wool that I handle, it is not worth it.

My method is to start with clean oiled fleece, and give it a pass through the drum carder to make sure everything has been opened up and the oil distributed.

Then, I lash 3 or 4 ounces onto a large, single-pitch comb mounted on my combing bench, and use a 6” wide 2-pitch to comb off. Then, I mount the 2-pitch (with the wool on it) on the pad, and comb off onto a pair of 4” wide 5-pitch combs. Then, each 5-pitch gets combed off onto another 5-pitch, which, when full, is mounted on the comb pad, and combed onto another 5-pitch. Then, those combs are mounted on the comb pad, and their beards drawn off into short planks. If I work quickly, it only takes 6 or 7 minutes to get from carded fiber to 2 planks of an ounce (sometimes closer to 2 oz) each. (~3 hours hours to plank a sweater's worth of wool). The planks are arranged in a large bin.
When the bin is full, it is turned out on a table and the planks arranged for uniformity of fiber. The planks can be stored for a while
The planks get lashed onto 5-pitch combs, combed off, and then combed back (two complete transfers). This takes 3 or 4 minutes for between 1 and 2 oz. (22.5 oz /hr).
Then the beard is drafted off using a diz, and wound on the distaff. Total time to comb a sweater's worth, right on the close order of 6 hours. 
However, I suggest that the final combed and drafted fiber be used within a couple of weeks. That is, every few days, I take a few planks out of their bin, and final comb/draft them into slivers for the next few days of spinning.
For long wool, I skip the carding. The Romeny that I did last spring went faster, while the Rambouillet, Jacob and Shetland goes slower.
To achieve a reasonable rate, I had to make myself larger combs. On cold days, I warm the combs. I also use a spray bottle of water. See Peter Teal’s book for instructions. 
To get here, I had to time myself, and look for ways to speed up the process.
So, this lady said,"I've been wool combing for 5 years, I have five sets of combs, but I do not know if I have ever combed enough wool for a sweater."  My reply was, "If you have been wool combing for 5 years, then you should have combed about 5 tons of wool.  Me? I spent more than a hundred hours learning to card, and maybe 20 hours of making better tools and less than 20  hours of real wool combing.   I have big bins of wool to show for that effort.  In my book, just having combs in the closet does not count as time spent wool combing.  Nor, does having a spinning wheel sit in the living room count as spinning time.  

Sampling Cable plied yarn

This post is so important to me that I am going to Shout!

If you are spinning fine singles, it is worth doing a  series of exercises in plying/cabling.  If you have the singles on hand, it is easy to run up samples of  6, 8, 9, and 12-ply cabled yarns, and knit them into fabric to find the fabrics that you like.

I like my 2.38 mm needles.  These days, I make the yarns that I like to knit on that size needles. Knit on them, 6-ply cabled from 10,000 ypp singles makes a nice, skin-soft fabric.  It is warm, and elastic.  8-ply (1,200 ypp) makes a nice outer wear sweater. It is a thin yarn, it knits into a thin fabric - that is remarkably warm, and has wonderful drape.  This is not for sweaters that hang like bags.  It is for sweater designs that are worth all the work.

You are going to say, "Nothing is worth that much work to knit".  Look at your favorite knit wear (tee shirts, underwear, polo shirts, rugby shirts, and even sweat shirts), they are all knit from yarns with very fine plies.  If people wanted  fabrics from yarns with coarser plies, then  textile makers would use coarser yarns, (it would be much cheaper for them!) But no!, as a rule, for actually wearing, people like fabrics made from yarns with fine plies.  

I like quick and easy as much as the next fellow.  However, I find fine plies for the clothes I wear, worth the effort.

It is not very impressive, but here is  a photo of the first swatch that I did from 6-ply fingering Rambouillet (1,300 ypp):

 #1 needles on a swatch from hand spun 6-ply, 1,500 ypp yarn.

That bit of "nothing" was the confirmation of year's work. It was a proof of concept; fine plies work.  On the other hand it was the beginning of more work.  Fine plies ARE more work. Fine plies make good worsted worthwhile - that means I do enough worsted combing to get good (and fast) at the combing process.  However, the fabrics are wonderful.

When I started all this it took forever to comb a pound of wool.  However, I made some combs that help me  comb faster, and now, it takes me an hour to comb a pound of wool.  Anybody that cannot comb a pound of wool in an hour, is not trying.

I have said that it is not worth while for me to have fancy socks because I wear them out, and it is not worth while for me to have nice mittens because I lose them.  Well, it is worth while for me to have socks and mittens knit from yarns with fine plies because such fabrics are worth the extra effort.

Such fine ply yarns have become my standard yarn construction.  Here you see 2-ply Cotswold, Rambouillet, and Jacob waiting their turn to be cabled up into 6 and 8-ply knitting yarns. The needle is 2.38 mm.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

A Milestone: Competence in Spinning

In the early going, I read that "spin count" was the fineness that a competent spinner could spin a particular wool.  I then set my definition of a competent spinner to "being able to spin wool at its spin count."

Today, I can spin the common fleece at their spin count with reasonable confidence and ease.  In short, now I am a spinner.

 Learning to spin has been an obsession over the last year.  Learning to spin disrupted my life.  It was worse than learning calculus.  With calculus, there were very good texts and very good teachers to show the way.  Every physics, chemistry, and math grad student could do calculus, and were happy to parade their expertise in their role as teaching assistants.  However, try finding a spinning course where the objectives of the course include spinning singles at 50,000 ypp.  I do not know how many hand spinners can spin fine wool at its spin count, but it is not something that gets mentioned in course descriptions at fiber shows.

Everyone who reads this blog knows that I like yarns plied up out of 10,000 ypp singles.  What I have not talked about it that 30,000 ypp (Shetland) singles are remarkably strong and elastic.  Unless you have handled such singles, they are like nothing you have handled.  As 2-ply they (@15,000 ypp) they are as strong as the cashmere plied with silk yarns used for Russian lace, but they are more elastic.  If you want drape and flow, go with 2 plies of wool. The elasticity of the fine wool singles makes such lace wonderful.  It is not something that we understand anymore.  It is not a property that can be seen when the lace is mounted in a museum case.  It is something that you feel when you wear the lace. These hand spun yarns are much thinner, stronger, and more elastic than the commercial lace yarns.  However Shetland is not as soft and does not have the softness of the cashmere/silk lace yarn.  If you want just soft, go with the cashmere plied with silk.

Other wools can run a bit softer than Shetland, including  Rambouillet and Cormo.  These can be spun fine and plied into nice soft lace yarns. The finest Shetland is about as soft as very good Merino.  However, the Shetland is easier to spin very fine.  I think any competent spinner can spin the yarn for a nice wedding ring shawl.  Since you only need a couple of ounces of fiber, so you can buy the best fiber and still have an inexpensive project.

The idea of lace is all very interesting, but the real point of learning to spin fine was to be able to spin thicker yarns better.  For that alone, it was worth learning to spin fine.

It has also give me a very different view of how wonderful wool yarn can be.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Seduced by the Soft Side

Now that I can spin finer and faster, softer wools are more attractive.  I acquired a couple of Rambouillet fleece.  Spun semi-worsted at just over 16 hanks per  pound (~9,000 ypp) and cabled into a 6-ply fingering (1,300 ypp @ 40 wpi), it is is perhaps the nicest knitting yarn I have ever worked with.

The fine plies give it strength and durability despite the fine, skin-soft fiber.  Knit on #1 needles at 9.5 spi, the fabric is thin, light in weight, but very elastic, and very warm. The elasticity was something of surprise. It is far, and away, the nicest fabric that I have ever knit.

Relaxed, the fabric is nearly weatherproof.  Stretched, it opens up and ventilates, making it very good for active winter sports.  It is like Helio, only more so.

Estimated time for me to spin/ply enough for a Jersey is ~50 hours, which does not count fiber prep.   You can buy nice Rambouillet roving for half the price of Jacob or Shetland.  Rambouillet is finer than Shetland and much longer than Merino, so it is nice to spin. And, there is a lot of it around.  Rambouillet is similar in fineness and length to Cormo, but this season Cormo is in fashion, so Rambouillet is a bargain. The thin yarn means that you need less wool. ( Less than 1.5 lb compared to ~ 2.5  lb for sweater designs using commercial worsted weight wool,  but this sweater will be warmer.) Well, yes thin yarn means there is more spinning and knitting - but is that really so bad?  I mean we like spinning and knitting soft fibers - right?  My estimated total time for a Jersey is on the order of  150 hours.

And, it is just in time, as I hear that Wingham's has stopped producing gansey yarn due to equipment failure.  It was one of the best yarns on the market and it will be missed.

Friday, November 11, 2011


There is a long standing convention in the textile industry on wraps per inch (wpi). Pack to refusal!  They wind the thread into a slot or gap and they pack to refusal.  (It is a gentle and careful packing that does not  deform the yarn.)  This results in an accurate and precise number that can be related to yards per pound (ypp).

Knitters on the other hand, when making wpi measurements wind their "wpi" loosely, (well not too loosely),  and they get a number that is "fuzzy".  See for example  or It is a more modern method, but it will not give a precise and accurate number. And, it does not differentiate between worsted, woolen, and cotton/silk  It is a different culture. Then, they call the textile guys, "wrong" for using the old, precise method.  The only thing the fuzzy method is good for is putting the yarn in a Craft Yarn Council category.  And, that does not provide a lot of useful information. Particularly for somebody like me who is likely to be spinning fine yarns.  Trying to wrap 20,000 ypp singles (35s) loosely, but not too loosely, is an exercise in futility.   However, with the right gauge one can pack to refusal, and get a precise number.

So here is a solution. Use a gap gauge, wrap the yarn around it, and pack to refusal.  Then, for worsted add 10% and take the square of the number.  That will be a good estimate of the yards per pound.  For Woolens, add 16% and take the square of the number and you will have a good estimate for the ypp.  For silk and cotton add 7%, take the square of the number and you will have a good estimate for the ypp.  That is useful information.

Divide the number of wraps per inch packed to refusal by 2, and you will have a good estimate of the number that is defined as "wpi" by the Craft Yarn Council  and used by American knitters as "wpi.

If you have the yards per pound, take the square root and divide by 2, and you will have the knitters' wpi. Or, you can take the square root of  yards per pound, subtract 10 percent (16% for woolen, 7% for silk and cotton) and you will have the wraps per inch, which is the reciprocal of the thickness of the yarn. This gives the diameter of the yarn. This tells you something useful about the your yarn or thread.

In Judith MacKenzie 's the intentional spinner, she does not tell how to do wpi, but when we look at her projects we see that she says a  semi woolen yarn at 2475 ypp has 27 to 30 wpi; 1460 ypp has 18-20 wpi ; 300 ypp has 5 - 6  wpi.  She does not even try to get a number more precise than a range of 10%.  Shannon Okey's Spin to Knit,  on page 57 says that if  want to know more about grist, see Alden Amos's Big Book of Hand Spinning.  Well, Alden says, "Pack to refusal!"  Then Okey contradicts Alden on page on her page 126 by saying one can just wrap the yarn around a ruler.  No, that is not "pack to refusal".

This having two different measures in related fields, with the same name causes some confusion.  For example, yarn, that I say is 100 wpi, most knitters would call 50 wpi, and then they would say I do not know what I am taking about.  Well that is yarn spun at 22 hanks per pound or 12,000+ ypp.  I work with those kinds of threads every day.  Do they?  Measuring the yarn as 100 wpi tells me something useful about the yarn.  Measuring it as 50 wpi tell me that it is "lace weight", and I knew that without picking up a ruler.

Alden Amos gets it correct in his Big Book of Handspinning. I just wish that Alden had put in corrections for yarn construction and yarn fiber.  Then the wrap per inch  number in the table on his page 383 would be 7% to 16% less.    Peter Teal in Hand Woolcombing and Spinning gets it correct, and his Appendix III is the best conversion table. (However, he only addresses worsted yarns, and grist is stated in spin count.)  Better is scanned at

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Oil it!

Few people,(including myself), oil their spinning wheel often enough.

It does not have to be much - a fraction of a drop is enough, but it needs to often.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Better or Authentic??!

I look to history to find ways to make better textiles.

In the days when hand knitting was a profession, there were a great many talented professional hand knitters with the elan that separates the talented professional from the merely competent amateur.  I looked to this group and learned about knitting sheaths as an approach to producing better textiles.  Modern amateur knitters and historians suggested that such knitting was not "authentic."  Since then, some of these folk have gone on to write extensively about the history of knitting sheaths.  Good for them!  However, their writing would have more authenticity if they would become more proficient in the use of the various knitting sheath technologies.

Prior to the spinning jenny, there were a great many talented professional hand spinners with the elan that separates the talented professional from the merely competent amateur. Competition drove some of them to produce better products.  In contrast, today we have very few talented professional hand spinners.  If modern hand spinners were producing yarns that really satisfied me, I would not have been plowing history looking for better yarns, now would I?   Some of the amateur spinners that made denigrating comments about the historical use of knitting sheaths, are now saying that my hand spinning of better yarns is not historically accurate.

I really do not care.  The yarns are fabulous!  The virtues of yarns worsted spun from spun long wool with fine plies have been long and widely documented. Cotswold wool came into prominence  in Roman times and from the nature of the wool we can guess that they were spinning the same kind of yarns that I am now spinning.  The truth is that the talented professional hand spinners had customers that wanted better yarns and who were willing to pay for them.  I expect talented professional spinners produced a range of better yarns for different uses.  I say that the right yarn for the job is the right yarn for the job, and a talented spinner with elan will find, and make, the right yarn for that job.

And while I am on the topic, Shetland spun into fine worsted plies is the right yarn for other jobs.  Warmer than the Cotswold, I am spinning this week, but still very durable.  Start with lace yarn and keep plying.  The  fiber is thinner so you can spin thicker plies and still have drape.

My feeling is that over the last 40 years, few hand spinners had the skill to spin such yarns or the elan to see the possibilities inherent in such yarns. When those experienced spinners see a new spinner producing yarns they did  not think could be produced by hand, they respond by saying it is not authentically historic - just as they did when I brought up knitting sheaths.  If modern knitting had been adequate for my wants, I would not have been plowing history looking for a better way to knit.  Likewise, modern hand spinning was not adequate for my wants so I went to history to find a better way.

Friday, November 04, 2011


It would seem that I owe everybody an apology.

When I am doing a lot of knitting, I use hand lotion.  My favorite kinds are Udderly SMOOTH, Bert's Bees Hand salve, and Bag Balm.These hand lotions contain mixes of lanolin, olive oil, bees wax, petrolatum, plus blending agents. A project knit over several days is like to see more than one kind, of hand lotion used on it, and possibly all three. The net effect was that all of my knit objects were made of dense yarns, and those dense yarns were impregnated with hydrophobic materials.

When I finish knitting an object, I wash the object with soap and warm water. This is a sink of suds and enough scrubbing to full the wool. It is not gentle.  However, it seems that the washing has not been aggressive enough to remove all of the hand lotion from the core of the yarn. Thus, my knitting is impregnated with lanolin and other hydrophobic materials from the get go.  It is why water does not wet my knitting.   Even when the hydrophobic materials were washed off the surface of the yarns, a few days of wear would bring the lanolin and etc out of the core of the yarn, and the yarn would be water repellent again.

However, this does not change the fact, that more loosely knit (and oiled) fabrics are not weatherproof. A rain drop hits them and breaks into tiny droplets that go right through a loosely knit garment.  In contrast, when a rain drop hits a tightly knit garment, the raindrop breaks into tiny droplets that are stopped by the tight knitting.  When I did comparisons between objects knit on small needles similar objects knit on big   (i.e., recommended ) needles, both were were knit using the same mix of hand lotions, thus both were equally oiled. It is jut that I already moved to knitting with hand lotions before I started working with finer needles.

Tighter is warmer was and is a valid result.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Connecting the Dots

The Yorkshire textile industry went from local for local consumption to industrial scale for export in the period circa 1350 to 1370.  This is the period and region when and where the term "hank" (skein of 560 yards) came into English.  We can assume that the industrialization of the (wool sorting, combing, spinning, and weaving) industries included the count system.  The count system specified wool fineness in hanks per pound that could be spun from the wool by a competent spinner. The yarns from those wools were specified in hanks per pound.  With a common technical language the weavers, spinners, combers, wool sorters, wool growers, and all of the associated middle men and factors could specify needs, and products.  Thus, 16 count refers to a coarse wool, and 16s refers to a single spun so that a hank weighs one once.  Then, "20s" refers to singles spun to 20 hanks per pound.

Prior to 1350, it is hard to know what Yorkshire spinners were spinning.  However, by 1375, a lot of Yorkshire spinners were spinning worsted 16s,  20s, 40s, and etc.  These were standard yarns used by weavers to make cloth that was being produced by the ship load.  There were pack trains of such singles being carried across Yorkshire.  We know that some of these singles were dyed and plied, i.e., were not going to weavers.

The period of 1350 to 1375 is also the period during which the English navy was established, and had its first winter engagements with the (new) French navy.  It was also the beginning of British fishing in Icelandic waters. Thus, there was an increased demand for warmer clothing for sailors and fishermen.

The implication is that fine worsted singles were plied up to knitting yarns.  This makes sense.  In those days wool was valuable.  They wanted as much warmth as possible from the least weight of wool.  The way to do that is to work with yarns that have very fine plies.  If the sailor-boys were cold, it was easy to produce warmer garments by plying up thicker yarns from the fine plies that were being produced for the very large weaving industry, and then knitting the thicker yarns.

Hand spin worsted 16s (8,960 ypp) and ply them up into 3-ply (2,700 ypp), knit it on fine needles, and it will be warmer than modern mill spun sport weight (1,000 ypp) knit on # 4 needles.  Weird but true! The fabric knit from the modern mill spun will look thicker and warmer, but the eye is deceived. On the other hand, that hand spun, worsted spun, 3-ply is going to be very thin.  It will as thin as what we call "lace-weight".  My point is that those old hand spun Shetland shawls knit from "lace-weight" on "knitting pins" were warmer than a shawl that a modern knitter would knit from modern mill spun sport weight on the recommended needles. Modern mill spun gansey yarn (5-ply worsted sport weight) knit on #1 needles is warmer than hand spun 3-ply (worsted, 2,700 ypp).  The other side of this is that when I ply my hand spun worsted 20s up into a 16 wpi yarn, it is much denser, stronger, and warmer than any modern mill spun 16 wpi knitting yarn.  When that hand spun, fine ply, 16 wpi is knit on fine needles, it is much warmer than any modern mill spun knitting yarn knit on any needles.

Yes, the pre-mill-spun knit fabrics did tend to be made from thin yarns made from fine plies - because that was what worked.  If I need a warm sweater, I will spin fine singles and ply up to what ever yarn thickness I need, because a few extra hours of spinning will bring greater warmth and years of durability.  I can do this because  I can easily spin 16s. or 20s or even 24s.  So could the old spinners.  It is what they did, all day, day after day.

When mill spun made yarn cheap, we lost our professional hand spinners in the period of a generation. Yes, there were still hand spinners around the world, supplying family and local markets. However, hand spinning on a large scale was gone, and with it went a variety of skills and tools.

Some of these tools and skills are still known by a few, but are ignored by most hand spinners.  Consider differential rotation speed (DRS).  DRS is well documented in Amos's "Big Book of Handspinning", and yet DRS is ignored and even denied by a great many spinners.  Peter Teal was an engineer, who wrote an important book on Wool Combing and Worsted Spinning.  However, he never understood DRS.  Abby Franquemont wrote a well respected book on spinning, but judging from her posts on Ravelry, she does not understand DRS.

How do I know DRS works?  Because I use it to spin worsted  20s and 30s quickly and easily. Certainly, 20s,  30s and even 235s can be spun using a spindle or ST wheel or an Irish Tension/German Tension wheel, but not as quickly and easily.  The only tool that comes close to DRS is Great Wheel with a Miner's Head, and there quality problems tend to intrude at speed. The DD system with a precise DRS solution is likely to be 30% faster.  The other tool required for such spinning is a distaff. 

Friday, October 28, 2011

Fifth grade physics

Let us consider the world of Peter Teal - Hand Woolcombing and Spinning.  PT puts a lot of effort into combing, planking, and drawing off a uniform sliver of parallel wool fibers, then he put a lot more effort into drafting them "inch worm".  If he had just thought about his fifth grade physics, he would have realized that there is an easier way.  A way that was long utilized and memorialized in art.  It is the art of the distaff.

Wool is long, flexible fibers with little scales on them which tend to catch on other wool fibers.  If you have a short, neat sliver of  parallel fibers of wool, and pull fibers out of one end, then the scales on those fibers will catch other fibers, and pull the other fibers out of parallel, and into "disarray".  With the fibers at the drafting tip of the sliver in disarray, then the spinner must resort to inch worm drafting to pull them straight and parallel again.

The fifth grade physics approach is to avoid the disarray by anchoring the upstream end of the fibers by attaching the far end of the sliver to a distaff.  Then the entire sliver is under tension, and the tension holds all fibers straight and parallel.  Near the drafting triangle, the drafting hand maintains a taper from the main sliver to the drafting triangle so that the upper end of all of the draftable fibers are in contact with more fibers than the drafting end of those fibers.  Thus, there is more friction at the sliver end of those fibers and the process of drafting tends to hold those fibers straight and parallel.  The reason that the distaff was call "the rock" is because the spinner was always pulling against the distaff.

When the drafting process inherently aligns the fibers, then the drafting can be a continuous process.  As a continuous process, it can be very fast.  With a distaff, one can draft worsted style singles as fast or faster as long draw woolen spinning.  Further more, if all the fibers in the drafting triangle are aligned, then the spinner can allow twist to run up into the drafting triangle and still have worsted yarn.

I started spinning about 3 years ago.  Prior to that I was reading about spinning, and watching spinners.  I read the modern literature on hand spinning, and I go to spinning guild meetings and fiber shows.  And I spin.
Merino, spun "worsted" as 20s, and made up into 2-ply.  The grist of the above 2-ply yarn is ~5,000 ypp or just over 10 meters per gram. The yarn is very soft, very stretchy, and silky smooth.  It is not something Peter Teal could have spun because he did use a distaff.  With a distaff, it is easy.

I trashed the first few video clips I shot of this process because I was intending to spin 9,000 ypp and I was spinning 11,000 ypp and the camera could not pick up the fine thread.  Over the last few weeks, I have had to relearn how to spin thicker singles, i.e., the 5,600 ypp and 9,000 that were the base of all my yarns.  Now, I am redesigning my yarns because with finer plies, I can make nicer yarns, and finer is nicer.  It is softer, smoother, stronger, and more durable.  Nicer!

Here is the setup (with the new distaff.)  I am putting a lot of time in on distaff design, not because it is hard, but because distaffs are so important.

And here is the spinning.  As you can see, the single is worsted and the process is long draw.  The pinch from my left hand (on camera) prevents twist from running into the draft triangle which goes off to the right of the frame.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Double Flier Spinning Wheels

The Han Chinese  (2,000 years ago) had treadle powered, double spindle spinning wheels so that a cotton spinner could spin with both hands.  In 1598, the British Parliament passed a law requiring spinning schools to teach their students how to spin with both hands and to have double flier spinning wheels so the students could practice the art.  It was one way to spin faster in a world without spinning mills.

Now, I have one!  Well, I do,  if a pile of  worm eaten oak counts?

She is broke, and has had major repairs at least twice in her life - done at a level of craftsmanship that is much lower than the original wheel.  The poor quality of the rather extensive repair distracts from the fact that the wheel was originally rather fine. At one time, she did a good bit of spinning because both of the flier/bobbin assemblies are worn, and the axle of the replaced bobbin is very worn.

The wheel diameter is ~15".  Wheel to bobbin ratio is ~ 1:10.  DRS is ~ 1.2, however, in the original bobbin, the whorl is very deep and narrow, so that actual DRS would depend on the width of the cord.  The drive wheel has two grooves, and the flier/bobbin assemblies were offset, so that each could have their own DD drive band and each flier/bobbin assembly has its own tension adjustment screw.  The hecks were set only 1/8th inch apart.  The bobbins are captive in the fliers, and the orifices are ~3/16th inch.

ETA 10/28 (not captive, just lots and lots of gunk in the way.)
ETA 10/30 Made in Germany circa 1900.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Handspun 10-ply Aran yarn

It can be done.

10-ply,. 700 yards per pound. 16 wpi.    That right!

If you take the singles that were hand spun worsted for weaving at 16 hanks per pound from Shetland wool, and ply them up as 5 X 2-ply you get a yarn that the same thickness as the Yorkshire gansey yarn, but is 30% denser and thus much warmer.  The first small skein is being blocked now,

and will go to the Guild meeting  for show and tell.

I figure ~100 hours to spin the yarn for a Aran fisherman's sweater and a 100 hours to knit.  A wife could do an Aran in 3 months just working on it 2 or 3 hours per day.  It would be much much warmer than a gansey made of Yorkshire 5-ply @ 1000 ypp ( 50 hours to spin and  80 hours to knit) .  Well worth the extra effort if your man is fishing the North Sea.

The little square wooden thing is a "plying comb".  It helps to organize the singles and makes producing 5-ply yarn much easier, and the yarn more consistent.  I like historians - even long dead ones  : ).  They tell me about the the tools I need to do the job right.

The first skein off  the wheel this morning was 5-ply @ 1,800 ypp.  Interesting, but not much practical value that I can see.

The process that I now like  is to spin 16 or 18 hank/ lb singles and make 2-ply.  (Come on, you spin for fun.  Spinning fine means more fun per pound.  And, it means fabrics that are lighter, more durable, and warmer.) The 2-ply is stronger more stable, and easier to handle. Then, 2 X 2-ply is light fingering, 3 X 2-ply is  sport and 4 X 2-ply is worsted weight.  Of these the 3X 2-ply is the winner for most knitting.   The more plies make it  more consistent, warmer, and more durable than the 2 or 3-ply worsted weight that is more common.  More plies allow the fabric to be softer and more flexible than the 5-ply of similar grist and twist.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Anything that can be done, can be done better

The spindle with removable whorl got shown to a Portuguese historian. She will be starting extensive travels in the near future. We played with the spindle for a while (we were at the LYS) and decided it (with a distaff) was as fast as any of the traveling wheels in the store. So, I gave it to her. I believe in giving nice gifts to the people that write history.  

Thus,   I needed a new spindle.  Mark II:

It is 15 grams lighter than the Mark I.

It did not work!  The weight or dynamics were wrong and it wobbled too much.  Put that puppy on a diet.

Thinned, with a deeper groove and a heavier nut, it works.  It wants a distaff.  And, it wants to spin much finer than I was trying to spin the blue Romney above.  Details matter.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Sum of All

It is possible to hand spin worsted yarn using a "long-draw" technique.  ( Not what you have been told before, now is it? )

It requires special tools.  One must have a DD wheel with the appropriate differential rotation speed (DRS) and bobbin core size to insert the correct twist and to take-up at the correct rate.  It requires well combed top on a well designed distaff.

It only works at fairly high grist (9,000 ypp and up depending on fiber), and it only works for spinning at a brisk pace.

The process involves the drafting hand teasing fiber out of the sliver attached to the distaff.  The fibers are kept under some tension as they stream into the drafting hand where they are spread to form the base of the drafting triangle. The tip of the drafting triagle is a narrow ribbon of fibers feeding between the forefinger and thumb of the pinching hand. The drafting hand and pinching hand are moved together and apart for precise control of the grist,  The pinching hand keeps enough pressure on the tip of the drafting triangle to keep the twist from traveling up into the drafting triangle, but not so much pressure as to stop the continuous stream of fibers through the "pinch".  The thumb and forefinger of the pinching hand move back and forth to facilitate movement of the fibers through the pinch.

With lower grist singles, it is not possible to stop the twist from moving up into the drafting zone. Without a distaff, it is not possible to get the fibers aligned as they enter the drafting zone.

I had though the technique possible shortly after I started working with controlled DRS systems, however, I had not been able to make it work.  The addition of a distaff was required to actually make the concept work.

The process is very fast.

Pictures and details to come.

Spindles and spindle whorls

A while back, I thought about spindles.  I went around and played with a bunch of  them.  I went into the shop and made a few.  My conclusion was that they were toys. I concluded that modern spindle designs were not really tools for serious worsted thread production. 

I was missing two technologies that are essential to the system.  One is the distaff.  The other is a removable whorl.  We find whorls made of fired clay, metal and stone around the world, and we tend to assume that that entire spindle was lost, all at once, and then the wooden shaft rotted away, leaving the whorl for us to find.

However, looking at accounts of spinners in the Highlands, they put a whorl on the spindle, start spinning, and as the copp builds, they take the whorl off, put it in their pocket, and let the copp act as the whorl. This allows them to produce longer continuous threads.  This is a tool for serious worsted thread production.

And, it is easy to lose a whorl out of  their pocket.

I have come up with a spindle design that I like much better than any other that I have tried.

I start with a spindle shaft about 12 inches long.  It has a spiral groove for the thread (because hooks catch on everything and a half-hitch causes the thread to lose 40% of the thread's tensile strength.  If you design the spindle assuming the use of a half-hitch, then you reduce the length of the thread that can be spun on that spindle by 40%.)  The groove is made with a small knife and a rasp.

I go to the hardware store and I buy 2 threaded nuts, one big, and one small.  I thin the spindle down, leaving a bulge at the bottom.  The bulge is large enough that the threads of the large nut will catch on it and tapered enough that I can thread the small nut on it.  Threaded nuts for bolts are very cheap.  You can afford to buy a few  in the event that your "spindle whorl" falls out of your pocket.

I "screw" the large nut on the bottom of the spindle and start spinning. 

 As my copp grows, I take the heavy nut off and put the small nut on.

When the copp gets large enough to stabilize the spindle, I take the nut off and put it in my pocket where it can fall out.

The metal nuts have enough weight to spin well.  Their concentrated weight means that the spindle tends to spin fast - much faster than with modern disk-whorl designs.  So fast, that you can not draft fast enough to keep up with it -- unless you are spinning fairly fine and have a distaff to help you draft faster.  This is not a spindle for beginners.

Here ( and here (,  even after their copp has grown, the fixed whorl tends to slow the RPM of the spindle, limiting how fast they can spin, and the weight of the whorl limits how fine and long a thread they can spin. However,  it is not hard to find pictures of  Peruvian spinners using removable whorls and distaves.  See for example

ETA:  Last night, Will Taylor told me that many South American spinners use machine nuts as spindle whorl weights.

ETA: The idea 

Thursday, October 13, 2011


 I did not learn to use a distaff when spinning wool. Then, I read a post in the blog, A stitch in time, and she pointed out that all the old pictures of spinners have distaves. So, I tried it. 

It works. OK, that is part of my Niddy poked into a hole in my Traddy, but it works!
For worsted spinning, it is like having 3 hands. The drafting hand can keep some tension between the distaff and the drafting zone to keep the fibers aligned. This is sort of like continuous pre-drafting. While a wrist distaff or wrapping the roving around the drafting arm can store fiber and help keep it orderly and out of the way, these methods do not aid in the drafting process like a real distaff.  A good distaff aids in the drafting process.  
Those old timers had a lot spinning to do, and a short time to do it.  They knew how to spin a high-quality thread as fast as possible.  They used a distaff
I swear that I have not seen modern spinners using real distaves, but then a few days ago I would have sworn it was not in the books either.  However, there it is, in the first paragraph of Chapter 7 in Amos.  He did not write “Use a distaff when spinning linen.”  No, he wrote, “Use a distaff.”
The problem that I had with the distaff was that my grist rose from my intended 9,000 ypp to 14,000 ypp. I have to retrain my drafting hand -- or change my yarn design. 
What works best? Actually a wooden yard stick stuck in my waist band worked fairly well, and is fairly typical of what we see  in Classic Greek art.  However, it is a bit awkward for sitting at a spinning wheel.  For a spinning wheel, Amos suggests a free standing distaff.  However, I like to spin in my window corner beside the breakfast table - not much floor space there.  Thus, my solution is a distaff attached to my wheel.

How good is it?  Well I am spending all day making a better one.  It is a technology with huge promise.

Russian Distaves
It is like knitting sheaths.  They made them because they work very well.

PS. It is not pretty but the Mark II distaff is very, very functional:

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Spinning in Public

I like the idea, but I cannot do it.

When I spin in public, I slow down and my grist goes all over the place. At Lambtown, I spun for HOURS and produced a grand total of 350 yards of single, some of which was thin and some of which was fat, and all of which was poor quality. Intended grist for the day was ~9,000 ypp, actual average grist was less than 5,400.  OK, there was poor light where I was sitting and other factors, but a week later in a spinning group, with the same intended grist, my actual grist was less than 8,000 ypp.

My hat is off to the folks that can spin their intended grist in public.  I have given up trying to spin project quality singles in public.  In the future, I will take some of that Blue Romney that I have, and not worry about what I am actually spinning.

Friday, September 30, 2011

quick kniddy noddy

Not a love token 

but it works, it fits in the spinning bag,
and it was not much effort.

Note that the ends are different.  If I ever need to make another, I will know which shapes work better.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

DRS, fineness, and vibration

Vibration in a DD system raises the effective DRS, making it more difficult to spin at the fineness expected from the calculated DRS.

Surprise!  If you want to spin fine, you need a smooth-running spinning wheel.

After a year of use, my Traddy had some wear, and hence more vibration.  And, I swear, I oiled it every 4 hours using good oil.  On the other hand, I ran it long and fast.  Nice thing about a Traddy is that new bearings are inexpensive.  A few new bearings and everything is back to fast and smooth.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Plying from a center-pull cake

With improvised cake holders, the singles twist.  Better is:

Thursday, September 22, 2011


I will be at Lambtown in Dixon, Ca this year.  I will be helping around the Merdian Jacob booth.

I am in the wood shop this week, so the Traddy will be tricked out. The "F-word" may be heard as in, "That is f^&*hair!!"

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

DRS Revisited

I have been plying yarn for my Shetland gansey.  Some of the singles were spun last winter before I built the Hot Rod and some after. 

Running the singles through my fingers, I am impressed by the consistent fineness of the singles spun using the Ashford high speed whorl and bobbins with whorls that provide the proper DRS (differential rotation speed) for the grist of yarn being spun.  While the Hot Rod certainly allows me to spin faster, singles spun on it tend to drift in thickness.  For example, singles that I intend to be ~9,000 ypp end up with portions being closer to 7,000 ypp or 11,000 ypp.  I think this is because with the small whorls, a small change in anything changes the DRS.  While the standard Ashford high speed whorl is twice as large, so the same change in that system makes only half as much change in its DRS. 

Anyway, I am going to move toward larger whorls so that I have better control of my  DRS.  I have not decided if I am going to do that by putting an accelerator wheel on the Traddy or if I will buy a 30 inch wheel.  

Most of last week, I had the Ashford Lace Flier (ST) on the wheel.  First and foremost, I do not think that there is any question that a good bumpless driveband (per Amos) delivers more power than the Ashford Turbo driveband (clear stretchy plastic).  2)  Fluorocarbon leader material (fishing line) makes very good brake band material for spinning very fine yarns. 

As long as we are talking about spinning fine, see the Bothwell Spining results at   The winners are spinning singles up in the range of 100,000 ypp or 176 hanks/ lb. The winner, Jan Zandbelt, currently uses a Louet Julia, but in 2007, he used a Majacraft Suzie with 1 gram of brake tension and custom made ultra-light weight spinning bobbins.  Of course, that contradicts my thoughts about DD being better for spinning fine.  Or, does it?

I do not spin that fine.  I do not try to spin that fine.  I do not need singles finer than about 27,000 ypp.  I aim to spin my finest singles at ~90% of  their spinning count.  Thus, Polwarth has a spinning count of ~ 62, so I would aim to spin it at ~ 31,000 ypp.  Zandbelt spins it at 88,400 ypp.

Does that invalidate everything that I say?  I want yarns that knit up into fabrics that I like, and I want to produce those yarns with a minimum of effort. Zandbelt wants thin yarn for contests. He says that "Patience"  is important.  We have different goals.   

However, I am arrogant enough to think that if I wanted to spin Polwarth  into a yarn that was too fragile for any practical use, I could.   I would approach the problem by making up a DD spinning bobbin with a DRS of 1.01 and a bobbin core diameter of 0.625".  I think that for that low a DRS, I would use the regular Ashford DD flier whorl, which gives me a bobbin whorl diameter of 1.73". We are talking a bobbin speed of 1,200 RPM.  My bobbin has not gone that slow in ages.  It would take all weekend to spin 10 grams. "Patience" is right. 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The hot rod spinning wheel revisited

In May, I wrote about how I had upgraded my Ashford Traditional spinning wheel.
Since then I have spun a lot of singles in the 5,600 to 9,000 ypp range on it and I have some thoughts.

The DRS (differential rotation speed) between the flier and the bobbin controls the twist.  The accumulated twist changes as the diameter of the copp wound onto the  bobbin changes.  Thus, when I have accumulated a layer of yarn that is ~ 3/8"  thick on the bobbin, I wind off.  This is a pain in the neck.  I use my wood lathe as a bobbin winder to wind off the bobbin. (It is very fast, and is always handy there in the middle of the workshop.)   Without a good wind off approach (or using very long bobbins) using DRS to control twist is not practical.

There has been more wear on the bearings and axles than I expected.  I oil frequently, but I use a high belt tension, and there is a lot of wear. Thus, the machine is getting noisy.

Over the last few days, I swapped it back to standard Ashford double drive and spun a while.  Currently the Ashford Lace Flier is on the wheel. The Ashford Lace Flier is 30:1 ST, but compared to the 40:1 DD, the ST lace flier is much slower.   Spinning on the Ashford Lace Flier is a very pleasant pastime, but it is SLOW!    

With a larger drive wheel (30"), I could use a lower belt tension and with less noise and wear.  : )

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Carding and Spinning Oil

I just posted that fleece needs to be clean before it can be processed.  That is true, it needs to be clean so that it drops all of the grit that was on it.

It also needs oil for carding and spinning.  I use olive oil at a rate of between 1% and 2% by weight. That is, if I have 4 ounces (112 gram) of clean wool to card/ spin, I add a couple of grams (~  less than 1/2teaspoon) of olive oil.

I have it in one of those oil misters that are sold in gourmet shops, and clean samples of wool going into the carder for the first time gets a squirt on each side. Everything goes through the carder several times.  Bats that feel dry either get carded together with bats that seem to have extra oil them, or dry bats get an extra squirt.

Big bins of wool get weighted amounts of oil, so that amount is more precise. Then they get mixed, sit in a warm place for a day, and get mixed again.  As the bats get blended the oil is evenly distributed through the wool.

"Vegetable oil" will oxidize, get sticky, and turn your fiber into a spinner's torment. Do not go there. Mineral oil is hard to clean off the yarn.  Either use the right oil, or do not oil.

Clean wool with a tiny amount of olive oil on it is the easy way to card, comb, and spin.

Spinning and knitting in the Grease

One of the great romantic fables of spinning and knitting is that fisherman's sweaters spun and knit in the "grease" are warmer and more weatherproof.

The best fisherman's sweaters were scoured, spun, and knit.  Many were also dyed, which provided several advantages, but for a good dye job, the wool had to be scoured.

Unscoured wool has a film of waxy material on it, that holds grit. The variable amounts of grit held in that waxy material makes consistent spinning difficult.  The grit on the fiber causes wear on the spinning equipment.  Inconsistent spinning, produces a variable yarn, which is impossible to knit into a consistently tight fabric. Clean wool is easier to card.  Grease wool is impossible to comb, and combing is a part of producing the worsted style yarns for high quality fisherman/seaman sweaters.   And, lets put it this way, "The scouring process kills lots of germs."  Besides, "Clean wool smells better when you do get rained on!"

Then, the grit trapped in the yarn as it is spun, is a constant source of wear, reducing the durability of the garment.  Grease wool/yarn/fabrics also attracts moths. Clean wool lasts longer.

Some low lanolin wools such as Shetland and Jacob, can be rinsed, and spun with success but the quality of the yarn, and hence the quality of the knitting is not as high as when clean wool is used. Some talk about spinning the long wools in the grease.  It is possible, but you still have the grit. While it is possible to spin beautiful yarns from grease wool, it is easier to spin better yarn from clean wool.  See Alden Amos Big Book of Hand spinning pg 44 - 45.  Judith MacKenzie  McCuin in the Intentional spinner ( pg 28) first says ". . . wool must be washed or scoured before it can be processed efficiently." Then, she waffles to talk about washing wool without removing its natural oils.  I do not waffle.  As long as that waxy layer is on the fibers, grit will stick to it, and will get trapped in the yarn as it is spun. Thus, if you leave the natural oils on the fibers, grit will be there to spoil your spinning.

Scoured wool can be "reoiled", to be weatherproof.  Jan at Frangipani recommends using a drop of baby oil in the rinse water. This is fast, inexpensive, and effective.  I put one drop of lavender oil into my bottles of baby oil for a little extra moth protection.  Dyed wool can be reoiled to be even more weatherproof.  Perhaps the best way to "oil" a sweater for serious outdoor wear is to fry bacon over a camp fire.  The combination of wood smoke and bacon fat does a very good job of oiling a sweater.

Wool can be scoured by letting it sit in cold water for a few days (fermented suint method), rinsing, and then treating with lye soap (followed by a careful rinse).   Or, the Romans cleaned their wool in aged urine (followed by a careful rinse!)   If you can get to a modern market, then modern soaps and detergents make cleaning wool easy.  (Umm, if you use Simple Green, make sure it is diluted and mixed before the wool goes in.)

The investment of time and effort in scouring wool pays off in faster and better spinning.

The first three rules of fast and easy spinning are:
Fiber preparation!
Fiber preparation!
Fiber preparation!

A day of fiber preparation can save 3 days of spinning (if you are spinning fine.)

If you can heat a cauldron of wool to over 120 F, you can skim the "wool fat" off to reoil the wool, after it is all knit. Then, it will smell all "sheepy" and everybody will think that you spun it in the grease, when in fact you spun it the easy way. (Or, you can just buy a little bit of "wool fat" from iriss

Sunday, September 11, 2011

How it was done

I look at  old knitting sheaths, and I ask, why did they do it like that?

For example look at this photo of  various knitting sheaths ( and note that a number of the knitting sheaths on the right hand side were made of two pieces of wood.  One carved, the other one turned and inserted into the carved piece with tenon joint.

Certainly many of the older "love toke" knitting sheaths were carved from single piece of wood.  Many of my early sheaths were carved from a single piece of wood and I went to a lot of effort to turn the needle adapter.

However,  last week, my wife had a new red wood fence put around the back yard and the work men left me a lot of little pieces of red wood.  It is a nice light weight, attractive wood, that is very easy to work. So I made some knitting sheaths.

They are both designed to tuck into the elastic waist band of sweat pants or shorts. They work very well with 7.5 inch #1 DPN.  The soft wood is strong enough when the tenon joint is glued.  If you use a friction joint so that that needle adapters are interchangeable, then the softer wood tends to crack at the joint.

Mostly, I have been using 9" needles with spring action for sock knitting for the year or so,  but these little knitting sheaths do not provide enough resistance to support the spring action, so these little knitting sheaths need a different motion. That is OK, the motion is driven by the shoulder muscles, and there is still no stress on the hand. It is almost as fast as the spring action. Made from red wood, the knitting sheaths are light and handy, and the shorter needles are better for knitting bags and travel. I find it worth while to keep this technique in practice.

When you are making knitting sheaths, this is a concept that you may want to consider as the soft wood makes fabrication fast and easy, and they seem to last.  The needle adapter in the top photo was turned from a bit of ash limb that I had to prune off to make way for the fence.   Turning green wood, can be a very fast and easy process.

The bobbins that I make are not as robust as the plywood bobbins that I get from Ashford.  Mine show a disconcerting attraction to concrete floors. Thus, I have had  several opportunities to think about making bobbins. 

These are DD spinning bobbins, that provide a 40:1 ratio on my Ashford Traditional, with a DRS of ~1.01, and a core diameter of 0.625" they are optimized for spinning 16 hanks per pound. The singles on those bobbins is a Shetland - Jacob blend spun to ~9,000 ypp.

I have moved to making the cores and whorls from one piece of black walnut stock. As you can see, there have been trials along the way.

I make the end disks from cherry. And, I like bronze bearing insets better than the Ashford Delrin bearing insets.  The Delrin is far and away the better bearing material and they are lighter.  However, the Ashford bearing inserts have little spacing collars, and with my small core diameter and small whorls, I just do not have enough clearance for the spacing collars on the Delrin bearings.  

My current process for making a spinning bobbin is to bore a straight hole through the core blank.  I use the ends of that hole center the blank as I turn the core/whorl.  The bobbin core blank needs to be straight and smooth to fit the holes that will be bored in bobbin-end blanks.

I scribe a ~3" circle on some 3/4" cherry stock, drill a 1/16" hole through the center of the circle and cut the blank on the band saw.  I use a spur drive on the wood lathe to turn the blank round and part it into 2 pieces.  Each bobbin end piece goes into the lath chuck and I bore the center of the blank to fit the bobbin core blank.  I glue the bobbin ends on to the core.  I turn the final shape of the bobbin ends and the whorl on the wood lathe. The bronze bearings are held in place with a dab of  E 6000 industrial adhesive.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Re: anonymice

Scientists ask questions, and then seek the answers.  Time and budget are always a constraint.  One cannot ask all possible questions, and one cannot seek all possible answers.  Some questions require data that provides a high level confidence, while lower quality data is acceptable for other questions. Technology is even more focused.  Good technology must meet the criteria of: faster, better, & cheaper.

In 1999, I asked the question, "How did the fishermen on the banks stay warm"  The bulk of the answer is that they (or their knitter) used DPN and knitting sheaths to knit substantially weatherproof woolen fabrics.  These fabrics were used in single and multiple layers with woven wool and other woven fabrics.  However, the real magic was in hand knit fabrics with stitch patterns that increased the warmth of the fabric.  The question is as much technology as science.  I understood this by early 2007, see  Work since then is just refining the technology,   as in:

An inexpensive, but very functional knitting sheath
 designed to be tucked into an elastic pant waist

And it is not like we are starting from scratch.  We have a lot of information about ships, climate, fishing, physiology, textile performance, textile industry economics and so forth.  It is more like we have a "blue print" of an industrial machine and the blue print has some holes in it.  We need to go back and reverse engineer the missing parts so everything works together.

I have documented that such fabrics are weatherproof (i.e., will support a pool of water on them for an extended period of time.)  I have worn these garments skiing, sailing, climbing, mountaineering, and working in freezing rain.  Such garments are exceptionally warm even when compared with the best from modern sporting goods companies such as Columbia, Patagonia, Marmot, and LL Bean.  If the skeptic does not believe, then the proper thing to do is say, " I want to test those garments."  Yes, we can make arrangements for that.  We can even set up a little workshop where we knit while sailing. (An advanced skill, as most people get sea sick.  A good part of the skill is to watch the horizon, rather than your knitting.)

I knit such fabrics with DPN and knitting sheaths.  There is no question that the process is technically and ergonomically feasible. This is well documented in the literature.  There is no need to post data on a topic that is well documented. (I had to get up an experience curve to understand the technology, and I collected data as I climbed that curve.  Having data does not make that data new or useful.)

The process is slower than knitting looser fabrics, and thus the fabrics are more expensive.  However, even today, warmer garments tend to be more expensive, and thus tight knitting economically feasible.

I have documented on this blog, fabrics can be easily produced with a knitting sheath and DPN. For example I knit a good gansey in 10 days, and I am a fat old man with palsy.  If the skeptic does not believe that I knit that fast, then we can arrange to sit down together for a knitting session.  The skeptic can touch and feel the produced fabric at the same time.  I will even let the skeptic stare at a pool of water sitting on a swatch of fabric.   The skeptic can put on a gansey, lie on the floor, and I will pour water on the gansey, and she can note that she stays dry.  We can do the knitting workshop in a campground near some very cold river and the skeptic can spend the day in the cold river while wearing the gansey (15 minutes with gansey on/ 15 minutes with gansey off).  (If we pick a good cold river or a bathtub full of ice cubes, that activity will last about 17 minutes.)

Such weatherproof fabrics are difficult to produce in large quantity with SPN or circular needles because these do not provide the required leverage for packing the yarns together. Certainly a gansey or two can be done on circs, but if you have 8 brothers and need to produce 9 ganseys (dad) per year, your wrists will get sore. Again the ergonomics were established in the 1930s, so there is really no need for me to dwell on that.

What is left is technical issues of what kind of needles are best and what shapes of knitting sheaths work for different kinds of knitting. There is less of this in the literature. I mean, we have lots of shapes of knitting sheaths, but we do not know if they were different shapes with the same use or different shapes with different uses.   The truth is different shapes for different uses.   There were at least 11 different knitting techniques that used a knitting sheath.  This is a part of what I talk about in class, and if you want to know more - take the class. I have shared photographs of the knitting sheaths and needles that worked, and have written of ones that did not work.  I have provided enough data that anybody with even a passing interest can try the process without a large investment in time or effort.  Anybody with any interest can knit their own swatches and in 4 hours, be pouring water on their own swatches and timing how long it takes for the water to drain through.  The way to test another knitting technique is to try it!  You do not go looking for peer review articles on Russian Knitting, you sit down and try it, to see if it works for you!

I certainly have notebooks of data that I have not shared.  Every good researcher does. (The only exception that I can think of in an EPA directed Human Health Risk Assessment.) However, I am not going to transcribe the data just because somebody wants to look at it.  If they have a specific question, they can ask the question.  If they just want to fish, I have given enough information that they can knit their own outfit(s) and go fish.  I have a great pile of Shetland to spin.

People come to me saying that they are a researcher, and thus that I should give them my data, but they are not bringing me any data. They are what Al Dring calls, "Sponges".  A researcher can find all of the above references.  If they do not have the library skills to find the references, then they are lying about being a researcher. On the other hand, there are many people out there with good information, and they share it.  I am so grateful to those people.  If the helpful people need help finding a particular source, I will help.

I am perfectly willing to answer honest questions.  However, I do not tolerate dishonest questions.  And, when someone asks a question, I am as likely to show them how to find the answer themselves, as I am to just tell them the answer.  

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Venting again

The other thing that cannot be worked out from swatches is venting.

The very tightly knit fabrics produce a garment that is very warm.  If you knit a fabric that is suitable for 30F then as a snug sweater, then it will be too warm at 60F .  However, by providing some ease at the neck, shoulders, cuffs, and hem/welt, there will be a flow of air under the garment and out the neck.  When the body/skin is cooler, the flow is less and the skin warms.   When the skin is warmer, the flow increases  so that the wearer stays comfortable. When the ease is right, the flow of air under the garment is self-regulating, and the wearer stays comfortable over a range of temperatures.  Knit to fit.

We have heard layer, layer, layer for cold weather and have forgotten that there might be other ways of staying comfortable.  For example, layering does not really work in the upper rigging of a sail boat, because where do you stow the clothes you are putting on and taking off? Self -venting sweaters inform us as to how the sailors stayed comfortable without making extra trips down to the deck to change their layers of clothing.

Thus, one can have a ski sweater that is comfortable for skiing the steep chutes at the top of the mountain, and yet, it starts ventilating as one steps into the beer line while everyone else is still taking their layers off.

Likewise, it can be worn below decks, and there is no delay while looking for additional clothing when going on deck. (As in, "All hands on deck to shorten sail")

Looking at Knitting in the Old Way by Gibson-Roberst and Robson, this kind of venting works best with "Boat necklines" but also works with others, particularly including Button-neck closures.  (You will need a much tighter fabric than G-R & R contemplate.)  Turtle necks can actually be made vent by knitting the neck in a thinner yarn or on larger needles to produce a looser fabric that allows more air to pass through it.

With this extra ease, a jersey can be worn under these self venting sweaters.  This stops the venting. Such a layering requires exceptional cold to be comfortable. This combination can make shorts and bare feet comfortable even on rather cool days.   Other sailors stare at me, but what do I care?