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?

Friday, September 02, 2011

The "anonymice" want to chew on the notebooks.

None of this was about science.  It was about technology.  This is the kind of technical development that most companies do, and which they keep private as trade secrets.  Go to your cell phone company, and ask to see the data on how they developed their last model.  Then, see what kind of a reception you get.  I am a nice guy. :  )

Just as the proof of the pudding is in the eating, the proof of the knitting is in the wearing. No pile of numbers can inform you as to just how warm a hand knit garment can be. The only thing that can give you the gut feeling of how warm a hand knit garment can be is to wear an ordinary knit garment in the rain until you are cold, (and I mean the kind of cold that hurts,) then while still in that cold rain, then put on a good tightly knit gansey. In a few minutes, you will understand just how warm hand knit wool can be. Numbers cannot tell you this. However, it is easy to make your own samples to touch and feel.

You can prove the effects with some cheapo metal #1 DPN and some tightly spun gansey yarn or MacAuslands. You whittle/drill a knitting sheath or stick - crude works - directions are in this blog. Total investment less than $10. Videos of the knitting process are in this blog.

Then, you knit some swatches. Do you like the firmer fabric? - that is all that counts.

Early swatches

I started by knitting tiny swatches, from 800 - 1,000 ypp yarns, very tightly on # 1 circs, and blowing air through them.  Yes, they blocked air flow and thus should be warm, but I did not see any practical way to knit such fabrics. Knitting them with circs was too hard on my wrists. The early data was crap because the fabrics were crap. It only told me that tighter was warmer, and that the relationship was not linear.  As I knit tighter and tighter, suddenly the fabric was much warmer.  The curve relating fabric density to warmth has a sharp bend in it.

 I spent months trying various combinations of long DPN to knit tighter fabrics, and mostly just poked holes in my wife's living room furniture. It was months before I figured out how to use a knitting sheath. Then, the fabrics were much better.

Second Generation Swatches

Blowing air through and pouring water on the Second Generation Swatches gave me the courage to knit some sweaters at those gauges and in those patterns.  The interesting thing to come out the second generation was that some stitch patterns were much warmer than other stitch patterns. This caused me to think incorrectly that the cable patterns were somehow connected with additional warmth.  This was clearly one point where I got things wrong.

I knit the first real gansey from the old Lion Brand Fisherman's Wool.  (The production of this yarn has been moved to China, and it is now very different!)  In those days it was 5 finely spun plies, loosely plied to together.  I knit the sweater on gansey needles with a knitting sheath in about 30 days while I was taking time off to rest my wrists from too much computer work.  This is the warmest garment that I have ever knit.  It is good for skiing on cold days and taking naps in the snow.  It was knit in white, worn and tested, then dyed blue to see if blue sweaters were warmer.  They are.  Note that this is an odd yarn.  You are not going to be able to replicate anything like this gansey because this kind of yarn is simply not available.  On the other hand, this is a very important data point for the hand spinner because it tells us that yarn structure is very important in the warmth of the fabric, and that yarn plies can rearrange themselves within the fabric structure to fill in gaps.  Such rearrangement is not possible with more tightly plied yarns.  Thus, there is more than one way to make a very warm fabric.

The second gansey was knit from MacAusland's three ply (Aran weight). It was knit on #3 steel DPN.  This I call my "gardening gansey" and has been worn until it is going thread bare and no longer has as much warmth as it had that first year.  Then it was worn while I pruned my mother's apple orchard in a week of freezing rain and wind.  The only other guys out that week we the power company's emergency linemen repairing the power lines that kept icing up and blowing down.  I still did not understand how special a tightly knit sweater could be.

One cold rainy day, I put a couple of ordinary fisherman's sweaters that we hand purchased in Canada and the two sweaters that I had knit tightly in my backpack and I went went for a long walk.  I would put on one of the commercial sweaters, and in 15 minutes, I was cold, wet, and freezing.  I would put one of my sweaters on, and in 15 minutes, I was warm, dry and comfortable.  This was an Epiphany! Numbers based on swatches did not hint at the warmth of the entire garment.  These inter-garment comparisons have been done over and over, as they are the only way to get a measure of the truth about how warm a particular garment construction is.

Moreover air flow through the fabric is a minor part of the effect.  The critical point is getting the fabric tight enough to block drops of liquid water.  Fabrics that block the movement of liquid water through the fabric are much warmer than fabrics that do not.  This is true even when it is not raining because the body produces a lot of water vapor that tends to condense on the outer surface of  clothing in cold weather.  Convention knit fabrics are so loose that these droplets tend to be redistributed back toward the skin with any motion of the fabric.  Then the droplets wet the skin or under garments (often linen or cotton, which wicks the water against the skin), the water absorbs its heat of vaporization from the skin (cooling the skin), and the water vapor moves outward through the fabric, condenses on the outer surface of the clothing, and is transported back to the skin again.  Thus, the liters of water released by the body each day can transport huge amounts of heat away from the skin because the water recirculates through the clothing system.

Laying a gansey on a table,  pouring a bottle of water on it, and having no water leak through to the table is more dramatic that any notebook full of numbers.  It says, this sweater is different from any sweater you have ever worn.  There are photographs in this blog of sweaters on the patio, with water on them.  Yes, those sweaters are different from anything that you know.  They are weatherproof.  However, seeing that a sweater is weatherproof  still does not convey how warm the garment is.  One problem is that we do not have words for the "warmth of garments" in common English, and most people do not have experience with the technical units (i.e., R value, suits).

It turns out to be very easy to knit stuff that is way too warm for ordinary use. The only people that need gear that warm are professionals - crab fishermen on the Bering Sea, electrical linemen working during an ice storm, guys installing tire chains, and so forth. Most recreational sailors, hikers, skiers, & bikers do not venture out in really bad weather.

This is hand knitting. A dab of hand lotion changes the tension and hence the warmth of the fabric. Different batches of yarn are blended from different kinds of wool and thus generate different insulation values. Nothing is standard. On the other hand the skill of the knitter allows the production of consistently warm objects.

The vagaries of hand knitting are not big deal if you just want to knit a fabric that is warm enough to keep a sailor warm. You simply test your own materials and knitting technique.  If you knit a garment that fits rather snugly, and you knit it tight enough that you can lay the swatch (or the garment) on the floor, pour a bottle of water on it, and 20 minutes later the floor is still dry, then that (swatch) garment is weatherproof and will keep a sailor warm. Another test is to hold a single layer of the fabric right in front of your eyes as you face a bright window. If you cannot see the outline of the window, then that garment is weatherproof and will keep a sailor warm. Two different tests and they both work.