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.


sharonwue said...

I think it wouldn't take that fisherman's wife 80 hours to knit that gansey. Half that sounds reasonable to me. (I can knit that sweater in ..... hours! lol) Seriously, even at good gansey gauges, many modern knitters will still have lots of time left over when the sweater is finished. (And by modern knitters (since she is thinking about herself) she means men and women of a certain age who have been knitting all their lives :D)
I am inspired by your spinning adventure, and am allowing it to bend my path. I am also always inspired by historically and archaeologically accurate
Keep it up, please.

Aaron said...


Take one of your sweaters and lay it out on tissue paper. Pour water on the sweater. Does the tissue paper get wet? If it does, then your sailor boy would perish of the cold at sea.

In 80 hours, one can knit a weather proof gansey - one that you can lay out on the floor, pour a pint of water onto, talk for 15 minutes, carry the water to the sink in the gansey, and the floor remains dry. That is a sweater that will keep your sailor boy warm, and alive - so that he comes back to you with his wages in his pocket.

I do not know of many knitters that knit such tight garments these days. In a storm, that last half stitch per inch is the difference between warm/dry and wet/cold. Most modern knitters do not get a tight enough gauge so that there garment keep the wearer warm and dry in a cold rain.

Yes, I can knit an ordinary modern gansey in 40 hours, but it will not keep me warm in a cold rain.

(On a regular watch, a sailor would wear oil skins in the rain, but in a storm, he might get called on deck and not have time to find/put on extra clothing. He would go on deck in what he slept in -- his gansey. His gansey had to keep him warm enough to stay alive until the emergency had passed.

Anonymous said...

In a storm that sailor would sleep in his oilskins, as I did when sailing yachts trans-ocean.

I want to know where a fisher-wife is going to find 3 hours per day to spin alongisde cooking, cleaning, washing, feeding and clothing her multiple children and husband, selling the fish her husband brings home etc. Knitting can be multi-tasked but spinning cannot.

Aaron said...

With a GOOD spindle, one can spin at a good pace while walking to market, herding sheep, and boiling the wash, i.e., multi-tasking spinning. That is why I was so interested in spindle weights. Our modern spindles go slow. A spindle with a traditional bronze or iron or ceramic or stone spindle whorl can go much faster than our modern spindles with their fixed wooden whorls. With a distaff, one can spin much faster than without. Anybody that does not use a distaff in the ordinary course of their spinning is not qualified to make statements about the economics of (worsted) spinning.

And, in the real world, kids can card, spin, and knit by the time they are 9 years old. My mother could pluck and clean chickens and cook dinner for a dozen-man harvest crew by the time she was 9 years old. I knew and worked for some of those men. They said, "At first, her cooking was real bad, but we were hungry, we ate it, and we bragged on it. By the end of that first summer, she was a good cook."

Fishing and sailing were lives of terrible toil and labor. Their families shared that toil and labor. Part of that toil and labor was making and repairing the kit of warm clothing required keep a man warm enough that he retains the coordination and judgement to stay alive. Without that kit to stay warm, the man died. The family did what it had to do to keep their sailor alive.

Today we have weather reports, and sailors go to their bunks in oil skins. Without weather reports, unexpected squalls were more frequent. Yacht cruises are a few weeks - at most. Fishing trips ran months and men pressed into the navy, might not sleep ashore for years on end.

Make yourself a real "oil skin" as it would have been made in 1700 (hand spun and hand woven linen coated with linseed oil), and try sleeping in it for a few weeks. Not much good when you actually need it, now is it? A lot of labor for something that you spoil in a few weeks, huh?