Friday, February 22, 2013

Torque, Tension, and swaving

Long needles require longer knitting sheaths (mostly) to withstand the torque of the long lever arm provided by the length of the needle.  Knitting sheaths for swaving do not need to withstand that torque.  I may have been absolutely wrong about the short spindle form knitting sheaths in Brears. They may be to scale, but were used for swaving.

These are two Yorkshire knitting sheaths that I made along time ago. (Long before I worked out swaveing.)  They  mostly differ by the direction of the spiral design carved on them.  First, I made the one on the left, and it never worked (with the straight needles that I was using at the time). The one on the right worked acceptably when tucked into thin apron strings, but was never good enough to keep me from moving on to other designs.   However, for swaving, their performance is excellent and  substantially indistinguishable.  (Both always had brass inserts.)  Now, I have to go back and reconsider a lot of styles and designs that I had previously discarded.  The only thing wrong with some of those designs for swaving is the hole for the needle is too deep.    Relatively short swaving needles do not have to be inserted as deep into the knitting sheath because they do not have to withstand the torque. For swaving, needle holes less than 0.5" deep work well, while I had to make holes for long needles more than a inch deep to keep the long needles from popping out of the knitting sheath and into the furniture.

Two different spindle form knitting sheaths for the same size and length of needle, but since different knitting knitting techniques are used the knitting sheaths are different.  The long sheath is of the Dutch style and works very well with 6" straight needles (sock needles) and the short one is for 6" curved needles that rotate in the knitting sheath.

This raises the obvious question, "Can one swave with a leather/horse hair knitting pouch". Yes, but it is not as fast or easy as with a properly designed/ lubricated knitting sheath.  It is kinda like handheld knitting with wooden needles; there are many reasons to knit with wooden needles, but more speed is not one of those reasons.

It turns out that my trouble with doing decreases while swaving was in part because I was knitting very tightly.  And, swaving, allows knitting much tighter than in any other form of knitting that I know.

However, it is also possible to knit very loosely while swaving, giving swaving a larger range of fabric types for a given needle size than I am accustomed.  It is like  hand held continental where one can knit very loose fabrics with small needles.

However, with continental, one can just switch from tight knitting to loose knitting, or from loose to tight.  However with swaving it seems to take about 4 rows.  Anyway the bottom line is that one can knit loose fabrics while swaving, and that such looser knitting makes decrease stitches much easier.  However, knitting loosely while swaving does mean knitting slower because the fabric has less spring to it to pop the needle out of the stitch.

Swaving is much faster than I could ever knit with long needles (gansey needles), and I do not seem to be near a peak speed.  It is nice to have objects that seem to just sort of fall off the needles.  I have to be more careful to always count rows or check the length frequently.  In the old days, an evening of TV was a 4" sock cuff.  I could cast on and knit all evening without checking the length. The next morning, in the light I could finish the cuff, and turn the heel.  In the evening, I could knit most of the foot, and finish the sock in the morning's light. Thus, most of my work socks have about 5" cuffs.  I was not paying attention, so the current pair on the needles has 6.5" cuffs.  I will save them for winter wear.  It will be OK.

I had been using brass inserts in the needle adapter for swaving needles/pricks, as this reduced the friction, and allowed the needle to rotate more easily.  However, installing a brass insert was extra effort. Now, I am moving to simply making the needle adapters for swaving out of rosewood, black walnut, or similar.  With a bit of bee's wax , these woods seem to make a perfectly good bearings, allowing free rotation of the needle.  How they wear will be another question. I have not decided if the extra bother of working with these woods is more or less than the bother of a brass insert.  However, everyone seems to think the rosewood turnings look nice.

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