Sunday, February 10, 2013

Waterproof systems

When I was designing systems for handling hazardous and nuclear waste, we were always doing “fault trees” and asking, “If this component fails, what else will fail?”, and “The failure of what other components will affect this component?”

When one does such fault trees on a 18th century square rigged ship, the integrity of almost every system comes back to keeping the sailors warm.  If the sailors go hypothermic, the ship’s systems fail. The weight of their  garments  affects how much work each sailor can do.  If the sailors clothes weight more, then the sailor can do less work.  If the sailor’s clothes are more bulky, then more space must be allocated to clothing and less to cargo.  If the sailor clothes are not as warm, then the sailor needs to eat more, then the ship needs more space for food and cooking and there is less space for cargo.  This goes on and on, and the issue of keeping the sailor warm is critical, and seemingly insurmountable.  It is a matter of doing forensic engineering.  The engineering says the ship will not work. 

Engineers these days do not know about wool fabrics knit from worsted spun yarns and knit with long needles and a knitting sheath.  Looking to the literature, the engineer sees the Victorian tradition of hand knitting, that says such fabrics are impossible to hand knit, and even if it could be done, the knitting  would be too slow and costly to be useful.  Thus, in the post Victorian era, such ships are impossible.

However, looking back at pre-Victorian knitting traditions, such fabrics were knit, and the technology to knit such fabrics rapidly and inexpensively was widely available.  With such very warm, light fabrics, and the square rigged ships become feasible, but are such fabrics possible?  The proof is in the knitting.

Someone who has never worn such garments thinks they are as impossible as an old sailor would think a modern cell phone was impossible.   The possibly of a cell phone is proven by the existence of a cell phone. The possibility of warm, light weight fabrics is proven by knitting them.

Think about recreating the water system on an 18th century square rigger;  wooden barrels bound with elm hoops.  Make a few.  Just like sweaters knit at a high density with long needles and a knitting sheath, the solid barrels hold water.  Now drill 1/8” holes on a 1.5” grid through the barrels.   They are not very big holes, and they are not real close together,  but the barrels no longer hold water and are worthless as a water system.  That is the equivalent density of a woolen fabric knit on hand held needles to a fabric knit on long needles with a knitting sheath.  The lower density fabric is not as functional for keeping sailors warm.


=Tamar said...

I recommend that you distinguish more clearly between the Victorian "ladies' knitting book" tradition and the Victorian professional knitters' manufacturing standards.
Victoria's reign began in the early 19th century. The professional knitters in the Victorian era were equaling the professional knitters' standards of the 16th and 17th century.

Teri said...

commenting on an old thread again: when you expand your spinning a bit, try some of the dual coated fleeces like Icelandic. Shetlands can be dual coated but not to the same extent. The fine fiber was combed out for next to the skin items like underwear. Long fibers could be used for weaving. Combine the two fibers and you get very interesting yarn. Many of the old sheep breeds were dual coated.

I have half an Icelandic fleece from Iceland. It is very long stapled. Finer fibers are matted a bit in spots as these sheep are not babied. They live in very rough conditions. I think you will find it interesting stuff to work with and closer to the wools used for the historical knitting you do.