Thursday, April 18, 2013

The End

QA/QC on a large order of steel gansey needles presented me with something of an existential crisis.

As I checked them, they were blunt, and as everyone knows, my needles are pointy, and I make the needles that I like to knit with.  So how were these so blunt?

In the beginning, I made steel needles in the shape of all the commercial needles, and I polished them like jewelry. I felt that made the tips slippery, so I then left annular striations around the tip.  That was better, the striation helped the working needle "grab" the yarn.  In the last couple years, the striations have grated on my nerves and I have polished the tips more and more.  As I did that, I made the needles less pointy, so the yarn would be less likely to fall off the taper.

Along the way I changed from poking the working needle into the next stitch to sliding the working needle along the other needle and into the next stitch. A by product of this is that the working needle was not pushed as far into the working stitch.  These days I only push/slide the working needle about 4 mm into the working stitch.

A 2.5 mm Inox DPN has a 9 mm long taper.  If you only push it in 4 mm into the working stitch, then the tip of the needle where one wraps the yarn is less than a millimeter in diameter.  If you want to wrap the yarn around a full 2.5 mm needle then one must insert the Inox needle a full 14 mm into the stitch. These days, that is more needle motion that I want.

That means that I want the full diameter of the needle only a millimeter or two from the end of the needle.  That means a very short taper.  That means rather blunt needles.  That is the end of the pointy needle.

The 2 needles at left in the knitting are my latest gansey needles. The 2 needles at center left are commercial 16" & 14" DPN.  The single needle at center right is a striated pointy needle from the set that I used to make the Filey gansey 4 years ago.  The 4 needles at right are a set of old English needles given to me by a student.  They suggest that others knew that blunt needles do work if you have a knitting sheath and the right technique.  The paper is 1/4" grid.

On the other hand, blunt needles are crap for picking up stitches.  If you want to pick up stitches, you need pointy needles. Pointy needles are better for decreases and  most lace stitches.  Those ball tipped needles above are actually a bit too blunt for easy purling.  If you are using a knitting technique (such as those derived from Weldon) where the needle is poked into the stitch, then pointy needles are better.

And, these observations only apply to metal needles of less than 2.5 mm.

Edited to add, the above suggests that I am selling those ball tipped needles.  No, those are for my knitting garter stitch.  These days the needle tips that I sell are more like:

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

More on the hot rod wheel

My loom uses a warp tension system that employs sliding weights to vary the tension.  This put me to thinking that I could adjust the tension of the drive band on the spinning wheel by sliding the weights rather than changing the weights as I have been.  It works.  It complements the gang whorl system.

I just slide the weight  hanger from notch to notch on a lever attached to the MOA.
(The holes support a yarn guide for winding off ,)

Thus, I avoid running out to the garage to get different weights.

Overall, now I am satisfied with the spin system' performance.  At this time, this wheel will spin about as fast as I can draft. It meets my needs.

Three years ago, between slippage and vibration,  the new stock Ashford had a maximum twist insert of under 1,000 rpm for the DD & ST flyers, with the lace flyer perhaps 30% faster.  All in all, production speed of 10s (5,600 ypp singles) was under 200 yards per hour.

With Alden Amos's wonderful, low vibration fliers, gang whorls, and adjustable weight system, the system can now be run at well over 2,000 usable rpm on a sustained basis. This means that 10s can be easily spun at 350 yards per hour, and a uniform, knot free hank of 560 yards produced.   40s (22,000 ypp) can be spun in the close range of 200 yards per hour on a sustained basis.  While, I exceeded this speed with the stock Ashford flyer and the very high speed flier whorls that I fabricated last year, then there was more vibration resulting in lower quality thread and spinning on that gear was - more work.

While some of the increase in speed is improved skill, Istill use the stock Ashford flyer/bobbin assembly for plying (because of more capacity).  So I have the gear out on a regular basis and 1,000 rpm is still about as fast as it can go.  While I certainly did learn to spin 60s (30,000 ypp) on the Ashford lace flyer, that is much harder and requires more skill and concentration than spinning 60s on this system. With the current system of Alden's fliers and weight tension, 80s can be spun at a good pace.  More, I cannot ask of any spinning system.

As currently configured, I do not see any advantage to e-spinning, and I have re-purposed my e-spinner to a prin winder.

(Not shown is a safety lanyard that protects the tile floor from falling weights when the drive band breaks.)

Monday, April 08, 2013

The Path

I insist that there are always better, cheaper, faster ways of doing something.  When I find a better, cheaper, faster way, of doing something, I drop however I was doing it before and I do it in the better, cheaper, faster way.

Some paths have inherent limits, while other pathways lead farther.  I assert, that we tend not to consider all of the possible paths.  Thus, sometimes we choose the wrong path, and we have to stop, back track, and switch paths.

I do not care which path somebody else takes, or how far along that pathway they choose to go. I merely send out a beacon as to which path I am on, and how far I have gone. From this, others can tell if their path is better for their needs, or whether my path offers advantages.

I choose my path because it is a compromise that meets my needs.  I describe how I make the fabrics that I like, and the historical antecedents that lead me to these fabrics and production techniques.  Other people have other needs and wants and are welcome to choose other compromises and paths.

However, If I did not feel that my path was not the best path for me, I would have switched paths, so yes, I do feel that my path is the very best path for me.

I talk about knitting and spinning, and how it can be done. I do not talk about people, so I do not belittle anyone.

I set reasonable standards for myself.  I really do not care if anybody else meets those standards.  On the other hand, if the knitting and spinning police want to come around, I expect them to be my peers and to do all the things that I do, at least as well as I do them.

The truth is that much of what generates the hostility is the issue of standards.  Most knitters and spinners do not like talking about spinning and knitting in quantitative terms.

However, one gets what one measures.  I want "fine."  Thus, I measure fineness. Only by measuring fineness will I know when I have gone as far along the path to fineness as possible, and then I must ask myself, "Is this fine enough, or do I need to find another path?"  I want speed.  Only by measuring speed can I determine if I am going fast enough, or if I must find another path.  Only by setting standards can I tell if I am on the right path (using the right technology) or whether I must find another path (technology). Only by measuring can I tell if I am advancing along my chosen path.

The last 6 months have seen great leaps forward in both my spinning and knitting. For now, I am very content with my spinning and knitting.


I have acquired a gently used AVL 16 harness,  48" Dobby loom.  
(It has flyshuttles, but they are not shown.)

It will likely be a long time before I have much else to say.  I expect a long, steep, learning curve. Wish me luck.

Friday, April 05, 2013

gangs of whorls for fliers

Some would say that the last post was very unfair, as both Alden Amos and Henry Clems HAVE made DRS spinning wheels and had to take them back when the wheel would not produce the yarn desired by the spinner.  Alden in particular has colorful language about the difficulties of  designing a DRS system to produce a specified yarn and the potential for any DRS system to stop functioning for no obvious reason.  (Every DRS system will result in pools of tears/ sweat at some time. )

DRS controlled spinning requires spinning techniques that are not taught in modern spinning classes.  And, if you are limited to the techniques taught in modern spinning classes, you will have poor results with DRS controlled equipment.  For example, "long draw" spinning does not work. At this time, DRS gear would not be my first choice for spinning woolen yarn. On the other hand, one reason for spinning woolen is that spinning woolen can be fast, but DRS allows me to spin worsted much faster than most flier wheels can spin woolen.

Henry Clems says the pages on DRS in AA have caused him a lot of problems.  People read AA, and ask Henry for a DRS wheel, then they can't produce the yarn that they want, and  they make him take the wheel back.

Thus, we have the chicken and egg problem.  Spinning classes do not teach the techniques because nobody has the equipment. And, nobody has the equipment because there was no class on how to use it. There is also the problem that not many wheel mechanics understand the equipment and can find those not obvious mechanical issues.

However, this does not absolve the high status, expert spinners. If they were really interested in moving the craft to finer, and faster, worsted spinning, they would talk about DRS and tell beginning spinners about the equipment and the additional required skills.

A gang of flier whorls of slightly different diameters (steps of 1/32") allows changing inserted twist by simply moving the drive band.  Thus, inserted twist can be held relatively constant as the effective diameter of the bobbin changes as single is wound on.

I intend to make a full set of these so I can spin any grist (twist) on bobbins with any effective diameter.  And, now I intend to start making bigger bobbins.  I did not need bigger bobbins when I was winding off frequently to prevent the effective diameter of the bobbin from changing.

Now, I can spin a full hank of a medium single without winding off.


Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Tools of the Trade

This flier/bobbin assembly inserts ~18 twist per inch. There are 20 threads per inch on the flier axle at the left so you have some scale for the yarn. (Sorry the lines between the floor tiles confuse the pix. Look at where the single crosses from one band of yarn to the next.) This flier/bobbin assembly was designed to spin 40 hanks (of 560 yard) per pound -- 22,400 ypp.   Traditionally that was a medium weight single. Prior to 1780, a spinning factory would have a whole room of spinners, spinning yarns of that weight.  And they would likely have a whole rooms of spinners, spinning 60s (34,000 ypp).  And they would have a whole room of spinners spinning "fines" -~ 40,000 ypp.  In those days, every competent spinner could spin any of those grists at commercial speed.  One thing that made that possible was the correct tools.

So when a spinner excoriates me, telling me that, "[I] am very wrong for thinking that [I] am the first to spin 30,000 ypp and that spinners in [her] region had been spinning that fine long before [I] started spinning.", she has it upside down.  I know, that in the past, essentially every hand spinner could spin 40,000 ypp singles at a commercial rate, e.g., very fast. For example, in 1580, the Dutch were buying fine wool in Spain, having it spun and woven in Flanders, and selling the (fine) finished cloth back in Spain at a good profit.   What I dislike is modern hand spinners pretending that it must be hard to spin 30,000 ypp singles. With the correct tools it is easy.

The flier is custom from Alden Amos.  I had to design and make the whorl and bobbin.  It is a reasonable grist, why can't I just buy a  DD flier -bobbin assembly from Ashford set up out of the box to spin 22,000 ypp?

No market!  Most of the  modern recreational spinners that can spin that fine are very proud of their skill and experience that allows them to use lesser tools to spin such yarn.  This gives them status in their circles, and they do not want some spinner that has only been spinning for a couple of years to use better tools and thereby spin as fine as what took them years and years to learn to spin.  (Oh, and every time I accumulate 1/4" of yarn, the effective diameter of the bobbin changes and I have to wind off.  At 20 k ypp, that is less than 100 yards, at 30 or 40 k ypp it is a lot more than 100 yards.  At lower grists, this is a real problem.)

I learned to spin fine singles on the stock Ashford DD and lace fliers, so I know it can be done. At this point, I have spun fine singles on most of the modern mass produced spinning wheels including the CPW, and have a god idea of how much effort is required to spin fine singles on the different wheels. Many of those trials were conducted with cash in my pocket to buy a better wheel.   However, spinning fine on modern wheels was so much work that I was willing to put a large effort in to finding a better way to spin such singles.

So, yesterday, I was in a roomful of very accomplished weavers ( many of whom are considered very good spinners) and I showed them that morning's work (after it had been washed, blocked, and rewound).  They wanted to know what kind of fiber allowed me to spin that fine.  (It is very generic Merino, that can be spun much, much fner.)  They asked the wrong question.  The right questions are, "What tools did you use to spin that fine? and "How long did it take you?"  (365 yards in an easy morning of spinning.)  With those tools, I can spin Romney, or Shetland, or Suffolk, that fine at almost the same rate.