Sunday, July 28, 2013

A case of brandy

This swatch has shown up in this blog before.  It was swaved with the steel needle (2.38 mm) and commercial wool 6-ply yarn with a grist of 850 ypp. Gauge is 5.5 to 6 spi or 22 stitches/ 4 inches.  It is a firm, but not tight fabric, and certainly not one I would consider tight enough to be weatherproof.  In fact, the purpose of this swatch was to prove that it was possible to swave a normal knit fabric.

One of the anonomice says they can knit such fabric on US3 needles (the white bar above.)

Anyone that can do that will need some refreshment afterwards.  If anyone can knit such fabric on US3 needles, I will buy them a case of good brandy.

Yes, it is not very good knitting.  I was just learning an utterly new technique.

Swatch from last batch of 10-ply

It is cabled, 5x2-ply yarn,  that runs  very close to 1,000 ypp. The swatch is still wet from washing. The base 2-ply was loom warp spun from fine wool.

The fabric slant at the top is the result of a stitch decrease and stitch increase, so the fabric is firm enough that such changes propagate. I have never had a gansey yarn produce such clear, distinct stitch patterns.  I think it is well enough balanced that the stitch rows will not spiral across the belly.

I have been thinking about  such a yarn for more than 2 years.  Everything that I know about fiber and textiles tells me that this is the warmest and most durable fabric that I have ever knit from fine wool.  The current record holder is the gansey knit from (old) LB Fisherman's wool which was tightly spun, loosely plied 5-ply.  The loosely plied structure provided great fill to make a dense fabric. This yarn will not have as much fill, and thus must be to be knit much tighter.  On the other hand, it is less splitty, and easier to knit fast and tight.

Next week I will be salmon fishing up-north, and have been told it will be very cold.  Some of my favorite ganseys are getting a bit thread bare.  Time to knit some new ones. The question is whether 10 ply is worth the extra spinning effort.  Time to do something.

This is not "art yarn".  It does not look like hand spun.  

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Swaving on US 0

Recent swaving on US 0 (2  mm) pricks using 1,200 ypp (4-ply) yarn.  It is a firm, weatherproof fabric, good for a trip around the Horn, on a square rigged ship.

Gauge is 8.5 spi.

In the lower photo, the white rod is a US 3 (3.25 mm)  knitting needle.

Anybody that can knit that gauge on US 3 needles is truly ready for a trip around the Horn.

:  )

Knitting and Nalbinding

All knit fabrics can be replicated by nalbinding. This is controlled by natural laws as deep and wide as the more commonly known Newton's laws of motion. Therefore nalbinding a replica of an object says nothing about whether the original was made by knitting or nalbinding.

On the other hand, knitting is faster. It may be that an object may be practical to use and wear out when it is quickly knit, but when made by nalbinding the object is too valuable and precious to be subjected to the wear of routine use.

Thus, I "knit" my boot socks.  It takes me 20 hours to knit a pair, or 15 hours to swave a
pair.  I could produce the same pair of socks by nalbinding, but it would take twice as long, and be less uniform and consistent.  As practical objects, subject to wear and abuse, I want to invest an minimum amount of time in each pair of socks, and  I knit or swave my socks.  Therefore there is a purpose, and a value to knitting.

I like the Eastern Crossed Stitch (ECS) for sock fabric.  However, while ECS can in theory be swaved, as a practical matter, this fabric must be knit.  Just because a fabric can be knit in theory does not mean that it can be knit with the wrong tools or without specific tools and techniques.  One certainly cannot walk into to modern LYS and purchase the tools required to rapidly produce ECS.  That does not mean that such tools do not exist and were not not known to professional knitters in the past. It only means that such tools are not common today.

DK Burham replicated objects using nalbinding.  Every person familiar with nalbinding knew that could be done, so Burham's work is interesting, but it provides no useful information. Certainly nalbinding is suitable for luxury objects, or objects of ritual or ceremonial use.  Economic constraints constraints of whether nalbinding was economically practical for objects subject to wear were not considered, but we know that the socks were subject to practical use and were in need of repair.  Thus, we can guess that the socks were not luxury, ritual, or ceremonial; and, economics did play a role in the choice of fabrication method.

Moreover, if the socks were substantially knit from short pieces of loom warm waste, then the Coptic Socks may contain individual stitches that are neither typical knitting or typical nalbinding, but which are simply the result of  repair of dropped stitches or darning/weaving in ends at a break in the yarn. Before I started swatching these ECS fabrics, I did think that 3 of these stitches  indicated that the fabric was nalbinding.  However, as I look back over my knit ECS swatchs, I do see similar stitches in my knit ECS work. This was something that I could only discover by knitting ECS. I did not settle any question, except that ECS makes great socks.

Over all, I am highly amused that so many people are so passionate in favor of a flawed analysis that provides so little information.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

More on crossed sitches

Working with the Coptic Stitch, I was reminded of how much I like fabrics made with crossed and plaited stitches.  It is no wonder that at one time such fabrics were held in very high esteem. Fabrics made with crossed stitches can be very thick to provided padding or cushion, and warmth.  However, they tend to be a bit less "weatherproof" than fabrics made with uncrossed stitches. Eastern Crossed stitch has holes in it that allow air to pass freely through the fabric.  As a sock, this allows ventilation.

Thus, we have different kinds of knitting for different uses. Thin stretchy, windproof gloves would be swaved with uncrossed stitches. A under garment (Jersey??) might be constructed of twisted garter stitch because of the stitch's thickness and the rapidity with which it can be knitted (read as lower cost).  The outer gansey would be knit with uncrossed stitches to make it more weatherproof.   Dress socks would be swaved to produce a thin fabric, while an infantryman's socks were constructed of crossed stitch knitting. And, as a heavy duty sock fabric, the Coptic Stitch/Eastern Crossed Knitting has no equal.   As a sandal sock in cotton it provides cool, durable protection.  As a wool boot sock, it is warm, durable, and offers more padding than any other stitch.

So why don't we see crossed stitch work in modern sock patterns? Why do modern authors suggest fisherman's rib or linen stitch for heels and soles, rather than the much better crossed stitch?  Why haven't all the "experienced" knitters pointed out the virtues of Eastern Cross Stitch?  

Well because it takes some skill to produce.  Neither Rutt or Burnham bothered to understand the virtues of (knit) Eastern Crossed Stitch. In fact, over the last few weeks, a large number of knitters have told me that such fabric cannot be knit.  And there is the rub.

Crossed stitch knitting was an early adventure in my discovery of knitting sheaths, and it shaped much of my early knitting sheath and needle designs. Those tools were overkill for knitting uncrossed fabric. And to a certain extent, knitting crossed stitches was an impediment to my development of gansey (long needle) and swaving tools.

How does one knit crossed stitches rapidly?  With rather pointy sock needles and a long knitting stick.  It is very difficult to pop a swaving prick into a crossed stitch, and thus Swaving and Eastern Crossed Knitting require different tools. I would also choose different knitting sheath designs for uncrossed gansey knitting and crossed stitch knitting. Also, the pointy needles and force required to put the needle into the stitch means that knitting needle will be forced through the  back of a leather knitting pouch.  Thus, we can be reasonably sure that fabrics with crossed stitches were knit with short, straight, pointy needles, fixed in knitting sheaths.  

At this point, we know there there was one kind of knitting sheath for swaving, and another kind of knitting sheath for producing Eastern Crossed Knitting, and that knitting pouches are not suitable for either of these styles of knitting. (However, knitting pouches do work well for both twisted garter stitch and plaited fabrics, which are not as tight as Eastern Crossed Knitting.)  Both Rutt and Brear missed these points about the differences in use of different knitting sheath styles as did earlier authors such as Mary Thomass.  At one time, knitting sheaths were like hammers, there were different kinds for different jobs.

The $64 question is did master knitters in Europe during the middle ages know swaving, gansey knitting, and crossed stitch or did each specialize to a single knitting technology? When did swaving and gansey knitting become separate industries?

Wednesday, July 17, 2013


 Makarieva, A. M., Gorshkov, V. G., Sheil, D., Nobre, A. D., and Li, B.-L.: Where do winds come from? A new theory on how water vapor condensation influences atmospheric pressure and dynamics, Atmos. Chem. Phys., 13, 1039-1056, doi:10.5194/acp-13-1039-2013, 2013.

Above is the only paper that I have read in a long, long time that deserves a citation.

Many of the weathermen who should be most interested in Makarieva et al do not have the math background to follow the arguments.  I have great sympathy and compassion for  Makarieva, A. M., Gorshkov, V. G., Sheil, D., Nobre, A. D., and Li, B.-L.  They are a  bit outside the field of weather, and  weather, atmospheric science, climate science are a bit clannish.

The IPCC used hundreds of correctly cited research to generate their documents.  And yet they hugely understate global warming.  In particular AR4 ( ) missed the dramatic 2007 Arctic Sea ice melt.  What is worse, AR5 to be published in 2014 will fail to discuss the terrible 2012 Arctic Sea ice melt.  AR5 is already out of date.  The IPCC reports do not reflect the reality of the coming climate change. Correct citation of academic work does not ensure correct conclusions.  Loss of Arctic sea ice and carbon feedback are tipping points that will speed climate change.  They are very important, but are not considered in the IPCC models.  See for example . Richard, Gavin, and Michael are some of the best, but note what they do not not say.

My contempt for the IPCC is absolute. That contempt over flows to other academic fields that do not recognize reality.  Climate change is important. Knitting and spinning are just a a tactile sensation of making order out of chaos.  A way to pretend that I have some control over something. Spinning, knitting, and weaving is just a hobby.  It really does not matter.

This blog is about reality.  It is about how to knit warm fabrics. It is about how to spin faster. "Pretty" is subjective. Cold is a physiological reality. If you are really cold, anything warm is wonderful. I do not do pretty!  I do wonderfully warm.

20 gm, 3-ply, art yarn

aka glove yarn

Looks balanced to me. 

I did not even put leases on it.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Swatching cotton

The gauge is a bit off, but it is the right stitch and the variations in tension in the fabric are about correct.

This was knit as we were out and about on Saturday shopping chores.

This tells me that this stitch, at about this gauge, can be easily knit with sock needles and a knitting sheath.

Note the similarity in the "row out" on the back side of the fabric.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

One Yarn Project.

About spring thaw, I went  looking to buy a loom, and visited a loom dealer that had put a loom aside for me. We ended up sitting in the back of my truck with her poking through a bin of my knitting swatches. She said, "Dang!, These are unbelievable! We need to take these up to the house. You know he was a great knitter."

He pawed through them, and said, " Kinda grubby!  No hand spun here!"  Thus, was born the hand spun gloves project.

I chose the knitting tools, and sampled hand spun yarns from the stash. No joy. I  made up samples of  other possible yarns from hand spun singles in the stash.

      No Joy.

I then took some Rambouillet :
 washed it with soap flakes and borax,

 and blended it on my Clems carder with some navy blue combed Romney from a gansey yarn project to produce a lavender color way with white neps for accent.  This is my first "art yarn" (neps!). The Rambouillet makes it soft, the Romney gives it good wear at the finger tips.  Over all the blend gives reasonable wear without being too harsh.

The bats are sprayed with spinning oil, torn into lengths, and wound on my distaff to facilitate spinning. I spin singles at 4,800 ypp (9s) using the spinning technique shown in videos on this blog, )
but with the gang whorls on the flier.  

My typical spinning wheel bobbin rotation speed as measured with a digital tachometer is 2,300 rpm. Compare that to the 800 rpm that a stock Ashord Traddy can do.  Even with a lace flyer, Ashfords do not go much faster than 1,400 rpm. Most espinners are limited to 1,600 rpm.  Twist is DRS controlled to just over  8 tpi.  Net spinning rate is around 300 yards per hour. I note that there is nothing on my wheel that a 15th century spinner in Flanders could not have had. I very much doubt if I spin as fast as the spinners in Bruges, 500 years ago.  Over all,  "spinning" is a tiny part of the project.

I am sure that I do not spin as well as the spinners in Bruges, 500 years ago.   They were trained pros with elan.

Singles are wound off onto reels using an electric drill to drive the reel, washed (with shampoo),  dried (blocked), and then wound onto smaller plying bobbins. Singles with spinning oil on them need to be washed within a month. Last fall when I was working with hanks of fines, I  found wet skeins to be problematic, and moved to washing singles on reels. I made enough reels that I can wash and dry singles faster than I can spin them.

Once the yarn is clean (and loosely wound) on a plying bobbin it can be stored.  I have many yarn storage/plying bobbins.

Current plying technique is to put the plying bobbins on a bobbin rack or lazy Kate, feed the singles through my tension box, and ply with the same gang whorl flyer as used to produce the singles.  If I was making gansey yarn, I would use the Ashford jumbo flyer so that I could produce knot free, 8 oz hanks.  However, the (smaller) high speed flier is much faster and  each glove only requires ~2 oz of yarn in 5 pieces, so smaller yarn packages are acceptable.

The full plying train of Lazy Kate,          Tension Box,  and                            Wheel with high speed flier.

A tension box used on blocked singles really is an advance on Alden's Four Great Principles of Plying. Tension boxes are simple to make, and worth their weight in hand spun yarn.

The finished yarn is wound off the wheel with  a cake winder, to produce :

3/4 ounce of 1,500 ypp, 3-ply,  glove yarn
(~70 yards)
Knit, the color matches the lavender buds I was putting in the wool bins at the start of the project, and which inspired the color for this yarn. It is warm, durable, and comfortable.

The swaving pricks are the same 1.5 mm used for the cotton sock fabric in the last post. The semi worsted yarn knits easily at 12 to 14 spi. to make an elastic fabric.  Yarn for final objects will likely get a final  blocking with steam. 

Final objects will get washed again.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Nalbinding - not

Consider : and in particular photos

identified as 'nalbinding'.

On the other hand there is 

All, the result of a few minutes (time to drink one beer on a warm California afternoon) of my knitting some crochet thread.  Looks like the same stitch to me. This is about 10 spi. ( 450 stitch swatch).  Nalbinding, it would have taken longer than one beer.  If you want finer, I have finer (red) crochet thread and much finer knitting needles.  It would not be hard to run up a much finer fabric. It is a firm, dense fabric, utterly unlike most modern hand knitting. If you knit to fit, it is a nice sock fabric.  On the other hand, with its limited stretch, it must be knit to fit.  I think those old red toe socks are just knit from loom waste (short pieces of yarn).  In particular, the way the heel was turned looks like knitting.  I see the very same lines on the boot socks that I knit.  Someone working nalbinding would have turned the heel differently.  There are many heels that work well with nalbinding, but none of them produce those lines that look like my knit boot socks.

Some rows of the old red socks have a spiral or threaded appearance. Compare that to this well used gansey knit sock:

The difference is that the old red toe sock has crossed stitches, and is cotton 2-ply, rather than wool 5-ply of the gasney sock.  

There are good instructions on the internet on how to do the Coptic Stitch in nalbinding.  However, such instructions will not get you to the gauge used to make the old red toe socks.  Practice will make you better, but the nalbinding technology is not suited to produce the fine evenness and uniformity that we see in the Coptic socks.  However, gansey knitting and swaving easily product that style, gauge, and quality of fabric.  A good knitter could come close to a sock a day. 

 And trying to knit fine, tight, crossed stitches without the leverage of a knitting sheath will put a lot of stress on your wrists. You could knit a pair, but not 2 pair a week as a commercial knitter.

I will keep this opinion until I see modern nalbinding as firm, even, and at the same gauge as the original red toe sock.  Mary Thomas handled the old red toe socks and pronounced them KNIT.  She knew about nalbinding.  She also knew about knitting sheath technologies. Modern textile people tend not to know about knitting sheaths and what kinds of work they enable.

Friday, July 05, 2013

The One True Way to block

My position is that I have been told a lot of different techniques to spin, and most of those techniques are not nearly as fast, as easy, and do not produce as good a product as what is recommended in books like Alden Amos's Big Book of Handspinning.  It is not that I have One True Way, it is that better spinners have better ways.   I am not impressed by what I have been told on the internet (read as Ravelry). The very best advice I have gotten is from Alden Amos, either in person or in his book. Most of what I say, I have gotten from better spinners, and I recite these better techniques to remind people that much of what is repeated over and over on the internet is not best practice.

Blocking yarn was a stone wall for me. First, I had to understand that yarn (singles) needed to be blocked.  It was hard to take the concept of blocking very seriously. However, good blocking of singles is essential to a reasonable process of making 5-ply gansey yarn. The 5-ply that I made before I started blocking singles is not nearly as good as the 5-ply made after I started blocking all singles. And, handling 45,000 ypp (and finer) singles required that they be blocked prior to plying.  Handling wet fines, required a certain set of tools and skills. Nobody would come right out and say that.   I tried everything.

Blocking wet skeins by hanging weights on them is better than nothing.  However, for for the quality of yarn that I want, it is not good enough. It does not work for 560 yard hanks of 80s (45,000 ypp).  Anybody that talks about blocking wet skeins by hanging a weight from the skein is not thinking in terms of full hanks of  worsted "fines" (60s -> 80s).  And the truth of the matter is that for the 12,000 ypp singles for an ongoing knit glove yarn project, blocking wet skeins by hanging a weight on them just does not work as well as blocking on a reel.

Sometimes one does just end up with wet skeins of yarn that need to be blocked.  This may be the result of sizing the yarn for weaving or dying it. In which case, the wet skein needs to be mounted on a squirrel cage swift and wound on to reels. I know sometimes this has to be done, but I still look for better ways to do it.

I know that blocking yarn on reels is not the only way to produce an excellent product, because I also have a very good steam blocker. Steam blocking under tension and wet blocking on reels are different techniques on paths to different yarns.  Every yarn has it own One True Way that will produce the right yarn, faster, better, and cheaper.

I continue to be impressed by the Big Book  Handspinning.  Last week, I was sampling on the loom and after a few inches, I was getting fuzz balls on the warp.  Sure enough, there in the Big Blue Book, are 2 recipes for sizing to protect warp from abrasion.  I had never noticed those recipes before.  They are both being evaluated, along with 3 commercial PVA based sizes.  I may be able to use singles for warp, wind the warp on through the tension box, size the warp on the loom, and then, tension on the warp during sizing would block the yarn?  I have ~ 4 feet of warp path from the sectional beam to the heddles.  The question is will the yarn size together and make a mess?  I will never know until I try it. AVL  is mute on the topic of sizing.

knitting in Europe circa 1280

Paul Lacroix quoting  French historian and archaeologist. Jules √Čtienne Joseph Quicherat (13 October 1814–8 April 1882) :

"Towards the year 1280," he says, "the dress of a man--not of a man as the word was then used, which meant serf, but of one to whom the exercise of human prerogatives was permitted, that is to say, of an ecclesiastic, a bourgeois, or a noble--was composed of six indispensable portions: thebraies, or breeches, the stockings, the shoes, the coat, the surcoat, or cotte-hardie, and the chaperon, or head-dress. To these articles those who wished to dress more elegantly added, on the body, a shirt; on the shoulders, a mantle; and on the head, a hat, or fronteau.

The braies, or brayes, were a kind of drawers, generally knitted, sometimes made of woollen stuff or silk, and sometimes even of undressed leather. .... Our ancestors derived this part of their dress from the ancient Gauls; only the Gallic braies came down to the ankle, whereas those of the thirteenth century only reached to the calf. They were fastened above the hips by means of a belt called the braier."

By chausses was meant what we now call long stockings or hose. The stockings were of the same colour and material as the braies, and were kept up by the lower part of the braies being pulled over them, and tied with a string."

Lacroix and Quicherat were both experts on the middle ages and anybody that wants to disagree with both of them had better have all their arguments in good order.

Manners, Custom and Dress During the Middle
Ages and During the Renaissance Period has been reprinted by Skyhorse Publishing, in which the quote above starts on page 529. It is also available as a 
Project Gutenberg EBook and the quote is adjacent to fig 417.