Monday, October 14, 2013

The best fleece for a gansey.

I see a gansey as the right sweater for the job.

What is the job? Where is the job?  When is the job?

If the job is really cold, then you want a finer fleece, and more plies. If the job involves a lot of abrasion such as furling sails, then you want a coarser fiber. And, I like coarser fibers (eg. Romney) in sustained wet.

I do think that gansey stitches show up much better with worsted spun yarns, and I like the luster and lack of felting that long wool offers. I would not use Merino or any of the short downy wools.

Just make sure that you get a good fleece (Judith tells the truth, and here are good notes from one of her classes;  I think it is worth while taking her classes and reading her books.  Alden Amos also has much to say about wool in his Big Book of Handspinning, but he no longer teaches formal classes.

Then, it is a work garment, so the fiber should not be too expensive.

For a very traditional gansey, I like the finer long wools.  That includes Romney to Shetland, and all of the traditional long wools in between.  I have promised myself one from American Jacob, which is very much like Shetland.

However,  if a skier is going to wear it to slide down Gun Barrel, then Cotswold or Lincoln will help avert the hamburger effect as skin slides over ice at 60 mph.  (Romney only lasts for a few slides  : (

Really cold weather demands finer fibers.  If you are going to wear it skiing in Montana , or steelhead fishing in the upper Columbia River, I suggest Rambouillet.  It is about the finest wool with  long enough staples to comb and spin true worsted.

All that said, navy blue really is a bit warmer than white in the fog, but natural "Russet" is almost as warm. Natural colored fleeces will work.

Fiber that has not been acid treated to remove VM is easier to spin.  With a low grease wool like Shetland, the improved spinning speed will save you enough time in spinning, to wash and comb the wool. With Romney, you will need to budget some extra time to scour the wool.

Almost any handspun worsted from long wool will be much better that the best modern mill spin 5-ply.

5-ply gansey yarn at 1,000 ypp requires worsted singles of 5,600 ypp.  That comes out to ~9 tpi for each ply. 5 plies plus plying means a total of about 60 twists per inch of the finished yarn. Such twist provides great durability, but if you are not going to be working as a fisherman on the North Atlantic, you do not need that durability.

3 plies of 2,800 ypp handspun worsted will produce a beautiful round, dense yarn that makes stitches "pop" as well as any mill spun gansey yarn, and it only requires 24 twists per inch of finished yarn.  Energy wise it is less than half the work, and since most people spin 5s much faster than 10s, it takes a whole lot less spinning time.  Then, you will have the spinning budget for matching hat, comforter (scarf), mittens, and socks.  Everyone will be so impressed that they will not ask, " And, how many plies?"

I encourage you to do the first gansey as 3-ply.

On the other hand, a very round, smooth yarn can be produced by spinning 11,200 ypp singles and cabling them as 5x2. This is a lot of work.  Judith also told me that she has seen 3x2 cabled yarns in traditional ganseys, and I find this easier than straight 5-ply without a tension box.

Do it for love, and do it for fun. Use a long wool, spin worsted, and do not worry.

If you are a member of the Re-enacter Police, then ganseys must be spun from the coarse, long wool of the Scotch Blackface.


Shell said...

I found your blog today and have spent several hours reading through it. I am interested in Knitting sheaths and how to use them. Its amazing to see how well they work.
I did try to go to your Etsy shop but the URL is not working. Do you still make things for sale? I am looking into getting some to try.

Please let me know if you still sell or make them. email is she11ygirl a t verizon dot net

Einar Svensson said...

Hello my friend. This is interesting that navy blue is a warmer color than the natural. I assume this is to do with the chemical composition of the dye? Or is there another reason? If it is so, then there would be some navy blue which is warmer than others? Which would be the warmest blue and the least warm blue?
Hope you are enjoying the shorter days and colder weather.

Aaron said...

Dark colors are dark because they absorb light, and light is energy. The absorbed energy warms the outer surface of the wool.

In damp northern places, (North Atlantic) the light is mostly blue, so dark blue is the best color for absorbing energy. The effect between white and dark blue is small enough that one has to look for it to find it, but large enough that if you look for it, you can find it.

My guess is that any of the natural sheep's browns and dark gray's would give most of the effect.

What I really do not know is whether indigo / woad provides some protection from decay or additionally water repellency. Some days, I think it does. Little critters just do not like to eat things that are full of benzene rings. On the other hand, it is chemical structure that reeks of "water-proof".

I think, I need to do some more indigo dying.