Monday, January 13, 2014

Not available today

By 1910, American fishermen and sailors had been using frame knit sweaters for more than 200 years.  The British hand knit garments were fractional warmer and more durable, but the frame knit sweaters were cost effective and very functional.

I really do not care whether the sweaters used by Shackelton were hand knit or frame knit, they were very warm. What drives me crazy is that we have forgotten how to make such sweaters.  It drives me crazy that we have forgotten that such sweaters can exist.

I love those garments for outdoor work and play, but the only way I can get them is  to make them myself.  When I was a forestry student, I could still get military surplus (frame knit) woolens made at the end of WWI, but never used.  Nothing that tightly knit that is commercially available today.

Most modern hand knit wear is loosely  knit. Most modern frame knit is loosely knit.  What am I to do when I want to sleep in the snow or sail in the wind?  I knit it myself in the tradition of British knitters knitting for folks like Cabot, Cook, and the generations of British sailors and fisherman  that came before and after Cabot and Cook.  I could modify a knitting frame to knit that tightly, but it is not worth the effort for the few that I need for myself.

Hand knit wool is low tech, sustainable, and very functional.  Most modern knitters have forgotten hand knit wool can be warm.  Not, I mean really warm.


Dave Nelson said...

How many times in your life so far have you been either on the water or on land in either the Arctic or Antarctic? And how many times do you expect to go there in the future? Or for that matter, how often have you been in a blizzard any where in the world at minus 20 F with the wind blowing at 20 MPH?

Aaron said...

I grew up in Boulder, Co. My father was National Ski Patrol, and we skied all day, every week end, regardless of the weather. I grew up skiing in real cold. I was there when my Dad froze his hands. When my parents lived on the Saranac River, I could step out the back door and ski the 90 miles to Lake Placid without crossing a plowed road. The best skiing was in the cold right after a big storm.

While I was working on the American Chestnut project, we spent a good bit of time snow camping (weeks at a time) in conditions that were frequently in the -20 to -40F range (not counting wind chill). And, I have paddled across Lake George when every splash of water would freeze to the canoe, and if I paused in paddling, my paddle would be covered with ice.

The last time, I was in a cold blizzard, we were at 11,000 feet in the Sierra. My partners slept in a tent that collapsed under 5 feet of snow. I had warned them then comfortably bivoacked under a juniper.

I still ski, fish, and camp in places where it can get dam cold. However, when we were doing rescue work in the Adirondacks, most fatalities occurred as a result of hypothermia in conditions above freezing. There are many places, even here in California, where one needs good clothing to stay warm. Such clothing does not have to come from Patagonia, Marmot,and Columbia. It can come off your knitting needles.

I have not been to either polar region, and do not intend to go.

Aaron said...

The fact that the Shackleton garments wore as well as they did suggests to me the they were
hand knit, or at least substantially hand finished like the Swiss Knits in Halifax.

The woolen underwear was frame knit.