Sunday, February 02, 2014

My New Favorite Mill Spun "Gansey"' Yarns

Last year I bought several cones of  2-ply 5,600 ypp warp yarns from Mitzi's yarns ( ) and used them to learn how to warp a sectional beam on the loom.

At the end of the year, with miles of hand-spun to warp onto the loom I was in a frantic search for bobbins, and there were 48 bobbins with commercial warp material on them . . . .

I cabled the warp yarns into knitting weight yarns, blocked them and wound them into cakes. At some point over the holidays, I needed some gansey yarn and . . . there were those cakes, so I sampled them.

And I love them. These are the best "gansey" yarns that I have ever used. (Here by "gansey" I mean the modern decorative sweaters with decorative stitches that "pop", and not garments to keep real seamen warm in polar conditions.)

These are commercial yarns that handle and ply/cable more uniformly than anything else you have ever plied. The are consistent and I have only found one knot in many thousands of yards, they seem to be fairly color fast, and they are inexpensive.  Mostly they are much stronger, much more lustrous than singles used in Frangipani, and thus the cabled yarns are much stronger and more lustrous than Frangipani.  And, you can cable up to the grist that you need.

What has my attention right now is a 6-ply (1,400 ypp) knit on 1.6 mm gansey needles with a leather knitting pouch to produce a Sheringham Guernsey fabric.  It is 9 spi and ~ 12 rpi.   I have started these before with various mill spun sock yarns and each time I would get 5 or 6 inches into it and decide that I did not like the fabric enough to wear it for the rest of my life.  As I compare the swatches from past/failed to the current swatches, yes, I think I could put this on every morning for the rest of my life.  It is a little thinner than an LL Bean fleece shell,  but warmer and much more durable.

Even the soft tubular gansey needles produce a tighter fabric than swaving wtih 1.5 mm pricks, which produces a tighter fabric than any hand-held needles, so this fabric is at least 2 notches tighter than I can produce with hand-held needles.

As 10-ply, and knit tight, the fabric starts to get stiff and  more suited to a real sailor on a real ship. The 8-ply is still soft enough for most usage, and warm enough for anything but working in polar conditions.

The cabling twist is about 9 tpi, and the resulting yarn must be steam blocked or the knitting will bias.  It is an interesting effect with the stitches spiraling up, but not something we have been trained to appreciate.  Block it! or, think you are feeling the effects of last night's bender.

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