Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Craft is Textiles

So! the question is, "How good are the textiles that one can produce?"

I look to history for clues as to what textiles can be produced, and clues as to the best ways to produce textiles, but how they actually made textiles at any particular time and place does not matter to me.  All that matters to me is:  "How good a textile can I produce?", and "How can I produce a better textile?"

And, if you are in the craft, I am going to judge you by how good a textile you can produce. I do not care about your knowledge of history, I care about the quality of textiles that you produce.    You may be a great textile historian and have published in many peer reviewed journals, and written many books, but I am going to judge you by how well you spin.

Why?  Because, good spinning is the basis of great textiles.

Even if you are a weaver or knitter, I am going to judge you primarily on your spinning ability.  Mill spun yarns are a baseline. Mill spun is average. Anyone can BUY mill spun.  It is hard to knit an exceptional object if you are using the same yarn as everyone else.  If you are going to be making superior textiles, you need to be working with superior yarns.  That means you must have a deep understand of spinning.  The only way to have a deep understand spinning is be a very good spinner.

The exceptional textile will be constructed from exceptional yarn because the exceptional knitter, weaver, lace maker, and etc. capable of making exceptional textiles will use exceptional yarns.   The only way to know exceptional yarns is to make them. The skill to make exceptional yarns is earned, it cannot be bought. Taking the class does not mean that you have the skills. The skill to spin exceptional yarns comes from spinning miles and miles of exceptional yarn. Do not tell me you took the class; show me the yarn.

The other side of this is that a yarn is not exceptional until it has been fabricated into a textile that has a purpose.  Only then, do we know if the yarn has all the qualities and attributes required for the purpose, so the textile is of exceptional quality. No yarn can be exceptional until its purpose is defined. The spinner must understand the requirements and purpose of the textile before the spinner can spin an exceptional yarn. Just as the spinner enables the competent weaver, the competent weaver or the competent knitter enables the competent spinner.

No yarn sitting in a yarn shop is exceptional, because it has no purpose. Sitting there in the yarn shop, we do not know if it is going to be baby booties, a seaman's sweater, socks, a rug, or a tapestry. The yarn cannot be judged exceptionally fit for its purpose, until its purpose is defined.  We do not know if it will be worn by a red head or a blond or a brunet. Each person's coloring demand it's own wardrobe palette.  The fitness of the yarn cannot be determined until it has been assigned to a specific project/task.

Likewise, a modern hand spinner that spins yarns and waits for the yarn to tell her what it wants to be is not going to produce exceptional textiles.  The textile maker must plan the yarn so that the yarn is fit for the project in every way.  Only then can the yarn become an exceptional textile.

Five years ago, I took up spinning because I was a knitter, and I was NOT happy with the mill spun yarns available. For 3 years, I regretted the move to spinning because I was not seeing other spinners producing yarns that I liked better than mill spun.  The turning point was the better fliers from Alden Amos.

In the last 6 months, with the accelerator and the better Lazy Kate, I am finally producing yarns that make hand spinning worth while.  I am very pissed off that most of the experienced hand spinners seemed desperate to limit my technical advances in spanning by depreciating and deprecating everything that I did that was a little different from the way that other modern hand spinners spin.

Modern hand spinners have forgotten how to spin fine and spin fast.  Moreover, they have forgotten that it is even possibly to spin fine and to spin fast.  Modern hand spinners tell every begging spinner: You cannot spin that fine.  You cannot spin that fast. You cannot make yarns with that many plies.  And, everyone in the echo chamber keeps repeating those mantras until the next generation of beginning spinners comes along.  It is not fair to the beginning spinners.


Anonymous said...

Where's your cloth, Aaron? Where's your product? I can see other spinners' and weavers' beautiful work online; I post mine. In fact, mine goes on display. I get paid to create it, sheep to fabric.

Where is yours?

Anonymous said...

I agree with you. Do not say you have taken the class, show me the yarn. Spinning is all about making yarn after all. Surely a skilled professional, with the correct tools can make far superior yarn to any machine. I think this is the case.

In fact, I find that as I want to spin faster and finer, many "standard model" wheels don't stand up to the task. The flyers are not balanced, nor are the bobbins. They have not been optimised properly.
It also frustrates me that many wheels have faster whorls, but that very few come with smaller bobbins as the speed increases.

I read your blog with a lot of interest, and I think it's awful that other spinners simply brush off your claims and techniques. After all, if it didn't work, you wouldn't be using the techniques or the equipment you do.

Aaron said...

My first warp was mill spin 5,600 ypp 2-py. It produces a nice firm, dense fabric. However, it is mill spun and nothing special. The goal with the loom is hand spun, hand woven shirting.

However, I am having problems with warp abrasion. I tried sizing and that did not solve the problem.

One reason for going to CNCH was to talk to AVL Wizards to see if they had any suggestions. It is a problem that I will solve before I warp with hand spun. One suggested a possible problem with the reed and an inspection of the reed suggests this may in fact be the problem. There was much contention over reeds when I bought the loom, and the weaver that had been using this loom (for years and years) insisted that I switch out reeds and leave the reed that had been in this loom. I complied as this reed is AVL, and the other reed was brand X.

On inspection with a linen tester, this reed does show deposits holding lint from yarns that I never used. Thus, it looks like some long ago weaver got gunk in this reed, and as a beginner, I never noticed. The reed is now soaking in WD40. It is SS, so I do not think there is actual rust in there, just little hard chunks of junk. And, I think the beater was aligned for the other reed, and I need to change the beater alignment by 1/4" or so.

Considering the success that I am having with spinning, I am not too worried about the weaving. The accelerator and the tension box Lazy Kate would not have come about if the loom was working correctly and I was spending all my time climbing the weaving learning curve. I am ever so happy with my progress in the last 6 months.

It is not a bad thing to put my time where I am getting good results. Six months ago, I could not have predicted my progress in spinning

Stephen Harding said...

Aaron, I am a little confused about one point. If a person understands both yarn and textiles well enough to know what sort of yarn to spin for a given textile, couldn't that person just as easily formulate the perfect textile for a given yarn?

Surely SOME yarn sitting in yarn shops is exceptional, even if it is not appropriate for your personal needs. As you so frequently point out, very few people seem interested in producing the types of textiles that interest you, so it is hardly surprising that there is very little demand for those yarns. People who value different qualities in their yarn might have better success at locating examples that suit their needs.

Anonymous said...

I don't know every modern spinner. Many of us spin fine singles. Stop making statements that cover "every" spinner. You don't spin for everyone nor does every spinner have the desire to spin as you do. In short, leave behind statements that encompass everyone.


Anonymous said...

Look up "khadi," you idiot. Every other village in India makes handspun, hand woven fabrics finer than you can imagine. Your ignorance only proves... your ignorance.

Aaron said...

And, they have been spinning fine cotton textiles for more than 5,000 years. The Egyptians that could spin single strand linen threads imported such such cotton fabrics. I note that in one of my posts.

However, the point stands. We (modern hand spinners) have forgotten how to produce wool shirting grade cloth by hand.

Many different groups produce various heavier wool fabrics. However we have forgotten how to do fine wool fabrics.

Anonymous said...

Anyone can also buy oil paints, watercolors, charcoal, pencils. So, by your logic, any artist who doesn't create his or her own media is less than an artist who does?

Or does this somehow only apply to textiles?

Great works have been made with limited means, and trash has been made at great expense.

Aaron said...

My logic is that craftsmen are always seeking ways to produce a better product at a lower cost. If you use the same tools and products as everyone else, then your product will be no better than any other product on the market. Every first class craftsman that I know makes some of their own tools.

When I was in art school, we were told to spend 20% of our time making tools and developing and learning new techniques. This is not new with me.

Artists mix paint to make colors that they do not buy. When an artist mixes paint, they are making their own media. Do you buy 1,000 colors of oil paint, or do you mix colors to get the desired effect? Or, do you buy some basic colors and black and white and mix the color and intensity that you need? Did yo ever hear of an "artist's palette" for mixing color? And you change the consistency of the paints as needed. That is making your own media. Are you going to tell me that you have NEVER taken a pair of scissors to a paint brush!!! That is modifying the tools and media to fit the need. It is the tradition of art.