Sunday, September 14, 2014

Twist and grist in Chaucer's time

From the nomenclature in commercial trade, I expect that in the 15th century spinners could consistently and routinely produce hanks of singles with a tolerance of 3% to 5%.   That is, a commercial spinner (in Flanders) could be expected to consistently produce hanks that weighed between 11.5 and 10.9 grams (e.g., the weight of singles in the 40 - 41 class). The spinner would aim for a weight of 11.2 grams, and a variance of ~3%  would result in a 40 - 41 class.   Overall, it seems clear that weavers on the continent at that time were ordering yarn with grist specified at a precision of plus or minus 3%.

I do not see many modern hand spinners that can do that. It requires a high level of craftsmanship, and I think doing it on a commercial basis indicates the use flyer/bobbin assemblies controlled by DRS, If you do not think that DRS controlled flyer bobbin assemblies were available, then show me how else such control of grist could have occurred on a commercial basis.  That is, show me that you can consistently spin hanks that weigh between 11.5 and 10.9 grams (e.g., 40s - 41s) without using DRS!

This tells us that the flyer/bobbin assembly had moved out of Italy and into France and Flanders, but perhaps not all the way to Yorkshire.  This would explain why Edward III was still seeking to induce textile craftsmen from Flanders to come to Britain. He wanted England to learn the secrets of better spinning.

In Chaucer's time, Italy, France, and Flanders still had a competitive advantage in spinning.  Now, that is a hard thing to explain away.

For back ground see:

and look at Fiske's work on the Dutch.

1 comment:

Aaron said...

I would add that I can spin 40 count wool as 40s,without DRS but then the 42 count wool will be spun as 42s, which will make the weaver unhappy with DRS, I can easily spin 42 count wool ( or any wool finer than 40 count) as 40-41s giving the weaver a more consistent supply chain. This makes the spinner's supply chain much simpler.