Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Make it work, then make it pretty

"Make it work, then make it pretty", is always how I work.

When something works, I get excited, and I take pix. Then improving anesthetics is a longer evolution that has no single point that inspires taking pix.  You saw the first few hanks to come off the new geometry, but not not later hanks. Some of those early hanks became knitting yarn that is very warm and durable - which is the intent.

I would rather knit with ugly yarn that is warm and durable than knit with pretty yarn that cold and fragile.  Warmth and durability are testable qualities.  Pretty is subjective.  In my world, Warmth and durability defines "pretty".

Anybody that wants to argue about this should have spun, knit, and tested miles and miles of 5-ply, 6-ply, 8-ply and 10-ply yarns.  Some of you brag about your fancy wheels, that should make spinning such yarns fast and easy.  If you have not prepared and tested such yarns, then you are not qualified to talk about the properties of these yarns or the relative merits of 2-ply and 3-ply to these yarns.  If you have not prepared and tested a full range such high-ply yarns, then you are talking from a position of ignorance.


Holin Kennen said...

By your logic, if any of your yarns could be considered "pretty" by us inferior womenfolk, you would trash the yarn immediately as it would, by its very nature, be useless, fragile, and insufficiently insulating. Blue is the color that you say is the warmest, yet it is often considered to be a pretty color. Thus, your blue yarn must be useless, fragile, and insufficiently insulating. Only ugly yarn is warm. Please explain the reason for the use of dyes throughout history to alter the color of yarn, including red, yellow, green, and purple as well as blue. Include citations from primary sources.

Aaron said...

By my logic, when anyone discovers the beauty of functionality, I am happy.

I like objects are beautiful as well as being functional. There is no reason why something cannot beautiful and even elaborately decorated, as well as functional.

I understand the ART of making objects that are not functional, to make people think about functionality in objects.

I understand status displays which signal that a person can afford to own and display non-functional clothing.

And then there are objects that are perfect in their functional simplicity. Consider a traditional seaman's Guernsey - the master piece of British spinning and knitting. It has functional simplicity, and yet because of the labor involved it is the ultimate status display.

What I object to is the pretense that a marginally functional object is extremely functional. A sweater may be very well suited for Christmas shopping at Needless Markup Department Stores - going from house to car to shop and etc, (and cool enough that one does not sweat) but not warm enough for a lineman to wear as (s)he spends 18 hours outside in a blizzard restoring power to the hospital. So, do not call the Christmas sweater exceptionally warm just because it is hand knit. And, the sweater worn by the lineman, is likely to get disapproving looks as you wear it to dine in the Needless Markup Rotunda Cafe - even if its production required more time and skill than the Christmas sweater.

My problem is with modern hand knit objects that are constructed (loosely spun, loosely knit) primarily as display objects, but they are presented by their makers and owners as exceptionally warm, purely on the basis of being hand made. I like truth in labeling. I like makers that understand what they are making.

D Ross said...

Do you teach classes anywhere?

vampy said...

But who claims that knitwear is warm just because it's handmade? Sure, all things being equal, a handmade woolen sweater is gonna be warmer than a crappy acrylic storebought sweater, but that doesn't mean handknit stuff is warmer per se, and I've never seen anyone claim that it is.

My favourite cardigan that i made last year was made intentionally to be not warm. I used laceweight yarn and large-ish needles so I'd have something light and drapey to wear on cool summer evenings.

The beauty of handknit stuff, especially if you spin your own yarn too, is that you can make your garment to serve your own individual needs in terms of warmth, design, colour, and shaping. You're right that if someone says 'this is handmade and due to that fact it is warmer than commerically knit garments' they would be talking rubbish, but I have never once seen such a stupid assertion.

Also, for some people 'not too warm' IS extremely functional. They work in heated offices, live in heated homes, and drive to work, or simply live in warm areas of the world...among readers of this blog at least, there will be far more people whose lifestyle requires that most, if not all, of their knitwear be warm but not too warm than people who need waterproof jumpers for 18 hour blizzard stints. There are plenty of people on rav who you'll see wishing they didn't live in whatever warm place they live in, because they are limited in the sort of garments they can make and the sort of fibres they can use. For these people, 'functional' is very different to what it seems to be for you.

Aaron said...

I have been told that "hand knit objects are warmer" -- several times by experienced knitters.

I attribute it to something like the like the medical placebo effect where placebos work, and more expensive placebos work better. Lavishing more effort on an object makes it seem warmer.

Aaron said...

I am not seeing a large demand for the lessons at this time.

When people ask, I try to make the the time.

Holin Kennen said...

You are not seeing a large demand for lessons for a number of reasons: you fail to produce completed products, you make the process of knitting and spinning unnecessarily complicated and tedious, you are insulting to any other techniques or options other than your own, and you deride other experts in the field except one man. That's why you aren't seeing a large demand, if any, for lessons.

Aaron said...


That comment is like a clerk at Target saying that the clothing at Marmot, Patagonia, and North Face is not worth the extra money because nobody needs clothes that warm. Has the clerk ever done any serious mountaineering or had to restore power in a blizzard, or done science research in the cold? No!, but the clerk thinks that nobody needs that kind of warmth in their clothing.

I call things as I see them! I do not find that Weldon's allows knitting as fast, or as consistently, or as tightly as a knitting sheath or a Shetland knitting belt. On the other hand, I have noted on this blog that it (along with Irish Cottage) is a better technique for showing off pretty hands at a ball. I freely admit that if your goal is show off how well manicured your hands are, you should use Weldon's or Irish Cottage knitting technique. I always try to give credit where credit is due.

You like the prettiest yarns - and that is fine. I like the most functional yarns. I find that small amounts of extra effort can make yarns much more functional. That is OK, you put in extra effort to make your yarns prettier. I merely observe that the effort to make the yarn prettier, may not make it more functional.

In fact, much of the institutionalized aesthetic of modern hand spinning and hand knitting, has been a statement that the "artist" was rich enough to afford unlimited central heat. Thus, modern hand crafts make a point of making objects that are not warm. Modern spun and knit objects have the same decorative function as jewelry. That is not insulting, it is merely observing the basis of a common aesthetic. I am saying that one can wear a string of pearls or a hand knit object - and either can serve the purpose of being a display of status.

On the other hand, there are times when I walk out into the snow, and I want to wear something warmer than a string of pearls. I am willing to put the effort in to making objects that are warmer than jewelry.

purplespirit1 said...

Is there anything in all your techy things that prove that your sweaters are warmer (or more weatherproof) then, let's say, one of my sweaters made out of presumably only pretty yarn? Or any other fellow knitters' that isn't made from yarn that comes from your wheel?

It's one thing to apply tachometers or whatever other gadgets to your wheel to make it spin so fast, which may or may not actually be useful; but any engineer or scientist knows that facts are only proven with the final result. A spool of your yarn isn't a final result.

I'd love to see a blog post with actual, factual, statistical proof that one of your sweaters is factually warmer &/or more weatherproof than another fellow knitters' made from their own wool too.

Also, I know I've asked this before in your comments but it hasn't been addressed: if your obsession is for how warm your yarn is, why not use a warmer fiber like alpaca or llama, which is 4x warmer by nature than sheep's wool? If the fiber your starting with is warmer by nature, your final result will be warmer too, no?

Aaron said...

I started by knitting swatches - hundreds of swatches (from mill spun!!), and testing their thermal properties. I compared my test results with theoretical calculations and the literature.

Then, I knit sweaters - and I would take 3 sweaters in a backpack and head into foul weather. I would wear a sweater for 15 minutes, note whether I was warm or cold, wet or dry, and change sweaters. I might spend half the night walking around the block in the rain, changing sweaters every 15 minutes.

The first super warm sweater that I knit knit was from the old Lion's Brand Fisherman's Wool. The second was from MacAusland's 3-ply. There are very warm mill spun yarns out there. How the fabric is knit is very important. Much of my spinning is variations on the old Lion's Brand Fisherman's Wool construction, because it produced such warm fabrics and it is no longer available. The new version of LBFW from China is nicer to knit, but I do not like the fabric as well.

Once I had warm sweaters identified, they got compared to gear from Patagonia and Marmot. At this point, the testing occurred on ski trips, sailing, snow camping, and pruning orchards in freezing rain and blizzard conditions. I would take 3 garments, and go up and ski "One Man Chute" 12 times in a day - 4 times in each garment and compare the results. My ski buddies hated skiing the same runs over and over, but it let me compare garments head to head.

This provided a reference against other knitters work. Are their sweaters, warmer and more comfortable in storm conditions than the gear available from Marmot and Patagonia?

If they (other knitters) are going to flop down and sleep in the snow, do they want to wear a sweater that they knit or something from Patagonia? What is their garment of choice for spending a week pruning the orchard in freezing rain and blowing snow?

If you do not sail "the slot", flop down in the snow for a nap, or prune the orchard regardless of the weather, then it does not really matter, does it?

If you want to test your sweater against mine, then we meet someplace unpleasantly cold and spend a few days outside and see whose lips turn blue.

Maximum warmth occurs when fibers are about 40 microns apart. In theory, alpaca and llama fibers are finer, which means that they can provide more 40 micron spaces with less weight. However, they do not have the scales, and the fibers tend to slip past each other - unless they have a lot of twist, and being soft, when they have more twist, they lose loft. And the finer fibers are more fragile. All in all, I can make a good weatherproof swatch from wool with much less effort than I can with alpaca or llama. And, when tested, the wool fabric is more durable.

I have some lovely alpaca sweaters, but they are more suited to an evening of Christmas shopping than sailing the bounding main.