Friday, January 02, 2015

More 5-ply

One of the things that Alden Amos and I disagree about is "5-ply".  He feels that 5-ply is overrated and 3-ply is adequate for all practical use.

I know by calculation that 5-ply requires about twice the twist and hence twice the spinning effort as 3-ply.  On the other hand, by test, I know that 5-ply is much more durable and much warmer than 3-ply. And, both spun to sport weight grist take the same amount of time to knit.

I started making 5-ply because it was traditional -- it was the right yarn for fisherman's sweaters, and I could not see a great benefit in the mill spun gansey yarn over other yarns.  My  first skeins and cakes of 5-ply were a significant effort and trial.  At that level of effort 5-ply was not really worth while, except as a test material.

However, now my wheel is optimized to spin 5,600 ypp worsted singles, and I am way up the experience curve.  I have 12 or 15 pounds (45 miles) of such singles in  the house right now, and that is after much knitting and playing on the loom.  They are what is fast and easy for me to spin.  I spin such singles at 8 to 10 yards per minute/ or just under 400 yards per hour allowing time to wind off, drink coffee, and piss.

I have worked out a Lazy Kate ( , now with the dowels glued to a preferred configuration.) that is optimized to supply 5 parallel and evenly tensioned singles so I can ply 5-ply at about 1,000 yards per hour. (People who do not make such yarns tell me that my 5-ply is under plied, but I like it that way because it works without being steam blocked prior to knitting.)

Thus, over all, I can (hand) spin 5-ply as fast as Alden Amos (hand) spun 3-ply.   I have not asked him, but I think that if he could have 5-ply for same hours of labor that he put into 3-ply, then sometimes he would prefer the 5-ply, particularly for outer wear sweaters and sock yarns.

These days I spin 5-ply because it is convenient. I spin 10s  (10 hanks of 560 yards per pound) for the loom.  It is what my wheel is setup to spin.  I have bins of 10s around.  For knitting, 5-ply from 10s produces a nice, warm, durable, sport weight yarn.  With a good  Lazy Kate and a bin of 10s, 5-ply is the easy yarn to makeup for knitting on 2 mm needles.  And, 5-ply knit on 2 mm needles is much warmer than any 2-ply (or 3-ply) yarn knit on any needles.  If I need a cooler fabric, I knit it on larger needles to make a looser fabric, or I use a lace stitch. If I expected to be in really cold conditions, I would make a Lazy Kate for 8 (or 10 or 12) ply yarn,

If  I need hosiery yarn, I spin shirting warp (40s, 22,000 ypp) and make a ~3,500 ypp 5-ply.  This makes a fine, smooth,  durable yarn.  This gets swaved on finer needles. (Swaving is a knit fabric made by rotating curved needles held in special knitting sheaths.)  It allow the fast production of fine knit objects (gloves, socks), but does not work well on large objects. such as sweaters.

Making 10-ply Aran weight yarn is not that hard.  It tuns out to just be a matter of taking the singles spun for the loom, and making up a Lazy Kate that delivers 10 parallel and evenly tensioned singles and plying onto a large bobbin.  Designing such a  Lazy Kate is just a matter of under standing the concept of heck array. Last fall, I had such a  Lazy Kate for making 10-ply, but it got repurposed.  Now, I understand the design principles better, and it would take me 15 minutes to make another (better) Lazy Kate for 10-ply.

Now, if you are running Scotch Tension, you can not set up your wheel to produce a particular grist.  And, your wheel is not going to spin any faster than Alden's.  Differential Rotation Speed (DRS) is the fast path to high ply yarns.

I know that no matter how fast my spinning goes, spinning 3- 3,000 ypp singles is faster than spinning 5-5,600 ypp singles, but the extra spinning time is trivial compared to the extra durability and more importantly, the extra warmth of the 5-ply. I like a very warm sweater that is "magically" light weight.  Thus, I keep on spinning 5-ply.

I am sure the "rubberneckers" will laugh at much of the above, and by that, show themselves ignorant of the craft of spinning.

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