Friday, February 27, 2015

Fine Woolen

I have spun more than 10,000 yards of  fine woolen singles in the last few months.  Most of it was spun by drum carding Rambouillet into ~48 gram batts, and then while the batt is still on the drum carder using a wooden  doffer to roll/peel off an 8 inch long rolag that weights ~8 grams, e.g., 6 rolags per batt..  Those rolags  get spun at 12 tpi into just under 100 yards of woolen yarn intended for weft.  It is fast and easy, true woolen.

However, looking at In Sheep's Clothing ( ) at minute 6, I see how light and fluffy her rolags are. I thought that would produce a more lofty yarn than the rather dense rolags that I peel off the drum carder.

My hand carding skills were a bit rusty, so it took a while to hand card nice rolags that were well formed and lighter, fluffier than the rolags peeled off the drum carder. ( I made a point of watching an expert make  rolags from a drum carder the other day, and checking their density, and I was a little disappointed that Roy Clemes did not have time for that part of  his demo.)  However, I find that hand carded rolags can be spun into a loftier yarn than I can produce from the rolags peeled off the drum carder.   And they draft out a little better.

Since my spinning speed is limited by how fast the fiber drafts, better drafting means I can spin faster, which compensates for the little extra time that I spend hand carding the rolags. And the singles are a bit loftier.  My guess is that this would make a bigger difference with lower grist yarns.

Just saying that if you want a loftier woolen yarn, try hand carded rolags.  Once you have nice, clean, uniform fiber (from drum carder or roving), it is not that much extra effort.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Care and Feeding of Carders

Henry and Roy Clemes came by the guild last night to talk about fiber preparation.

Sure I say that better spinning is the best competitive advantage in textiles, but better spinning demands better fiber preparation.

At this point, they know more about the universe of spinning fibers than anyone else.  Like other great artisans, they wanted better tools and they designed and built them. Other spinners have done this, but Henry and Roy went a step farther and really listened to their customers, so their tools have design features that go far beyond anything else on the market. They make tools that are the very best in their class.

Their (Elite) electric carder is the best carder on the market for making 100 gram batts. I happen to like my old Clemes and Clems hand carder with its shorter teeth for the thinner 48 gram batts that I want  for kind of spinning that I do.  However, for spinning slightly thicker yarns, their new Elite is the carding tool of choice.

Some might opt for a wider carder, but hand spinning works with small units of fiber at a time. In the context of hand spinning, an 8" x 22" batt is too big to feed into the orifice as is and a 16" wide batt is no easier to feed into the orifice.  For production of artisan quality batts with good uniform color ways, the Clemes and Clemes electric carder stands by itself with no superior and no peer.

Then, having made a set of batts with a uniform color way, the artisan is faced with storing them until they can be spun (or sold). Clemes and Clemes  have solved this problem with their batt removal and storage system.

Readers know I am a fanatic for freshly prepped fiber.  Clemes and Clemes offer a way to store prepared fiber in a minimum amount of space with a minimum amount of matting, and damage to the batts.  It is brilliant.  It allows making a set of uniform batts and safely storing them until they can be spun (or sold).  I rather expect this to become the standard packaging for fine batts of spinning fiber.

It is a new product that is not fully detailed on their web site yet, so be patient.  It is coming, and it is worth the wait.

What do I dislike about Clemes and Clemes?  They tell me, that the olive oil based spinning oil that I use, will rot the rubber that holds the carding pins.  They are the the kind of guys that tell the truth -- even if the customer is not real eager to hear the truth.  The rubber bed is why all wool going into a drum carder should be clean and free of lanolin. That is a serious truth that some spinners do not want to hear.  And, to get the wool free of lanolin, it needs to be washed at 140F or hotter (if you are using detergents).  That is hotter than for the old "washing soda"/ alkali  process.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Cakes and Twist

Some folks on the Internet are saying that "center pull' cakes of yarn should be unwound from the outside (with the cake rotating) to preserve twist.  This finding is the result of poor lab technique.

My Royal Jumbo winder inserts (or removes) between 1 twist in 8 inches and 1 twist in 24 inches depending on whether it is winding the inside or the out side of a cake.  When I pull the yarn out of the center, the process is reversed and the original twist is restored.

This can be easily checked by taking a low twist yarn (e.g., worsted 2-ply) winding a cake, and then winding cake after cake of the same yarn  in the same direction - each time pulling from the center of the previous cake. After a few dozen rewindings, measure the twist.

Then, repeat the process, only this time rewind from the outside of the cake as a side delivery package where the yarn cake rotates to unwind the yarn.  If you wind the same direction each time, the twist will be noticeably different.  However, the change in twist will vary along the length of the yarn so it will not be possible to restore the twist by just running it though a spinning wheel.  Rather the spinner will have to pay real attention to the twist and insert different amounts of along the length of the yarn.

edited to change:  It has come to my attention that I have a Royal Jumbo Cake winder, which is one of the very few winders designed to produce true center pull cakes.  Most home winders, wind side delivery and unwinding by center pull will change the twist.

However, it is perfectly possible to wind side delivery and knit from that package end delivery.  yes, it does change the twist a bit, but not enough to bother any but the very best craftsmen - and there are not many master knitters around any more!

As demonstration, I am knitting from a side wound pirn in a shuttle - that is an end delivery yarn package. It works just fine!  Yes winding and unwinding the pirn changes twist as much as 1 tpi, but that is not really a problem for a competent knitter.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Need

I have not been honest.

A major reason reason for pushing the  bounds of hand textile production technology was to provide a "Plan B" as sea level rise from Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) destroys industrial textile production. Thus, I want hand textile production to be fast enough to produce ordinary and functional fiber and textile products at a reasonable economic price.  This includes linen, cotton, nettle, wool, and other fibers.

In 1991, as I realized that the IPCC climate models dramatically understated the potential of sea level rise, I thought the loss of industrial fiber and textile production could be taken up by skills (widely) held by amateurs.  Then, my wife bought me a hand knit fisherman's sweater in Nova Scotia, and I about froze wearing it salmon fishing off the coast of  California. This was a warning that modern hand made textiles are not practical in the functional world.

Above is a swatch of British Breeds gansey yarn knit at a modern gauge.  That is OK, if the Coast Guard has helicopters standing by, and  there is a Weather Service to warn of storms.

Same grist of yarn, same stitch pattern, but constructed on the assumption that there is no Coast Guard or Weather Service.   This is the fabric that was knit from  handspun 5-ply on "knitting pins".  It is just enough tighter to close the little tiny holes in the modern gauge swatch that let the heat leak out.   

Before mill spun, the fishermen on the North Atlantic survived by wearing sweaters hand knit from hand spun that were warmer than anything modern hand knitters and hand spinners typically produce. On the second trip to Nova Scotia, it became clear to me that these traditional textile production skills used to produce warm clothing  had been lost. And worse, the hand spinners and hand knitters did not recognize what had been lost. They were still bragging about how warm their hand-spun and hand knit objects were. I watched historical enactors drop from hypothermia and get hauled away to hospital by ambulance. (The drivers wore store bought.) The site was closed due to cold weather. Battlements that had been guarded day and night, summer and winter, for 300 years were cleared on a fine spring day - due to cold. I was wearing a hand knit gansey as I stood on those battlements watching the whole thing until we were told to leave. (The guards wore store bought.)  I was not cold.  Modern spinners and knitters brag about how warm their handspun/ handknit is because they do not regularly compare the warmth of the objects that they make with the degree of warmth required for humans to stay functional in cold weather.  The truth is that cold people fall down.

I remember when a rock climbing buddy's mother gave him a very fine, hand knit Fair Isle sweater for Christmas.  Then, he had to move at New Year's and he used that new sweater as packing material and discarded it afterwards because, it was "too heavy for the warmth!"  He laughed at me for starting to knit. He kept laughing at me until one year, I gave him a pair of gansey knit ski socks for Christmas.  Six weeks later, he offered me $200 to knit hims a pair of hiking socks.  By then, my handknitting was different from any hand knitting he had ever seen.

We would go snow camping, and take with us a bag full of the best gear from Patagonia and Marmot.
(  and ( )
We would compare the performance of my knit wear with the gear from Patagonia and Marmot.  Pretty soon, I stopped bothering with much of the store bought stuff. (Marmot parkas and guide pants are still useful.)

You may not like the way my stuff looks, but if I am going to be in the cold, it is what I want to wear. It is very functional.  However, it is functional because I bother with things like multi-ply yarns, and knitting tightly. I can spin multi-ply yarns and still finish the object because I work fast.  And, spinning is not my life. I need to finish my spinning and do other things.  If I worked slowly, I would not have the objects to wear. Then, I would either have to wear store bought, or freeze.

So, what happens to industrial textile production as sea level rises?  Most of our textile production is near sea level and a small amount of sea level rise ends most textile production. (No more store bought!!)

How fast is sea level likely to rise?  The IPCC models say slowly, but they do not consider ice dynamics.  The IPCC models assume the ice will melt in situ.  Watch Chasing Ice, the sequence starting at minute 64. (or see clip at to see how it is likely to go.  As ice warms, it loses tensile strength, and then under goes a progressive structural collapse.  For example, defrost your freezer - first it drips, then chunks of ice start falling off the racks.  Watch the ice melt off of the roof of a ski lodge - first it drips, then big chunks of ice fall.  A glacier calving into the ocean, drips, then big pieces fall. All of these are examples of ice losing tensile strength as it warms.

Now we know that all of our big ice has the potential for sea water to come in under it.  Antarctica sits on the top of sea mounts.  Greenland has many deep fjords that run under the ice.  Both of these conditions allow the rapid breakup of  ice as seen in the Chasing Ice clip.  Both Antarctica and  Greenland have the potential for the kind of progressive structural collapse on a large scale that is seen in a very small scale in minute 64 of Chasing Ice.

In the last interglacial, we know that sea level rose 40 feet in 500 years, and we cannot be certain that it was a gradual rise.  It may have been a period of punctuated equilibrium where most of the sea level rise occurred in a few brief events. In the last few climate changes, there were several period when hominid populations dropped from 95% to 99% of normal population. This However current climate forcing is 10 times greater than it was then. Thus, a reasonable planning case for sea level rise is meters in decades, and we can expect larger drops in hominid populations.  Such planning is like house insurance.  You many not really expect a house fire (odds are 1 in 100,000), but you have insurance. With AGW, if we have planned for meters/decade, and sea level rise is only meters per century, then we will be OK.  However, if we plan for millimeters per century and sea level comes as meters per decade, then we will not be OK.

A sea level rise of meters in decades is fast enough to incapacitate industrial fiber production (synthetics and cotton) faster than the facilities (and their infrastructure) can be moved.  And, modern hand spinners have lost the skills that spinners used for generations and generations to economically produce the fibers needed to conquer the world.  What are we going to do for clothing?

The needs are food, water, shelter, and clothing. Sure there is a lot of clothing around that can be reused by a smaller population. (I expect a 99.99%  reduction in population.) However, most of that clothing is not well made and will fall apart in a few years.  In the face of the known, and unknown challenges, I do not expect the current generation of hand spinners to have much effect on the future of textiles. Current spinners tend to look to the Victorians, rather than to the older professional spinning traditions.  Current spinners do not tend to make new tools and develop new techniques to ensure a vibrant future in the craft of spinning.  I will tell you this; somebody will need a faster spinning wheel, because more twist makes hand made objects warmer and more durable, and we are going to need warm and durable.

It is called global warming, because of what happens at sea level.  However, the top of the atmosphere actually cools, and cold air tends to sink - so there will be blasts of ice cold air driving big storms.  Global warming does not mean that we will not need very warm woolies.

If you do not have acute symptoms of stress, such as high blood pressure, vomiting, diarrhea, panic, and depression, then you do not understand the acute nature of the AGW situation. It is too late to avoid catastrophic AGW. The best we can do at this stage is plan to adapt to catastrophic AGW.

My cheerful observation is that anyone that can spin wool well, can very quickly learn to spin other fibers well.

If you want cites, Google is your friend.  And, look at the proceedings of the AGU, particularly the posters on GIS.  Stuff about the summer 2012 melt on GIS is just coming out, and folks are just starting to realize how important structure is to ice sheet behavior.  Water increases the load on an ice structure without providing any extra strength.   When one adds load to a structure, without adding strength, eventually the structure collapses.  The days of treating ice sheets as a black box on a film of water are over.

More on knitting tight to avoid shrinking

I am well aware of the differences in felting character between different breeds. The style of the yarn also makes a difference, how the yarn was blocked/fulled and how the finished object was blocked/fulled makes a large difference. The point of  the last post was that firmness of knitting also makes a larger difference than most modern knitters recognize - simply because most knitters never get around to knitting tight.  I routinely knit hiking/ski/fishing gear from 880 ypp (worsted weight) yarns at 36 stitches per 4" with a favorite cable 6-strand/ 840 ypp coming in at 32 stitches / 4".  Objects knit from gansay yarn (1,000 ypp) are knit on finer needles and have more stitches per inch.

Most of the yarns in this test were commercial mill spun from the Atlantic Provinces of Canada and/ or British mill spun gansey yarns. A good chunk of the test objects were knit from MacAusland yarns that are widely used in commercial rug hooking. MacAusland is not a fragile yarn.

Three boot socks knit from "worsted weight" yarns. The white sock was knit from MacAusland Natural 2-ply (880 yyp) the green sock was knit from a 3x2 strand cabled yarn at 840 ypp, and the green and gray sock was knit from MacAusland Natural 2-ply (880 yyp, gray) and the 3x2 strand cabled yarn at 840 ypp. The stripes on the green and gray sock make it easy to count the 8 stitches per inch. G/G sock was designed for snow shoeing, the others for hiking.

The gansey swatch is hand spun, with a low ply twist so it has excellent fill, and while only 1,000 ypp and 32 s/4" is nearly weather proof.  So yes, fiber, yarn construction, knit technique, and finishing technique all contribute to the virtues of the finished object.

What ever I learned about spinning last year, the other thing that I learned is that I like the speed, and fabrics produced by using spring steel needles and a good knitting sheath.  When I am knitting well, I tend to finish projects. When I am not knitting well , I start things and they end up in the WIP bin.

Now, I have a big bin of WIP, mostly started on tubular stainless steel DPN using a leather knitting pouch last fall.

This is pretty much the tool kit that I intend to use to finish them.  It works.  Last night, there were 6 pair of finished socks by my chair at the end of Dowton Abby.  Socks are done on 12" spring steel DPN, using a traditional knitting fish, threaded onto a heavy leather belt. The spring steel needles are faster, and produce a more consistent fabric.   Gusset stitches are picked up on finer needles. Sweaters are done on 18" spring steel needles using a wooden knitting sheath screwed onto a very heavy leather belt. The long needles shown are 2 mm.

The trick to using the the 12" needles is to get the knitting fish and leather belt to work with the needle to provide the right spring constant at the tip.  At home, and knitting seriously, I often wear the belt over a leather apron

Old School Super WasH

This is a list of my current rules of thumb on washing various knit fabrics

  1. Softly, lofty yarns, (not spun from super wash) with few plies knit at typical modern gauges ( ) tend not to survive a trip through the washing machine (Cotton cycle) and dryer.  Such objects, that are fulled from long and gentile use may survive, but by then it is a treasured object, that should not be treated so roughly.  Mostly, I would say such objects should be placed in a net bag, and run through the "wool" cycle and then blocked to dry at room temperature.
  2. Objects knit from worsted spun yarns, with fine plies (e.g., gansey yarn) knit moderately firmly to firmly (sport weight on 2.5 mm needles) will tolerate passage through the washing machine and dryer. Here, I am talking about washing with a 38 minute cotton cycle at 140 F with Percil (a good EU detergent).  This will remove even oxidized and recalcitrant lanolin.
  3. Semi-worsted yarns knit firmly ( e.g., worsted weight yarns knit on US #1 needled) are improved by a passage through the washing machine and dryer as it fulls the fabric leaving it soft, dense, and slightly napped. My standard test objects were knit from MacAuslands fine 2-ply Naturals ( 2-ply, 880 ypp) on US#1 gansey needles.  (I was rather appalled at how much dirt my hand washing or even the wool cycle had been leaving in the objects.)
  4. I assert that for some fabrics, a trip through the washer is the easiest way to get the fabric really clean, and that worsted spun yarns, knit firmly, can tolerate this on a regular, if not frequent basis.
  5. The washing machine rinse cycle can be used to apply 2 drops (1/8 teaspoon) of baby oil for wools that must tolerate some moisture. I do not have any problem putting such oiled wools in the dryer.
  6. Wool objects that must be weatherproof need re-oiling with real lanolin. (Put the object in a large pot of water, add a good teaspoon of solid lanolin, and warm until the lanolin melts.  Pull/ drop the object through the film of melted lanolin on top of the water several times, so the lanolin can adhere to all parts of the object.) I do not put such oiled objects in the dryer. Oiled objects tend to collect dirt and yellow.  And, lanolin tends to attract wool eating bugs.  I put several drops of  lavender oil  in the oiling pot, I do not know if it keeps bugs away, but it does not seem to hurt.
  7. I suggest taking wool objects out of the dryer at the "damp dry" or "machine iron" level of dampness and blocking.
If you are thinking about such aggressive washing, try it on swatches first. I really do knit much tighter than most modern knitters believe is possible, and this produces a fabric that is more durable than most modern wool fabrics.

Slightly higher grist yarns knit on the same needles or  slightly softer yarns, or yarns knit slightly softer (e.g., larger needles)  WILL felt and shrink.  I knit soft turtle necks on to some of my fishing sweaters.  The body of the sweater does fine, the turtle necks shrink to fit fruit flies.  Swatch and test all trim.

While I do believe that "better spinning is the comparative advantage in textiles" , 

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Into the Deep End -- Once More

Growing up, one of the stories in the house was of my father's Icelandic  roommate at watchmaking school who supported himself by knitting a pair of Lopi ski socks every day.  When my father married my mother, he still had one pair of those Lopi ski socks left.  Then as a new bride, my mother washed and shrank them.  Even with that bit of folk wisdom firmly branded in my psyche, I managed to shrink and felt a fair number of knit woolen objects.

I started knitting about the time that we moved into this house, and bought the washer and dryer.   It was immediately evident that the dryer would shrink and felt all woolen objects instantly and irrevocably. In those days, I knit ordinary mill spun, and I knit at the loose gauge on the yarn band.  I learned not to even try to dry woolens in our dryer.

A few years later, I  moved on to gansey needles and learned to knit more firmly.  Still, I went for years and years without putting woolens through our washer dryer.

Then a couple weeks ago, a pair of the socks that I knit for wearing with water shoes, slipped into the washer-dryer program.  They were washed in the hot cotton cycle and dried in the normal cotton cycle.

They came out perfect. They were gansey knit from mill spun 5-ply sport weight.  Was it just gansey yarns that could survive the washer / dryer?

I started running other objects through the washer/ dryer.  The bottom line is that gansey knit objects came through very well, and my  earlier, more loosely knit objects mostly felted, shrank, or otherwise failed.  It is clear that there were a lot of objects that I never got very clean. Objects that had a yellowish cast to them for years, come out sparkling white.  And some of my out door gear is softer and fluffier than it had ever been.

A swatch back from the washer/dryer,  not blocked and not felted.
Right now, I am wearing a pair of boot socks that fit perfectly before going into the washer/dryer, and fit perfectly after coming out of the washer dryer.  On the other hand, I have certainly added to my collection of tiny socks suited to elves and fairies.

An early, loosely knit sock that fit before and NOT after a trip through the washer/ dryer.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Ultimate Rant

This was triggered by a fellow that teaches statistics, and yet he recently denied the reality of  AGW.

One knows, respectable people that have a university degree in math or something and they seem intelligent until they open their mouths on global warming, and deny AGW.

One debates politics and philosophy, but there is no debate over the basics of “Climate Science”.  In climate science, one goes out and measures – there are no debates.  (Well, maybe some back and forth while we wait for the paper(s) to get through peer review.)   A basic text on the topic is   by David Archer.

However, there are a number of folks paid by the fossil fuel industry slinking around.  They are well paid by the fossil fuel industry to lie, and sow doubt and deceit.  However, that is deceit, lying, and fraud, not debate.  See ( )   There are another group that see AGW as a conspiracy to impose more government controls.  There is another goup in denial just because AGW is so terrible.

When, I was chemistry major, in 1972, AGW was an accepted fact, but everyone in the class had to prove it again (but only to slide rule accuracy.)  (We were all Republicans.  We did hard science, with real facts.  In those days, the Democrats were over the social sciences.) IPCC AR5 is driven by a reality that has already been set in motion – greenhouse gases that have already been released. 180 governments have signed on to this concept.  Of course, governments sign on to many things that do not happen, but future warming caused by those greenhouse gases and the additional greenhouse gases that we continue to release will trigger events that will scare Americans  (even you) into accepting the reality of AGW.  Every bit of new research shows that these changes are coming faster that previously stated by the IPCC.  See for example  
and .  Why be among the last to understand what is going on?  AR5  is something every person with pretensions of understanding the modern world needs to understand in detail.  At least, read the Summary for Policy Makers.  I assure you that King Salman of Saudi Arabia has read it and been personally briefed by the diplomats from the Lima Climate Conference.  And, a variety of business leaders are pushing similar goals. See for example:

When I did risk management at Bechtel, I kept a list of 300 things that could go wrong on a Bechtel Project.  These ranged from volcanoes and asteroids to traffic accidents and falls in the home.    Big volcanoes occur rarely. AGW is here. Its probability is 1/1.  It may be more or less intense, but it is here, and it will get more intense.  So, in likelihood of occurring, AGW beats big volcanoes and asteroids.   AGW at its most intense levels can almost certainly kill 7 billion people.  Nothing else, except big volcanoes and asteroids even comes close.  Sea Level Rise takes out critical infrastructure that is needed for everything.  All microprocessors are bedded in gray plastic that is made at ~300 facilities mostly in Indonesia and Malaysia.  The microprocessors are in parts and repair parts for factories, trucks, cars, computers, internet, and telecommunication switches.  6 meters of sea level rise takes out most of the gray plastic makers. And, everything sold at a WalMart is made in factories that need the microprocessors. If you ever need anything that might ever be sold at Walmart, then you also need gray plastic. And, most of the makers of synthetic fibers – e.g., clothes and truck tires, are also made at, or near sea level.  If you want to jack those plants up or move them away from the beach then you will need high pressure steel pipe.  The high pressure steel pipe is mostly made at the Shaw Plant outside of Houston. It is ~25 meters above sea level, but 3 meters of sea level rise blocks highway access to the port and sewage treatment.  Oh, and financing for all the fix-up will have to come from some place other than NYC, London, Tokyo, or Singapore. These cities will all be flooded and scrambling for resources.  As will the airports at Oakland, SF, NYC. . . ..  And, a few feet of sea level rise takes out the factories that produce fertilizer and pesticides.  Without fertilizer and pesticides, farmers cannot grow food.  So a little sea level rise (few meters) means no food and no truck tires to move it around.  We should be planning to save a few people and some infrastructure –  intense AGW is a “near term” (several decades) certainty unless we change our ways.    Whatever it costs, stopping any little part of it is cheaper than killing everyone and destroying everything.  We are in a hole, and we need to stop digging. 

Talking about 3 or 6 meters of sea level rise seems very silly in the context of the less than 5 mm/yr of sea level rise in recent years.  Except that in the last interglacial, sea level rose 20 meters in 500 years.  We do not know if that sea level rise was gradual or occurred as a few abrupt sea level rise events. And current climate forcing is now much greater than during that interglacial, so we should not be surprised by very large, abrupt sea level rise events.  Uncertainly is not our friend.  If we trigger clathrate releases, then we could have very large global warming, very quickly.  The fact that so much liquid water is moving though the Greenland Ice Sheet, so rapidly, is indicative that stability of the Greenland Ice Sheet could be decades rather than millennia.

A large aquifer was found in Greenland  ( ) and the write up about it talks about it storing enough water to raise sea level ~0.4 mm.  However, it’s drainage is likely to be rapid and carry with it the snow over the aquifer and to erode the 2 km thick ice under the aquifer.  That ice acts as bulwark supporting other, higher ice which will flow toward the sea if the ice under the aquifer is eroded.  Thus, a  0.4 mm estimate of sea level rise for the drainage of the aquifer is not an honest and realistic estimate of the total sea level rise event that can be expected when the aquifer drains. 
Currently the water in the aquifer is super cooled by the melt under pressure of the firn over the aquifer.  When the aquifer fills above the firn, then it will warm and hydro fracture the ice under it in a sudden drainage event. Or, the aquifer will rise above the level of the sills trapping it and the overflow will release enough heat (from potential energy) to erode the sill and the ice under it.  In any case, an intra glacial aquifer is not a stable structure in a time frame of years. 

As you may know, I have worked with nuclear materials, and I wrote much of the US DOE’s manual on the decontamination and demolition of radioactively contaminated facilities.  In this, context, I expect that very intense AGW would have a broader and longer lived effect on human civilization than a  major thermonuclear war with resulting Nuclear Winter, and substantial radioactive contamination of all countries with nuclear arsenals. However bad a nuclear war could be, very intense AGW could be worse.  We need to put more focused effort on avoiding AGW, than we have ever applied to avoiding nuclear war.  Compared to AGW, ISIL is nothing.

I differ from most scientists in having worked on major infrastructure projects at Bechtel, and I  understand how long it takes to plan and implement new technologies.  Thus, I am more eager to get people past understanding global warming, and on to planning and implementation.   We have a lot to do and a short time to do it.  In 2007,  IPCC AR4 told us the Arctic Sea Ice would remain intact for 80 years, and the great Ice sheets would last for millennia. But in 2007 we lost a quarter of our Arctic sea ice.  In 2009, we had, which tells us that glaciers can retreat much faster than the IPCC considered plausible only 2 years earlier.     In 2014, we had  New papers, just being published, regarding the 2012 melt season on Greenland suggest that I am correct about the urgency of the issue. See .

Nor do the IPCC climate models include carbon feedback. A summary of one carbon issue is at  And there are clathrates e.g., . (I do think David Archer is too reticent on clathrates.)

Show me an (IPCC) climate model that predicts these behaviors, and I will grant you that I am “alarmist.”  The IPCC is not “wrong”, rather it is exceptionally conservative and carefully reticent because everything is reviewed by diplomats and lawyers. My models do predict abrupt ice behaviors.  It is the stuff I learned in ChemE, 44 years ago. And it is stuff that Feynman told his (freshman) Physics X class 10 years earlier. There is no reason what-so-ever for it not to be in the IPCC models – except that it upsets people by disrupting preconceptions, and the reviewing diplomats dislike disruptions.  Austfonna is only 500 miles from Greenland, so another Arctic Sea Ice loss event like 2007-2012, and we could have high speed flows off of the GIS within 20 years.  You see, I am not an alarmist, I just do my home work, and I do not see uncertainty as a friend.  
Today, the scientific basis of global warming is just as strong as the scientific basis of gravity, and to deny global warming is to sound as stupid as somebody that denies gravity.  You can deny gravity, but dropping a cannon ball on your foot will still hurt just as much.  You can deny human caused global warming, but it will affect you just the same.  The “theory of gravity” allows one to predict the path of the cannon ball, just like the “theory of global” warming allow one to predict the effects and impacts of global warming.

 Some of the measures in climate science require statistics to be useful.   This has been done, and the peer reviewed papers can be found in the reference lists of IPCC publications  ( ).  These papers show AGW is not cyclical and is human caused.  While many of the papers (individually) have confidence levels of only 95%, multiple lines of evidence give us very high over all confidence – beyond dispute.

A good display of statistics can be found at  Unless you do your homework, you become a victim of your preconceptions.  Population dynamics are at the root of the global warming problem – your preconceptions keep you from seeing how many people have been burning fossil fuels and how much they have  been burning compared to the finite volumes of the atmosphere and carbon cycles.    Good environmental statistics are at .   There, Tamino explains what is wrong with the environmental statistics that you see in the mass media and certain blogs.  His background is statistical analysis of satellite data streams to pull real information out of noisy data.  He understands the measures of the world and he is more likely to tell the truth than folks that have fossil fuel companies as both advertisers and readers.

 In Climategate, the merchants of doubt, are now losing lawsuits and are being found guilty of libel.  Their headlines were lies, and they are being held accountable.   and  and .  The merchants of doubt focus on the flaws in one paper, while ignoring other papers that address those flaws.  It is worth using  to find such deceits.  Hundreds of points supported in thousands of papers would have to be over-turned to put global warming or its human causes in doubt. 

AGW has not paused or stopped.  Most of the heat from AGW ends up in the oceans, and since sea level indicates both the sensible heat in the ocean and the heat of fusion absorbed by land ice, sea level is the single best indicator of total heat in the Earth System. And sea level is at historic highs, and rising faster than ever previously recorded by man.  (Nature 517, 481–484 (22 January 2015, doi:10.1038/nature14093)

To quote the Saudi Oil Minister, "The stone age did not end because they ran out of stones, The stone age ended because they found something better.  The oil age will not end because we run out of oil, it will end when we find something better."  We have actually found things that are better than  than oil and coal.  We just need to start using them.



The reports are available for purchase or (free) online reading or down load at

In particular see the top of page  39 for a summary of biochar issues.  However they do not address  solubility in any detail.

Joe Romm's office at US DOE funded part of  the technology transfer program that was 10% of my job at Hanford, so we had some direct contact.  I consider him honest, smart, and very competent on technologies related to pollution.  He is one of the very few people that could write intelligently about such documents so soon after their release.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

I seem to have fooled myself

Last fall I started a series of boot socks as we were out and about. The yarn is a wool, 3x2 mill spun cable at 840 ypp.  I fell into the habit of throwing a ball of the yarn and a tube of 8" bullet-point,  tubular stainless steel needles, into a bag and starting another boot sock cuff with every little adventure.

Thus, now there is a bin of boot sock cuffs that need to be finished. I sat down to finish these socks on the same needles I started them.  But in my knitting chair at home, those needles felt very slow.

I was fooling myself into thinking  8" bullet-point,  tubular stainless steel needles were the needles of choice.  No! they are the needles of choice for knitting on the go.  For REAL knitting, I want my spring steel needles with a real knitting sheath.

The spring steel needles in a knitting sheath have a higher spring constant, and spring back much faster, allowing faster knitting and producing a more uniform fabric.   The finer tips are more likely to split the yarn, but in a stable chair with good light, and a crochet hook handy, splits can be detected and fixed.

The current generation of sock needles are 12" long, 2.38 mm (3/32") with long tapers to flat tips. I use a 6"  long wooden knitting sheath threaded onto a 1.5" wide leather belt worn low over the hips.  This puts the needle tips about a foot in front of my nose.  Using the palm of the right hand as it is pushed forward, the working needle is flexed  flexed about 10 mm, and the right needle is pulled in to trap the flexed right  needle in the working stitch.  As the right hand pulls back the yarn is looped,  The  right needle moved out, releasing the working needle to finish the stitch and carry it off the left needle. All motions are substantially linear, and the knitting is very rhythmic and can be very fast.        All of the power for the knitting comes from the upper arms, so there is very little stress on the hands.  The process produces a firm, uniform fabric.  The tension of the fabric is determined by the spring constant of the flexed needle.

 Since many modern knitters seek a very soft fabric, it is not likely to become a very popular knitting technique.

Monday, February 09, 2015

Back to the beginning

Why??  We were traveling in Nova Scotia, and my wife bought me a nice, hand knit fisherman's sweater.  I wore it fishing in California, and about froze. That raised the question, "How did the old cod fishermen in the North Atlantic stay warm?"  For me curiosity is the most powerful motivation.

I learned to knit.  I knit all the mill spun yarns available to me, and still nothing was nearly warm enough to keep a sailor working the rigging from going into hypothermia, losing judgement and coordination, and falling to his death - and since many men were working in the rigging, many would going into hypothermia, dying, and ultimately the ship being lost. They must have had warmer clothing by the time the English were poaching Icelandic/Hansa cod in the 14th century.

I tried knitting tighter using gansey needles. I only succeed in punching holes in my wife's furniture. What worked was using knitting sheaths.  A knitting sheath allows knitting fabrics tight enough that the knit fabric is weatherproof.

Then, with some yarns I could knit objects that are warm enough to keep one warm under almost any conditions.  Indeed Shackleton's men wore gansey knit sweaters knit from mill spun during their  almost 2 years in Antarctica, and they all survived. Long spring steel needles and  a knitting sheath are the tools required to knit such objects.  Attempting to knit such objects without steel needles and  a knitting sheath is almost certainly going to result in wrist damage.

In the 14th century, every spinner spun yarn for weavers, either as subsistence textiles or as a commercial activity. "10s" (5,600 ypp, spun worsted and 10 hanks of 560 yd/ lb) were a common commercial product for spinners. Thus, any commercial spinner had such singles around. Five plies of  10s makes a nice weight of yarn for many knitting uses, 6-ply is a bit warmer, and 10-ply is warm enough for severe duty.  There you have the common weights ( 1,000 ypp, 840 ypp, 500 ypp) of modern knitting yarns.,

When the old Lion Brand Fisherman's Wool was being discontinued, it was very cheap and I bought a bin of it.  It was a pain in the ass to knit.  However, knit on long steel needles with a knitting sheath, it produced an exceptional warm fabric. It was 1,000 ypp, but it produced fabrics as warm the 500 ypp 3-ply that I was also knitting in those days. So, I had a thin, light, flexible fabric, that was as warm as the much thicker,  heavier fabrics that I was knitting from other yarns.

My spinning is then an exploration of the lessons of  the old, ugly, Lion Brand Fisherman's Wool.  The first lesson is that one needs steel needles and a knitting sheath.   The second lesson is that if your sweater is the only garment available, and you might be outside long enough for the weather to change, then 5-plies is just enough. 6-plies is better if it might get cold, and 10-plies is better if there is a chance of serious cold.  Then, long wool is more durable, and fine wool is warmer.  That is all that one really needs to know -- except that if you are knitting that tight, you need to understand how the neck vents.  If the sweater is properly designed, as one warms up, venting at the neck increases.  What look like simple necks are actually very subtle, temperature sensitive vents, that allow one to go from the ski slope to the bar, without taking layer off, and from the bar to the slopes without putting layers on.

Think about it.  Men in their hammocks, were called on deck to work in the rigging in a storm without a chance to find additional layers of clothing in a dark, storm tossed ship.  Seamen's sweaters were more sophisticated than we give them credit for being.

The final lesson was on Gun Barrel. There was a icy patch, and I fell - sliding to the bottom in my Patagonia parka. It was a "yard sale" - requiring a long hike back up the hill to collect all my gear that had come off along the way. On the next run, the parka was in pack, and I was wearing the Fisherman's Wool sweater.  I hit the icy spot again, and fell again. This time the slide was short because the sweater acted as a brake, and I did not lose any gear. Yes, there was snow packed under my sweater, from my arm pits to my belly button, but it all fell out when I stood up, and I was warm and comfortable again in the 2 minutes that it took me to get to the bottom of the run.  

And that, Oh Best Beloved, is why my new sweater has a 6" welt to keep the snow out.  The downside is that it will not vent properly.   Knit the features that are needed.

Monday, February 02, 2015

The Drug

Not just any drug, but "The Drug"! 

Fossil fuels are like a performance enhancing drug that we all know is very effective.  Fossil fuels allow one man to do the work of  1000.  However,  we also know that the drug is toxic at moderate doses (e.g., CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere of 400 ppmve)  and absolutely lethal at high doses.   We know that we are already suffering from the drug’s  toxicity, but we will not know what the lethal dose is until after we have taken that  lethal dose, and are suffering the long and lingering  painful death.

Our dealer drops the price of the drug, and we can afford to take more of it.  

Is  prudent to increase our dosage? 

Remember that at the highly toxic levels, less work will be done, not more.  It is just hard to get useful stuff done when there is  cold, dirty sea water up to your eyebrows.  Economists discount for future wealth, but it is real hard to do finance when when the infrastructure is underwater.

It does not matter if you use the fossil fuels, your friends use fossil fuels, or your enemies use fossil fuels, significant total usage will cost everyone.  And, large usage will kill all.

All of the economic estimates of the cost of global warming are based on climate models that do not include ice dynamics or carbon feedbacks.  Come-on boys, that is like a house-hold budget that does not include  rent or food.   For economists to use such incomplete climate models as a basis of cost destroys my confidence in economists.  For such climate models  and such economic models, to get published destroyed my confidence in the peer review system.  And, people wonder why I have gotten bitter and grumpy over the last decade.  

In 2012, things happened on Greenland that in 2007 everyone (IPCC) said would not happen for at least a thousand years.  So, we have been running the AGW  program for ~ 120 years and we have it a of thousand years ahead of schedule.  How is that possible?

Yes, an atmospheric concentration of CO2 at 400 ppv costs all.  Everything in the world is warmer, including the weather.  Warmer weather means there is heat in the system to drive more powerful storms.  AGW may not "cause" the storms, but it affects each and every storm.  

AGW has  been compared to a baseball player taking performance enhancing drugs and thereby being able to hit more home runs.  However, AGW changes all the rules.  Having open water in the Greenland sea is like doing away with the rules on bats  Loss of snow and ice cover is like letting the batter choose the kind of ball that will be pitched to him   Then, the batter could select a super ball ( ) and hit it out of the park any time his bat touched it.   More open water and less snow and ice cover mean that there will be more energy in the system.  Suddenly any kid in the country can hit their ball out of any baseball park in the country.

Oh, yes, AGW is a whole new ball game.  

So how bad is our addiction?  How many of our TV commercials are for cars, trucks, or leisure travel?  We still have not recognized the AGW problem as being more important than how we spend a few days of vacation.