Saturday, March 21, 2015


I was a pretty good knitter, then I started spinning because I wanted better yarn for the knitting that I was doing.  However, the time I spent spinning took away from the time I spent knitting, and the quality of my knitting has declined.  I would say that to remain a competent knitter one needs to spend 30 hours per week knitting at a very high level.  Likewise, I would say that to remain a competent spinner, one needs to spend at least 30 hours per week spinning at a very high level.

Thus, if one wants to spin better yarn for better knitting, one must invest 60 hours per week in textile work.  That does not leave much time for weaving or -- teaching.

Professional spinners and knitters were/are very competent because they were able to turn every commission, every job into an opportunity to hone and refine their skills.  Pros practice everyday, all day.  Amateurs have other things to do, and cannot spend as much time honing and refining their skills.

Teaching has its own work, that distracts from high-end craft work.  Even master's classes require prep work that distracts from high end practice. Teaching basic skills takes more time out of practice.  A teacher that maintains a full teaching schedule for an extended period of time is not going to have to have retained the same level of technical skills as a talented professional working at their craft full time.

And, if you are on Ravelry, you are not practicing.  If somebody spins and knits and has a lot of posts on Ravelry, we know they are not highly competent knitters or spinners.

That said, maximum productivity in human muscles only lasts about 6 hours, but can be stretched to about 8.  Human productivity starts to decline after 8 hours of work.  You really cannot do your best work for more than about 8 hours per day. And muscles need rest.  You cannot do your best work, working more than about 40 hours per week. So, in fact one could do 8 hours of knitting and 4 hours of Ravelry on a daily basis.

I have to admit  to spending a lot of time on Ravelry as I started knitting and again when I started spinning.  Each time, I picked up a lot of conventional wisdom suited to hobby quality production. To move on to better quality production, I had to abandon that conventional wisdom,  and adopt tools  and skills not discussed on Ravelry.  Today, I see this attitude as one of the great impediments of my moving to better tools and the skills needed to use those tools.

Mention of the other tools and other skills on Ravelry invoked huge amounts of antagonism from groups of knitters and spinners on Ravelry. I do not know if they were a majority or a very vocal minority.  I do not care, they were unpleasant towards me. The knitting and spinning community should be more tolerant of  alternative approaches to knitting and spinning.  I find the  knitting and spinning community to be bigoted against the tools used by professional textile workers for hundreds of years.

I point down another path.  I do  not tell anyone that they must follow that path, I only say that the path exists.  From their reaction, one would have thought that I scream heresy from the steps of the cathedral, everyday 24/7.  I see my position as rather like telling a group of Latin scholars, that studying Greek or Hebrew also has its use. And yes, I do see scholars that can work in Latin or Greek or Hebrew as more advanced than scholars that work only in Latin.  On the other hand it is better to do good work in Latin then poor work in Latin AND Greek. I did not invent the Greek, I only remind folks that it exists.


Annie McKinnon said...

This is the main reason I only use Ravelry as a pattern repository. The forums should be helpful, but I'm yet to see one that actually is.

However, I think your blog is immensely helpful and I am grateful for it. I plan to take up spinning in two years when I'll have the time to devote to it, and this blog will be a huge resource for me. So I want to say Thank You so much for documenting your research and your findings. There is a wealth of information on your blog, and I appreciate you taking the time to share it with everyone.

purplespirit1 said...

"Thus, if one wants to spin better yarn for better knitting, one must invest 60 hours per week in textile work."

I think this is misworded. There's no minimum time one must invest per week to hone their craft. I can understand this perspective from a novice knitter like yourself, who may not have anything better to do with your time, or because you're so new to the craft. My being someone who has spend more than 3/4 of my life knitting and crocheting, I've coveted my experience in trying new skills (and mastering a good portion of the ones I've tried) due to years of experience rather than how many hours per week I knit.

"And, if you are on Ravelry, you are not practicing. If somebody spins and knits and has a lot of posts on Ravelry, we know they are not highly competent knitters or spinners."

I agree with the first sentence - it goes without saying that if someone's doddling on the internet (ravelry or otherwise) they're not knitting. The second sentence is wrong.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but it sounds like you're assuming a lot on the end of other knitters. I've been on ravelry longer than you have, and proportionally, if I were to measure how many posts I have vs how many posts you have and divide it over how many years we've each been on ravelry, you have spent more time on ravelry than I have. Therefore, by your logic, I would be a more competent knitter than you.

What makes you such an expert knitter or spinner, given the very limited years you have spent doing this craft? Granted you clearly know how to do many things, and you claim you've tried "everything" to a scientific fault - but I would disagree that it negates someone else who have spent more than 6 years knitting.

Your way of knitting and spinning is what works best for you. Those of us who have been knitting for decades and who do not use knitting sheaths, for example, or spin a gargantuan amount per day, are not inferior knitters and spinners to you, despite what you claim.

My knitting is even and warm despite using only knitting needles. The yarn that I spin is warm despite the fact that I'm not knitting as thin or as tight or as fast as you are. I know this for a fact because my knitting has allowed me and my family to survive through Canadian winters wearing my handknits. Do yours?

vampy said...

"I would say that to remain a competent knitter one needs to spend 30 hours per week knitting at a very high level. Likewise, I would say that to remain a competent spinner, one needs to spend at least 30 hours per week spinning at a very high level."

Maybe this is true for you, but it doesn't hold that it's true for everyone.

Personally, I find my knitting now, when I'm doing maybe an hour or so a day, is just as good as it was a year or so ago when i was knitting close to 12 hours a day churning out sample knits and designing my own stuff too. I rarely take a break from knitting that's longer than a week, and my muscle memory is good enough that I get straight back into the swing of things. If I'm using a technique I've not done for several months, then it takes me maybe 5 minutes to get used to it again.

With spinning, again for me, it's different. I spin much more sporadically than I knit, sometimes going months without spinning, and then, yes, it does take me a while to fully get back into it and be able to spin as fast/fine/evenly as last time I was at the wheel.

I think it depends how long you've been doing the things though, I've been knitting seriously maybe 5 years longer than I've been spinning, and actually learned to knit maybe 15 years prior to that, so the motions are buried deep in my memory and come back to me with no effort at all. Spinning is a newer hobby and I've spent less time doing it...if I spent 30 hours a week spinning I would definitely improve, but with knitting, there's not so much room for improvement, so as long as i do it on a semi regular basis, whether it's an hour a day or 8 hours a day, my skill level doesn't vary anywhere near as much.

"The knitting and spinning community should be more tolerant of alternative approaches to knitting and spinning. I find the knitting and spinning community to be bigoted against the tools used by professional textile workers for hundreds of years."

This is simply not true. While there are a few people who like doing things the same old way they've always done it, much of the community, probably the majority, are fascinated by innovation, new techniques, and the rediscovery of old techniques. Some because they like to find ways to make their hobby easier/faster/more enjoyable, and others just because they are interested in the history of the hobby and learning as many methods as they can.

What the community as a whole doesn't like is your combative approach. I'm not sure if it's intentional, but you manage to rub people up the wrong way in almost every group you post in. I think the main reason is that you can't see that people don't all knit for the same reason. When people aren't interested in knitting very warm waterproof fabrics, or want to treadle at a leisurely pace while making their 3-ply yarn, you seem unable to accept this as a valid choice, and imply that they are wrong or stupid.

Your constant issuing of challenges and offering to send people yarn/fabric that will blow their minds/is nothing like they've ever seen before and then not following through (as far as i am aware, I've seen several people say 'yes please do send me something' and not heard them say they've received anything) also isn't doing you any favours.

If you really want to be accepted by the community then try speaking to people as peers, not as children who desperately need to hear your wisdom, and accept that there is no 'one size fits all' solution to any knitting issue. If you change the way you talk to people, then they will change the way they talk to you and your ideas and research will be much more gratefully received.

Aaron said...

Good to know others keep detailed knitting journal including production rates and quality assurance/quality control reports.

Aaron said...

Ok purplespirit1,
Take 3 months off from spinning, then sit down and spin a hank (510 meters) of singles yarn that weighs less than 6 grams (e.g.,80s) on the first morning back to spinning.

If I have have been mostly knitting or weaving, it takes months to get back to 80s If have only been spinning 5,600 ypp singles (10s) then it takes me weeks to get back to 80s. If I have been spinning 22,500 ypp, (40s) I can get back to 80s in a couple of days.

Spinning is like playing a musical instrument. One must keep playing scales and studies or you lose the full range. If I spend a few hours each week spinning 10s, 20s, 40s, 60s and 80s, then any time, I can sit down and spin any of the grists at a good rate. However, I spin different grists by changing the setup of my wheel. If I am spinning a 10s project, then I like to finish it before I change the setup of my wheel - so, if I am spinning 10s and knitting, sometimes I do go weeks or even months without spinning fines (60s - 80s). If I am spinning a big pile of 10s, then I may optimize the wheel for 10s. Then, to spin 80s, I have to go find the right parts for spinning 80s. Then, a hank of fines will take all day.

Let's see you do better. In fact, I retain a certain skepticism as to whether you have ever spun a hank of singles at the fleece's spin count in half a day.

Aaron said...

And, yes, I have sent a number of packages of fabric out. The Post Office says they got them but no response.

The guys on the sail yesterday, were impressed, and they have been watching me knit for years.

When I started knitting, and when I started spinning, many spoke to me as if I was a child. They told me things that were not true. I had to test those concepts, discard what was false, and find better.

I keep looking. Every time I find better, I move forward. Have you tried knitting sheaths with gansey needles? With Swaving pricks? Have you tried accelerator wheels? No? Then you are not really looking!

My peers are the best and always looking for something better. My peers do not follow their teachers. My peers climb on their teacher's shoulders so they can see farther.