Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Speculation from Ignorance

Recently, I have been seeing a lot of Speculation from Ignorance about my knitting. It is derogatory. What drives them to slander and libel me?

Do they really think that when somebody spends 15 years working out how to make knit objects that are just the way he likes them, that he is going to come up with crap?  No, in 15 years one can learn how to make the best possible objects.

Are the sexist? Who cares? This is likely a deeper emotion. They are lazy, and they want fast gratification.

They do not want folks talking about fine needles producing fine knitting.

If they want to produce knitting as good as mine, they need to use needles as fine as mine. They do not want to put in the effort required by fine needles. They want to be elite knitters, but they do not want to put in the effort required for fine knitting. Thus, they want to shut me up as fast as possible.

I was in the LYS today, and a lady was talking (with awe) about the fine hand knitting produced on 3 mm needles during the 1920s. As she was speaking, I was knitting 2,000 ypp, 3x2 cabled yarn on 1.75 mm (flat ended) needles at 14 spi. It is a nice fabric.  In is a finer fabric than can be produced on most of the needles that most modern knitters use.  I am not saying anything against those fabrics knit quickly on fat needles, I am saying that the fabrics that I produce on finer needles have particular virtues. Once you get into the rhythm of the process, it goes pretty fast.  After 15 years, I can say that I am approaching fine knitting.

Look at the old Izod polo shirts.  They were finely knit wool.  I can remember when there were finely knit wool rugby shirts.  The term "shirt" traditionally included finely knit wool.

Knit wear supporting a pool of water

Here is a 5 year old pix of some knit wear including a sweater supporting a pool of water.

It was 12 oz cup about 2/3 full, so that is about 8 oz of water pooled on that sweater.

And yes, the cement was dry when I picked the sweaters up.

Try it with your sweaters!.  Then, make a knitting sheath; get, or make some gansey needles, and  knit a good tight swatch.  Wash it, oil it with lanolin, block it/ dry it.  Then, try pouring water on your swatch.  The water will pool on it.  Another test is to face a bright window, and hold the fabric about an inch from your eye.  If you cannot distinguish the edge of the window, then (if oiled) water will pool on the fabric and the fabric will keep you warm.

Left to right the yarns were Winghams gansey, MacAusland, and the old LB Fisherman's Wool.  The socks and balaclava were knit from MacAusland.  All of those fabrics will hold a pool of water.  The  6-strand sock yarn that I use these days produces a fabric that feels softer, but is even more weatherproof.

A competent knitter can make a functional knitting sheath in half an hour. (Functional, not pretty!)  A competent knitter can make a set of needles from music wire from the local hardware store.  Use a firmly spun yarn, and in a long afternoon, you can prove to yourself that knitting with a knitting sheath will produce fabrics that cannot be reasonably knit with hand held needles.  Yes, such fabrics can be knit with only hand held needles, but it is very slow and hard on the wrists. Been there, done that, which is why I went looking for a better way. With a knitting sheath, knitting such fabrics is fast and easy.

Anybody with an interest will try the technique.  It works.  Anybody that does not try, is not really interested. I do not have time for people that are not interested.

For the folks that are interested, I have time to give pointers and tips on how to make better knitting sheaths, better needles, and develop better technique.

Boot socks knit n 2015, each supporting a nice pool of water.  In some places water has run off sideways, but each sock is holding a pool of water- e.g., the water is not draining down through the fabric.  Nevertheless, these socks all allow water vapor to pass though them, allowing the feet to dry.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Flat tipped needles 2

These days, I make knitting needles by cutting steel music wire to length, grinding the ends flat or slightly domed, and polishing the burrs off the edge. Pix of the needles I have been using (in the Redwoods).

Needles in the range of  2 - 2.4 mm. The cross section of the ends is round.

The 2 knitting sheaths that went with me to the Redwoods.

 A worn and machine washed (in hot water) "swatch".  (This yarn is NOT labeled as washable!!) The yarn is a  3x2 cabled yarn that I am using for all my hiking socks this year.  RIW got 12" high socks of this design/yarn and used them for a dozen days of skiing last winter.  He tells me that they work as well as the Shetland yarns I had been using for his ski socks.

A swatch as it comes off the needles - these anklets I wear on the Nordic track.  I like the pointed toe to cushion my toes.

The belt I wore over my swimming trunks to hold my knitting sheath.  (It came with some cheap shorts from Costco.)  It does not work very well for pointed needles with a knitting sheath - (they need more support, e.g., a leather belt), but it works well enough with flat ended needles.  Flat tipped needles really do simplify the whole knitting sheath concept.   

I do not suggest that flat tipped needles work very well for hand hand knitting.  Ball tipped needles work OK hand knitting soft woolen fabrics, but pointy really is better for hand held knitting.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

short sleeved Shetland

A nice beam reach home,  made more interesting by fracturing the main sheet fitting.  It was cool and breezy.

The gansey was short sleeved to allow reaching into the water to set lines on trolling weights, but it works for all kinds of play on the water. It is not pretty, but it does what it does very well.

I knit things that I think will be useful and comfortable.  And,I test them.  I make sure that the techniques I use produce objects that are useful and comfortable

Sunday, June 07, 2015

Flat tipped needles work with leather knitting pouches

I was wrong.  Flat tipped needles work very well with Shetland knitting pouches for ordinary knitting, purling, and decreases.

Since the motions are smaller, the knitting is faster and less effort.  As I get more comfortable knitting with flat tipped needles, the process gets faster.  My original estimates of 10%- 15% likely understate the speed advantage of flat tipped needles.

Also the knitting sheath needle adapters are much easier to make for cylindrical needles, and they work much better. As a system, flat tipped needles with knitting sheaths is simpler and works better.

Using a Journeyman knitting pouch with US#1 flat tipped needles did not seem to cause any delay in inserting the needle into the pouch. This was very much a surprise as I had expected that the point of the needle was essential to quickly inserting the needle into the knitting pouch.

At this point, I see pointy knitting needles as only for hand held knitting techniques.

At this point, I guess that with a Shetland knitting pouch and flat tipped needles, all of the stitches used in traditional Shetland lace of the Victorian period can be produced with flat tipped needles.  I have not tested this, and will have to get out my old lace patterns and see if it is true.

Friday, June 05, 2015

The silver spoon

You go into history, and find times and places where a the number of professional spinners can be associated in some way with a definite quantity of wool being spun; or cloth being produced. From that one can calculate ( See AA for the math) the productivity of the spinners.   From that one can estimate what technology the spinners were using. There are many times and places were we have such data (of varying quality). The problem is not finding the data, the problem is understanding that the data can be used to calculate spinner productivity.

Then, plot spinner productivity against geographic location and time. Varying data quality ensures that these are noisy curves.

Transitions that might be visible in such curves would include drop spindle => driven spindle, adoption of single drive flyer/bobbin assemblies for plying, and adoption of  "DRS" double drive technology. Given the quality of the data, I do not see clear evidence of the first 2 anywhere, anytime. However there seems to be an abrupt increase in spinner productivity on the European continent in the 14th century.

Then, wool and textiles were a more profitable industry, and over the 15th century England moved forward with enclosure and the 1489 Act.  England saw that textiles could be more profitable and England wanted more of the business.

To get there, one needs to understand that "DRS" double drive technology increases the productivity of a spinner producing worsted spun warp by a factor of 4.  Some readers have not kept up with the material and  have not yet internalized this point. (Or, being voracious readers, they would have already done the calculations and noticed the trends.)  I am reminded of  organic chemistry, when keeping up with the material required 40 or 50 hours of hands on chemistry in the lab every week.  DRS also requires hands on studio work every week.

Today very few hand spinners use DRS double drive technology, and thus modern hand spinners miss just how powerful a technology it is.  When spinning woolen, DRS is only about 50% faster than a single drive system, but when spinning worsted it is 400% faster. DRS allows a completely different drafting technique, that is not taught in spinning classes because nobody has DRS wheels that allow the use of such technique.  It allows me to spin in one day, what other modern spinners will spend the whole week spinning.

I like worsted spun knitting yarns and I like to spin my own warm.  The effort required to become proficient with DRS is one of the best investments I have ever made.  It did not come in a silver spoon or a workshop at Black Sheep. It came by diligently thinking and working.

And, until I can find somebody to make the spinning wheels, it is not something I can teach in a workshop.