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.

1 comment:

Ruth B said...

And, as previously requested, where are your sources to support your theory? No scholar or scientist would dare to make the kind of claims you do without providing proof. Sources or it never happened.