Saturday, July 18, 2015


She, who thinks she is SWMBO, says: "No pix, then it did not happen".

She is critical of all that I do.  It is time to, point to the lack of photographs on her page as evidence that she does not have the technical expertise to judge my work.  Hoist by her own petard!

Photos are important, if one is making objects whose sole purpose is decorative. My sister is a goldsmith, and she has staff whose primary duties include photographing and maintaining the archive of thousands and thousands of photographs that comprise her full portfolio. People buy jewelry on the basis of how it looks.

I knit socks for my friends, and NONE of them care how the socks look.  They care about how the socks function. (And, if the socks function perfectly they will have a very attractive functional aesthetic.)  If you are putting a lot of effort into how your socks look, then you are putting less effort into how your socks function. I finish the socks and hand them over and they wear them for a while. Then, they tell me how well the socks functioned.  I think about it for a while, and try to make better socks.

My materials, patterns, and tools change, not just to be different, but to make better objects. When, I think I am making the most functional objects possible, then I will start trying to make them "prettier".

Handspun is just one approach to better objects.  At this point, it is clear that the best objects from hand spun yarn can be much warmer and more durable than objects from mill spun.

5,600 ypp singles, on hand, that have not been allocated 
to any particular project.
All-in-all there is about 70,000 yards of singles there.
(The purple yarn with knitting in front is 6-strand, 1680 ypp sock yarn 
on 1.65 mm needles for scale. I am testing its functionality as sock yarn. The yarn is nice, 
but is it worth all the effort?)

It took me about 3 years to be able to tell by touch and feel whether a particular fabric was warm, or just looked warm.  Knit wool fools the eye!  I do not think anyone can reliably make that judgement from a photograph - not even from a high resolution picture, and certainly not from an internet resolution pix.  On the other hand, it is easy to make the judgement from a numeric description of the fabric, such as fiber, twist and grist of the singles, ply structure, and gauge for a knit fabric. Numbers can tell us clearly and precisely how warm the fabric is.  If you do not know the numbers, then you do not know how warm the fabric is.  (Numbers were developed in the days when "spinning" was used to make cord to hold stone tools on handles to kill animals so the skins could be used for garments.)

Numbers can name and convey information about textiles that cannot be conveyed by pix.  If you know textiles, you know what a 65 meter/gram worsted thread is, and you do not need a pix. ( e.g., Suffolk fleece spun at its spin count, the traditional single for hosiery yarns.)  If you do not know the difference between a 65 meter/gram worsted thread and a 65 meter/gram woolen thread, then a pix is not going to convey that information. (The woolen yarn will require more twist to hold it together.)

One way or another, the way to convey detailed information about yarns and fabric structure is with numbers.  If one cannot understand the numbers and do the math, then one cannot understand yarns and fabric.

A spinner controls the process.  A spinner sets a budget - how long a piece of yarn will be spun from a given amount of fiber.  The spinner sets the budget on how much twist will be inserted to hold the yarn together. It is the spinner who determines grist and twist.  If the spinner is very good, the twist and grist will be determined very precisely and produced accurately. The only way to name any aspect of these processes very precisely is with numbers.  That is, every competent spinner names their yarns with numbers.   Then, competent weavers and knitters know the precise nature of that yarn. And, competent spinners who understand the numbers for their yarns, understand the yarn produced by other spinners that name their yarns with numbers e.g., meters/gram or yards per pound or hanks per pound.

I do not care if you speak English, Hungarian or Chinese, you can not discuss yarn and fabric in precise detail without using numbers. Numbers describe yarns and fabrics more precisely than pictures.  It may also be necessary to have a picture, but for the essential character of the yarn, a picture will not be as precise.  And, better spinners need more precision.

By-the-bye, naming yarns by number also allows budgeting time. I know how fast my wheel runs, and I know how much twist is in 5,600 ypp worsted singles so I know that it takes me a little under 175 hours to spin 100,000 yards of 5,600 ypp worsted, and that I will use ~18 pounds of fiber. Allowing time to block hanks rather than simply winding onto bobbins or pirns, it is an easy month of spinning.  And, it is enough yarn for 2.5 months of knitting or 2 weeks of weaving.


Ruth B said...

"Numbers were developed in the days when "spinning" was used to make cord to hold stone tools on handles to kill animals so the skins could be used for garments."

I see by you comment that your grasp of anthropology is as flawed as your understanding of history.

Lisa Belfield said...

I always enjoy reading your blog. As I am new to spinning, I don't always understand, but I make an effort to follow through on my lack of understanding by either searching for more information for clarity (i.e. terms that I understand) or do a lot more reading. If I found myself in a position where I disagreed with something you wrote, I would either: not leave a comment (if you can't be nice, don't say anything mentality) or I would politely point out where and why I disagreed with something. If the person who continually bags you out and doesn't have a good thing to say about your posts, then I am perplexed why she continues reading them?

I have learnt a lot through reading blogs such as yours and would like to take the opportunity to thank you for this.

Aaron said...

As I stated spinning, there was a lot of stuff that I did not understand also.

Now, I think that a lot of the stuff that I did not understand was simply nonsense.

Of course, I have made some whopping errors also -- like points on knitting needles. For years, I thought knitting needles needed points. I did all kinds of experiments on what kind of points were best, but for years, I never stopped to think that a flat end of a needle might sit neatly against the shaft of the other needle work better.

If you cannot figure it out, maybe it is just wrong.

The correct answer to the first quiz we given in the chemical engineering program was: "there is a math error in the text." 466 of 500 chemistry majors simply recited the error in the text, and thereby flunked out of the program on the 2d day of class.

A Fisherman Lies said...

If you had the attention to detail implied by that chemical engineering quiz fable, your posts wouldn't be so riddled with typos, spelling mistakes, and bad grammar.