Friday, September 25, 2015

Fines on the Internet

There are two established groups of fine spinners on the internet.  One of them spins lace, the other spin for Longest Thread competitions. DRS  spinners such as myself, are the new third group.

Among the lace makers, there are two primary tribes, one does Shetland lace and the other does Orenburg lace.

Northernlace has been making and teaching Shetland style lace making for a very long time.  She uses small Shetland style spinning wheels, very careful fiber preparation, and a variety of tricks to facilitate fine spinning.  If you want to spin fine on a Scotch Tension wheel, get her book!

All in all, you are not likely to find a lace spinner, spinning on wheel that spins much finer than Northernlace, and her finest yarns have grist on the close order of 30,000 ypp.  They are beautiful. As 2-ply they have grist of about 13,000 ypp.

Northrenlace sold a good number of her books, and has taught classes around the world, so there are a good number of spinners out there that in theory can spin 30,000 ypp singles.  Regardless of what some say, I do not see much of such yarn on the internet.  The little tricks end up being tedious, and not using the little tricks ends up spoiling a bobbin of singles.

The Orenburg spinners use a very fine goat fiber (very high spin count), which they spin on a supported spindle, and then ply with silk to produce a very soft lustrous yarn.  The Orenburg singles mostly have grists in the range of 20,000 ypp range, and the final yarn has a grist on the order of 15,000 ypp. The yarn is as thin as it needs to be, and is still durable enough. If the yarn is spun much finer, then the owner of the shawl needs a lady's maid to carefully place and remove the shawl before and after wearing.  The folks who make these shawls say that is not true, the shawls are always very strong and durable. Yes, at the lower grists as they are spun today, they are always very strong and durable.  In Tsarist times, some Orenburg shawls were worn by women with lady's maids, and they can still be found in collections.  They were spun much finer than the modern shawls.  How fine?  I do not know.  They looked very fine to me and I had recently been working on an entry to the 2013 Bothwell, and so I had been spinning singles in the 60 to 70 thousand ypp range and plying them into 30,000 ypp 2-ply.   That vault under the street in Bruges held the two best examples of spinning that I have ever seen. 

Truth is that the supported Russian spindles of the Orenburg spinners provide  similar productivity (yards per hour) as the ST wheels of the Shetland lace spinners.  However, the wheels allow production of both worsted and woolen, while the Russian spindles are a poor choice for spinning worsted.  On the other hand the spindles are cheaper and more portable.

I expect that circa 1700, Shetland spinners were using DRS controlled wheels to improve their productivity.  Likewise, I expect that when there was a large hand spinning industry supporting many wheel makers, the elite professional spinners around Orenburg also used DRS controlled wheels. 

The Longest Thread spinners tend to be competitive, and are are not inclined to divulge their production setups.  Many of the descriptions of their work process are non-sense. The only thing I have heard (that I believe) is that some of the Lendrum spinners use small fishing weights to control the tension on the brake band.  This does work very well, but it does not solve all the problems addressed by Northernlace.

At this time I do not see many spinners that can sit down and spin wool at its spin count.  I do not see many spinners that can spin "fines" - 60 or more hanks of 560 yards per pound.  At this time, the only images on the internet of hand spun 45,000 ypp singles that I am aware of  are on this blog.  I have wasted a lot of time on the internet looking for such images. I say "waste" because I have found more errors and misdirection than good information.  I know what different the high grist yarns look like when laid across a dime.  And, I know how closely it must be photographed to show the difference between a 22,400 ypp and a 34,000 ypp single.  Then, there is much less difference between a 34,000 ypp single and a 45,000 ypp single.  Unless you work with these grists every day, it is not something one can estimate by eye.  And, the central torch on the back of a dime is 16 times !! too large to use as an accurate reference for high grist yarns.

At these grists, know the fiber, clip the yarn, fray the end, count the staples with a linen tester, and do the math.   That will give accurate grist. Or, have your favorite machinist make you up a set of wpi gauges, and do the math.  Wpi gauges (packed to refusal) tend to be more reliable than just measuring the thickness of the yarn with a micrometer.

If spinners like Holin are able to keep grist as a nebulous myth, then whatever they spin is just as fine as whatever we spin and there can be no meritocracy in spinning.  Then, the most status will always accrue to the most senior spinner.  And, as the high status, senior spinner, then whatever lie she tells us must be true!  No, I come out of a meritocracy, where status was acquired by identifying the mistakes of others.  I like a meritocracy where status is acquired by doing things better, faster, cheaper.

In learning to spin, I tried everything that spinning teachers told us, and I made a lot of crap-yarn.  On the other hand, every batch of crap-yarn that I made had some significant virtue.  However, I learned to put all the virtues together, and now I make better yarn.  I would not have learned to make better yarn without taking the risks that resulted in the crap-yarn.  Holin never took the risks that resulted in crap-yarn, so she never learned to make better yarn.  

Holin, in particular has NEVER given this site good numerical information about grist, so I see no reason to grant credibility to her last comment until we have done due diligence on all of her references and citations.  Until completion of due diligence, her last little rant is merely more myth from the internet.


Holin Kennen said...

Well, Aaron, I tried to give you supportive, helpful information based on my experience. You could have said, "Thank you," or "That's interesting information," or you could have read it and said nothing at all. You chose to have a snit instead.

I guess you can label me The Boss Cow, SWMBO, or whatever you like. I don't really care much, but if you're throwing around the word "libel," you are going to be in far more trouble than I am because your misinformation about me may be affecting my ability to make a living. You don't ask me about my experiences or how I learned to spin. Instead, you INVENT my history, just like you invent the history of textile production in Europe, AND YOU PUBLISH IT AS FACT WITH MALICIOUS INTENT. Thankfully, most people reading this can see that you are writing rubbish, so I needn't worry about a few people who are taken in by all your blather.

This is not a competition, Aaron. You don't get to set the rules or the criteria or anything at all. You are not recognized by the spinning community, therefore you have no authority and no power to do much more than rage away on this blog. In the real world, the one I live in but you seem unable to comprehend, the rules are set by our customers. I sell my yarns; you don't. That speaks for itself.

Aaron said...

You have also posted many lies about me that affect my reputation.
You set the rules of the game and I played by your rules. We have all your posts laid out on a time line. You started it.