Thursday, September 24, 2015

Romney and medium wools

Below is an image of fine thread spun from Romney wool spun with only 5 to 7 staples/wool fibers in cross section. Its twist is about 25 tpi, and it not too over spun, so its grist is also in the 40+ thousand ypp range. 

However yarns with so few staples in the cross section are not durable enough to have ever been of commercial interest. Nevertheless, it shows that fine threads can be spun from rather coarse wools.  Thus, spinning at the spin count is trivial. 

Below is Romney spin at  17 tpi to produce a single with just under 20 staples in the cross section
and which has a grist of close to the fleece's spin count of ~40 hanks per pound (22,400 ypp).  Such singles from long wool  and particularly the finer Suffolk were the traditional basis for hosiery yarns.  Every spinner knew how to spin such yarns because they were in demand by weavers.  Spinning 40s from Suffolk is faster and easier than spinning them from a 40 count wool.

Plied up into a 2,200 ypp knitting yarn, it is smooth, flexible, and durable- a very nice sock sock yarn.

It was not a very good Romney fleece, but it was right for the miles and miles of 5,600 ypp worsted singles (10s)  that I spun from it.  10s are very easy to spin from 40 count fleece.  Coarse wool does very well in wet weather, and it is very durable.  Objects spun and knit from this rather coarse fleece are the objects that endured.

 Above is similar twist/grist spun from flock run 57 count medium wool similar to Suffolk.  It is softer,  less durable, but warmer.   Spun at its spin count, the single would be about  32,000 ypp. or about 16% thinner than the yarn pictured above.

Below we see the 57 count wool spun at near its spin count.

This was about the grist and twist of traditional Shetland lace singles ( pre-1780!).  The fine Shetland wools were spun at their spin count for weaving and some of the singles were then plied up into 3-ply for lace yarn that was just under 10,000 yd/lb, but was strong, durable, elastic, and lustrous.   There was a demand for lace which decorated and protected the fabric of many garments at the neck and cuffs. These singles were also plied up into hosiery yarns to become the hose of kings and queens. 

Alden Amos used a bobbin lead wheel to spin 58 count wool at 19,000 ypp (pg 215).  Using the DRS also in that book, I can easily and quickly spin Targhee fleece at any grist for which I can find my flyer whorl. 

(On the other hand, when I started this series of posts, I put my coarse whorl somewhere very safe, and now I cannot find it.  The fine whorl is on the wheel now.  There is a couple of kilo of fine white wool on the drying rack. At some 90 m/gram, that would be --- a good year's spinning!  Think about it, even spinning fast,  8,000 meters of finished sock yarn would be a year's production. ) 

Sitting at a DRS wheel changes one's view of history.  The best spinners had them, because DRS is the most productive wheel.  The most money could be made by spinning as fine as possible - therefor the best professional spinners had their wheels set to spin the best available wool at its spin count.  Once the wheel was set, changing it was an effort.  Then, the tendency is to spin everything at the same twist/grist.  If you want to make a knitting yarn, it is easier to spin the singles at whatever grist you sell to the weavers  (and your wheel is set to spin), and then ply it up to make a knitting yarn.

This is not bad, because knitting yarns with a large number of plies are very nice.  We do not do it today, because most have forgotten the over wheliming speed of DRS. We think that we do not have the time to spin all those plies.  No, we do not have the skill to use DRS, and spin fast.

On the  other hand, a spinner working with coarse wool will have their wheels set to spin lower grist yarns.  The coarse cloth made from lower grist singles was less expensive, more durable,  and made up the vast majority of the produced cloth, and hence most of the produced yarn.  Spinning coarse yarns was most of the income for most spinners.  And subsistence spinners produced coarse yarns for the Victorians to see.

 If you know what you are doing,  the time to spin and ply traditional hosiery knitting yarns is about the same as the time as to knit the objects. Time to spin/ply 5-ply sweater yarns is about half the time to knit the object.  I am an equal opportunity crafter.  If I am going to put the time into knitting, I am going the use the right yarn.  Sometimes that is mill spun.

The bottom line is that modern fleece are graded by laser, which gives a precise measure of the spin count.  Linen testers do not lie.  If you know the spin count of the fleece, and the single is a bundle of 20 fibers, then you have a very good estimate of the grist of the single.


Holin Kennen said...

Photos at last! See, that wasn't hard, now was it? Now that I can see your yarns properly, I can give you some real, honest feedback.

I would like to offer a couple of observations. While I will admit that these are very fine yarns, the first two photos would seem to indicate that those yarns won't be able to stand up to any stress at all in weaving, even when plied. There are several sections that seem either under spun or not smoothed down to a worsted yarn: the tips of the fibers are sticking out in a bunch in several places, and this is going to create weak spots that may even drift apart during plying. A judge in a skein competition might wonder if these were unsuccessful joins. In any case, a section like this will wear through quickly under the stress of being warped or, if successfully warped, will snap under abrasion by the beater on a loom. If you put warp dressing on your warp threads, it will help somewhat, but even after being plied two or three or even five times, you may still find threads snapping on you. If you plied several of these yarns together, this could account for the uneven appearance of your yarn.

I don't know what you do, but what I find works for me is to use my forward hand to smooth the yarns as I draft backwards (in other words, my drafting hand pulls back on the fiber supply, and my forward hand smooths back toward the drafting hand). Sometimes I roll the yarn between my fingers to make sure those ends are incorporated into the yarn. This makes for a smoother yarn that can stand up to abrasion under weaving tensions and/or under hard wearing items such as socks. Those little under spun areas are smoothed down, and the final plied yarn is much more consistent and durable.

The Suffolk sample and the one below it seem to be much smoother yarns. Suffolk is more durable than a fine wool, so while it cannot be spun as finely, it will make a more durable item. I think that the bottom two photos are images of far more successful yarn production than the top two, and I believe those two yarns are of a somewhat larger grist as well, if I understand your description. Since your goal is durability, my honest suggestion would be to consider making your yarns with a slightly larger grist and fewer plies from a wool such as a finer Romney or Targhee. I'm not talking bulky here, just a tiny adjustment toward a larger grist is all you need. This will save you time (less spinning, fewer plies) and money (breeds like Targhee have wonderful elasticity but are not nearly as expensive as some of the more popular fine wool breeds). Save your super-fine spinning for lace (if you do that sort of thing). Personally, I really like Coopworth for lace, since the length of the staple allows me to use a minimum number of fibers while creating a fine, stable yarn that has a lovely luster and drape but that is less susceptible to damage than some fine wools which will tear if you look at them sideways, but that's my personal preference.

As I have said at various times, Aaron, nobody is telling you not to spin what you like the way you like to spin it. Our argument is that you set yourself up as the authority on "all things spinning" and ridicule anybody who does not agree with you. A wise man once said, "Here is my way. What is your way? THE WAY doesn't exist." Perhaps you should consider this before your next post.

Aaron said...

We should have a "yarn competency test".

We can meet up somewhere, each with our 1.00 gram of wool fiber, and then we each have 35 minutes to spin 100 yards of warp from our gram of fiber. Then we tie the 2 singles together and we pull from each end. The spinner's single that breaks, loses.

Since you have all the experience this should be easy for you, so we should be able to make a wager on this so you can take something nice away from it.

Of course, failing to spin 100 yards from a gram of fiber in 35 minutes would result in a default. So I would be willing to have additional rounds where the length of the warp to be spun from the gram of fiber in the 35 minutes was increased. This is a more difficult spin so it would give more the more experienced spinner a greater advantage. And of course, you have been spinning a lot of warp recently, so your warp grist is perfect.

How about Henry Clemes as our judge? He knows spinning and is always honest. I am sure you have met him by now.

Holin Kennen said...

How many times do I have to repeat this for you, Aaron? Do you have a comprehension problem? Let me say this again: I have no interest in a competition with you. You have already issued one challenge (a case of brandy), which was met by PatKnitter. She met your requirements, and you moved the goalposts. You still owe her a case of brandy. Why would I want to spend time and money to meet a challenge from you when you cheated and didn't pay when you lost? I have customers to spin for. Their requirements are the ones which are important to me. You are merely a blog. Go peddle your challenge to someone who cares.

Aaron said...

PatKnitter did not fulfill all the details of the challenge. Read the challenge again. In all contracts, details matter. You should learn this if you are going into business.