Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Nazi

I have been called a Nazi.  Pretty mild compared to some of the things spinners have called me in the last couple of weeks -- and people wonder why I am not more respectful of spinners. When I use words like "silly" and "boss cow", it is instead of the really foul language tossed at me.

Many make personal attacks rather than disputing the concepts, technologies, and skills.  I admit, that when something works very well, it is hard to demonstrate that it does not work.  Thus, disputing the concepts, technologies, and skills would be more difficult than proving that 6, and only 6 angels, can dance on the head of a pin.  That is, the dispute fails in the real world.  All that is left is personal attacks.

I am to the point where I have to treat every personal attack as a blatant admission that I am correct, and my attacker simply cannot think of anything intelligent to say. 

I do not expect modern hobby spinners to spin like a traditional trained professional spinners, because only a trained professional could do all those things. However, I think it is worthwhile to think what useful things the old spinners did, and how I can do those things.  Yes, we do not have the tools and skills that they had, but with some thought, we can replicate some of their products.

The truth is that in the Old Kingdom of Egypt, the pyramids were built by professional builders, who were fed by professional bakers and brewers.  The Pharaoh's shrouds (and likely other clothes) were made by professional textile workers.  Spinning was a specialized task performed by professionals. Producing professional quality yarn products has a long history, just like baking and brewing.

In Classical Greece, some textiles were produced in the home or on estates by the women of the house, and some of those products were sold on a commercial basis.  However, there was also an industry that was devoted to the full time and exclusive production of textiles by specialized professional textile workers -  textile factories.  There was enough trade between Greece, Asia Minor, Italy, Egypt and the Fertile Crescent that we can assume that the concept of such textile factories was widely known.  Now, we know enough about industrial organization to know that specialized professionals can produce higher quality products than general labor including prison labor.  Yes, specialized professionals in ancient Greece and Rome were producing superior quality textiles for the rich and powerful.

We know that Roman textile production methods were imposed on local producers as the Empire expanded, thus, the concept of specialized professional textile workers was known in Flanders in Roman times.  When Romans left, Flanders become famous and wealthy by converting English wool into great textiles.  England had the stable currency that was the envy of Europe, but Flanders became the most industrialized and densely populated region in the world as a result of its textile exports.  We can assume that they remembered the Roman textile production system that included specialized professionals.

Now we know the Celts were spinning and weaving fine, but folks in Flanders were spinning and weaving finer. In the Medieval period, they were turning out great tapestries including threads intricately formed of gold and silver.  Considering the silk, gold, and silver in the tapestries, we know that there were large scale textile factories producing fine textiles that were well beyond the resources of a spinster working by herself.  These were large coordinated enterprises, that utilized specialized professional textile workers.  This is a continuity with Greek, Roman, and later professional spinners.  The technologies and skills to make the great tapestries did not pop out of nowhere, they evolved over centuries.   This is not the common idea of the Medieval spinner.  The myth is that the dark ages were dark, and everything exploded in the Renascence.  Everything did explode in the  Renascence, but the dark ages were not as dark as the myopic Victorians would have you believe. Were there women spinning in the home? Certainly.  If you opened a bale of textiles as it was unloaded off of a ship in 1400, was the yarn spun in a home?  Not likely, as the stuff spun in  homes was for local consumption.  Textiles that were worth exporting were spun in large, coordinated enterprises, by talented professional spinners. 

If you think not, then post an image showing where you have plied a gold ribbon ( e.g., start with something like  and planish flat ) around a yarn to give it more luster as was commonly done in tapestries.   I do not know many hand spinners these days that can do that.  


Sheri said...

I keep reading your blog, and learning more about a craft that I love than I have in many years. You've given me things to think about, that have caused me to set new goals for my spinning technique. How can that be bad?

I can't figure out why, if someone doesn't agree with what you are saying, they don't just STOP reading it? There is no reason for insults.

Holin Kennen said...

Wrong, Aaron. People are not calling you a Nazi; you are calling other people Nazis. I suggest you read your own blog...carefully. Nobody has called you a Nazi...ever. Even on Ravelry. You, on the other hand...well...

Ruth B said...


purplespirit1 said...

"I am to the point where I have to treat ever personal attack as a blatant admission that I am correct, and my attacker simply cannot think of anything intelligent to say."

Translation: people have been telling me I'm wrong, for reasons already mentioned, but because people are telling me I'm wrong, I'm only going to interpret that as an attack because they're not telling me I'm right, and therefore I'm correct and everyone who tells me I'm wrong has nothing intelligent to say.

This is my favourite thing that you've ever written. You have, once again, managed to find a new way to write a whole blog post about how your ignorance is bliss.

IP said...


first of all; thank you for an interesting blog!
This sadly does not concern the subject above though! I have a big project I'm planning, a long hike in a wet and windy landscape.I want to knit a wool gansey for this hike, but am but a beginner when it comes to knitting! Since I can't find any how-to information on the internet I'm now asking you for help.
Would you please share some tips for a desperate beginner? Are there any books on how to knit a "hard knitted" gansey? And have you any tips on which wool to use? Maybe wool from Iceland (got some tips about that)?

I would be so grateful for some help from someone who knows about this! And I'm sorry about my average English, I'm from Scandinavia.

Thank you!

Aaron said...

My first suggestion is to make yourself a knitting sheath and set of steel DPN. For general purpose knitting I would say 6 - 12" long 3/32" (2.34 mm) blunt ended needles.

For general outdoor wear, I still like MacAusland It is reasonably priced, but fairly coarse. Sweaters and gear from their medium weight yarn, knit on such 3/32" needles has seen me through much cold, wet weather, and saved my life in a fire. Yarn for each sweater cost about $20. And that thick yarn knits up faster than sport weight.

Knit swatchs! Do you like the fabric? No! Really, do you like the fabric? Is it the right fabric for where you are going? I knit a lot of swatches, and tested them. And, before I plunged off in to the wilderness, I did a lot of shorter walks in the rain/snow/cold/wind wearing the gear I had knit (with gear from Patagonia in my pack) to see if there were problems with the stuff I knit.

Aaron said...

History is full of full time, professional spinners. I did not ignore them. My gender references were precise.