Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Gansey World

Sir Walter Raleigh used the term "gansey knit" in a letter to a Polish Princess to refer to finely knit hose. Gladys Thompson used it to refer to an object knit from ~2,500 ypp yarn, knit at a gauge of 12 spi and 20 rpi, which she also refers to as "Jersey".  Thus, we know the term is old, and the modern knitting of 80 stitches per square inch barely scratches the surface of what traditional knitters could knit.

These two references have been rattling around in my brain since I first started experimenting with "gansey needles" (and knitting sheaths).  However, then, I was never able to knit such fabric at a reasonable pace.  Now, that I have been using blunt gansey needles, such fabrics and objects have become more practical.  

For example, when I first came across Jamiesons  2-ply Shetland Spindrift yarns (2,200 ypp), I was rather disdainful of the fabrics produced according to the gauge on the yarn band.  However, when knit on 1.5 mm needles, the fabric is lovely.  Gauge runs ~ 160 stitches per square inch.  Not "weatherproof" mind you, but a warm, elastic fabric that is perfect for wearing in cool damp conditions. .Spindrift knit on 1.5 mm needles is warmer than worsted weight yarn (e.g.,  "4") knit on 5 mm or  US 8 needles. The Paton's 4-ply Beehive was just a bit denser than the Spindrift with a slightly lower grist, and when knit on similar needles, produces a denser,  warmer, and more durable fabric at 12 spi and 20 rpi,  

These days I have taken to knitting  yarns with  grists of ~1,650 ypp/ 3.3 Nm  (e.g. 3-ply or 6-ply sock yarns) on needles in the 1.75 mm range. This is finer than previous posts, and results in a gauge of 12 spi by 15 rpi.   (As I said, I am falling down the Rabbit Hole and in the last few weeks, I have ground the sharp points off of 6 or 8 sets of fine, pointy "gansey  needles"!)   I use these fabrics for socks, mittens, and where ever a warm, light weight fabric is required. The more plies, the better the drape and elasticity of the fabric.

Then, 4-ply yarns in the 1,260 ypp range are knit on 2.0 mm needles.  A month ago, I was knitting 1650 ypp yarns on 2 mm needles.

5-ply (gansey) yarns in the 1,000 ypp (sport weight) are still knit on 2.38 mm needles.  It is a nice fabric.  If I need a more weatherproof fabric, I reduce the ply twist to give more fill and knit on smaller needles.  If I need a much warmer fabric, I use a lower grist yarn.

All of the above fabrics are firm, warm fabrics with good drape and excellent durability. For all of the above fabrics, I use long steel DPN with a knitting sheath.  as described above, none of the fabrics are particularly weatherproof. Production rates on the finer needles are much better using blunt needles and working in the round.  Purl stitches are easier on pointed needles. Pointed needles are required for picking up stitches.  A fine crochet hook makes repair of mistakes easier. A cable needle is required for cable stitches.

So the question is,"Do I want an object that will be warm and stay looking beautiful for years and years, or do I want an object that will never be very warm, and will quickly fall apart?" 

I work in yards per pound (ypp), because the math is easy. The square of the wpi (packed to refusal) is the grist in ypp, always.  I know that when 10 hanks of 560 yards weigh a pound, I have spun 10s or 5,600 ypp, and it will measure 75 wpi.   Then, if I make 5-ply, it will have a grist of 1,000 ypp and measure 32 wpi. I know that if I spin a single that measures 105 wpi, and I make 6-ply, then the resulting sock yarn will measure 40 wpi.  I know that if I spin 40s that measure 150 wpi, and I ply it into a 6-ply yarn, it will have a grist of 3,360 ypp and measure 58 wpi.

Thus, I must update my gansey yarn chart.
(Note the differences with , and  Also note the failure of, , and , to use a wraps per inch technique that provides consistent and useful results.)  The knitting community's to failure to "pack to refusal" when measuring wpi results in nonsense.

wpi       grist (ypp)   spin count           notes

 22         484                                        Aran Yarn (traditionally was 10-ply of 10 count singles)
 24                             1
 26         676
 28         840                                        Worsted Yarn (traditionally was 6-ply of 10 count singles)
 30         900
 32         1,000                                     Gansey  Yarn ( 5-ply of 10 count singles) 
 33         1,100                                     DK weight yarns
 34         1,120           2                        
 38         1,443                                    Common grist for commercial sock yarns e.g., Wooly West
 40         1,650           3                      Various 3-ply  and 6-strand yarns knit on 1.75 mm gansey needles.
 42         1,800                                   Single cut woolen singles         
 44         1935                                    Fingering Yarn
 48         2,303                                   Jumper Weight/ Spindrift weight 2-ply  (1.5 mm needles)
 50         2,520                                   4-ply Beehive yarn ( 20 count singles) (1.65 mm needles)
 53         2,800          5 
 58         3,360                                    Traditional 6-ply sock yarn from 40 count singles             
 60         3,600                                    2-cut woolen singles @ 9 tpi                     
 64         4,100                                     Modern lace weight
 70         4,800                                     Woolen single at same tpi as 10s warp
 75         5,600          10s                    Singles for warp/ 9-10 tpi ; woolen singles for weft @ 12 tpi
 82         6,700          13                      Traditional 3-ply Shetland lace plied up from 40 count singles
 85         7,200                                     High-end Shetland lace weight yarn/ 2/14.5 Nm
 105       11,200        20s                    Worsted singles that I use for my sock yarn @ 14 tpi
 120       14,400                                   8- cut woolen singles / 18 tpi
 130       16,800        30s                     Worsted singles @ 17 tpi
 136       18,000                                   10-cut woolen singles / 20 tpi
 142       20,200                                  2-ply from 80s  e.g.,  ~2/40 Nm
 150       22,400       40s                     Singles used for best sock yarn/ 17 -22 tpi /~ 45 Nm /Shirting
 182       33,600       60s                     Traditional commercial  "fines" / 22- 24 tpi
 210       44,800       80s                     Traditional best commercial "fines"  /24 - 27 tpi  / 90 Nm

So, when I measure the wpi of  2/40 Nm yarn I get  ~135 wpi which converts to ~ 18,000 ypp, which is about what I get when I simply convert from metric units.  Wraps per inch works when one packs to refusal. For somebody to say a 2/40 Nm yarn measures 42 wpi is silly.  If any of  the sites referenced above had a competent spinner in residence, they would know this.  

Note that 2/40 Nm can be easily hand spun  from 70 count wool at a commercial rate by a competent hand spinner.


Michelle Rosch said...

Michelle : what are Nm and Tpi?
I follow you blog for à long time , and find it very interesting . Though as I spin on a spindle , there is a lot that I cannot use . Still , I'm now knitting socks on a thicker yarn than usual , a very old ,8 plies yarn that I recuperated from a very old sweater. With 2.25mm needles ,,it is coming out lovely.

Aaron said...

Nm is a metric measure of yarn - meters per gram
tpi is twist per inch

Oh, yes yarns with fine plies are lovely to work with. They have more fill, and they produce fabrics with softer drape.

I think that one reason that we do not find more knit objects in the archaeological record is that they were unraveled and the yarn reused.

My wife's mother knit red sweaters for each of my wife's brothers. Each summer, last year's sweaters would be unraveled, and reknit to fit the growing boys. And on the first cold day, the brothers would all be called down the the Home Ec classroom, so the Home Ec teachers could admire Mrs. Fong's knitting.

Emy Watson said...

Does anyone wear boots without socks?
boot socks

Aaron said...

There are long traditions of wearing "foot cloths" with boots, including the Russian, German, and Danish armies circa WW II.

A friend that grew up in Siberia, and remembers everyone wearing foot cloths, when she was a child. She is an excellent skier, and always wears socks when skiing because they are warmer and more comfortable then foot cloths.

The British made a hero of Kitchener, who taught his infantry to knit and mend socks.

Overall, I cannot find a war where an army using foot cloths was ultimately victorious over an army using socks. I do not know if this is just because armies with socks tend to have more resources or whether socks keep soldiers healthier and stronger.