Thursday, December 22, 2016

Jersey, the center of the world

Some of you have thought and likely still think that I was/am  "possessed" by the idea of  Jersey and Guernsey being the home of certain knitting technologies.

Well not only that but for a while, (100, 000 years) it was something like the center of the the world or Europe at least!  : )
Coastal cave site was a must-see tourist destination for Neanderthals for over 100,000 years

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Intentional Baker-

My grandfather was a diversified farmer with a thousand acres of wheat. All summer long, he had a large farm crew, and he made sure they were well fed. Every meal had "bread" in some form on the table. My mother grew up baking yeast bread 2 or 3 times a week. She made very good bread, biscuits, and soda bread.  And, she could bake in a wood fired oven, an oil fired oven, a gas oven or an electric oven.  She never made a baguette in her life.

I was learning to bake baguettes about the time Julia Child was writing her book on French cooking with its recipe for baguettes.  In those days, my parents had a huge gas oven, and Julia's recipe worked just fine.  Since then, everybody has copied it, without really thinking about it.  As a reminder, Julia's baguette recipe involved high oven heat  (450F or 475F) and pouring boiling water (or putting ice) into a hot skillet to generate steam at the start of the bake.  This approach still echos through most of the baguette recipes that I see written by, or for "foodies".

However, these days, many pretentious foodies have moved to electric ovens.  We have.  Along the way we even tried one of those pretentious steam injection ovens. (It failed within weeks.) Now, we have a good, but simple electric oven. It  works very well.  It bakes  baguettes, "SF Sourdough", and etc. as good as any I have had in Paris, New York, Dijon, Berkeley,  or SF.

The approach is to use the fact that these ovens do not vent, and thereby trap the steam produced by the water in the bread dough.  It is necessary to bake batches that are large  enough to generate enough steam.  For our oven that means baking between 1 and 3 pounds of dough at a time.  It also means opening the oven door (or changing the oven setting) halfway through the  bake.

I bake breads at between 350F and 425F depending on the desired style and the form factor of the loaf(s).

For most hearth breads, I start by weighing ~370 grams of water and 500 grams of flour. If I want a very bland, light, crisp, baguettes, I use a high-protein professional baker's flour.  If I want a crustier bread I use a lower protein flour, such as all purpose.

If I want the bland, crisp baguettes that one finds at many high-end restaurants, I use a straight yeast process, using commercial yeast (10 gram for 500 grams flour). If I want more flavor, I use a pre-ferment process where I add a small amount of yeast (0.5 gm) to the water, then stir in about half of the flour, let the pre-ferment sit on the kitchen counter for between 4 and 6 hours. If I want more flavor I let the pre-ferment sit on the counter for a a couple of hours , then it sits in the refrigerator for 12 hours or so. When the pre-ferment is ready, I add the rest of the flour, stir to mix, let it sit for 20 minutes, knead, and proof, shape, final rise, and bake.  The straight yeast method needs a good knead, but the longer the pre-ferment, the less kneading  is necessary.  Long pre-ferments need little more than a couple of punch-downs and careful loaf shaping. In any case, I mix in 10 grams of salt at the end of the kneading.

The whole process takes no more than 15 minutes (spread over between 4 hours and 16 hours.) It is hard to get to the bakery, buy bread, and get back in only 15 minutes. Most of my bread making chores happen when I  am in the kitchen anyway.

The ratio of flour to water above is a high hydration dough, and for low protein flours, some additional flour may be required to shape the loaves, or to produce the finer crumb desired for sandwich breads.  Nevertheless, working with baker's flour, it is possible to make up 6 nice 3" wide by 15" long baguettes, and have a few grams of flour left over. High hydration doughs give more volume of bread for the weight of flour.

And, I have moved away from pizza stones and such. Mostly, I just arrange on cookie sheets and quickly slip them into the oven.

Long pre-ferments with some whole wheat and/rye flour and slightly lower hydration ratios (more flour) produce doughs that work well for "pain de campagne".  With the large loaves doing well with lower bake temperatures in the range of 350F to  375F.

The whole point is that modern high efficiency electric ovens allow producing great hearth style breads simply by taking advantage of the steam that is retained in such ovens. 

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Sleying the big one

I had been looking for hooks for threading finer reeds and heddles.  I was not happy with the tools in the shops, and did not seen anything that seemed suitable. But, I am an old one, and thus I have old files, with old hanging file folders that are falling apart.  It turns out the steel hangers in the file folders are thinner than the brass sleying hooks, soft enough to work easily with a bench grinder and file, but hard enough to make good tools. And they are cheap; and well it is a virtue to reuse and recycle.

Yes, I have a sleyer, but it does not work for finer reeds.

I also find the hooks make tieing weaver's knots on fine threads easier.  Make a loop around the tool, use the hook to pull a bight of  the standing end through the loop.  Now you have a loose slipknot around the tool. Use the hook of the tool to pull the other thread into the loop of the slipknot, and sliding your fingers over the loose slipknot, tighten it.  The loose knot will easily convert from a loose slipknot around a thread into a weaver's knot.  It is good for lace weight and finer, and I can easily tie a sheet bend on anything thicker without a tool.

Thursday, October 13, 2016


I spun a few thousand yards of lace weight warp, some worsted, and more woolen. Every blinking bobbin that will fit on my bobbin rack is full. Thus, there is a bin of  4" bobbins in process by the lathe.

Why would I turn bobbins, when I can buy them for cheap? Because wood turning is like spinning, one must routinely practice, to stay proficient. My turning bobbins is like a musician doing their scales.

And yes, about a third of the bobbins in process are of green olive wood.  Why not? Of the 60 or so that I turned from green olive wood, very few have cracked or warped.

PVOH sizing

(More likely to be needed with
modern mill spun, than with
well spun, hand spun.)

I did loom trials with mill spun - and that convinced me to investigate sizing.  All of this put me in a dither for a long time.  For various reasons, I do not think the Greeks and Romans used sizing.  My warp singles are stronger and more durable than any of the mill spun 5,600 ypp, 2-ply wool warp that I bought for loom trials. I should have just done the loom trials with hand spun.  If you are a mill, less twist and sizing is cheaper.  For a hand spinner, a little more twist is less bother.

Saturday, October 08, 2016

Some are a little deaf in their greek ears.

Hear is a an aid to Translating the greek;

Google  "classic greek sculpture discovery", select images, and study them until you can recognize the drape of  clothing in each period.

Then, take your linen tester to the mall (with branch of Needless Markup Department Stores) and do thread counts on wool and linen fabrics that have drape similar to that seen in the fabrics of various periods of Greek Sculpture.

Now, hand spin/hand weave fabrics with that thread count and which have the drape of the fabrics produced in the various periods.   (It is hard to find such nuanced yarns on the commercial market, and ordering spun yarns from a spinner gets expensive.)  However, now you know how fine those hand spun/hand woven Classic Greek fabrics were.  And by now, you will have moved from your single beam warp weighted loom to a double beam loom with (linen) heddles.

With the appropriate use of warp extensions, aprons, lease sticks w/ crosses substituting for warp sticks, and DRS spinning technology,  a fabric sample large to see its drape can be spun, warped, and woven in a few hours.

Now that you know the specifications of Classic Greek Weaving, I expect to shortly see pix of the fine wool Greek and Roman togas that you have hand/ spun and  hand/ woven.

What comes after bragging rights:

The toga originated from an Etruscan garment called the “tebenna.” The word toga comes from Latin “tegere,” which means “to cover.”
This means that the  Etruscan civilization also had fine weaving, not likely produced on single beam/ warp weighted looms.

Then, there was the Old Kingdom Egyptians weaving their very fine linen on what kind of a loom?For that we look to Roth, noting Figure 37.  It is a 2-beam horizontal loom that uses warp weights. And we note the caption of Figure 9.  We also consider that we do not know the fineness of the fabric produced on the loom illustrated in Figure 36.  Moreover, since Roth had to bring in a textile professional to produce the fabric, we know that Roth does not have a high competence on textile production.

For context on the age of old looms see:

 And look to: The Book of Looms: A History of the Handloom from Ancient Times to the Present by Broudy pg 13 for discussion of  weaving wool at 30 by 38 threads per inch, circa 6,000 years ago.   On page 26, he touches on the Greek loom, and on pg 38, he gets to the horizontal loom.

7,000 year old loom  in Bulgaria;

see also ; 
Prehistoric Textiles: The Development of Cloth in the Neolithic and Bronze ...
By E. J. W. Barber pg 271

Do you really think that as metallurgy improved, people did weaving the same way for 3,000 years?


Good Old S. McGee-Russel would have accepted my deductions from the drape of fabric on Greek sculpture to be adequate to demonstrate my point Classic Greek weaving technologies.  He expected his "critters" to go out, and measure stuff, and make deductions that could not be taken from direct observations.  He expected us to know our physics, and chemistry, and calculus.  He expected us to know the world.  He expected us to take risks, and sometimes make mistakes and errors.  If we were not taking the  risks necessary to move the science, we  could not be promoted from "bugs" to "critters".

If you expect to prove everything from step to step without leaps of insight, then you will never move your science or technology forward.  Tomorrow, I intend to make better textiles. I will hand spin Better, Faster, Cheaper.  I will hand weave Better, Faster, Cheaper.  I am not content to stagnate.  I will take risks. I will seek to leap forward. I will advance more than I fall back.

Thursday, October 06, 2016



Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Fiber from the mill

Some experimentation tells me that much of my objections to fiber prepared in commercial mills is substantially caused by the use tension with steam to straighten the fibers for commercial spinning frames

For warp singles that must be very strong, I relax mill-prepped fiber with a gentle breath of steam. I lay the commercial top or roving on a wire rack and use a garment steamer to gently steam top and bottom. Then, I spin my threads, and block the threads with steam.  The steam blocking of threads  is easy - I wind off onto a reel, steam with my garment steamer, then wind the thread onto bobbins that fit onto my bobbin rack. I find the double steaming to be faster and easier than sizing or massively increasing inserted twist.    Thus, my final threads only have a firm twist factor.

Looking again at AA, BBB, pg 240, we see that he talks about spinning 5,400 ypp at between 12 and 16 tpi on a great wheel.  Since the great wheels with the spinning technique AA discusses for GW's use, produce woolen yarn, and  12 to 16 tpi is way more twist than is needed for knitting yarns; we have to assume this is for weaving.  And in fact, woolen yarn spun at 5,400 ypp and 15 tpi, then steam blocked works very well for warp.  It is very possible to produce "woolen" cloth using woolen singles for both warp and weft.  The woolen singles "bed" to form a unique fabric. Then, when when the cloth is milled or waulked (see for example one has a very warm, durable fabric.

Some may assert that the commercial top, straight from the "bump", produces a more perfect worsted thread.  I am not ready to argue this.  However, folks were spinning true worsted threads of very high quality, long before mills were straightening fiber with steam. Then, those handspun threads were hand woven in to fine cloth.  I think commercial top relaxed with a breath of steam  is more like the traditional  fiber prep, and for hand spinning, the relaxed (crimpy) fiber produces a stronger, more elastic thread.  That is my story until someone shows me different (or, buys me another beer.)

AA suggests on pg 241, that a traditional great wheel (without an accelerator can produce 255 yards of 5.3 tpi woolen thread per hour.   On the other hand, the AA flier/ with DRS and an accelerator will easily produce 600 yards per hour at 9 tpi of either worsted or woolen singles.  In fact, one can easily spin 600 yards per hour of good 5,200 ypp woolen singles with a single drive bobbin lead  flyer/bobbin assembly (German Tension/ Irish Tension).  If you want to weave without the hassle of  spinning a worsted warp, weave woolen cloth.  If you want to spin a fine worsted warp at a reasonable pace, use differential rotation speed (DRS).

It is Spinzilla!  Spin at "warp" speed.

Tuesday, October 04, 2016


The Victorians depreciated the technical knowledge of earlier cultures, and this prejudice continues.
See for example the tone of :

When University of Cincinnati researchers uncovered the tomb of a Bronze Age warrior—left untouched for more than 3,500 years and packed with a spectacular array of precious jewelry, weapons and riches—the discovery was hailed by experts as "the find of a lifetime."

Read more at:

The find tells us that Bronze Age craftsmen producing luxury goods had access to excellent tools, and had deep skills.  We can expect  their craftsmen producing textiles to have similar access to excellent tools and skills.

Nobody wears fine jewelry with a gunny sack.  A culture that produces fine personal adornment does not neglect textiles.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Phase 3

Phase 1 was spinning for knitting.  Phase 2 was learning to spin fast and fine. Phase 3 is spinning for weaving.

The new guild season has started, and last night I had a heart to heart talk with the best weaver around, and we decided that the real problem with my weaving is that I need more twist in the warp thread.  This morning I am back to one of the old bobbins that I made for spinning very fine, along with a more precise flier whorl, all in all, resulting in easier spinning of 5,600 ypp singles at 13 or 14 tpi compared to the mere 9 tpi that I have been spinning knitting singles.  

I think the truth of the matter is that the tighter spun singles will ply up into better knitting yarns- e.g., stronger, more durable, and yes, warmer.

More work, but that is in the nature of textiles.  Sometimes better is more work.

I still have not worked out the best logistics for warping the loom at 68 epi with 2" wide sections on the warping beam ( e.g., 136 ends per section).  And, the tension box only holds 100 ends.  And, the bobbin rack only holds 72 bobbins. Still I am getting to the point where I can reasonably start thinking about these issues.

Monday, September 26, 2016


I get teased and chided on for using the traditional spinner's measures.  In  particular, measuring grist by stating the number of "hanks" of 560 yards that can be spun from a pound of yarn.

My ordinary grist is "10s". That is 5,600 ypp yarn spun worsted. Thus, I know how many pounds of wool I have, I know how much yarn I can spin. Easy.  And, when wrapped to refusal, 10s measure ~75 wpi.  A 75 wpi single can be sleyed to produce plain weave at 68 epi/68ppi, which weighs about 1 pound/ square yard.  Likewise, 20 hanks per pound produce 2 yards of cloth per pound of wool.

Thus, using hanks, I can easily calculate how much yarn I can spin from a given batch of wool, and how much cloth I can weave from that wool.  The more weaving I do, the more useful the old English system of yarn measure is.

This also tells us that the stories we were told in grade school were just that -- stories.  The yard and the inch may have been related to some king's reach and size of hand/toe/foot, but he would have lived before the very fine weavers of Classic Greece.  They had wool, yarn, and cloth trading, so they had measures that extended from Greece to what is now Turkey and Egypt, to say nothing of the silk road with textiles moving east.

Sorry, Love; but the fine fabrics of Classical Greece were not woven on single beam, warp weighted looms.  Oh, I am sure they had such looms, but I doubt if that is what they used to weave 12 meter lengths of 68 epi (and finer) wool fabrics.  No, by Classical Greek times, it was an industry, and they were using  rather sophisticated horizontal double beam looms.  And there was trade.  With trade, there were terms to define the various aspects of textiles.  You may not name your yarns, but merchants do; now and in the past. They give them names like  "45 grams / meter, white worsted single" or white "40s".

I expect that the definitions of (or other words that indicate the same quantity): hank, yard, inch, pound, wool fineness in hanks per pound, ends per inch, pricks per inch, woolen, and worsted, were all set, and known among textile traders by the end of the Greek Classical era.   In particular, the elegance of the hanks of yarn at 560 yards tied to fineness wool and the math of  wraps per inch suggests the mathamatical acumen of Syracuse in classic times.

The fact that we have variations such as the el as a measure of length, suggests that textile measures have been around long enough for dialects to develop.  For the larger, and well nourished Greeks, 36 inches was a reasonable width for a warp. During some periods in the textile centers of  Europe, there was famine, and people were smaller, so a narrower warp allowed much easier weaving.  Thus, during periods of famine, Europeans needed a name for narrower cloth, e.g., the el.

Yards, inches, pounds, and hanks were not isolated measures, but part of an intricate system of measure, essential to a large, profitable, international industry and  systems  of trade.  In systems that goes all the way from from wool fiber to yarn to finished cloth, the old English system with grist and wool fineness in hanks per pound  is the easy way to do the math  and make sure you get correctly paid.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Wool Warp that works.

Easy! More twist!  With enough twist, you are less likely to need sizing.

So, I spin worsted 10s, @ 9 tpi, and it gets plied up into various knitting yarns, and that works very well.

However, that yarn tends to be a bit fragile to use as warp without sizing.  (Perhaps someday, I will be a good enough weaver to adjust my loom so that I can weave with such a soft warp yarn, but not today.)

What works is worsted spun 10s (5,600 ypp) spun "hard" at ~ 14 tpi. Shit!! I was only putting 17 tpi into 40s (22,000 ypp) and calling them "hoisery singles".   The hard 10s come off the spinning bobbin like barbed wire, and must be promptly steam blocked.  Then, when plied as knitting yarns they are more tractable, but you may want to consider blocking them again before knitting.  As warp, they are  stronger, are stiffer, and easier to sley.

This is another case where the ANSWER was in The Big Blue Book (pg 383), but between the lines.  I swear the really good stuff in AA is between the lines.  He was a little like Dumbledore - he points one in the correct direction, and lets one discover the details on their own.

With my twist requirements going up about 50%, I need all the flyer/bobbin speed that I can get.  Thus, I am back on the  Alden Amos #0 competition flyer running at about 4,000 rpm, and am still producing less than 400 yards per hour. It seems a little mean to stuff 45 grams onto it, but with a 3-gang flyer-whorl, it  works. On the other hand, the drafting seems relaxed compared to the hustle of  the 600 yards per hour of the 9 tpt medium 10s that I have been spinning for years.

Look, and read on

Costco also sold The New Ivy Brand Vintage Classics with packaging stating that it was hand spun, hand woven.

Later, Costco  also did sell "Original, Weatherproof  Vintage" brand (made in Vietnam, not China!!)

I own some of both, and did not keep the packaging, from either.

Go to India, and look at their hand spinning frames.  You will need it for the next post!!

Friday, September 23, 2016

More spinning bobbins

Alden really did tell me very emphaticly, several times that whorls, flyer and bobbin should be have  "board cut grain".  That did not stop him from making spindle turned bobbins as in

where he supplied me with bobbins with board cut grain and that were spindle turned. 

  Thus, since then, I ( mostly) made my spinning bobbins form glued up blanks so that the ends of the bobbins (the whorls)  had board cut end grain.

This summer, I did some spinning on the patio, and noticed that over a period of weeks, the spinning bobbin which had been turned from old red oak salvaged from a kitchen remodel, had warped! I never had any problems with Alden's, or Ashford's board cut grain bobbin whorl's warping when I used them for spinning on the patio.  I expect that I could have prevented the problem with a different finish. (The red oak had a Danish Oil finish.)  (Also thicker whorls tend warp less.)  (Also, black walnut tends to be more dimensionally stable than the red oak. )

This was not the first time that whorls had warped on me, but this time, I took action. 

The new spinning bobbin for the AA#1 flier was spindle turned from a solid block of olive wood.

The bobbin above the flier is the oak bobbin that warped, The bobbin in the flyer is one turned in a few minutes.  No making the parts, and gluing up a blank. Certainly it is too wasteful of wood for a commercial operation, but it can be done quickly, without planning.  It good for repairs where a fast fix is needed.  It is just a matter of having a big (2.5" x 2.5"x 4.2"), dry,  block of wood around.

In the sun for a while, the diameter of the spindle turned whorls will change.  For single drive, or DD with slippage that does not matter.  For DRS, inserted twist can be adjusted by changing the flyer whorl. I have a graduated set of flyer whorls, so likewise change in bobbin whorl diameter is not a big problem.  Nevertheless, the groove in this whorl is a little different than that of the old red oak whorl, and it took about 3 hours to get the new olive bobbin spinning 63 m/gram from fine long wool at about 200 m/hr (3+ gr/hr).

It works well, but it sure sounds like an old industrial sewing machine.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Space Cloth

Just when you think you have seen everything!

'Space cloth' to revolutionise textiles industry

A designer and researcher has pioneered a new form of fabric which promises to revolutionise the textiles industry.Sonia Reynolds invented 'space cloth' – the first non-woven material made from yarn. It has a strong potential for use as a smart textile due to its unique structure with space to encase copper wiring, light emitting diodes (LEDs) and more.
Ms Reynolds brought the idea to Nottingham Trent University's Advanced Textile Research Group and is now undertaking a PhD in the subject to further develop the fabric's novel manufacturing process under the direction of Professor Tilak Dias and Dr Amanda Briggs-Goode, of the School of Art and Design.
Scientifically named Zephlinear, unlike traditional woven or knitted materials which are made by the interloping or interlacing of yarns, it is made by a newly established technique known as yarn surface entanglement.
Research shows that it is strongest and most efficient when created from natural yarns such as one hundred per cent wool, hair and wool/silk mixtures, though it can also be made from synthetic yarns.

Read more at:

Um; you know this stuff!  You have likely made this stuff - it is felting with yarn --it happens by accident in sloppy skeins, and on purpose in felting projects. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Old cotton cloth

Oldest textile dyed indigo blue found

A George Washington University researcher has identified a 6,200-year-old indigo-blue fabric from Huaca, Peru, making it one of the oldest-known cotton textiles in the world and the oldest known textile decorated with indigo blue.

Read more at:

Indigo dye requires chemistry!

In context:    
Earth Temperature Timeline

Tuesday, September 13, 2016


Costco had several styles of men's shirts made by The New Ivy Brand:
All had prominent packaging stating they were hand spun and hand woven.

I trust Costco to require accurate labeling.  Unless you want to accuse Costco as an accessory to fraud,  accept the above, as labeled.

I would not have accepted the material as hand spun without having tried to buy such a spinning "frame", and run into the export tariff.  And, remember that Shetland Harris Tweed is also hand woven.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Jerseys and Guernseys

See Patterns for Guernseys, Jerseys and Arans by Gladys Thompson, Page 5, line 12.

See L'Ouvre by E. Zola.  It seems that "Ouvre", as a name for "Jersey" dates only to Victorian Times.

And, yes, ouvre at that time could only be knit with techniques that could not be mentioned in polite society.

Tuesday, September 06, 2016


All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act on their dreams with open eyes, to make them possible.

T. E. Lawrence

Handspun and hand woven cotton!
Why is handspun and hand-woven wool so much harder?

Why do people who seem not to be moving their craft forward, complain about the speed that I move my craft forward?  Why do they complain about my progress without seeing what I have actually done recently?   I solve many of my craft problems, without posting them.  While, I do not see them posting any textile craft solutions at all.

Making sweaters is doing the same thing over and over.   Unless the successive sweaters are better, faster, or cheaper, they are repeats of previous experience, that do not add significant additional expertise.  If you want to claim years of experience, then you should be show a consistent progression toward  better, faster, or cheaper.  If you progress by taking classes, then you are gaining expertise, but you are not advancing the craft.  To advance the craft, we must dream by day.

Where are the other "dreamers of the day"?  We should track "dreamers of the day", for they are dangerous.  (Actually, I think they are rather a fun lot, full of ideas, and always seeking a better, faster, cheaper path to "Better, Faster, Cheaper".)  We dreamers of the day take Blaize to be our hero.  Then, we ask, what is the Noble thing?

Do we consider the "Yarn Harlot" to be a "Dangerous Dreamer of the Day"? No, she follows and reports recent trends and fads, with pleasant humor. She tells us that what modern knitters are doing is good.  She does not incite revolution, she calms.

The cotton above is a commercial product from India. During the Old Kingdom period, when Egyptians were making exceptionally fine linen, they were also importing cotton cloth of similar fineness from India. Thus, I do not feel bad about using fine cotton cloth from India.

Saturday, September 03, 2016


A while back, the Captain of the tall ship Alma, kept a place at Lake Berryessa, and he was a generous host.  However, over the door was a sign, "No Sponges!"

The purpose of the  Lake Berryessa place was the weekly party, and everyone was expected to contribute to the party.   Captain would buy truckloads of booze, and everyone was welcome to drink as much beer and rum as they wanted - but they had to contribute to the party. The Captain had toys, but all the boys had to make sure all the toys were all in perfect working working order and gleaming with fresh wax jobs when the girls arrived on Friday evening.

Here, I have tolerated Sponges!  Sponges carp and criticise about the pace of my research as to how to weave hand spun without contributing to the research.  If they want to complain about how slowly the research proceeds, then they can either tell me the solution to the problems; or, send me a stream of checks to allow me to spend more time on weaving.  If they criticise without  helping the project, they are just Sponges.

Oh yes, and by the way there is a very interesting CPW in the Florence Pioneer Museum.  Note the wheel /bobbin ratios.

Friday, September 02, 2016

Seduced by the Dark Side, I was!

Many times, I have stated that combed top and (pin drafted) roving from mills is more difficult to spin and I have noted that yarn, handspun from mill processed fiber is not as strong or durable as yarn handspun from traditionally processed yarn. Still, I acquired a pile of mill processed fiber and spun a lot of 5,600 ypp worsted singles.  I had a big bin of these singles and they got used for everything.  Along the way, I checked to see that the resulting yarns were stronger than mill spun yarns.  That was the wrong approach. I should have made sure that the singles/yarns spun from mill processed fibers were as strong as singles/yarns spun from fiber that i scour and comb.

Yes, mill processed fiber is fast, easy, and may actually be less expensive than raw fleece.

The dark side is that yarn from mill processed fiber is not as strong and durable.  The Darkside is that unless you are going to dip your handspun warp in steam heated sizing solution prior to warping the loom,  then you are likely going to have to skip mill processed fiber for your warp.

I knew hand scoured fiber  (including processing by folks like Morro Bay) resulted  in stronger singles.  I knew that hand carded and hand combed fiber produced better singles.

Nevertheless, I thought that mill processed fiber would be "good enough". I let the Darkside seduce me.  This is something I need to unlearn.

Today, I think one reason why we do not see hand spun, hand woven cloth is that people try to hand spin mill processed fiber into warp, and it does not work.  This was a useful thing to learn.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Sonia Rykiel


Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Good stuff

 Hand spun, worsted 10-ply Aran

The yarn is not designed to be easy to knit.  The yarn is designed to have very high fill, so as to produce a fabric that is exceptionally warm,  durable, and very comfortable to wear.  Knitting this yarn into the desired fabric is a ferocious effort!  On the other hand, the yarns that are easier to knit do not produce the same fabric!  Do I want "easy to knit" or "warm,  durable, and very comfortable"?

What do you want?

I had to spend days reworking the needle tips to find a shape that allowed knitting this fabric at a good pace.  I had to modify my knitting technique. I had to put padding on the knitting sheaths.  The fabric is worth all these efforts.

The shape of needle points is important, and different yarns require differently shaped needle points.  And some projects are much better knit with blunt, curved needles, that are rotated into the fabric.
"Bombproof" fisherman's socks being  swaved from
 worsted 5-ply, sport-weight, high-ply twist (non-splitty)  handspun from Romney fleece.
Such needles (pricks) require a knitting sheath optimized for this technique.

Good products may take more effort!  I would rather put in more effort and get a better product than just do it the easy way for a lesser product.  How about you: Do you want easy?; Or, better?

I have been spinning, and knitting 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 12, and 14 ply yarns for some years now; and, knitting swatches (socks, etc,) to figure out how the various yarns behave.  I have plied yarns firmly and softly, and cabled them as 2x2, 2x3, 3x3, 3x2, 4x2, 5x2, and etc to see how each of these yarns behave as fabrics.  I have compared my-spun with mill spun.  I know how to spin/ply yarns that are not splitty; and, I know how to produce yarns that are easy to knit.  Been there. Done that!

Mills need to sell "easy to knit yarns" because not all of their customers are superior knitters. Consider for example how many modern knitters are so dedicated to their craft, that they make their own needles.    Likewise, not all hand spinners, are superior hand knitters. And, being more members of a social club, than craftsmen seeking mastery, they are not willing to make the effort to spend  YEARS of working out how to spin and knit a particular, exceptional fabric.  They do not follow paths to fabrics that require special tools and special skills to produce. Special fabrics also require the insight to predict even the existence of the fabric. 

One gets to special fabrics by beginning with the end in mind.  One does not just stumble onto special fabrics,  rather, one must visualize the tools and skills that will be required for the fabric, before the combination of  tools and skills required for a particular fabric can be developed.  If you are buying your tools, materials, and skills at "Stitches", then you are not going to get to "exceptional fabrics".

Most modern spinners use commercially available spindles and spinning wheels, so they are not going to spin yarns that are difficult to spin on modern commercial spinning wheels (e.g., worsted spun, 5,600 ypp singles).   Most modern knitters use commercial needles, so they are not going to knit fabrics that are difficult to knit on such commercial needles. In contrast, I spend years making the spinning tools that I need to spin exceptional yarns that are difficult to spin on modern commercial wheels. AND,  I spend years making the knitting tools that I need to knit fabrics that are difficult to knit with commercially available knitting needles.

Exceptional yarns and fabrics are outside of the social boundaries of modern spinning groups (e.g local guilds and Ravelry).  Mostly, modern spinning and knitting is about being a member of the social group, rather than of producing exceptional textiles.

Those that cannot do, criticise.

How many of  you have actually worn objects of hand spun worsted 10-ply Aran yarn so that you have a basis of comparison?  How many of you have seen cakes of handspun worsted 10-ply Aran yarn so that you have a basis of comparison?  How many of you have made objects of 10-ply Aran yarn, (and worn them in a good, long, hard, cold rain?)  The truth about seaman's sweaters is only found in  a good, long, hard, cold rain!   If I was knitting objects for Siberia, then in 5 of the plies, I would have used a finer wool, spun woolen.  That fabric is not as durable, but it is softer, and warmer for the weight.  It is also harder to knit, and more likely to felt/shrink when abused.

Going to all woolen, produces a yarn that is much easier to knit, but not nearly as durable and  the high country (and Siberia) have long winters.

I had to sit in the snow, and watch the whole parade.
(long lens on tripod, easy peasy photography in the dawn's early light)

It is a wild mountain goat, near the top of  a wild mountain, in wild Montana. 
I took this with a handheld Nikon F4 with a 50 mm lens.  
There was some sitting in the snow, waiting.
All things considered, this ledge is about as warm as
the Northern Tree Line in Siberia.

Let us know when you have spent enough time sitting in the snow
to get such pix.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Spinner Creed, cont.

A spinner gets stuff spun.

Yarn for another 10-ply "Aran" Sweater:

If stuff is good, you will need more than one.

Those 10 cakes have about 20,000 yards of singles in them.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

The spinner's creed

What does a good spinner need to know?

aspirational - be able to name and replicate any natural fiber yarn or thread, including those in suiting, shirting, coating, undergarments, and other fabrics, both archaic and recent.

The core of a spinner's craft is being able to make the particular, and named yarn, that is desired.

A spinner should be able to estimate/ budget materials required to make a particular batch of yarn, the tools required, other resources required, and the total spinning labor.

Things a spinner stands ready to do, include:

  • grade wool as to spin count with a twisty stick / modern tools
  • sort and scour a fleece  (
  • comb wool
  • card wool
  •  name yarns,  particularly including grist  (, etc )
  • spin wool at its spin count 
  •  ply and cable yarns
  • care, maintenance, and setup of single lead, and double drive spinning wheels
  • design and specify spinning wheel whorls
  • prep spin camelid fibers finely 
  • prep and spin cotton, both woolen style and worsted style into very fine thread
  • prep and spin flax into fine linen threads 
  • prep and spin hemp into thread
  • and, of course, spin silk finer than frog's hair.
  • prepare fiber and yarns for dye operations
  • dye to desired colorway
Compared with the above, the little bit of history in a "Master's Spinning Course" is trivial and will be picked up along the way. (I figure basic spinning requires about 6,000 hours of practice, and master's level spinning requires about 14,000 hours of practice.) I find skills to be highly transferable between fibers.

Spinning is about spinning, not history.  If you want history, go look at the fabrics depicted on recently discovered Classical Greek sculpture (not Roman copies) showing the very fine yarns/fabrics that were produced in Classical Greek times ( , but I cannot put my finger on it at this time.)  The Classical Greek stuff sets a much higher bar for the "Old School" production of textiles.  

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Alden Amos, revisited

Alden Amos', Big Book of Handspinning (2001) (aka Big Blue Book, BBB) is the best book on hand spinning wool.

At one time, I thought there were as many as 9 glosses in it, but no actual errors.  this puts it far ahead of every other book on hand spinning, which all that contain actual errors.  For somebody wanting to learn to spin ordinary yarns, BBB is the best book,  and every hand spinner should have a copy.

Glosses that I recognize today include:

  • It does not discuss practical mechanisms for differential rotation speed (DRS) flyer/bobbin assemblies.  In truth, 3- gang whorls work very well with 4" bobbins/ 500 m skeins at grists down to 10 m/g,; and, gang whorls are not required for spinning skeins of 500 m weighing 10 grams or less.
  • It dismisses the value of high-ply yarns (e.g., 5-ply, 6-ply, 10-ply).  In contrast to what the BBB says, high-ply yarns have virtues for knitting very warm and/or very durable fabrics with a pleasant hand, drape, and touch.  High-ply yarns knit up faster, and spinning is faster than knitting.  While BBB gives the best directions for basic plying, it does not address producing 5-ply and higher yarns.
  • Double treadle/ fast spinning is more healthy than spinning at a lower level of activity. 
  • It does not discuss how to spin fine threads. I believe that any spinner with a good teacher should be able  spin super-fine threads of 40,000 m/g (44,000 ypp) within a few months of starting spinning.  The elements of learning to spin fine, are knowing it can be done and  having good tools that are properly set-up.  DRS makes fine spinning much easier, starting to spin fine on a ST wheel is an exercise in frustration. that become perfectly easy after some practice on a DRS wheel.  Why?! Because fine singles can be plied into fine yarns with both puns intended.
  • There is limited discussion on the handling/management of very fine singles.
  • It understates how fast a motivated spinner can actually spin. 
  • Limited discussion of accurate use of, and correction factors for, wraps per inch (WPI).
  • Limited discussion of accelerators.

All the glosses are only of interest to advanced spinners, and do not detract from BBB's value for beginning and intermediate spinners.  


When I came to knitting for warmth, I was told loudly, and firmly by "experienced knitters" that commercial yarns knit on circular needles were the correct program for knitting warm objects. I thought not. (Read as: "Thousands of swatches knit from commercial yarn using circular needles, and tested".)

At first, I thought commercial yarns knit with long needles (per EZ's note in GT ) were THE answer!! Then it was clear the knitting sheaths were very much a part of the solution; and,  I had to make knitting sheaths. Then it was clear that there were multiple distinct knitting skills that had to be learned - - Better to practice on cheaper, mill spun.

Yes, much of my skill is making tools!

However, those tools (or any tools) are worthless without the skills to use them! 

Thus, another part of my expertise is to visualize, develop and refine the skills required to obtain significant benefit from a tool kit.  Without skills, tools are just a pile of junk!!  A tool is not a tool, until one has the skill to use it.  With skill, a simple piece of wire becomes a knitting needle!

I tested commercial yarns for a while for a while, and after a few years, decided that handspun was likely just as warm , and I should test handspun. It took a while to learn to spin. It took a lot of intercomparisons between handspun and commercial to show the various virtues of handspun.  However, my spinning was still slow, and commercial yarns were still the practical approach for knitting the stuff that I wanted.  Yes, I knit a lot of commercial yarns because I did not have a teacher and commercial yarns were a very good practice material.

Working out the mechanics of DRS (spinning) took a long while, which produced better handspun, and it convinced me that high-ply yarns had GREAT advantages, but spinning fine singles was still slow.  So, for my functional gear, I was still knitting mill spun (with long needles and knitting sheaths!)  Then, I had to work out the details of accelerator wheels to sped up my spinning.  (It took 5 generations of prototypes to get it up to current speed.)  Prior to a well working accelerator, high-ply hand spun did not seem very practical.

In fact, today, I can run my Ashford Lace Flyer at over 3,000 rpm - something I did not think was possible even only 5 years ago.  However,  one of my DRS flyers running at the same speed is enormously more productive for ordinary fine plies.  On the other hand, I would be delighted if someone would please show me how to use an ordinary Ashford Lace Flyer to produce worsted spun, 5,600 ypp singles at a hank per hour.  I would love to learn how to do that!

While I was spinning 5-ply sport weight, by the fall of  2006, much of my handspun production went to testing to be sure that it really was as good as commercial for various uses.  And, there was that economic issue of: "Can handspun be reasonably priced?"

The first part of this blog is about knitting sheaths, and their power!  The first posts were about long needles and knitting sheaths, and I still consider knitting sheaths to be the most powerful tool in hand knitting.  Knitting sheaths work just as well with mill spun just as well as with hand spun.  Since I did not have a teacher, and was working everything out as I went, it was cheaper and easier to work with commercial yarn. I have a great deal of very good outdoor gear that I knit from commercial yarn.  It is gear that I would trust to keep me warm in Arctic/polar conditions for weeks or months at a time.  I do not find it durable enough to trust to keep me warm for years under Arctic/polar conditions -- commercial yarns are not durable enough, so that maintenance and upkeep on the objects would be too great.  That is what can make HANDSPUN cost effective! High-ply, handspun yarns can be so much more durable that over the long run, hand spun can be about the some price as mill spun, because as produced today, mill spun is not as durable or as warm for the weight.   And the big cost on outdoor wear is knitting and repair /maintenance.  More durable yarn up front is cheaper than reknitting.   (I am still doing economic analysis from the viewpoint of a 15th century fisherman.)

 Who else is testing sweaters that contain 20,000 yards (18,000 m) of singles?  Such objects have virtues, but you cannot see those virtues, unless you can produce such objects in a practical manner. .  I see those virtues through the window of the tools and skills that I have developed over the last 18 years.

Friday, August 19, 2016


More evidence that 'healthy obesity' may be a myth

The term "healthy obesity" has gained traction over the past 15 years, but scientists have recently questioned its very existence. A study published August 18 in Cell Reports provides further evidence against the notion of a healthy obese state, revealing that white fat tissue samples from obese individuals classified as either metabolically healthy or unhealthy actually show nearly identical, abnormal changes in gene expression in response to insulin stimulation.
"The findings suggest that vigorous health interventions may be necessary for all , even those previously considered to be metabolically healthy," says first author Mikael Rydén of the Karolinska Institutet. "Since obesity is the major driver altering gene expression in , we should continue to focus on preventing obesity."

More information: Cell Reports, Rydén et al.: "The Adipose Transcriptional Response to Insulin Is Determined by Obesity, Not Insulin Sensitivity" , DOI: 10.1016/j.celrep.2016.07.070 

ETA:  My LLMD thinks that Lyme / Borrelia infections may be a direct cause of obesity, which is rarely diagnosed.   I concur strongly.  

Some drink, some ply

I ply.

The results from last night, 4 cakes of 10-ply from hand spun singles, and the bobbins emptied to make the cakes:

I like the yarn for warm, comfortable objects. I knit this 10-ply yarn on US3 needles  (3.2 mm) . When I knit commercial (lo-ply) yarns into Aran weight objects, I used 18" steel needles, and it was fearsome work.  Now, I use 14" steel needles.  Between the lighter needles and more flexible yarn, the knitting  effort is much  less.

If you must deal with cold weather for extended lengths of time (e.g. professional need to be outside, all winter long) and one is a good spinner, then I think 10-ply is well worth the effort.  If you are just going to be outside for a few weeks or recreationally, buy cold weather gear.

Certainly, one can knit 2" by 2" swatches from such yarns into weatherproof fabrics with circular needles is a great deal of effort (said by some one that considers making handspun 10-ply, "reasonable").

Saturday, August 13, 2016


When I first experimented with "goosewing" knitting sheaths, with short stiff needles, they pivoted on the point of  my hip, and I was so deeply impressed with the beauty of the physics, that I never considered padding them.  Then, by and large, most old knitting sheaths were not padded, or at least the ones that were, did not survive.

However, padding the last generation of knitting sheaths that I made:

with a swatch of  knit fabric makes them much more comfortable, with no loss of  functionality.

Current projects are being knit with long stiff steel needles, and the forces are large.  You all will laugh, but just now this seems like a genius level level advance, and I feel like Mr. Comber this morning..  

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Space Cadet

No sooner do I define and bound my world, than I spin off, and abandon it.

Pawing through the stash, I found a bin of worsted singles in the 2,500 to 3,000 ypp range left over from first learning to use DRS.  So, I wondered?

What would happen if I plied them up 10-ply?  The result is a finished 10- yarn in the 250 to 280 ypp range  (0.5 m/g).   On 3.5 mm needles and a (knitting sheath), it knits up at ~ 5 spi by ~ 7 rpi.

Over time, this fabric is warmer than what can be produced from any commercial yarn that I am aware of; and,  is much more durable than any commercial yarn of  similar grist.  The comparable yarn is my 14-ply worsted spun based on 5,600 ypp singles, which is far more durable.

However, at 5 tpi the singles are only half the work to spin as the 10s, and the knitting is only a third the work of 500 ypp 10-ply.  Thus, at this time this yarn/fabric offers much more warmth for less resources and budget than any other yarn/ fabric that I have ever tested.  In terms of more warmth , it far, far out-classes commercial 5-ply, 1,000 ypp  "gansey" yarn.   This is not really a problem, the objects that I have knit from commercial 5-ply "gansey" yarn are well suited to the climate of the greater SF Bay Area.   I need something for expeditions in to colder climates.  At this point, I have to move AA's dismissal of high-ply yarns from a gloss to an error.

Yarns like the MacAusland heavy 3-ply may approach this yarn in initial warmth, but this yarn/fabric far out-classes them for durability, and long-term warmth.  Since spinning is faster than knitting, objects made from this yarn are less expensive than just using MacAusland, and reknitting over a period of years.  Some of my MacAusland sweaters are long past "Used, but good!"

This is a craftsman's compromise between "budget" and "durability" 
made possible by a depth of resources (tools and skills.)

In the the past I have certainly praised commercial 5-ply gansey yarn and MacAusland's for their warmth, however, that was in the galaxy of commercial yarns on the retail market.  Now, we have escaped into the universe of possible yarns.  Here the commercial yarns make a poor showing, most  modern hand spun are pale imitations of the commercial yarns.


Tuesday, August 09, 2016


All objects are some compromise of: quality, schedule, available resources, and  budget,

Quality may be "pretty " for personal decoration, then the object  may need to be "warm" when worn outside or "cool" when worn under the lights on a movie set.  Or, quality may be "warm" to protect under Arctic conditions or under sustained cold rain or sustained wind.  Or, quality maybe durability.  Or, quality may be uniqueness or collectability. These are all valid measures of the quality of knit wear.

Schedule is how long the craftsman has to work on the object.  Does it need to be done tonight, in which case quality  and/or budget may suffer.  Or, is it a 30 years project, where quality and available resources may be maximized?

Available resources include all of the skills, tools and materials that are available within the schedule and budget.

Budget is the total cost of the project.  It may be financial as in you do not want to pay that much for some exotic yarn or take the time to learn the required skills; or,  you are knitting for enjoyment and want instant gratification.

Then the job of the craftsman is to produce the best compromise, within the project's constraints and the client's needs.  And, it is very possible that the craftsman is the client.

I am my own best client in that I make many things for myself.  I am also my own worst customer in that I am very demanding, and I tend to demand that objects get made over and over and until it meets very high quality standards.

Getting to such standards requires development of skills and tools.  If one does not have a teacher development of skills and tools, requires a series of studies.  People laugh at the thousands of swatches I have knit and tested.  The testing of many swatches is the systematic accumulation and organization of information.  It is science. The people who laugh at it,  do not understand science.  And, they do not understand that science is essential to real craftsmanship which relies on the accumulation of resources in the form of skills and tools.

If you assume that craftsmanship can be derived from received conventional wisdom, you miss the point that every communication results in lost information, so to retain a certain level of  craftsmanship, one must refresh, renew, and extend skills and tools.  That takes studies.  That takes science.

 As knitters with any pretension to craftsmanship we need to understand and practice good science.  If we are to be craftspeople, we need to avoid bad science.  We need to avoid studies and reports that cannot repeated.  

We need to call a "spade" a spade, and we need to call yarn by its correct name.  We need better labels and better yarn bands.

My World of Knitting

I have basically moved to knitting handspun.  I want yarns that are not available in the commercial knitting yarn market.  If the yarns I want were on the commercial market, I would buy them rather than spinning them myself.

I also like firm fabrics.  To get them, I use double ended needles with a  knitting sheath. A good knitting sheath is like a mechanic's socket wrench set:

Knitting sheaths offer real power to the knitter under a wide variety of conditions.

In contrast, knitting belts are more like pliers:

 I like pliers, I grew up with a pair of CT pliers in my back pocket.  My Grandfather had a bad hand, so he always had a pair of vice grip pliers that he used as his other hand.  However,  I have been sent 60 miles each way, over to Salina, to get the correct socket to loosen 2 bolts on the Cat RD-4 bulldozer because we needed to have it running tomorrow, and neither pliers nor wrenches could apply the force needed.

Likewise, if you need to knit fabrics such that air carrying heat does not move easily through the fabric, you need a knitting sheath, because knitting sheaths allow you to apply more force to the yarn than a knitting belt.  Now, do not get me wrong here. A knitting belt is a very good tool for 95 % of the kind of knitting done in the modern environment.

The old RD-4 was made to build the ALCAN highway.  Arctic conditions put special stresses on people, clothing, and their tools.  Just as it took a special tool to work on the RD-4, it takes special tools and materials to make knitwear suited to Arctic conditions. Today, most Arctic wear is factory made, so the knitting yarns and knitting sheaths do not commonly appear on the market.  However, their are some people that try to pass off  handknit objects as "magically warm" based on some myth that "hand knit" is warmer.  This comes under the category of unreproducible science.  In fact, it is bad science.

Fabrics that are denser and thicker are warmer.  Objects made from warmer fabrics with limited ventilation are warmer.  To get the fabric dense enough, and thick enough for Arctic conditions, you need a knitting sheath, just as the CT pliers in my back pocket were not going to move that rusted 2.25 inch bolt on the RD-4.

Because knitting sheaths are such powerful tools, I keep trying to improve the design.
I started with the traditional designs, and worked out the techniques that worked. It was clear that the traditional clothing of the period and places, had strongly affected the design of the traditional knitting sheaths, but we have different clothing, and need different designs.   I went on to develop knitting sheaths that fit modern clothing and are more convenient to use in the modern context.

  Today, I like:

Today the needles I use are in the range between 1 mm and 3.25 mm.  Needles for plain fabrics are very blunt, while needles for decreases and bobbles need to be more pointy.  Almost all of my needles are steel or stainless steel.  Thus, to knit a pair of plain socks I sit down with 2 pair of needles One set is used where the stitches are  all knit or purl, and the set of more pointy needles is used for the heels and toes.

My world of knitting yarn

Long wool comes in, and often gets spun  worsted with a firm twist at about 5,600 ypp ( 10s, 11.3 m/g).  Such singles were commonly used for weaving and everybody was accustomed to spinning them. Then, there was loom waste, which could be plied up into various grists of knitting yarn. Standard "10s" were a standard base for knitting yarns.

(These are not the standard names for these grists)

2-ply is knitting yarn at ~ 2,500 ypp ( 5. m/g) .
3-ply is fingering yarn at ~ 1,700 ypp (3.4 m/g)
4-ply is double knitting yarn at ~ 1260 ypp or ( 2.2 m/g)
5-ply is sport weight at ~1,000 ypp  (e.g., (gansey weight")
6-ply is worsted weight  or triple knitting yarn at ~ 840 ypp  or 1.7 g/m  (heavier than what is normally sold as "Aran" weight yarn.)
8-ply is "8-ply" at ~ 630 ypp or 1.3 m/g
10-ply is Traditional Aran  or 10-ply at ~ 500 ypp or 1 m/gram!

And, I ply heavier yarns as needed. However, my 6-ply yarn is warmer than any commercial knitting yarn on the market today.  That is why I have the kind of lazy kate that I do, and why I learned to use it.   If you want to knit objects as warm or warmer than I do, you will have to spin your own multi-ply yarns.

Medium fine wools 50 -60 count ( 25 micron) are spun worsted, sometimes at 11,200 ypp (25 m/g)

3-ply makes a quicky lace yarn at 3,360 ypp

Then a 6-ply yarn from those singles is the preferred sock yarn at ~ 1,700 ypp or 3.4 m/g

Medium fine wools 40 -60 count ( 25 micron) are spun worsted, sometimes at 30,000 ypp or ~60 m/g
3-ply from this makes a nice lace yarn at ~ 8,000 ypp
6-ply makes a better sock yarn at ~ 4,000 ypp

Fine wools (finer than 60 count) may get spun at their spin count ~ 40,000 ypp or 100 m/g, which can be plied as needed. Or, they may be prepared into woolen spun versions of any of the above.

Note, The post above covers grists that vary by a factor of  8.   In truth, I have no problem spinning thicker yarns, because like a musician, I do my scales on a regular basis and practice spinning different grists of yarn.   On the other hand, I rarely do spin  singles thicker than 1-cut woolen (1,640 ypp).  As 2-ply that yields a yarn about the same grist as my worsted weight, and the worsted weight is much warmer and more durable.  Why waste my knitting time on yarn that produces an inferior product?  I certainly have in the past, and I do not regret any part of it.  However, improvements in my tools and skills over the last few years, allow me to make better yarns at a reasonable investment of resources, so I do.  

Use of AA's spinning oil is highly recommended.I suggest the addition of a few drops of lavender oil.  Also, many olive oils are adulterated with soybean oil.  These will get sticky in storage, and MUST be avoided.  The US and Italy have good, enforced rules on olive oil.  I suggest buying an oil from one of these countries.  You do not need EV or cold pressed. You just need pure olive oil.

Note: After spinning all singles are measured for length, blocked with steam, and weighed.  They may also be dyed. For dying, they must be washed to remove the spinning oil.

All plied yarns must be blocked again.

None of this is any more difficult than turning bobbins from green wood. People tell you it cannot be done, but it is simply a matter of learning the skills and having the tools.

Bad Science, myth, and old wives tales.

I said something about turning bobbins from green wood, and got comments that it could not be done.

Some of the bobbins that I turned from solid blocks of green wood in the last few months.
None of these are cracked or warped.
The shavings were used to mulch the blueberries.

The pale ones are mostly wood from pruning the olive trees, and the darker ones are green redwood scrap that I get from a local fencing contractor.  Along this line, none of the kitchen tools that also made from the olive prunings warped or cracked.

Warped bobbin from green wood

Oh yes, there was a learning curve.  In years past, I turned bobbins from greenwood that cracked, warped and were useless. This year, only 1 in 20 cracked, but even it is  usable.

This is the kind of bad science and myth that I hate from the knitting and spinning community.

Monday, August 08, 2016


The irreproducibility crisis – an opportunity to make science better

August 8, 2016 by Megan Yu, Plos Blogs

Among the 1,576  surveyed in this news feature, 52% noted that reproducibility is a significant crisis in . Physicists and chemists had the greatest confidence in their respective fields while medical professionals and biologists had the least. In addition, the survey found that 24% and 13% of respondents had published successful and unsuccessful replications, respectively, compared to only 12% and 10% of those whose findings were rejected. These findings are similar to previous studies that found that only 16 of 83 articles recommending the effectiveness of various psychiatric treatments were successfully replicated and that only 36% of replication studies among 100 experimental and correlational studies published in three psychology journals were

Read more at:

Science is what always works.  If it is not reproducible, it is not science.  Any researcher that publishes things that are not reproducible, should be punished according to the list of crimes in the Mikado,( ) or ( )

I often pursue small advances in technology, and sometimes it is hard to tell just what small change in the new prototype is responsible for the change.  Thus, sometimes, I have to go back and retest various aspects of the current technology, to see if I missed something along the way.

Circa 1999, I started researching how to knit warmer objects. It was and is a systematic collection and organization of information about how to knit warmer objects  (aka "science".  I systematically tested the conventional wisdom in the knitting community on how to knit warmly, and found that much of it was/is myth.  I consider this to be no different from published research. I mean, knitters have had centuries to work out how to knit warmly, and to get it wrong is unforgivable.  At the very least, they should be required to sing "Koko" every evening,

Some deny that is is possible to knit "weatherproof" fabrics. That is merely a lack of technique on their part.  I knit weatherproof fabrics.   I have been knitting swatches of weatherproof fabric for about 13 years.  As I learned to use knitting sheaths, I was able to knit entire weatherproof objects.

Part of  the denier's  lack of technique is a failure to use yarns that make the process easy.  Weatherproof fabrics can be knit from a variety of yarns, but knitters are bound up in the mythology of using commercial 1,000 ypp "5-ply gansey" yarns, and these are, in fact, very difficult to knit into weatherproof fabrics.

By, 2006  I was very disappointed in the quality of  the commercial yarns available. and began to spin my own.  However, from the early going, I  found hand spinning also bound up in myth and fairy tails.  Spinners denied the virtues of  differential rotation speed (DRS) and accelerators.  There was nobody around to teach me to spin fine and fast. Sure, there were people like Northernlace, but her approach to spinning fine was arduous. Again the folks using supported spindles  for spinning various fibers into lace, seemed to prefer the slower, supported spindles to the wheel technology.  I understand this because, at those grists, supported spindles are easier than Scotch Tension.  On the other hand, DRS is much more productive than Scotch Tension.

DRS makes spinning fine singles much easier than either of the single drive technologies, and yes, I can use single drive, bobbin lead to spin 56 count wool (~25 micron) at its spin count of 31,000 ypp
( 63 m/g) on AA fliers w/ my bobbins.  So, what? I can also spin that fiber to that grist with a stock Ashford Jumbo Flyer using Scotch Tension! (Using a couple of machine screw washers as tension.) It can be done.   And, I can spin the same singles on the Ashford Lace Flyer.  That is a little faster than the Jumbo.  The point is: I can spin.  My love of DRS is because it is more productive.  Only with DRS can I spin 560 yard/hour of 5,600 ypp and have the hanks come out within 5% of the desired weight (45.4 g)

Today, I have to give more credit to my efforts to damp vibration.   It turns out that with the better vibration damping, I could have run the stock Ashford flyer/bobbin assembly a few hundred rpm faster (e.g., ~2,000 rpm).  However, the extra rpm does not really seem to be useful, so on a practical basis, it was/is the DRS (and AA's little fliers) that boost/ed productivity, and allow/ed use of the higher speed that I get with the accelerator.  And, better vibration damping allowed the higher speeds.  This is particularly true for the Ashford Lace Flyer.  Today, I can run my Ashford Lace Flyer (as a result of better vibration damping)  at 3,000 rpm, but it is still not a practical technology for spinning fine singles in the quantities needed for weaving, or making knitting yarns such as 5-ply sport weight or higher numbers of plies for warmer fabrics.

When you understand spinning, then spinning is faster than knitting.

The first thing that I learned is that "weatherproof" fabric, requires knitting denser fabric.  Knitting denser fabric requires using finer needles and it requires more force to form the stitches.  To retain stretch and elasticity of the fabric, the bars between the stitches are not tighter, but each stitch must be more firmly formed.  Using a knitting pouch is a good first step, but the densest fabrics for the  coldest climates require the use of knitting sheaths and double ended needles.

Warmer yarns tend to be thicker. Warmer yarns tend to have more plies but less ply twist.  Thus, at 1,000 ypp, the 5-ply will be warmer than the 2-ply and the 5-ply with less ply twist will be warmer than the high-ply-twist commercial 'gansey ' that produces a "drafty" fabric.

For very cold climates, yarns in the range of 500 ypp with 10-plies  produce the warmest fabrics with reasonable hand and drape.  Any knit objects intended for the coldest climates will likely have to be knit from such yarns. However, such yarns are not common in the modern commercial market place at this time.  In the current market most, yarns called 10-ply are actually only 750 to 800 ypp, which makes them a 50% less warm than the true 500 ypp 10-ply.

Anyone that says otherwise is trying to publish myth, old wives tales, and commercial nonsese as fact.

If there was a single great failure in this blog, it was thinking in terms of numbers and blurting it out on the blog.  These days most spinners and knitters, do not think in terms of ypp, and thereby much of the content goes right past them.  I use ypp because it makes the math easy.  Wraps per inch (packed to refusal) squared is ypp. The problem here is that the method of taking WPI has changed so that WPI as measured today has no relation to ypp.  I consider the lack of grist, twist, and ply information on yarn bands to make buying yarn like buying a pig in a poke. Likewise the yarn categories are no use to me.  I need to know the number of plies and whether they are woolen or worsted.  This is important if you are designing for a particular climate.  The appropriate yarn differs between SF, Berkeley and  Orinda.  And,  heading to the Matterhorn or Thunderbolt Peak requires an entirely different basis of engineering textiles and objects.  And, that is just in California.  Parts of Vancouver get 12 or 14 feet  (4+ m)  of rain per year.  Then, in places like Fraser, CO it starts to get cold, and we need to apply our our skill to objects intended to be used there.

If we divide ypp by 560 yards in the hank then we have the spin count of the grist.  Then we can buy wool with that spin count, and we can estimate how many yards per pound that wool will spin into. Then we know the total number of yards came be spun from that lot of wool

Anywool can be spun in to 10s (10 worsted hanks per pound, 5,600 ypp, 12.3 g/m) , and it was a standard grist for weaving inexpensive cloth. 10s were ubiquitous and fungible. Everyone knew how to spin them.  At one time 10s were the basis of a good grade of knitting yarn.  It was ubiquitous and fungible. Mostly it was warm enough for a world without central heating, and durable enough to be worn  all the time.  I like such yarns better than what I see at LYS.