Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Dear John,

The modern hand knitting community is dominated by folks who knit for fun. For many years, the fun knitters have rudely pushing aside the folks that want to knit functional objects. (We will get back to functional!)

Fun knitters do not check their work, so many myths have grown up, and now echo around and around the community, with some leaders saying they are experts and the myths are the truth.
Then, intermediate level knitters repeat what they have been told without checking its truth.

Here are my favorite myths:

  1. Myth -hand knitting is warm/ loose is good because air traps heat
    1. no! STILL air traps heat -air can easily move through most hand knit objects
    2. to trap and keep air still to hold heat, the fibers need to be ~40 microns apart - twice the thickness of a Merino staple.  do the physics - http://www.feynmanlectures.caltech.edu/
    3. thus, for max warmth, you want the yarn fibers and the yarns to be about 2x the thickness of a merino fiber apart.
    4. knitting with circular needles does not pack yarns or fibers that tightly together.
  2. Myth- gansey yarn is always warm
    1. not if there are gaps between the yarns where air can flow
    2. gansey knitting can pack the yarns together to produce a warmer fabric.
    3. swaving can pack the yarns together to produce a warmer fabric
    4. woolen yarns are often easier to pack together to produce a very warm fabric if you have the leverage - circular needles are no
  3. Myth - gansey yarns are more durable
    1. most modern commercial gansey yarns are spun from fine fibers that are not particularly durable. woolen spun rug wool may be more durable
  4. Myth- nylon makes yarn more durable
    1. nylon is slippery and lets wool fibers fall out of the yarn while the long nylon stays
    2. yarn makers add nylon because it is cheap
    3. super wash is also less durable then untreated wool
Truths to replace the myths
  1. Gansey knitting and swaving pack yarns together making a fabric that is much warmer than can be knit with hand held needles.
  2. Gansey knitting and swaving can produce fabrics that are much more durable than can be produced from the same yarn with hand held needles.
  3. Gansey knitting and swaving can produce fabrics that are much smoother to the skin that the fabrics produced with hand held needles.
Truths for a knitter to live by:

  1. Finer is better - finer yarns can be knit tighter with less effort - ultimatly warmth is not about thickness, it is about not having holes in the fabric where air can pass through.  For example go look at the best new technologies at Patagonia, Marmot, and North Face.  Thin, light, and no holes.
  2. Finer is better -  yarns with finer plies result in more flexible fabric, with better drape when knit tight.
  3. Finer is better - finer needles leave smaller holes in the fabric for the fibers to fill.
  4. Finer is better - finer fabrics have more warmth for the weight.
Path to the truth
  1. long needles.  12" is good, 14" is better
  2. knitting belt. e.g., http://www.journeyman-leather.co.uk/knittingbelt8.html
  3. making your own knitting sheath is very much like a Jedi Knight making his own light saber. It is its own path and the process is the end.  I have made thousands of knitting sheaths, but the very best one was made just last month.
Functional.  I knit light weight, warm, and often weatherproof objects.  The first took me hundreds of hours to knit.  I could have worked at minimum wage, saved my money and bought objects of similar weight and warmth faster. If we price my time at my full billing rate, then my knit objects are very expensive and not functional for the price.  However, I have to be somewhere, and I can be knitting. We are going to watch the movie anyway and I can be knitting.  We are going to drive some where, so I let someone else drive and I knit.  I can still talk and navigate, while I knit.  Thus, I can value my knitting time at a very low rate and my objects are very cost effective. They are functional in the extreme.

Mostly I use Grizzly tools.  Needle blanks are made on a carbide grinder and are finished on a Sorby-Pro. Knitting sheath blanks are cut on a band saw.  I use threaded inserts to hold the needle adapters to the body of the knitting sheath. The needle adapters are made on a wood lathe.  The blog is full of pix of various designs.  

However, I have made excellent knitting sheaths with just a hand saw or even just a pocket knife, making the hole by heating steel rod or even a nail in a candle and burning the hole.

No one source says very much about gansey knitting and knitting sheaths.  To the best of my knowledge, this blog is the single largest source on gansey knitting and knitting sheaths.

I am likely to go back into making knitting sheaths fairly soon.


1 comment:

John said...

Thank you, Aaron! This is very helpful starting point for me. I'll be digging through your posts and I may post questions along the way.