Sunday, March 20, 2016

A Pile of lies

My last post was a pile of lies.

People often come after me, when I tell the truth, so I thought I would tell a pile of lies and see if anyone noticed.

They seem not to have noticed.

 First: "Ouvre", she said coyly. 
 (Gladys Thompson on page 5 of Patterns for Guernseys, Jerseys, and Arans, third edition, copyright 1979 by Dover Publications.) is true.  Note well, that she does not mention "Spain or Portugal".  What authors do not say is often as important as what they do say.  Experts often know what their audience wants to hear, and make a point of not saying what their their audience does not want to hear, but they got to be "experts" by by being careful not to lie.  They dance around the truth, and the astute reader must learn to recognize the dances.

Gladys Thompson, seems to define "jersey" as having a warmer and usually denser fabric than a guernsey, but the rest of the post contained nonsense.  Nobody seems to have noticed much, but I am sure that now MANY will come out of the woodwork saying "Oh, I saw the error of Aaron's ways, but Aaron makes so many mistakes that I did not bother to enumerate these!"

With hand-held needles, one way to get a denser fabric is Eastern Stitch Mount which is perhaps best handled with Portuguese knitting.  (Most of the time it is really Portuguese purling.)  If you must make traditional Eastern Crossed Stitch fabric (ECS) with hand held needles, then Portuguese knitting is the way to go. At this time, you should review the discussions in Knitting in the Old Way and Mary Thomas's Knitting Book.  However, better is and

If you need a lot of ECS fabric in a hurry, then stop; and - well the best use of Eastern Crossed Stitch fabric is socks, and the best way to make small tubular objects such as socks or gloves is swaving - using a knitting sheath with bent needles called "pricks".  In the past, I had trouble with pricks longer than 6" jamming and not turning easily in their knitting sheath. Now, pricks as long as 8" are working well for me. With a knitting sheath and pricks, Portuguese knitting will just slow you down.  With the high leverage of a knitting sheath, there are smaller motions that will do the job much faster   The virtues of practice.

If you do not need Eastern Crossed Stitch fabric, but only a denser fabric, then any stitch mount can be used with a KNITTING SHEATH and finer needles. Stitch mount ceases to be an issue.

Particularly with knitting in the round, I can switch from eastern stitch mount to western or vice-versa, and a hour later, I cannot tell which stitches were knit with which stitch mount. I can only tell by looking at the transition row. If it is a finished object, then I must look at the cast-on row to determine stitch mount. And, if it is finely knit, I need my linen tester.  I do not think that GT always got a chance to examine the cast-on row with her linen tester and thus often made her guernsey/jersey classification by the geometry of the patterns and the density of the fabric.

The fact that finely knit stitches become change shape as the fabric is knit more finely is the reason that I moved from "stitches per inch" to "stitches per square inch".  In finely knit fabrics, the stitches per inch does not convey the density of the fabric.  That is,  there are different fabrics that can be knit from the same yarn that will have the same number of stitches per inch, but have very different densities, warmth, durability, and hand/drape. Defining both spi and rpi does define the fabric, and stitches per square inch does define both spi and rpi.

Inspection of of the patterns in Patterns  tells us that Gladys Thompson considered fabrics with moderate density to be  "guernsey".  If we then take "gansey" to mean knit from fine yarns, (e.g., more than 2,000 ypp), then a sweater knit from ~1,650 ypp for Dunraven 3-ply could be a guernsey.  Guernseys knit from finer yarns  (e.g.,  ~2,500 ypp for Paton's 4-ply Behive used on pg 85),  would  also be considered ganseys. Thus, it  would be possible to have a "gansey guernsey". Note that modern Jamieson's Shetland Spindrift also has a grist of ~2,500 ypp, but being only 2 plies, produces a stiffer fabric than the old Beehive 4-ply when knit at 12 spi by 20 rpi. See  Patterns for Guernseys, Jerseys and Arans, 3d ed. pages 83, 84 and 85.  

Note also that Weldon's also provides patterns for both seamen's guernseys and jerseys, allowing additional refining of the definitions.   Weldon's does not use the term "ganseys" 

This concept of finer plies producing finer fabric is why I bother to make my own 6-ply yarn at 1,650 ypp instead of just using commercial 3-ply sock yarn.  And, with all due respect to Alden Amos, more plies means a better hand/drape when knit fine. They used 5-ply for seaman's sweaters because it was warmer AND because it gave a better hand, AND because it was more durable. Real 10-ply Aran yarn makes a nice fabric when knit tight, 2 or 3-ply  Aran yarn makes less pleasant fabric when knit tight.  One can knit a very warm jumper from Jamieson's 2-ply Shetland Spindrift , but  4-ply Behive is about the same grist and will produce a warmer fabric with better hand when knit to the same gauge.  However, good luck finding commercial 2,500 ypp, 4-ply knitting yarns these days.  Good luck finding hand spinners that can produce 2,500 ypp 4-ply yarns these days.  You will likely have to order such a yarn from a mini-mill.  That is the difference between a skilled professional spinner, and a hobby hand spinner.  I am somewhere in between.  I am a hand spinner with a DRS wheel that makes spinning 2,500 ypp, 4-ply yarns easy.  I wish we had such spinning wheels for more hand spinners. with such a wheel, one can learn to spin such yarns in a few days.

I do think, the Channel Islands got knitting from the Islamic world very early, and started buying wool from England by the time of Henry Beauclerc, and knit/ sold sweaters to English seamen fishing the Icelandic waters in the 14th century, Portuguese fishermen taking cod in the North Atlantic in the 15th century, and the seamen that explored for Henry the Navigator.  I think it would be VERY odd if the origins of guernseys and jerseys were not knit eastern stitch mount. However, that was 70 generations ago.  Since then, knitters on the shores of the North Sea, the Baltic, the Finnish Sea, the Irish Sea, the English Channel, the Mediterranean, the China Sea, the Atlantic, and the Pacific have all been linked by sea commerce.  In the way of commerce, they have sought to produce better products faster and cheaper. Improvements include knitting pouches, and at least 3 rather specialized forms of knitting sheaths. 

With a proper knitting sheath, very fine fabrics can be knit at a practical pace using any stitch mount.

Hobby knitters like to pretend that they are knitting as fine and as fast as the knitters of old, and they have told each other this since the days of Queen Victoria.  Hobby knitting is an echo chamber. Experts dance around the truth and do not say differently.  They take traditional finely knit patterns and revise them to be less finely knit. (e.g., Nancy Bush and  Alice Starmore take patterns for utilitarian objects and convert them to make very pretty, but fragile objects.) Thereby, hobby level knitters can pretend they are knitting "ganseys".  I certainly took part in this echo chamber, and knit what everyone else was calling "ganseys". They are very good sweaters, but I no longer consider those sweaters to be "ganseys".   P. A Gibson-Roberts,  D. Robson, and E. Zimmerman have  likewise been careful not to tell some truths.  One such truth is that long DPN ("gansey needles") are not useful without a knitting belt or knitting sheath to help control the long needles.  These experts set-up generations of knitters to fail by telling them that guernseys and jerseys were mostly knit on long needles, and failing to mention that using a knitting sheath was more important than the length of needles.  For example, the commercial pattern, A Channel Islands' Guernsey / Patterns for Guernseys, Jerseys, and Arans specifies 11 DPN. I usually knit this pattern on 6 +1 DPN  that are 12" long because that knitting sheath works well in the stuffed chair in front of the TV.  However, when I am in a hurry I use 18" gansey needles because they are faster. (Piece work knitters always wanted more speed.) However, with the 18" needles,  I need to sit in the wooden chair by the kitchen window where that knitting sheath works. (It rubs on my overstuffed chair.)  Nevertheless,  I can make good progress on  "A Channel Islands' Guernsey", in a doctor's office, or in the car or on an airplane using 8" DPN and (another) knitting sheath, or even just a leather knitting belt. The 8" needles provides less leverage, so there is more stress on my hands, but not enough extra stress to be a problem in less than a few weeks. (I noticed again this morning that the 12" needles used Friday evening, produce a more uniform fabric than the 8" needles used for KIP yesterday.  This was not a surprise.  The 8" needles with sheath produce a better fabric than I can knit with hand-held needles, but the 12" needles produce an excellent fabric.)

The main thing that a knitting belt or knitting sheath provides is stability that facilitates  the use of very fine needles. And, a steel needle with a knitting sheath allows knitting faster, so that the greater number of stitches that a fine fabric requires can be accomplished in a reasonable time. Knitting sheaths allow knitting a higher quality fabric. 


purplespirit1 said...

"They seem not to have noticed." - or maybe no one cared.

Your blog is beyond hilarious. Ravelry can only rubberneck your blog for so long. Your "information" and "research" is beyond funny. It's to the point where your blog is spoofable, and it has been - have you read Dr Gan Sei's blog mocking yours? I hope so... it's just as informative and educational. From now on, my replies to your blog posts will only be with laughter.

Moor Walker said...

Maybe nobody commented on your pack of lies because they are so used to seeing you talking utter rubbish that there was nothing noteworthy.

"Hobby knitters like to pretend that they are knitting as fine and as fast as the knitters of old"

No we don't. We keep telling you that we are perfectly happy working the way we do, producing knitted items that please us. You are the one who continues to bang on about how good you are, and how there is only one true way to knit and that you are the sole repository of that knowledge.