Saturday, June 18, 2016


Traditional "5-ply gansey yarn" had a grist of  1,000 yards per pound.  And a "hank" of gansey yarn was 8 ounces and 500 yards.

This worked because the traditional singles hank was 560 yards, and the ply-twist to form the yarn took up ~10%, so a hank of worsted spun knitting yarn was ~510 yards.  And, the traditional wools were lustrous long wool. Objects knit from them had a different appearance than objects knit from modern, commercial yarns spun from finer wools.

These days I note that a favorite commercial 5-ply gansey yarn is about 1,200 yards per pound, so it is thinner; -- more the grist of  traditional 4-ply worsted spun yarns.   Wendy's is now ~ 1,115 ypp. Penzance is now about the only traditional grist 5-ply Guernsey yarn at  996 yards per pound. At the same price as other favorite purveyors, delivers 20% more wool per cone.

However, the modern, thin 5-ply gansey yarn has more twist, so it is not well suited to being used double as some of the Gladys Thompson patterns use 4-ply yarn.  If you want to work with doubled 4-ply, try the Lion Brand Fisherman's Wool.  That combination has tremendous fill and makes a very good Aran weight fabric.

If knit to the traditional patterns, the fabric from modern thin 5-ply gansey yarn will be softer, and much less "weatherproof."   For most modern uses, not a bad thing.  However, the softer material will cause stitch patterns to be NOT as clearly defined and the fabrics will not provide as much padding if a seaman gets tossed about.  The Penzance will give a thicker, warmer fabric with clearer stitch patterns.

I have nothing against the thinner 5-ply, but I knit it on 2 mm needles.

It takes just under 900 yards of  yarn to knit a gansey, that is  ~5,000 yards of singles;  That is about 9 hanks, plus 900 yards of  plying.  That is about 12 hours of reasonably paced spinning.  At 35$/hour, that is more than $400 worth of spinning labor, plus $15 worth of wool, plus labor to clean and prep the wool.  Hand spun from long wool, the yarn costs on the order of $500.  $71.80 plus shipping seems pretty reasonable for  a couple cones of commercial 5-ply gansey yarn - either the thick or the thin versions.  On the other hand, if you must have the authentic fabric, then today, it will be hand spun.

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