Saturday, July 30, 2016

Aaron Knits

First make some nice 14-ply, worsted spun, wool yarn.  It is easy with a tension box type Lazy Kate:

 to get:

Craftsmen need to deeply understand their materials.

 It's grist is about 360 ypp, which means that it is ~ 25% lighter than the Super Bulky LB Wool Ease  (LB WE, 288 ypp). The 14-ply yarn is much denser than the SB LB WE, and thus is easier to knit into very warm fabrics.  Another advantage is that it is more elastic, allowing skin tight garments to move with the body, and still be perfectly comfortable.  In addition, skin tight garments are inherent warmer. Thus, this is an excellent yarn for gear used for extreme conditions. (Sometimes, California has wickedly extreme weather,)

Thus high-ply yarns can be used to knit warmer fabrics that can be thinner and more flattering than objects of similar warmth knit from 2 and 3 ply yarns.  This is a serious advantage for for the fashion conscious in cold climates  Multi-ply yarns are also enormously more durable.  Over the years, not having to reknit/repair objects, saves much knitting,  If your knit objects last more than a few years without repair, then you are not active enough.  I have hand spun, hand knit objects from Nepal that are pristine.  They are pristine, because they are crap! They sit in a drawer. They were made for foreign climbers that only spent a few weeks in Nepal, and then left.  Hand spun, hand knit is NO guarantee of quality or warmth.  My  aunt got a bunch of my early  hand knit objects.   One those hats I know was worn almost every day for 7 years.  When she died, it was almost pristine. She was very frail, and treated it very gently.  I put that much wear on a hat in  one winter of sailing, skiing, and etc, - even when I have Lyme Disease with coinfections.

With such a multi-ply yarn, it is trivial to knit a fabric that is lighter, thinner, more weatherproof, and more durable than what can be knit with from a yarn with only 2 or 3 plies, or from a 5-ply yarn constructed with high ply-twist.

Modern  commercial 1,000 ypp 5-ply and 1,120 ypp 5-ply yarns are designed and spun to produce fabrics that are not weatherproof! "Experienced" knitters recited the myth that commercial 5-ply yarns produced the warmest fabrics to me, and  I believed it -- until I did my own testing. Weatherproof fabrics can be produced from such yarns, but it is a significant effort. I had to learn to knit such fabrics so I could measure the effort.  Those "Experienced" knitters were telling me the harder way to knit such fabrics, not the easy way.

The seed of truth in that myth is that the older multi-ply yarns with less ply twist, were the best path to warm weatherproof fabrics.  Modern 5-ply,  high-ply twist yarns are designed to so that decorative stitches "pop".   Yarns, that can be more easily knit into very warm fabrics can be hand spun using less ply twist.  Experienced knitters had not understood that there was a real difference between high-ply twist and low ply twist yarns.  Lower ply twist gives the yarn more "fill", which is the easy route to warmer fabrics.  Likewise yarns with cable construction tend to be stiff, and difficult to knit into weatherproof fabrics.  Such cables yarns are good for summer socks that must be durable and cool.  Again, knitting cables yarns into weatherproof fabrics can be done using  long gansey needles and a knitting sheath, but it is slow, hard work.   I know this by testing and comparing yarns, and the fabrics knit from them.  The bottom line here is that the best handspun 1,000, ypp 5-ply can produce yarns that knit into warmer fabrics than modern commercial 1,000, ypp 5-ply tend to produce.  And yes, 1,000, ypp 5-ply can produce warmer fabrics than 1,120 ypp, 5-ply,  When both are knit on the same needles, the difference in warmth will be on the order of 25%, but if the finer yarn is knit on finer needles, then the difference is likely only  11%.  (You cannot get there using US3 needles! Alert knitters keep a journal, and know this.)  Using fine needles, hand spun 1,120 ypp, 5-ply with  low ply twist can easily be knit into fabrics that are much warmer than fabrics commonly knit from commercial 1,000 ypp, 5-ply yarns with high ply twist.

Thus, as we consider the warmth of  fabrics knit from the above 360 ypp, 14 ply, it needs to be compared to modern commercial 1,000 ypp, 5-ply, and best handspun 1,000 ypp, 5-ply.  The 360 ypp 14 ply above knits into fabrics that are about 50% warmer than best handspun 1,000 ypp 5-ply spun for warmth, and about 3 times warmer than the fabric produced by knitting 1,000 ypp, 5-ply, (commercial Guernsey yarns)  on the typical modern  2.25 mm (circular) needles.

Fabrics knit from the above 360 ypp, 14 ply are only very slightly warmer than fabrics knit from LB WE, (or MacAusland's heavy 3-ply) but the fabrics knit form 360 ypp, 14 ply, will be much lighter in weight, have much better hand and drape, have more stretch and elasticity, and be more durable.  In total, they are altogether more comfortable to wear in cold conditions.

  Swatch from best 360 ypp, 14 ply worsted spun yarn
knit on US 3 long needles

In short, factors that affect the warmth of knit fabrics include:

  • fiber - fine or coarse
  • spin - woolen or worsted
  • grist of singles
  • twist per inch of  singles
  • number of plies/ total grist of yarn
  • ply twist
  • needle size
  • how needle is used, e.g., hand held, knitting belt, or knitting sheath
  • tension of yarn as it is knit
  • stitch used in the knitting
Factors affecting warmth of objects include:
  • yarn used
  • stitch used
  • needle size
  • how needle is used
  • fit/ wearing ease 
  • waist opening 
  • size and shape of neck opening
  • sleeve construction
  • total area of body covered (e.g., a hoodie is warmer than a  sweater and hat, but a sweater, comforter, and balaclava is likely to be warmer still) 
Factors affecting over-all body warmth include:
  • weather/ wind, cold, wet, and etc.
  • base layers
  • over layers
  • warmth of knit objects
Much heat is lost through the feet, hands, and head! If your sweater is not keeping you warm, the fast and easy way to knit what will keep you warm is likely to knit socks, gloves, hats (balaclava),   and such. My wife laughs at me because most of my knitting is socks, gloves/mittens, and such. However, having such objects is essential to staying warm and being comfortable in cold, and very cold conditions.  And, gloves/mittens and socks are subject to a lot of wear.  They need to be regularly repaired/replaced.  I expect a sweater to outlast a couple of hats, several pairs of gloves/mittens and many pairs of socks.  

Yes, I spin such yarns, and knit such fabrics right here in Warm Sunny California, because these days, this is where the technical skills are. Remember, the knit objects that protected Shackleton's men on the Antarctic ice were knit in Balmy England, because that is where the technical skills were. When I was a kid, the best technical skills for down clothing were in Boulder, Colorado - a place where Native Americas had wintered, because it had pleasant winter weather.  North Face clothing was founded in San Francisco and grew based on experience gained by going to places with wicked weather.  Patagonia came out of Southern California, by way of experience gained in other places.    Even REI was founded in a place with fabulous year-round weather (Kent, Washington).  And, the great knit objects that allowed British seamen to navigate the cold and stormy Southern Ocean, were knit in tropical Hong Kong circa  1790 1830.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Rushen Knitting

There has been some discussion here about how to knit for cold weather.  : )

Here is my "Rushen" solution.

For patknitter, it is done with US 3 knitting needles.
For purplespirit1, it is warm enough for snow camping in the Gulag.

 The yarn is Wool-Ease thick and quick by Lion brand. Suggested gauge is 9 stitches per 4 inches and 12 rows, using 9 mm needles. My gauge using US 3 (3 mm)   is 18 s per 4 inch by 26 r per 4 inches.

It weatherproof, and it is fast to knit.  An object knit from this yarn and at this gauge is well suited for a movie set, as it is warm enough for Siberia.  However, it is not durable enough for a serious tour of the Gulag.  In the long term, knitting real 10-ply saves knitting time.  Aside from swatches such as above, I do not knit objects from such yarns, because it is too fragile.  On the other hand I think you will find that purplespirit1 and patknitter have trouble knitting even such little swatches.  They do not have the right tools.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Exceptional points

'Exceptional points' give rise to counterintuitive physical effects

No matter whether it is acoustic waves, quantum matter waves or optical waves of a laser—all kinds of waves can be in different states of oscillation, corresponding to different frequencies. Calculating these frequencies is part of the tools of the trade in theoretical physics. Recently, however, a special class of systems has caught the attention of the scientific community, forcing physicists to abandon well-established rules.

When waves are able to absorb or release energy, so-called "exceptional points" occur, around which the waves show quite peculiar behaviour: lasers switch on, even though energy is taken away from them, light is being emitted only in one particular direction, and waves which are strongly jumbled emerge from the muddle in an orderly, well-defined state. Rather than just approaching such an exceptional point, a team of researchers at TU Wien (Vienna, Austria) together with colleagues in Brazil, France, and Israel now managed to steer a system around this point, with remarkable results that have now been published in the journal Nature.

Read more at:

Spinning wheel drive bands (and other drive belts) absorb and release energy, and thus can be expected to have exceptional points, which goes far in explaining issues in drive belt design problems.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

da Vinci's DNA

Leonardo da Vinci's DNA: Experts unite to shine modern light on a Renaissance genius

A team of eminent specialists from a variety of academic disciplines has coalesced around a goal of creating new insight into the life and genius of Leonardo da Vinci by means of authoritative new research and modern detective technologies, including DNA science.

Read more at:

I am less interested in his DNA and the location of his remains, than in a smart translation and intelligent description of his work. 

Failure of Art Historians

Study reveals Leonardo da Vinci's 'irrelevant' scribbles mark the spot where he first recorded the laws of friction

Read more at:

Study reveals Leonardo da Vinci’s 'irrelevant' scribbles mark the spot where he first recorded the laws of friction

A new detailed study of notes and sketches by Leonardo da Vinci has identified a page of scribbles in a tiny notebook as the place where Leonardo first recorded the laws of friction. The research also shows that he went on to apply this knowledge repeatedly to mechanical problems for more than 20 years.
Scribbled notes and sketches on a page in a notebook by Leonardo da Vinci, previously dismissed as irrelevant by an art historian, have been identified as the place where he first recorded his understanding of the laws of .
It is widely known that Leonardo conducted the first systematic study of friction, which underpins the modern science of "tribology", but exactly when and how he developed these ideas has been uncertain until now.

 More evidence of the tendency of art historians to misunderstand  the important issues. LdV did important work on textile machinery. Anybody that knows textiles, knows that friction is critical in textile manufacture, and the Medicis made their money in textiles.

Thus, this page is important to the history of science, the history of engineering, the history of textile art in all of its glory and commercial importance, and the history of how one of the greatest families of art patrons made their money.

For an art historian to dismiss this as "irrelevant", is to display the failures of art historians write large.

Over the last few months, I have seen how small changes in friction can dramatically change the performance of a flyer - bobbin assembly.  One needs practical spinning experience on a variety of spinning devices to understand the textiles depicted in art.  

"Irrelevant" demonstrates a deep, broad, and profound ignorance of textile production.  

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Old Rope

Researchers discover how rope was made 40,000 years ago

Prof. Nicholas Conard and members of his team, present the discovery of a tool used to make rope in today's edition of the journal: Archäologische Ausgrabungen Baden-Württemberg.

Rope and twine are critical components in the technology of mobile hunters and gatherers. In exceptional cases impressions of string have been found in fired clay and on rare occasions string was depicted in the contexts of Ice Age art, but on the whole almost nothing is known about string, rope and textiles form the Paleolithic.
A key discovery by Conard's team in Hohle Fels Cave in southwestern Germany and experimental research and testing by Dr. Veerle Rots and her team form the University of Liège is rewriting the history of rope.
The find is a carefully carved and beautifully preserved piece of mammoth ivory 20.4 cm in length with four holes between 7 and 9 mm in diameter. Each of the holes is lined with deep, and precisely cut spiral incisions. The new find demonstrates that these elaborate carvings are technological features of rope-making equipment rather than just decoration.

Read more at:

Friday, July 22, 2016

Trump and Coal

Coal is declining because "Drill Baby Drill" produced a lot of cheap natural gas that pushed the price of coal down - that is the market - and the GOP supposedly likes the market.
Trump Digs Coal means that Trump supports the losing industry - coal. Trump Digs Coal invokes the Federal Government trying to pick winners and losers in the market place, and supporting the loser. The market has chosen renewable power because it is cheaper than coal. Add in external costs from the health of miners and environmental costs, and renewable energy is massively cheaper than coal.
Presidents are supposed to consider all costs and benefits. Guys with degrees from Wharton are suppose to be able to estimate the cost of energy from various industries. Trump seems not seem able to do a correct economic analysis. Trump has lost his Wharton skills. A real Wharton graduate would have gotten the "fact" in his speech correct. Trump is a loser.
Then, how did he make his money? He did deals where he lied and was a bully. How could he get to be president? He could lie and bully - he is good at that. Maybe he crossed the line and just stole his money. Several criminal schemes have yielded as much money as Trump seems to have. After all, he will not show his tax returns.
Would America tolerate a real criminal for president? Maybe - almost every town has a used car salesman that makes a living despite not being trusted or liked - America is tolerant of fraud and intimidation.
All in all, I would rather vote for "Bernie" Madoff" for president than D. J. Trump. If we are going to have a thief for a president, then let's get the best thief we can. Bernie stole a lot more money than DJ.
Now, that brings us to the $64 question. Would I throw away my vote by writing in "Bernie" for president? No, if not Madoff, and not Trump, then that leaves Clinton.
On the other hand, I think it is very clear that DJT, has stolen money. It is in a thief's nature to assume that everyone steals. In law school, HC learned about the full range of crimes in the world, but I do not get the sense that she is inherently criminal. Is she 'secretive" ? Yes, every good attorney that I know puts a high priority on attorney- client confidentiality, and that tends tends to rub off on their personal life, so yes, most high profile attorneys are very secretive. Over all, HC's accumulation of wealth was by more innocent means than DJT's. This puts HC in a different class - one where she was able to "make good" without stealing or extortion. I would rather have someone like that, than even the best thief.
Now, she might be a 3d term to Obama or a 3d term to Bill's administration - the 2 best economic records since Eisenhower. Would her speeches be as much fun as Trump's? Hell, no!, but she would get her facts correct. Would she promise as much as Trump? Hell, no!, but she might actually deliver a good chunk of what she does promise. She is smart enough to let someone that remembers their economics do the research on the cost of various sources of energy. She knows how to delegate and manage a large organization. Trump does deals, he does not manage large organizations.
We need to remember that Trump has a long history of not keeping his promises, e.g., not paying vendors, dumping projects into bankruptcy, and firing workers on short notice. All of these hurt the kind of people and families that he promised to protect in his acceptance speech. He lied! He got his facts wrong, and he lied. The man is no better than the most ruthless used car salesman in the US, and some people want to let him be POTUS?

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

We need to talk about the bad science being funded

Bad science

 on the issue, published in Nature this May, found that about 90% of some 1,576 researchers surveyed now believe there is a reproducibility crisis in science.
While this rightly tarnishes the public belief in science, it also has serious consequences for governments and philanthropic agencies that fund research, as well as the pharmaceutical and biotechnology sectors. It means they could be wasting billions of dollars on research each year.
One contributing factor is easily identified. It is the high rate of so-called false discoveries in the literature. They are false-positive findings and lead to the erroneous perception that a definitive scientific discovery has been made.
This high rate occurs because the studies that are published often have low statistical power to identify a genuine discovery when it is there, and the effects being sought are often small.

Read more at:

I know a guy, who teaches statistics to users of  one of the high-end statistics programs.  He says, the program is excellent, but that he does not trust any of the results produced by his students (mostly scientists and statisticians working for large research organizations.)   My friend would add poor sampling protocols to the issues identified by Simon Gandevia.  However, my friends job is to teach the mechanics of using the program, rather than the theory of statistics and sampling.

My view is that any significant result can be identified with rather simple statistics - if sampling was unbiased and adequate samples were collected.

If different appropriate statistical protocols can yield different results, then sampling was inadequate or there is no effect.   If there is a real effect then all the appropriate statistical protocols when used correctly will yield the same answer.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Let's be honest

The great advantages of wool are its warmth when wet, and its resistance to fire.  The warmth when wet made/makes wool ideal for wet climates.

In cold continental climates or polar climates, where the winter temperatures are far below freezing, everything is very, very dry.  At those temperatures, a campfire is little help in staying warm, and there may be little fuel for a fire. In the morning you have the choice of breaking through (feet?) of  ice or melting snow for your morning tea. Water in the desert is easier to come by, you do not have to melt the water bottle to brush your teeth.  Thus, in cold continental climates or polar climates, the virtues of wool are less important.

In those conditions, if you must knit yourself a suit of clothing to stay warm at -10C to -40C, one starts out by knitting a set of drawers (see Weldon 46th series), and a long sleeved undervest (see Welden 12th series).  Knit from worsted spun  5-ply (1,000 ypp, NOT the 1,120 ypp of Wendy's or 1,089 ypp of  Frangipani) at a gauge of  8 spi by 12 rpi, that is ~ 400 hours of knitting.  Then, you will need socks, gloves, hat ( balaclava helmet, or hat and scarf) at the same gauge from the 5-ply.  That is another 110 hours of knitting.   If it must be handspun, that is another 80 hours of spinning.

Over that you need tightly woven wool shirt and tightly woven wool pants. The LL Bean Guide shirt and pants work.  If you need hand spun/hand woven, that is another 80 hours of spinning and 40 hours of weaving plus 40 hours of fabric finishing and tailoring.

Then, one needs over-socks, mittens, over-hat, and an Aran sweater, all  knit from worsted spun 10-ply  500 ypp wool knit on 3.1 mm needles at 5 spi by 8 rpi. This is a softer, but thicker yarn than the 6-stand cable that was previously discussed with patknitter, and it has better fill and knits to a denser fabric. This is another 250 hours of knitting.  Such yarn is not commercially available these days, so there is another 80 hours of spinning.

Thus, labor for a hand made outfit for cold continental  or Arctic climates is about  6 months work (~1,000 hr).  Once made, it can be replaced/ repaired/refurbished as worn by knitting an hour or 2 per day.  I would need a couple hundred hours of knitting to refurbish my all hand knit kit for full on Arctic winter usage. I have the handspun singles on hand, so all I need to do is ply and knit.  I could have all the yarn ready to travel in a few hours, and  it will be 4 months before the Arctic gets really cold, on a sustained basis. There is time.

Dealing with Antarctic cold is whole other program.  Nevertheless, very finely knit objects knit by Burberry (contractors using knitting sheaths) were a part of the outfits used by Shackleton's crew during their year on the Antarctic ice, during which no men were lost. 

Most modern knitters cannot knit 3 major objects plus associated socks, gloves and hat from 1,000 ypp 5-ply at 8spi in 6-months without ruining their wrists. And, that does not even count the Aran weight outer sweater, socks, mittens and hat, which requires even more knitting effort, and more stress on the wrists -- unless you are using a knitting sheath.

On the other hand, you can buy an outfit at LL Bean that will keep you warm in those conditions for $600. That means the functional value of your knitting is $0.60/ hour (less if you pay for yarn), and anything over that is just for pretty, or because the knitter is a good salesperson.  Less attractive, but just as warm outfits can be had from other outlets for less than $250.

The best are Carhartt, add hat, gloves, socks, googles, and you will be far warmer and more comfortable than with anything that can be knit on circular needles.

Fancy outfits from Spyder and others are more than $2,000, good for guys with too much ego.

No list of cold weather clothing would be complete without Patagonia.

At their best, nothing from Carhartt, L.L.  Bean, or Patagonia can match the warmth for weight and ease of movement of  wool, finely knit to fit.  On the other hand, in performance per dollar,  hand knit objects fail miserably.

The value of hand knit sweaters on a cold movie set lies in their fashion value, not their warmth.

Sunday, July 17, 2016


Men who like playing outside, start out as boys who like playing outside.
I was born in Cheyenne Wyo.  My Dad was an excellent skier, and leader of a Boy Scout  Explorer post that specialized in first aid and skiing.

Dad was Senior National Ski Patrol.  We skied every weekend, all day, regardless of the weather.  Dad had a beautiful, erect wedeln, and I often skied with him as he patrolled, in all weather.

Dad and Gerry Cunningham (Gerry Mountain Sport) had worked together during the Blizzard of  '48, and were good friends.  We tested prototypes of Gerry's gear, and used his cabin in Left hand Canyon as a base for back country skiing.  I still love, respect and understand the limits of that storm cloth that Gerry used in those days.

In Boulder, Mrs. Holubar ( Holubar Mountain Sport) had her down stuffing facility under Dad's office. I would help  Mrs. Holubar stuff sleeping bags, and in return, on Wednesdays, she took me up into foothills above Boulder, and gave me rock and ice climbing lessons. I still love, respect and understand the limits of down gear.

We had a Austrian Exchange teacher living with us, and she like to climb.  By the time I was 12,  I had "done" most of the major peaks and routes in Colorado.  Like all kids, when it snowed, I make igloos/ snow caves and camped in them. Then, I used a wool sleeping bag.

At the University in Albany, NY,  I was involved in forestry research that involved field studies in Quebec, the Adirondacks, the Berkshires, and the Catskills, that had to be carried out on schedule, regardless of the weather.   e.g., canoeing in foul weather, and snow camping. Because we were known to be able to get in and out in any weather, we were invited by various agencies to participate in rescue work.

In the late '70s, my parents were living up on the Saranac River.  I could come up from NYC, step out the back door and ski for 90 miles without crossing a plowed road.  There was always good snow, so I did not even bother to carry a tent.

Circa 1980, I was in California, and able to play in the Sierrias and on the Bay.  There were times when I was warm and comfortable, when others were cold, blue and "pinched" because I understood the limitations of down.  Sometimes synthetic is much better than - down. In those days, we still did not understand the wool could be knit tight for warmth.

Circa 1991, we trekked across Nepal.  I saw the local hand knit goods being sold to climbers. I still have some of  it.  It is durable, but not warm.  I never actually saw any of the Sherpas wear socks, or any knit gear for that matter.   In those days, you could sometimes find me at Muir Camp in flip-flops. And yet Dev Shukla, who grew up in the Himal, told me that his mother used a knitting sheath to knit very warm clothing for her children.  We did not see the use of a knitting sheath or knitting belt in India/Nepal.

Circa 2000, I asked the question, " How did the old seamen in the time of square rigged ships stay warm?


  • Down is good for dry cold such as Siberia, but not for wet cold.
  • They did not have synthetics.
  • They had wool and knitting, but modern hand knitting is not warm enough!
  • The old timers used knitting sheaths and finely spun wool to knit very light, but very warm fabrics.  Such fabrics were durable, light  and appropriate for the cold, wet conditions at sea in a wooden ship.

  • Down is much better for the dry polar and continental cold. Down is light and good for mountaineering. Sweaters were used by Hudson Bay Traders, but they swapped them for furs as soon as they could get a squaw.
  • Snow caves are warm (0C)  and damp, thus suited to wool or synthetic.  Down in a snow cave is a disaster. 
  • Wool sweaters are not appropriate for dry polar, or dry continental, or high altitude cold (below -20 F.) .  Note, we are starting to see thunderstorms/rain in the Arctic, so parts of the Arctic are becoming damper and less suitable for down and more suitable for synthetic/wool sweaters.
  • Chinese quilted fabrics were well suited for junk rigged ships, where the sails could be managed from deck.
Bottom line:

If you are knitting sweaters for -40 cold, it will be the other things you wear, and not the sweater that keeps you warm.   It only takes being a few degrees too cold to kill you.  When you get cold, you get confused and lose coordination. In cold weather, that is death.

In real polar and continental cold, one needs a lot of fluids - the air is as dry as a desert.  If you tell me that you are in such conditions, and nobody is supplying (hot) fluids, then you are a liar.  If someone is supplying hot fluids, then there is a wind break and a place to get warm.  

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Alternative design for ST and IT

I did learn to spin at the spin count using Ashford's ST setup, so I know that can be used to spin at the spin count.  However, shortly thereafter I went on to DRS.  Yes, there might have been some minor experiments with better ST brakes, but I did not pursue them.  I was too busy spinning.

The other day, I was spinning on The Competitor, and just flipped the drive bands over onto the bobbin, and it worked very well.  At that grist, (~20, 000 ypp) it worked much better than the Ashford system.  I played with that for a day or two,  spinning various fine wools in the stash at their spin count.  It was kinda nostalgic.

OK, what about ST, could I rig the The Competitor with a better ST (single drive/ flyer lead) system than that clumsy Ashford system?  I had already heard of the European Longest Thread competitors using a weighted system.

  Fishing line around the mother of all with a slider T. From the T, a piece of  leader goes over the bobbin, to a hook holding weights (nuts).  It is simpler than the Ashford system and  works very well for the grists that I have tried over the last few days (e.g., 10,000- 40,000 ypp).

OK, it also works very well for an advanced IT system.

Note the weights (nuts) handy on the magnets set into the MOA.

Kit to convert DRS to either IT or ST

The IT and ST systems are nice for spinning samples where the twist model does not seem to work as in superwash wools.


DRS remains the production mode, because it is 3 or 4 times faster.

ETS, this works well for both IT and ST because the whorls that I made for DRS are the same shape.  Often flyer whorls and bobbin whorls have different profiles.

Friday, July 15, 2016


I like to retest and re-compare the various technologies every so often to see if I still come to the same conclusions.

This morning, I set up  The Competitor flyer/bobbin assembly with the accelerator wheel and Scotch Tension (single drive/ flyer lead).

I originally went to DRS because in trials, DRS (double drive) delivered a lot more rpm from the flyer/bobbin assembly, and I wanted more speed for spinning the singles for 5-ply.  While it was chosen for speed, DRS opened up another set of  drafting techniques that I did not expect.

With the accelerator wheel,  I can easily run The Competitor (flyer) as fast as with a single drive  (either IT or ST) as I can drive the flyer/bobbin assembly with DRS.

Nevertheless, DRS produces singles faster. The difference is wicked.

DRS changes the nature of the drafting process.  With DRS, I can draft much faster than I can with either IT or ST.  DRS can take full advantage of the speed possible with an accelerator wheel.

Accelerator wheels can deliver a lot more rpm than can be taken advantage of with conventional drafting such as "long draw" (with fine singles),  and accelerator wheels are a bother.  Therefore, I deduce that spinning wheels with accelerator wheels used DRS.

As we look in the Big Blue Book, pages 183 - 190, AA / SG provide drawings of 11 wheels, 3 of which have accelerator wheels.  Despite, the modern accelerator wheels with ST, I trust that the 3 wheels in TBBB, belonged to trained professional spinners that knew how to do spinning math and use DRS.  I mean Aristotle, knew and used the math.  Anyone who had access to any copy of books by Aristotle  or his students, had access to the math; and, spinning was a very competitive  industry.

ETA I have been mostly spinning worsted and semi-worsted, and had not tested the just the accelerator wheel with single drive against DRS for true woolen spun from rolags, via long draw. Perhaps this was a case where single drive could keep up with DRS.  Well, as of this morning,  I cannot spin 40,000 ypp woolen long draw, and I can spin it with DRS so I will do the numbers for which is faster when I get a rate for somebody actually spinning 40,000 ypp via long draw.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

How Producers Keep Actors Warm

First there the starwaggon - if for no other reason than to protect camera and lighting equipment.

Where there is lighting, there is a generator, and generators are always warm  : )    Where there is a catering truck, there is a circle of warmth.

under costume:

Actor's sweaters are need not be any more functional than a "ski sweater" worn on the lodge's sun balcony.

Over Costume:

The sweaters that the actors wear may or may not be important to the actor's warmth!

Durability: With a couple of exceptions, all movie shoot schedules have been shorter than the typical 3 year cruize of  of a whaling vessel - and actors do not have to reef sails, which tends to wear a seaman's sweater. I find that falls and slides on ice and rock when skiing and climbing tend to be good tests of durability.  On set, most falls/slides are done by stunt men, thereby saving the star's costume/ sweater.

I do not see knitting for actors as setting a high bar for sweater's functionality, warmth, or durability.  A better test is to pass them out to farm workers pruning apple trees in the winter.  Real knowledge comes from actually wearing your objects as you perform jobs like pruning apple trees in a storm.  Or wearing one of your sweaters as your upper body garment when sailing in a cold gale.  If everyone wearing Patagonia sailing gear is looking cold, with blue lips, and fumbling from hypothermia, when you are happy and warm, then it is likely a good sweater.  Another good test of a sweater is a long night of steel head fishing on the Columbia, when it is cold enough that the lines freeze instantly in the reels.  Again, if everyone else is pinched with cold and you are still warm, happy, and relaxed, (without a base layer) then it is a good sweater.

The truth is that today, folks do not need really warm sweaters. People are never more than a few miles from a vehicle with a heater.  Warmth from Patagonia ( or similar ) clothing is much cheaper.  

An update on Irish tension

On pages 214-215 of Alden Amos's Big Book of Hand spinning, Alden discusses single drive - bobbin lead flyer/bobbin assemblies, noting on page 215 that a small flier (e.g. AA's # 0 competition flyer.) will allow spinning carded Targee at ~19,000 ypp.

In fact, with the addition of ball bearings to such a flyer, it can spin such 58 count wool at its spin count of  ~32,000 ypp  (65 m/g.). I did so yesterday.   This morning my # 0 flyer running single drive, bobbin lead was spinning 80 count Rambouillet at ~ 45,000 ypp (90 m/gram).  Spinning "fines" at their spin count can be done with Irish Tension.  How fine will Irish Tension spin?  I have no idea.  It tends to be a fine meditative process.

I was spinning worsted using the accelerator, so I had more speed than I could use. There were 2 limiting factors. The first was that I had to draft  "inch worm" style. It was the drafting that slowed me down. The fastest bobbin speed that I could keep up with was ~1,000 rpm.  The second factor is that with single drive - bobbin lead, take up tension increases as the cube of the rpm, so fine singles tend to break at higher speeds.

 Differential Rotation speed allows  different, and much faster, drafting styles for both woolen and worsted spinning.  And DRS isolates tension on the single from the speed of the  flyer/bobbin assembly.  With DRS, the single being spun can be kept at low tension, even when spinning at very high speed.

DRS also allows controlling the spinning process by changing the flyer whorl, rather than changing the whole flyer/bobbin assembly.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The Faustian Bargins

A while back I bought a couple of lots of fine long wool, both from reputable high end dealers.

Both are "fiber porn"; beautiful, soft, lustrous, top -- that did not spin worth a dam. They were too expensive to discard, and I was not going to inflict them on another spinner.  With recent improvements in my spinning gear,  I thought I would give them another chance.

Previously, I had tried to spin them at ~20,000 ypp (20 tpi) and ~30,000 ypp (25 tpi), and had problems.   Lo and behold, with Irish Tension (single drive, bobbin lead), they are perfectly spinable at those grists, because with IT, one does not monitor inserted twist.  Now, I know they can be spun at 20k ypp and 30k ypp, but they want more twist, a lot more twist.   All that was needed to spin those fibers with DRS was to use a flyer whorl that delivered more twist. On the other hand it reminded me that not only does Differential Rotation Speed (DRS) drive higher rpms, but it also allows much faster drafting.  Over all, DRS is perhaps 5 times faster than IT or ST or DD (outside of  the DRS range for the single being spun).

So, DRS is a technology that works, but the social group of spinners do not like it, any more than the social group of knitters  like knitting sheaths and knitting belts. Using one of these technologies sets one aside from the respective group.  What will one give up for technology?  Goethe was referring to new technology, and I sacrifice belonging to the community because I use forgotten technologies.

Over all, looking at my yarns, the DRS technology allows me to produce a better product with less effort than IT or ST.  Using a knitting sheath allows me to make better and faster rewards for my time knitting. Better products at a lower cost lead to a rise in the standard of living.  That is what the Luddites were fighting against - a rise in their standard of living, they wanted the old way --  more work to make less, and lower quality product - which inevitably kept wages low.

My reward for my time spinning is the yarn. The community wants me to accept less, and lower quality yarn.  The community wants me to accept lower wagers, because they accept a romantic myth about the English hand spinning.

I accept that in doing this, the spinning and knitting communities lower their own wages/ rewards for their time spinning and knitting.  As  groups, they suffer  much more than I do.  My grandmother called it, "Cutting off your nose to spite your face!"

Mechanics of DRS grist control

Let's say I want to spin  5,600 ypp worsted singles.  Such singles are competent with twist between ~5.3 tpi and 13.34 tpi, and I want to average ~9 tpi.

I put on my "10s" flyer whorl, and start spinning.  The first 1/8 of an inch of yarn on the bobbin will have a twist of  ~ 10 tpi.  The next quarter inch of yarn on the bobbin will have twist of ~ 9 tpi, and then the next 1/8 inch of single on the bobbin will have twist of ~ 8 tpi.  Now there is half an inch (300 yards) of single on the bobbin with a average twist of ~ 9 tpi. At that point, I flip the drive band over to the "20s" grove on the flyer whorl, and with the larger effective bobbin diameter, I am back to spinning at about, 11 tpi which tapers down to ~ 9 tpi as the bobbin fills.

Some drafting skill is required. If  I want consistent grist, then twist per inch (and firmness of the single) varies.  If I want consistent texture, then the grist varies a bit.  In either case  control is better than can be achieved with Scotch Tension or most modern DD  flyer/ bobbin assemblies. And, in either case the process can be ridiculously fast, so the fingers can stay busy.

If I want 20,000 ypp or thinner singles, I put the appropriate flyer whorl on, and start spinning.  In this case, I can spin a whole 560 yd/ 10 gram  hank, before the twist changes significantly.   Such hanks wound off on to 10-gram capacity,  plying bobbins will yield a 500 yard hank of  6-ply hoisery yarn with a grist of just over 3,000 ypp (7 m/g).   At 3,000 rpm one can spin such singles at 200 yards per hour, so a hank of such hoisery yarn is a couple days work, with bright eyed, nimble fingered younglings going much faster.  The Competitor is on the wheel right now, and with a fresh drive band is perfectly happy running at 400 yards per hour, so a hank of

Even 1,200 yards of  fine singles is only ~12 grams and does not change the effective bobbin diameter enough to significantly change the twist.  Thus, if one is spinning "fines"  (Merino or Rambouillet spun at its spin count, e.g., 40,000 ypp/ 30 tpi) , one can spin fast all morning without winding off.

Remember, With DRS, If you stop single from entering the orifice as is done with ST or modern DD wheels to accumulate twist, break off will be instantaneous.  You can draft faster than take-up, so that there is slack between the drafting triangle and the orifice, without a problem.  For example, this occurs when a thick region occurs in the proto-single and it has to be thinned out.  In this case the single MUST continue to feed into the orifice, or  it will break off.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Knitter's skills

How can I call myself a good knitter if I have not worked with a wide variety of  different yarns??

By wide variety of yarns I mean everything from Peace roving and Lopi to fine hoisery yarns suited for knitting blue stockings for a duchess or a gansey for a submariner. That calls for a trip to the local yarn shop.  

We know that 6-ply, 1680 ypp, spun from long wool makes a nice lustrous sock for everyday wear.  Do we see any in our LYS?   So, if we are going to be the kind of knitter than can knit "blue stockings" for suited for a duchess (and perhaps her queen), we are going to have to spin the yarn ourselves (or find a spinner that can spin such yarns.)  

One thing that I have learned from patknitter is that even modern knitters that consider themselves excellent and sophisticated knitters have no idea how different the fabrics from plied yarns and cabled yarns can be.  Cabled yarns have become rare in LYS and are rarely hand knit these days. 

An easy path to cabled 1,680 ypp yarns is to buy commercial 2-ply warp yarns, and cable them up. It is a very nice yarn, but it is not the classic yarn for "blue stockings".  No, for real blue stocking we need long wool, worsted-spun at high twist singles with a grist of 12,000 to 15,000 ypp (~28 m/g). Then, such singles are used to construct 6-ply yarn. Such fine, high twist, long wool singles are not routinely in your LYS. Even in commercial channels, fine singles from long wool have become rare.  Today, wool singles of such grist tend to be spun from fine (short) wool.

How many spinners do you know that can produce such singles, and ply them? (There is a certain knack to producing 6-ply from such singles.  Not even the Big Blue Book will get you there.) In the past,  it was common for wools like Shetland and Suffolk to be spun at their spin count (more than 30,000 ypp) so spinning them at 15,000 ypp was easy spinning. Not so much anymore, but a good knitter should know how yarns constructed of such singles behave. Thus, in learning by doing, we need to at least knit swatches of fabrics from such yarns.

Where do we get the yarn?  LYS?  Not likely, in the same way that you are not likely to find $100,000 jewels at your local Zales Jewelry store.  That does not mean that such jewels do not exist, just that such jewels are somewhere else.  Likewise, some yarns are not in your LYS, even as extended by mail order.  

In fact, the knitter with focus, may have to make some of their own yarns.

Some of these yarns may not be easily produced with commercially available hand spinning equipment.  Many spinners do produce singles at those grists in small quantities from fine fibers, but ask them to spin such yarns from long wool, and they will think you are crazy. A few spinners can produce such singles from long wool but ask them for enough yarn to knit a pair of fine hose, they will think you are crazy.  Truth is, it may be faster to spin it yourself -- even with the time required to learn the spinning skills and make the tools.   If you want the yarn, you have to make the tools to make the yarn.   Thus, making spinning tools becomes the path of the focused knitter.  In this context, good wood turning skills become part of the necessary skill set of the focused knitter.  These days, spinning your own yarn seems to be the only way to be able to knit a full spectrum of yarns.  And, unless one has knit a full spectrum of yarns, one cannot consider oneself an expert knitter.

This is silly. Wheel makers should be making such wheels, but they are not. Folks like AA did try selling such wheels at one time, but modern spinners did not know how to use them and returned them.  The old CPWs, earned their reputation as DRS wheels that could produce fine worsted singles, but they have all (or at least the ones I have seen) been fixed ( a change of millimeters)  so they will easily produce fat singles, which limits their capacity to produce thin singles.

I have a fast wheel, so if I want 6-ply, worsted spun, long wool yarn at 1,680 ypp, I can sit down and spin it. Even with a fast wheel it is slow work. The 800 yards of finished yarn for a pair of hose, takes me  about 20 hours.  Spinning this yarn for a sweater takes the better part of 2 weeks, which is nothing compared to the 10 or 12 weeks that it takes to knit a good sweater from this grist of yarn.

Certainly, a good knitter should have worked with the commercially available 6- strand cabled 840 ypp yarn and know how the produced fabrics differ from the fabrics produced by knitting 5-ply, 1,200 ypp gansey yarn. This is as basic as diagramming sentences is to an English major. The astute knitter, will have acquired and  knit real 10-ply Aran yarn, in the same way that the astute English major will have read Chaucer.  The old school  knitter, will have knit Paton's 4-ply Beehive (or comparable) and drawn conclusions in the same way that the old school English major will have explored Shakespeare from comedy to tragedy to sonet. 

Still, some knitters that brag that they are accomplished because they have knit 3 different brands of 5-ply yarn, all sport weight, and all of the same construction. That is like saying that you know wines, because you have tasted all the brands of white wines at the local 7-11.  There is a universe of wine, and there is a universe of yarn - and in many ways, the two universes are about the same size.  

Grapes vary by variety, region and year.  Wools vary by breed, region and year. Wine makers and spinners are both important to the final product, and they learn, mature, and retire.  Some vintners focus on quality, and others focus on uniformity.  Likewise for wool mills.  Many of us buy our wine on the mass market and we miss many of the fine and reasonably priced local wines that are not produced in quantities large enough to be of interest to national distributors.  Likewise, many specialty yarns are not going to make it into national distribution.  

How do I get the yarn that I want for my next sweater? I think about the likely uses of the sweater, until I have a definite fabric in mind. Can I get a yarn to make that fabric from one of the commercial mills?  This is different from the old days when a knitter might have half a dozen hand spinners within 10 minutes walk, any of which would be willing to spin a few hanks of a special/custom yarn.  The easy availability and diversity of fine yarns facilitated the age of great knitting.   Yes, our commercial yarns are more consistent, have more and brighter colors, and they have better packaging, but are they better yarns?  I am likely to end up spinning the yarn that I want.

The core skill of a knitter is to be able to knit the needed fabric, and in a great part, that is a matter of finding the right yarn and the right tools.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Learning by doing

Bobbins from green wood

Spinners, knitters, and weavers, all use bobbins. When I first met AA, we talked about bobbin materials, and he laughed at my idea of making redwood bobbins, so I went back to making them from fruit woods and maple.  Royal Fibers sold me some black walnut (both green and well seasoned), so there was a long series of bobbins from black walnut.

Then, I got a source of  FREE, green redwood.  I made some redwood bobbins of various sizes and shapes  just for fun.

When I got my loom, I needed small bobbins that would fit on the AVL bobbin rack, so I went back to my source and got some more of their green 2" by 2" scrap, and started turning bobbins from green redwood.

There are about 72 of  them on the bobbin rack right now, and another 80, in various yarn bins, and another 20 or 30 in process in the shop.  I have made enough of them, that by trial and error, I found the skew chisel angle that works well with the soft redwood.  I do all the turning by eye. It is good practice.  I am down to about a 10% failure rate.  Mostly, the problem is turning the barrel too thin, so the barrel breaks during turning.   I know 2 or 3 ways to get it perfect every time,  (the barrels of my spinning bobbins are very precise.), but doing it by eye is very good practice and very fast.  If I go too deep, what do I have invested? - 3 or 4 minutes of my time!

Yes, I have a couple of hundred redwood storage bobbins that tell us that it is  perfectly possible to turn bobbins from green wood.  If I do them in batches of a dozen, when there are other things to do in the shop, each bobbin takes much less than 5 minutes.  (Working with green wood requires good clean up afterward !)  When I need more redwood, I call a local fencing contractor with their own mill.  Then, when they have a large job near me, I stop by in the afternoon and fill a tote or 2 from their on-site scrap pile.  The crew likes me, as it saves them the trouble of hauling it away.

Each little redwood bobbin holds about 100 yd (8 grams) of weft singles for the loom.  They also fit my Lazy Kate. Thus, 500 yards of 5-ply sport weight plied up from singles held on such bobbins requires the singles from 28 such bobbins.  The 5-ply "gansey" yarn for a sweater requires the singles from more than a hundred such bobbins. Therefore, I have moved to plying 5-ply, sport weight from cakes of singles that sit on the floor under my Lazy Kate; which then acts only as a tension box.

Finer, higher twist singles are less well behaved, and work better being plied from bobbins.
Thus, 6-ply, 1680 ypp, sock yarn is plied from 6 of  these bobbins to make the yarn (200 yd/ 48 gm)  for one sock.   These bobbins will hold a full hank (560 yards) of  Shetland or Suffolk spun at their spin count (~30,000 ypp, ~60 meters/ gram). Thus, these bobbins support plying hanks (500 yds) of  10-ply or 12-ply hoisery yarns ( e.g., 2,700 ypp ) from continuous singles.   And, these little redwood  bobbins will hold ~1,000 yards of  good Rambouillet spun at its spin count.

In my world, lots of little bobbins are a good thing.  These days, my Lazy Kate is configured to ply yarns up to 15-ply, and it is easily reconfigured to make yarns with more plies. 
Lazy Kate configured for sport weight 5-ply
back in the days of big maple bobbins.
Wound carefully, they will hold a full
hank of  10s.
Moving from bobbins to cakes was an incremental process.

The subject rough bobbins are suited for worsted spun singles at grists of less than 35,000 ypp.  For soft woolen spun or "fines" I give the bobbins 2 coats of Danish oil, and polish all yarn contact surfaces.  Bobbins of fines on the Lazy Kate also may need steel washers under them as bearings and oil on their axles. 

Quick and easy bobbin for fines, 
turned from green redwood.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Limits to DRS

I have been spinning about 7 years, and I converted my wheel to differential rotation speed (DRS) about 6 years ago.

As a DRS wheel, my traddy is likely nearing its maximum potential.

# 0 flyer (The Competition)

With its accelerator, it will insert twist at speeds approaching 5,000 rpm.  I do not think there is much room for improvement.  Ball bearings on the drive wheel and accelerator would reduce effort, but are not likely to allow much faster spinning.  While others are modifying e-spinners to DRS, I doubt if they will actually produce yarn any faster.

The other flyer/bobbin assembly is:

#1 flyer
(The Airplane)

With a range of flyer whorls for this flyer/bobbin assembly, I can spin yarns at desired twists between  about 9 tpi and 30 tpi.   For example 9 tpi yields a firm worsted single of  ~ 5,600 ypp and a medium woolen yarn of ~ 4,800 ypp - about the lowest grist yarn that I produce.  And, 26 tpi yields a worsted single at about the spin count ( ~75 meters/ gram) of the Rambouillet  that I get from Anne Harvey.   (The higher twist flyer/bobbin assemblies were set aside when I installed the accelerator.)  Compared to most modern spinners, I like thinner singles, and the yarns constructed from thinner singles, so this system produces the range of singles that I like.  The Competition runs noticeably faster, and is prefered for high twist singles.

On the other runway, The Airplane will produce a hank (560 yd) of 5,600 ypp singles in an hour. While it is actually slower than the #0 flyer, the Airplane is large enough to produce a full continuous hank of 5,600 ypp single, or 1,200 continuous yards of 11,200 ypp singles.  This allows plying 500 yards of 5-ply gansey yarn from continuous singles; and  allows plying  1,000 yard long skeins of  6-ply, 1680 ypp sock or "gansey" yarn from continuous singles.  

The Competition could produce continuous 1,200 yarn lengths of fine singles ( 30,000 ypp and finer, if I  just made another whorl for it. It is not a priory at this time.  

I do not need singles longer than 1120 yards, so I am not going to make the effort to get a larger DRS flyer

 Plying is done on a ST Ashford Jumbo flyer running at ~ 1,600 rpm.  It allows me to easily produce  500 yards of 5-ply sport weight or 250 yard skeins of 10-ply Aran yarn from continuous singles.  That is as close to "ART" yarn as I want to be.

There is a universe of different yarns out there. It is just a matter of  dreaming them, and sitting down in the morning's light to conjure them out of the chaos of a bin of fiber.  Commercial producers are constrained by the cost of twist, and perceived price points in the market.  As dreamers, we can consider durability, warmth,  luster, care, flammability, softness, color, grist, drape, hand, and other issues as we plan the yarns for our fabrics for our objects.  With an accelerator/DRS wheel,  the effort to spin fine singles becomes much less of a consideration.

 For a class of objects such as seaman's sweaters, there are still a galaxy of suitable yarns.  There is nothing sacred about worsted 5-ply.   If it is a voyage to the poles, 6-ply (840 ypp) or even 10-ply (500 ypp) may be better. If you are crossing the equator, then 3-ply (1,680 ypp)  may be better.  If the boat is leaving this week, then MacAusland's Heavy 3-ply is the faster knit. If I had to have such a fast knitting yarn tonight, I would spin it up on the Ashland Jumbo flyer without resorting to DRS.)

Why?  Because with a thick yarn and small bobbins, the change in the effective bobbin circumference and hence the rate of takeup increases so that the inserted twist is reduced below what is required for a yarn competence.  Likewise, plying changes the effective diameter changes rapidly.  Commercial  DRS systems use large bobbins, and  mechanical systems to continuously detect the effective diameter of the bobbin and change the rate of wind-on, so that twist insertion remains constant.  DRS for the hand spinner is much easier with fine singles and big bobbins.

If you really like thick singles, then DRS is not for you.  If you spin fat singles because thin singles seem like too much work, then you should know that DRS may be a path to fine and/ or very fine  singles.

And truly, there are good olives and bad olives.
This olive wood bobbin is perfect for fine singles 
on The Competition. 


Nobody likes Veggy Matter in finished textiles.

Yarn and fiber mills put a lot of effort into getting VM out of their fiber.  I feel that often these processes reduce the resilience, durability, and  "life" of  the fiber.  I do not have any way of measuring this but it is my experience that fiber I prep, looks better, longer than mill prepped fiber.

I find that fiber I prep is also easier to spin.  Sometimes mill prepped fiber that is hard to spin, can be improved by washing it, and carding it.  It takes nerves of steel and fierce determination to plop beautiful top from the mill into a wash basin of soapy water, but sometimes that is the only path to spinning it with reasonable effort.

OK, so how does one get VM out of a fleece?  Combing will get most of it, but not all of it! Fleece can be combed, and then carded for woolen spinning.

And, repeated, careful drum carding (of scoured fiber), with picking out VM as you see it will get most, but not all of the VM out of fleece.  I did a  lot of this, in the days when I did not spin so fine. Today, I know that VM will fall out as I spin. It is easy to spin and vacuum up all the VM on the floor every couple of hours.  It is even easier to spin on the patio, and use a leaf blower at the end of the day.

My preferred program is to scour the fleece and get the oils out of it; comb it for worsted or drum card it for woolen, and spin it finely.  Most VM will drop from yarns spun to grist of  about 5,600 ypp (~12 m/gram). And, essentially all of the VM drops out when singles are spun at grists close to their spin count.

Yes, I comb my fiber for worsted singles, and that takes most of the VM out.  However, I do not bother with the flea combs that Northernlace advocated in her book on spinning fine. I use inexpensive 5-pitch English combs that I got through the Woolery.   They work just fine.  They will produce fiber suited for spinning worsted at it's spin count. The resulting fine singles are VM free. Singles spun at more than 11,000 ypp are almost VM free.  By the time one is spinning at 20,000 ypp, one has to look through bobbins and bobbins of  singles to find one bit of VM - and that can be flicked out during plying.  And sure enough, the traditional hoisery singles grist is just about where VM becomes very rare.  And this is also about the point where the (long wool) singles have enough twist to become very smooth and glossy.  And it is about the point where the singles have enough twist to become very durable.  Suffolk singles spun at ~11,000 ypp , and made up into a 6-ply sock yarn is smooth, durable, and almost VM free.  As my wheel is set up today, 6-ply yarn for pair of socks is a long day's spinning.  A bright-eyed, nimble fingered young one should be able to do it much faster.  Strange, the only folks I know of with such wheels are trained chemists.

For woolen singles,  I wash the wool, and card it on a Clemes and Clemes drum carder.  Most of the VM drops out. Then, I roll rolags off the carder and spin finely. Most of the remaining VM will drop out when spun to 12 m/gram. At a grist of 25 m/gram, the singles will be almost VM free.  Spun at its spin count, the singles and plied yarn will be essentially VM free. Spin count for  Romney is about 45 m/gram, spin count for Suffolk or Shetland or Meridian Jacob is ~ 60 m/ gram, and spin count for ordinary Merino or Rambouillet is ~ 80 meters/gram.

I like semi-worsted singles.  They have many of the advantages of both woolen and worsted yarns.  I card the fiber on my Clemes and Clemes drum carder, and diz off pencil roving, which gets wound onto my distaff, and spun finely. The prep is very fast and. And, I like spinning from a roving better than spinning from rolags.  At a grist of 25 m/gram, the singles will be almost VM free.  Spun at its spin count, the singles and plied yarn will be essentially VM free. Yes, with a DRS flyer/bobbin assembly, you can spin semi-worsted singles from drum carded fiber with a grist of  80 or 90 meters/gram. On a yardage basis, it is reasonable - 200 to 300 yards per hour.  On a mass basis, it is slow, 2 to  3.5 grams per hour.  On the other other hand, in a day, one can prepare 10 grams of  2-ply finished yarn that is longer than the best US entry into the last Longest Thread Contest.  Oh, you want to win the Longest Thread Contest?  Why? Wool yarns with less than about 20 staples in their cross section are not as good.  You want to be known for making yarn that is too thin?  If you want yarns that are thinner than ~ 100 m/g, spin Cashmere, Guanaco, cotton, linen, and other thinner fibers.)

VM removal via spinning fine is free.  The effort of spinning fine is paid for by the extra durability of the finely spun yarns. And, for cold weather gear, the effort of spinning fine is paid for by the extra warmth and light weight of spinning fine.  I find that spinning fine is a Win! Win! Win! proposition made possible by a DRS wheel that inserts twist, fast.

In retrospect, I wasted a lot of time trying to prepare VM free fiber to spin into fat singles. It would have been a much  better use of my time just learning to spin fine, sooner.


Twist holds yarn together.  More twist equals a more durable yarn.

Fine yarns can take more twist than thicker yarns, and thus, when plied or cabled up to the same grist are much more durable.  Thus, 1,000 ypp 5-ply is more durable than 1,000 ypp 2-ply.  Paton's 4-ply Beehive was more durable than the same grist of yarn constructed as a 2-ply.  Real 10-ply Aran yarn is much more durable than the same grist yarn spun as a 3-ply.

AA did not spin fine singles, and tended not to knit with yarns constructed with many plies.  Thus, the issue of twist and durability did not intrude into his universe.   He considered 5-ply yarn for seamen's sweaters as not worth the effort of hand spinning.  (And, he did not design wheels to produce fine singles.)

I model the durability of a yarn as proportional to the total twist in the yarn.  5-ply sport weight has plies of ~5,600 ypp ( 12 m/gram ) with twist of ~9 tpi (twist per inch) . So the plies contain at total of 45 tpi.  Finished yarn also has ~9 tpi of ply twist for a total twist in the finished yarn of about 54 tpi .  In contrast, sport weight constructed of two would be constructed of singles of about 2,200 ypp, which because low grist singles cannot tolerate high twist with out becoming stiff, would be spun more softly at ~ ~4.5 tpi, so the singles would contain 9 tpi, plus 4.5 tpi ply twist for a yarn total of  ~ 13 tpi.  Yes, I would consider an object knit from good 5-ply to be about 5 times more durable than the same object, subjected to the same use knit from 2-ply.   Thus, by knitting an a sweater of 5-py rather than 2-ply, I can save myself the time and effort of knitting 4 sweaters - that is a saving of about 400 hours of knitting over a period of ~10 years.

However, twist is expensive, and not many knitters are willing to pay extra for multi-ply, high twist yarns.  For example, sock knitters complain about their hand knit socks wearing out. They buy sock yarn from their LYS with a total of about 36 tpi in the yarn.  The sock yarn I make has ~ 100 tpi in the finished yarn. Yes, my yarn lasts longer.

If my wheel runs at something over 4,000 rpm, I am inserting twist enough twist to make about finished yarn at about a yard per minute.  (It is several processes, but it averages out.)  If it takes 500 yards of yarn for a pair of socks, then  all that spinning and plying is a good day's work.  e.g., 3, 000 yards of  11,000 ypp (25 m/gram) singles plus plying.  As 4-ply, those singles produce a yarn about the same grist as Paton's 4-ply Beehive used for gansey knitting in Gladys Thompson. At about 60 tpi for the final yarn, it tends to be even more durable than typical 5-ply sport weight.

With my DRS wheel, it is easy to spin such yarns.  With any of the commerical lace lace flyers, or high speed, hand spinning  rigs on the market that I have tried, I find it it very tedious.

The new generation of bobbins (some olive, some maple, some walnut) allows the production of true hoisery single (17 tpi, 22,000 ypp, 50 m/gr ) at only trivially more effort than the 11,000 ypp singles that I have been making. The 24 tpi of  60s ( 75 m/gr) seems like it would be a lot of work, but that new walnut bobbin will inset twist at 4,500 rpm, so I am still getting about 250 yards of single per hour.  

Drafting 250 yards per hour is not hard, so I am just sitting there, treadling along at 90 strokes per minute. Depending on the fiber prep, I do not even have to look too closely at what I am doing.  Then every couple of hours (a movie: ), I wind off a hank of single.

And high twist yarns are warmer (for the weight of wool).  If you want warm woolen fabrics, with very light weight, use multi ply yarns with very fine singles.  A yarn of a given grist spun as 2-ply will not be as warm as the same grist yarn spun as 6-ply.  And, the 6-ply will be much more durable.  For cool fabrics, worsted-spun, cabled yarns have very little "fill", and can be knit into very cool fabrics.

 For the effort that goes into knitting lace, you might as well use a durable yarn so that it can be a heirloom. The Shetland lace knitters in the Victorian era, knew what they were doing when they used 3-ply lace yarns.  They were making objects that would last.

Don't get me wrong here, I knit many objects from yarns spun with a few fat plies.  Some of those were or are excellent objects.  Many were  "weatherproof" when new.  Knit objects that I have had and worn for years are showing their age. Older objects knit from 2-py sport weight are no longer weatherproof, while the 5-ply of the same vintage are still perfectly functional.  Socks from 5-ply and 6-ply yarns have out lasted generations of socks knit from  2-ply and 3-ply yarns of the same grist.

There are many different kinds of  yarns out there and it is worth getting to know them.  As I always say, "Tools matter!" In the same way, "Yarn matters!"