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.


Ruth B said...

California. Extreme weather. HAhahahahaha!

Extremely hot? Yes. Death Valley can be extremely hot. Extremely cold? Nope. Not even close. I grew up in California in a ski resort. Compared to Wisconsin temperatures - two weeks of sub-zero temperatures, WITHOUT WIND CHILL, are NORMAL in this part of the country - California winter weather is balmy, even in the Bay Area. You aren't fooling anyone, Aaron.

willowgreen said...

REI was founded in Seattle, not Kent.

Aaron said...

Kent/Seattle=> same weather. Neither has -40 temps, but they sell gear for recreational hiking/camping/skiing in cold weather.

However, if you are maintaining infrastructure or drilling ice cores on a ice sheet somewhere, and working outside regardless of the weather, try gear from Grainger Industrial. There is a branch just 7 km from my house. There is also a branch in Seattle.

Movie sets shut down in bad weather. Infrastructure repair goes on regardless of the weather. Square rigged ships had to sail through the storms, and men had to be in the rigging in all weather.

Aaron said...

I say "bad weather" is any weather that kills people.

I have spent the winter living in places where a cup of tea left by the bed overnight would freeze. (In the Berkshires.) That was normal, not a problem. It is just a matter of always finishing the tea so it does not freeze and break the cup. I spent a winter living over the Coastwise Packet, on Martha's Vineyard in a room that had no heat what so ever. (Temp in my room was the same as the temp outside. When was the last time you washed up 32F temps?)

Tell me when you spent 2 weeks outside in continuously subzero temperatures. Tell us about washing you hair in those conditions : ) No heated cars, no warm bathrooms, cooking and eating outside, and sleeping outside. (I have. Chestnut forestry research in Adirondack park.) So subtract the time you spent in heated structures, warm cars, warm trains, and other warm places you were during those 2 weeks of below zero temps, and tell us when you spent 2 weeks in continuously below zero temps. I think that if you are in a warm car or warm structure, or even a good snow cave, then the temp outside does not matter much.

Unknown said...

I can't seem to leave my name so I will tell you anyway. I don't like to leave anonymous comments. Arthur Balfour of Woking Surrey.

I must ask have you ever spent time in England? It is hardly balmy. It's wet and cold and grey most of the time and for about 3 weeks we have something called summer when it can be warmish and damp. Always damp, its an island you know. And by England do you meant the United Kingdom or just England? You might like to read a fellow countryman of yours Bill Bryson. He has some pretty good information about the whole place. Even has facts and figures. You might like it.

A Fisherman Lies said...

Does the fact that the fabric biases quite strongly make it warmer?

Aaron said...

WMO notes that Cornwall is now "subtropical".

On the other hand, England has always been balmy compared to places like Greenland.

Aaron said...

It was a "quicky", blocked in the cake using a microwave. Steam blocking on a reel does a better job, but blocking in the cake is good enough for stuff just intended to keep me warm in the snow. Also, that swatch was not blocked after knitting.

I must have missed your pix of your hand spun and hand plied 5-ply, 10-ply and 14-ply yarns, all knit up to show that they do not bias. Ah, bu that would assume that you could even spin such singles!!! This is another example of those that cannot do, criticise.

Now! Get your act together and prove your worth by telling us how to make better yarn. We know that this yarn needs to be blocked after knitting, How do we spin/ply 10-ply and 14-ply yarns that do not need to be blocked after knitting?? If you are such a great craftsman, give us a hint, give us a tip!

Aaron said...

While I freely admit that the coldest place on Earth, is a stone hut, with a thatched roof, with only peat fire. My wife and I walked Hadrian's Wall. There were a few days of rain, but it did not freeze as it hit the ground, coating everything with ice. No, England is balmy.

Aaron said...

The other night, some friends were telling us a long history of Russian/USSR consumer goods, and it gave me perspective for what modern Russians might consider good knitting. And, of course;
"What do you call a babuska trying to finish her knitting before the snow flies?"
Rushen Russian. (with apologies to Theodore Bikel)

Anyway, did I have yarn that would knit up warmer than the old LB FW and be suitable for Siberia in the winter? Some swatches of the LB Wool-Ease warned me that it (2-ply, 288 ypp) was not going to get me there. I had already tested all the common commercial 2 and 3-ply yarns in the grist range 500 yp and up, and knew those yarns were not a reasonable path. That left only, high ply yarns with low ply twist. I had already done various 10-strand cabled yarns (at 500 ypp) and knew cables had other virtues.

Yes, 10-ply yarns with low ply twist, are a warmer solution. Yes, small drifts in single weight can be a large problem, but if you can get your single's grist consistent, then 10-ply (or 14-ply) is the fast and easy way to knit very warm fabrics.

kingstonman said...

England, even Great Britain, or the United Kingdom is NOT balmy, there might be a few days that, just might be considered such, but it is definitely neither sub-tropical or balmy .
Please cite sources and references for these ideas

Aaron said...

Spend a winter in Wisconsin or Wyoming; and you will understand Great Britain is pleasantly balmy (also known as a "marine" climate).