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.  


Dr Gan Sei said...

Is the bolt of shirting finished yet? I've been hoping to see how the fulling and cropping work out.

purplespirit1 said...

It's interesting that you're choosing to not post certain comments.

I'm being perfectly honest when I'm offering you to try your handknit clothing on a movie set that I'm working on, or if nothing else, you are free to check out a movie set where I have my knitwear keeping the actors warm as well as it looking 'pretty' for the camera. If you don't mind making a bit of a compromise in only paying for your airplane ticket, I can cover your cost of where you sleep, and it would be an interesting week's vacation for you. (How fun would it be to be on a movie set for a week?) You can even bring your knitwear for you to wear and test it in Northern Canada or Russian weather to see if it stands that level of cold.

Let me know your email so that I can contact you with further information and we can work something out. I have 6 films coming up in the next 18 months or so that I'm currently knitting for, that will be filmed in these cold weather conditions.

That way you can post actual scientific blog posts based on your findings, rather than post hypothetical information. Come prove me wrong, please. :)

Aaron said...

I am not offering fabric or clothing. What I offer is the technology used by generations of knitters to knit fabrics and clothing suited for local conditions. (Including Latvia, Russia, and Scandinavia.) The primary advantage is much faster knitting. The second advantage is less stress on the wrists.

It is an idea, not a physical product. It is a very old and useful technology. You can make knitting sheaths yourself or have them made for you. At this point there is nothing in it for me. On the other hand, it may save your wrists if you are knitting as fine and dense a fabric as you claim with circular needles. And, yes, knitting sheaths can provide an advantage over leather knitting belts in the way that a socket set provides an additional advantage to auto mechanics over pliers and adjustable wrenches.

If you had given the technology an honest trial, you would know this.

For example, if you are knitting a few pair of ladies' gloves from fingering weight yarn, you can use a leather knitting pouch. If you need to produce dozens of fine ladies's gloves from lace weight yarn, then you need a knitting sheath. If you are knitting a few sweaters from 5-ply sport weight yarn at 80 stitches per inch^2 (warm, but not weatherproof), then you can certainly use a leather knitting belt. If you are knitting sweaters for the entire crew on a square rigged East Indiaman, and they want a weatherproof density, then you are going to need a knitting sheath.

The stuff I am knitting these days is too fine and regular to look hand knit. If an actor was wearing it, everyone would think he was wearing frame knit, so you might as well save some cost on costume and have him wear frame knit -- or hand knit cruder fabrics and objects that everyone can tell are hand knit. For cruder, looser knitting, your knitting belt is perfect.

If you want to prove that your knitting is as warm as mine, post a video of you comfortably sleeping in the snow wearing only objects that you have knit, and nothing between your knit objects and the snow. A better video, is when it is snowing and the snow accumulates on your sleeping form. Good knitters do not need a place to sleep - they can always just flop down outside in the snow in their hand knit objects. Any knitter that can knit ALL the objects in Gladys Thompson can knit such objects. Like my challenge to patknitter, I do not underestimate you. First you will need yarn that can be knit warm enough, and that must be custom spun these days. Then, you will need long stiff needles, and a very good knitting sheath. Finally, the knitting is very athletic, and takes great shoulder strength.

On the other hand, a sleeping bag with a foam pad is a more cost effective and practical solution.

Knitting sheaths can produce exceptional fabrics and objects, but such fabrics and objects are resource intensive. I would only wear them when exceptional warmth, light weight, flexibility, and durability are required; or, when testing for such properties.

If you are using similar tools then we are both producing similar fabric/objects, and there is no reason for me to visit your movie sets, or for that matter you to post video. If we are using the same tools and yarns, then our fabrics are likely similar.

If you are not using knitting sheaths and fine needles, then I am knitting finer/denser fabrics. In which case, I can meet you somewhere and teach you the finer points of the technique which you seem to have missed, or you would know that knitting sheaths allow knitting objects that cannot be knit in any other way, not even with a knitting belt.

If I am teaching, I teach, I do not sit around a movie set -

Aaron said...

Dr. Snide,
No, but I have recovered from 2 fatal diseases that were co-infections from the tick bite that gave me Lyme Disease.

There are lots of little samples of shirting around. I can weave commercial yarns - but so can everyone else. Weaving hand spun, or even just learning to weave handspun takes a lot handspun, and there is a lot of loom waste, just to make a tiny sample. I have refined the spinning wheel to speed the production of finer yarns, after all the goal is to weave finer cloth. Most will think that I should get the weaving of 5,600 ypp singles understood before I start thinking about 20,000 ypp singles. I think the problems with weaving the 10s, will resolve, and then I will be able to rapidly progress to finer cloth.

I have had a number of little problems and people suggested this or that, and I have tried the various suggestions, and few of them actually work. At this point, I think the main problem is something that nobody else has brought up, but which should have been blindingly obvious. In fact, it is something I should have seen, but the loom worked with commercial yarn, so I did not think about it.

purplespirit1 said...

"If you want to prove that your knitting is as warm as mine, post a video of you comfortably sleeping in the snow wearing only objects that you have knit, and nothing between your knit objects and the snow. A better video, is when it is snowing and the snow accumulates on your sleeping form."

lol. What you consider conclusive tests for your knitting is very odd... sleeping in snow, pouring glasses of water on it, etc.

How do I know that your presumed survival of sleeping in snow with only your sweater had nothing to do with anything else other than what you were wearing? (And only what you knit, at that -did you knit your underwear, pants, and footwear too when you were sleeping in snow??)

Show me your video, and then I'll show you mine.

purplespirit1 said...

Again... you insist on using condescension in your replies. The work I do is valid - I'm not "sitting around a movie set" - I'm working and earning a paycheck, I've been doing so since I was 15.

I'm sure your knitwear suits whatever specifications fit what you think is appropriate - what you think is appropriate based on wherever-you-get-your-research and however-it-is-you-choose-to-interpret-it. By many of your blog posts, you seem more preoccupied with building pretty things out of wood and metal rather than actual knitting.

I'm not sure who you teach or how many of your students take your word as biblical truth, or if what you teach them works in their practical world or not, and frankly it doesn't matter. I know my work works because my work has withstood the test of time. Sweaters, hats, cowls, mittens, gloves and socks that I knit 10 or 20 years ago (longer than you've been knitting) not only are still intact, but are still warm and are still worn.

I know my work works because I've sold my work, to both new and repeat customers who've worn my knitwear (in some cases in fairly extreme conditions, not usual wear) and have survived the cold.

I'm not interested in a knitting lesson - as I've said before, I've been knitting most of my life, and knitting professionally for my entire adult life so far.

"The stuff I am knitting these days is too fine and regular to look hand knit. If an actor was wearing it, everyone would think he was wearing frame knit, so you might as well save some cost on costume and have him wear frame knit -- or hand knit cruder fabrics and objects that everyone can tell are hand knit."

So bring it anyways. By all means, hop on a plane and I'll give you a place to sleep, and you can bring your knitwear to test on a set with actual, real, cold conditions. That way you can science your science. Is your knitwear as warm as mine? Warmer? This is how you prove it. Not a video of someone sleeping out in the snow where their exposed areas are prone to frost bite (because that will happen, my friend) but in actual cold working conditions. I know my knitwear can last these conditions, because it has so far for decades - has yours?

It's interesting that you only want to seem to test your knitwear under your very specific conditions, but when offered to test your knitwear in real conditions, you don't seem to want to. By all means, please keep knitting for California weather, I'm sure your homemade sheath collection is a fantastic use of your spare time, which you seem to have a lot of.

Ruth B said...

It may be helpful to point out that fatal disease are...fatal. You are, apparently, alive; therefore, the diseases were not, in fact, fatal. For someone who insists that everyone "do the math" and "do their homework," your language is remarkably imprecise.

Aaron said...

In my dictionary, "fatal disease" are diseases that can be fatal. Ebola is a fatal disease, that some people do survive. see,, When 75% of the untreated cases are fatal, that strikes me as being a "fatal disease". Borreliosis causes a slow, lingering, and unpleasant death, unless treated, or something else kills one first. In the US, Borreliosis is rarely stated on the death certificate. Where the Borreliosis causes heart disease, the cause of death stated on the death certificate is "heart disease" or heart attack. Where Borreliosis causes kidney disease, the death certificate reads kidney failure, not the underlying Borreliosis. Borreliosis can also cause liver failure, and guess how the death certificates read! A very common co-infection is RMSF, which causes arteriosclerosis => strokes! Does the death certificate read infection by tick bite? Hell no!, but THAT is the cause.

Perhaps the greatest soil vapor extraction expert was exposed to DCE a while back, resulting in fatal cirrhosis of of the liver. It is fatal, but as of now, he is still alive in nursing home. "Fatal" does not guarantee a quick death.

When one has 2 or 3 or 4 such diseases, and the symptoms overlap so that the doctors (GPs) cannot do a differential diagnosis, and thus do not provide a proper course of treatment or advise surgeons, ENTs, anesthesiologists, cardiologists, and etc., then poisoning by the prescribing of improper prescription drugs must be added to the inherently fatal nature of the underlying infections. Thus, I would say that yes, I had a variety of fatal diseases. Poising by prescription medication is the number one cause of death in the US, and I also had several incidents of improperly prescribed medication. As a result of loss of kidney function from the Lyme infection, the anesthesia for a routine colonoscopy almost killed me. It was another improperly prescribed drug that almost killed me in a back alley in Bruges.

My Lyme Literate Doctor tells me that Lyme is invariably fatal without a course of antibiotics that far exceeds the FDA recommended dosage and length of treatment. Doctors effectively treating Lyme Disease must have great courage to prescribe very toxic drugs at doses that far exceed FDA labeling. One of the drugs used by my Lyme Doctor is a chemical that I met circa 1990 in a class on toxicology at UC Berkeley. In class, we referred to it as "Die - Chloro - Death", because the professor was consulting to OSHA as to why folks at a particular chemical plant were dropping dead. The lesson to the class was; the route makes the poison. The standard tox. data was based on oral administration, while the chemical is much more toxic when inhaled. So, morning and night, I have been taking massive oral doses of DCD. And, which by its sordid history, you might correctly guess is wickedly expensive. And, it is made in Canada, where they add a "citrus" flavor. Actually, it tastes rather like the cleaning agent, Simple Green.

Ruth B said...

So now you are a linguist and a physician as well? My! My!

Life, my dear Aaron, is fatal. Nobody gets out alive. Being "almost" dead is not being dead. One cannot survive a fatal plane crash nor a fatal disease.

"fatal (adj.) late 14c., "decreed by fate," also "fraught with fate," from Middle French fatal (14c.) and directly from Latin fatalis "ordained by fate, decreed, destined; destructive, deadly," from fatum (see fate (n.)); sense of "causing or attended with death" in English is from early 15c. Meaning "concerned with or dealing with destiny" is from mid-15c."

As Imsaid before, for a bloke who insists on precision in others, your own precision is sorely lacking.

Aaron said...

If there is a fatal plane crash, and one person dies, it is a fatal plane crash and many may have survived.

Ok, you, you make distinctions without a difference in points of language, but do you ever talk about knitting? Why don't you post about better ways to knit warmer objects?

Aaron said...

I had a bunch of doctors tell me I had a bunch of things wrong with me, but they ALL dismissed the idea that I had Lyme Disease. I told them that I had Lyme, and they said "no, it cannot be!"

I found a Lyme Literate Doctor, and she gave me the most complete physical that I have had since my Hazwaste certification, and concluded that yes, I have Lyme. Then, she ordered all the necessary lab tests. Now, I have more than a dozen lab tests that prove I have Lyme.

All those doctors that gave me incomplete physicals, went wrong! They misdiagnosed.

Now, I have good lab tests that prove we are on a correct course of treatment.

Likewise, hypothermia. Everyone in cold country should recognize the early symptoms and how to treat hypothermia. That goes double for people going into the backcountry where rescue may be slow. That goes triple for parents. The important thing about hypothermia is to treat it early so it can be treated without all the resources of an emergency room.

With AGW, the stratosphere is cooling and the potential for exceptional storms increases.

I think knitters should be expert in keeping people warm, anywhere, anytime, and under any conditions.

knitphomaniac said...

"I think knitters should be expert in keeping people warm, anywhere, anytime, and under any conditions."

That's not the point of all knitting - and the point of knitting also isn't "pretty" vs "functional" either, as you often argue. There are people who knit and wear their knitwear in warm weather and tropical conditions - warm knitting in those circumstances is useless and pointless.

The point of your ravelry profile and blog isn't about knitting and improving knitting, it's about bragging about how you make nothing more than (what you consider) fancy tools.

Aaron said...

I think craftspeople should know their craft. Knit fabrics can be warm or cool. Thus, knitters should be able to knit objects for the red carpets Hollywood that are cool enough that folks are not sweating. And, they should be able to knit ski sweaters that will keep folks warm on the East Wall at Arapahoe. These require different yarns, fabrics, and designs,

We should be able to knit a lace christening gown that will keep a baby warm in the over air-conditioned interior of Our Lady of The Angles, without overheating the child outside in the patio area.

We should be able to knit sweaters very well suited to an evening stroll in San Diego, and sweaters well suited to Christmas caroling in St Petersburg.

Aaron said...

When I wrote the profile on R. my focus was on answering the question: "How did the old seamen stay warm?" The answer is "Tightly knit garments!"

At that time, my path had to include the tools. Now, I know, there are several sets of skills required, but still the tools are essential.

Knitting sheaths are as essential to a Master Knitter as a Light Saber is to a Jedi Knight in Star Wars. And, like the Jedi Knights, I think every knitter should make their own knitting sheaths.

A knitting sheath multiplies your force. May the Force be with you!