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.


Amanda said...

Shackleton's knitted gear was actually provided by Jaeger. The Burberry equipment used was gabardine, which is woven.

purplespirit1 said...

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

... and you know this to be factually true how?