Saturday, August 20, 2016


When I came to knitting for warmth, I was told loudly, and firmly by "experienced knitters" that commercial yarns knit on circular needles were the correct program for knitting warm objects. I thought not. (Read as: "Thousands of swatches knit from commercial yarn using circular needles, and tested".)

At first, I thought commercial yarns knit with long needles (per EZ's note in GT ) were THE answer!! Then it was clear the knitting sheaths were very much a part of the solution; and,  I had to make knitting sheaths. Then it was clear that there were multiple distinct knitting skills that had to be learned - - Better to practice on cheaper, mill spun.

Yes, much of my skill is making tools!

However, those tools (or any tools) are worthless without the skills to use them! 

Thus, another part of my expertise is to visualize, develop and refine the skills required to obtain significant benefit from a tool kit.  Without skills, tools are just a pile of junk!!  A tool is not a tool, until one has the skill to use it.  With skill, a simple piece of wire becomes a knitting needle!

I tested commercial yarns for a while for a while, and after a few years, decided that handspun was likely just as warm , and I should test handspun. It took a while to learn to spin. It took a lot of intercomparisons between handspun and commercial to show the various virtues of handspun.  However, my spinning was still slow, and commercial yarns were still the practical approach for knitting the stuff that I wanted.  Yes, I knit a lot of commercial yarns because I did not have a teacher and commercial yarns were a very good practice material.

Working out the mechanics of DRS (spinning) took a long while, which produced better handspun, and it convinced me that high-ply yarns had GREAT advantages, but spinning fine singles was still slow.  So, for my functional gear, I was still knitting mill spun (with long needles and knitting sheaths!)  Then, I had to work out the details of accelerator wheels to sped up my spinning.  (It took 5 generations of prototypes to get it up to current speed.)  Prior to a well working accelerator, high-ply hand spun did not seem very practical.

In fact, today, I can run my Ashford Lace Flyer at over 3,000 rpm - something I did not think was possible even only 5 years ago.  However,  one of my DRS flyers running at the same speed is enormously more productive for ordinary fine plies.  On the other hand, I would be delighted if someone would please show me how to use an ordinary Ashford Lace Flyer to produce worsted spun, 5,600 ypp singles at a hank per hour.  I would love to learn how to do that!

While I was spinning 5-ply sport weight, by the fall of  2006, much of my handspun production went to testing to be sure that it really was as good as commercial for various uses.  And, there was that economic issue of: "Can handspun be reasonably priced?"

The first part of this blog is about knitting sheaths, and their power!  The first posts were about long needles and knitting sheaths, and I still consider knitting sheaths to be the most powerful tool in hand knitting.  Knitting sheaths work just as well with mill spun just as well as with hand spun.  Since I did not have a teacher, and was working everything out as I went, it was cheaper and easier to work with commercial yarn. I have a great deal of very good outdoor gear that I knit from commercial yarn.  It is gear that I would trust to keep me warm in Arctic/polar conditions for weeks or months at a time.  I do not find it durable enough to trust to keep me warm for years under Arctic/polar conditions -- commercial yarns are not durable enough, so that maintenance and upkeep on the objects would be too great.  That is what can make HANDSPUN cost effective! High-ply, handspun yarns can be so much more durable that over the long run, hand spun can be about the some price as mill spun, because as produced today, mill spun is not as durable or as warm for the weight.   And the big cost on outdoor wear is knitting and repair /maintenance.  More durable yarn up front is cheaper than reknitting.   (I am still doing economic analysis from the viewpoint of a 15th century fisherman.)

 Who else is testing sweaters that contain 20,000 yards (18,000 m) of singles?  Such objects have virtues, but you cannot see those virtues, unless you can produce such objects in a practical manner. .  I see those virtues through the window of the tools and skills that I have developed over the last 18 years.

No comments: