Thursday, January 29, 2015

Other paths to warmer fabric

Fair Isle is a warmer fabric. If we look to this clip from 1932, (, 
IN SHEEP'S CLOTHING ) we see the woolen  yarn being spun somewhat more firmly than is common today, and the fabric knit much more tightly than is the fashion today.  The finished sweater is much warmer than most modern Fair Isle knitting.

We also see that they do not show the sweater knitter knitting with her long DPNs and leather knitting pouch.  What we see is another knitter knitting something that is not Fair Isle and not a sweater. Thus, the clip has a point of view, and we may not be seeing an honest report of the ethnology of the croft.

In any case we do not know where the croft is - it might be on the North Islands, or the mainland.  They may have learned their skills at their grandmother's knee - or as young adults working away from the croft.  They are obviously skilled workers, but we do not know how much is their life, and  how much is the script provided by the film maker.

And there are some "cuts" and set rearrangements as she starts to card, so I am not even certain that she is actually carding rooed wool  - so, I cannot be sure that the sheep herding and rooing is actually a part of the making of that sweater.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015


Nor-Easter Juno has reminded New England that as global warming warms the bottom of the atmosphere, it also cools the top of the atmosphere - setting up conditions for a good snow storm every so often.

While Juno pounded New England, another bigger storm pounded the North Pacific. Juno was not unique, or the last of her kind.

Global warming and even ubiquitous centrally heated structures and transportation does not mean that we no longer need very warm clothing.

The last time that I HAD to be outside working in blizzard conditions, the warmest yarns that I knew about were from MacAusland  ( ). A gansey knit from MacAusland yarn kept me warm, dry, and safe while working for extended periods of time in nasty, nasty conditions.

However, I now know that hand spun hi-ply yarns can produce fabrics that are just as warm, but that have less weight and less bulk. Now, I know that hand spun hi-ply yarns can be just as durable, but more comfortable. Yes, garments knit from hand spun, hi-ply yarns can be better.

Hand spun hi-ply yarns are likely to require 2 or 3 times more spinning effort than the yarns commonly spun by modern spinners. All in all, many of my 5-ply finished yarns contain 50 or more twists per inch. More twist gives the yarn warmth and strength.  When I started spinning, spinning teachers told such yarns had never been hand spun. And, they told me that such yarns could not be hand spun.  That was incorrect.  Sometimes spinning teachers are just plain wrong. And, even when a teacher is correct, sometimes one must stand on their shoulders to see and understand more.

On the other hand, if I was not going to spend the effort or did not have the time to hand spin hi-ply yarns, I would use MacAusland. One can knit very warm, very durable fabrics from MacAusland, at a very reasonable price.  This is not a yarn for knitting objects that you intend to wear to a ladies's tea party.  This is a yarn for objects that must endure the worst weather. I keep bins of it on hand.

The warmest mill spun yarn that I have ever used was the old Lion's Brand Fisherman's Wool.  This is no longer available, as production was moved to China and the style of the yarn changed. The old LBFW, I hated to knit (splitty). but loved the fabric.  The new yarn, I love to knit, but hate the fabric.

Modern "gansey" yarns have too much ply-twist, which reduces the "fill" of the yarn so there are gaps between the individual yarns in the knit fabric. The gaps are large enough that air can carry heat through them.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Make it work, then make it pretty

"Make it work, then make it pretty", is always how I work.

When something works, I get excited, and I take pix. Then improving anesthetics is a longer evolution that has no single point that inspires taking pix.  You saw the first few hanks to come off the new geometry, but not not later hanks. Some of those early hanks became knitting yarn that is very warm and durable - which is the intent.

I would rather knit with ugly yarn that is warm and durable than knit with pretty yarn that cold and fragile.  Warmth and durability are testable qualities.  Pretty is subjective.  In my world, Warmth and durability defines "pretty".

Anybody that wants to argue about this should have spun, knit, and tested miles and miles of 5-ply, 6-ply, 8-ply and 10-ply yarns.  Some of you brag about your fancy wheels, that should make spinning such yarns fast and easy.  If you have not prepared and tested such yarns, then you are not qualified to talk about the properties of these yarns or the relative merits of 2-ply and 3-ply to these yarns.  If you have not prepared and tested a full range such high-ply yarns, then you are talking from a position of ignorance.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Warmth, again and again

If you want real warmth in clothing, it needs to block air flow like a fine bed sheet.

With knit wool that means lots of twist in the yarn, and yarns knit tightly together.

Lots of twist means very fine plies. For most things, I like singles of ~5,600 ypp.

Then I do not ply yarn very tightly, so that as yarn is knit, the yarn deforms and "fills" all gaps.

The commercial yarn that this concept is built on is the old Lions Brand Fisherman's Wool.  This yarn is no longer made. Production was moved to China, and the new  Lions Brand Fisherman's Wool is different.  The new Fisherman's Wool is much more pleasant to knit, but the resulting fabric is not as warm or durable.

To block air flow through the yarn, the wool fibers must be between 20 and 40 microns apart.  Closer and they tend to conduct heat. Farther apart and air flows between the fibers carrying heat.  Keeping fibers that close together takes a lot of twist.

For wet weather, I like long wool, spun worsted at 5,600 ypp.  Twist is about 9 tpi. These singles get loosely plied up into a sport weight (1,000 ypp) yarn.

Once you get below freezing, things can get really cold.  There, I like fine wool, spun woolen at 5,600 ypp and 12 tpi. These get plied up into 5-ply at 1,000 ypp or Aran weight at 500 ypp for Arctic  (or Antarctic) conditions.

Ok, these yarns are a bit of extra work, but they are warm, and nothing is worse that being really cold.

The the yarn needs to be knit so tightly with fine needles, so there are no gaps in the fabric.

If you knit with 2 or 3-ply yarns there will not be enough twist to hold the individual wool fibers close together and the wind will blow right through the yarn.

If you use a 5-ply with enough ply twist to hold the yarn round, then there will be gaps between the yarn and the wind will blow through the fabric carrying heat away from the body.

Hand spun, hand knit fabrics can be so warm that they feel like magic.  Most do not make the cut.

Power 2

When I started spinning, one teacher loved drop spindles that would spin for a long time.  My first drop spindles were designed in this school of thought.  And, I would still say that a CD on a dowel is a good drop spindle for teaching spinning to kids.

However, rotation is twist, and spinning is about converting rotation in the spindle into twist in the yarn. If the rotation stays in the spindle, then twist is not going into the yarn.  A drop spindle that spins for a long time is making yarn slowly.

I like a spindle that makes yarn quickly.  That is, I like a spindle that spins fast, and quickly transfers its rotational energy to the yarn. Such a spindle is faster than almost any modern wheel.

I like  small diameter, dense whorls, and/or whorls that can be taken off to let the copp act as the whorl.

And for woolen, where you can thigh rolls with one hand as you draft long draw with the other, and then wind on with  reverse thigh rolls. a spindle can be wicked fast.  A spindle with a 2.25 mm thick shaft powered by a thigh roll against a heavy leather apron, with a little rosin can spin woolen yarn at very close to the speed offered by Alden Amos for an active spinner with a common great wheel (without a miner head). However, this is a lot of not very ergonomic work.

Better is a Charkha.  Most folk these days do not use a Charkha for wool because the low grist wool singles that most spin does not need or want as much twist as a Charkha will supply. If you need to put a lot of twist in a fine woolen yarn, a Charkha is a very reasonable option.  And they are not in fashion now, so they are reasonably priced.

On the other hand, while a Charkha is fast, making a lot of fine yarn takes a lot of twist which is energy that must come from one arm.  I think that a double treadle wheel is better because it allows both legs to deliver energy.

Sunday, January 25, 2015


Somebody said they wanted a wheel that was fast and easy to treadle.

However, on a high ratio wheel that will insert twist at thousands of rpm, each stroke of the treadle must deliver as much energy as 3 or 4 strokes of a lower ratio wheel.  Thus, the force behind each stroke of the treadle must 3 or 4 times greater than the force required for a wheel inserting only a 1,000 rpm of twist.

If your wheel produces 200 yards per hour of a yarn, and  my wheel puts out 600 yards per hour of the same yarn, then I have to treadle 3 times as hard as you, to twist 3 times as much yarn in the same time.  It can be done, it is like bicycling at a good pace up a gentile incline - just that one does not get to coast down back down the hill.  All that energy of the "climb" is captured as twist in yarn, rather than as potential energy on a hill.

Folks sit down at my wheel and say, "Oh, my god, that is hard to treadle!" Yes, it is ~3-times as hard to treadle because it is making yarn 3-times as fast.

There are good lunches, and there are fast lunches, but there is no such thing as a free lunch. Twist is energy, and it must come from somewhere. There is no such thing as "free energy".

The closest thing is :

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Spinning Demo

I will be at Carson Demers presentation on Wed night.  see

I will have new gear for the show and tell, that I have not  demonstrated in public.  It is not new, it is right out of Alden's Big Blue Book, but it is not stuff you are likely to often see. And, you are not likely to see others spinning that fast.  

Make it work, then make it pretty. This gear is still at the "Ugly, but works stage".

I find having thousands of yards of good yarn is better than having a few yards of very pretty yarn and thousands of yards of imaginary yarn that you would spin if you had the time, tools, and skill. I find that real, good yarn is more useful than imaginary perfect yarn. 

Except that having real, good  yarn at hand when you need it, makes it perfect.

Friday, January 23, 2015

RPM update

The new geometry is faster, and it took me months to learn to use it.  Net drive ratio is on the order of just over 58. so with my normal treadle cadence of 90, I should get just over 5200 rpm of spin insertion. I have not even come close.

Drive band(s) slip was on the order of 20%, meaning actual twist insertion was only about 4,200 rpm.

However, 4200 was as fast as I could spin for months.  Now, I am more comfortable with that kind of speed.

Thus, last night, some more tension on the drive bands, (using a pair of 8 oz weights with a spring between them), and this morning twist insertion is up around 4,800 rpm.

For 9 tpi worsted, that is ~14 yards per minute, which is faster than I can pull fiber off the distaff, so I am working on a new distaff design and geometry.

On the other hand it will do 17 tpi shirting singles at ~ 8 yards per minute, which is a nice pace.

When I first sat down at the Traddy some years ago, it felt like a race car that wanted to go faster. Now, it feels like a race car that is running near its design speed. It is like an old Ferrari,  tuned by the factory race team, running time trials at Sebring.  It is going almost as fast as it can go.

Spinning oil
(applied frequently)

Commercial cap  and later ring spinning frames ran at about 5,000 rpm.  My best guess is that 5,000 rpm is about the maximum speed for flyer/bobbin spinning to run on a routine and sustained basis.

Do I  think Scotch tension systems can run this fast - not likely.  Single drive, bobbin lead (Irish Tension) is mechanically more like the  cap spinning devices.  On the other hand there were hundreds and hundreds of patents for bearings and geometries before the commercial cap spinners were able to run that fast,  and then the technology was only used for a few years, before better spinning devices came along.  I think an Irish tension is a hard way to get to 5,000 rpm.  That said, I do use Irish Tension for plying with jumbo bobbins, and it runs at - 3,000 rpm using a ratio of 33:1.  Irish Tension at 3,000 rpm is easy.

A note on ergonomics.  If you do not have to spin as long to get a project done, then there is less  total stress on the body.  And, DRS hugely reduces the stress of spinning - particularly on the drafting hand, drafting hand wrist, and drafting hand forearm. I could not spin as much as I do, if my drafting hand had to resist the ongoing tension of Scotch tension.

My lazy kate has a tension box so there is essentially no stress on my hands while plying.  I just sit there and treadle, pausing every so often to move the flyer heck, and place new bobbins of singles on the lazy kate. 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Contract

What would I expect to see in a contract for spinning services? A checklist might include:

  1. A plain text description of the situation where Weaver seeks spinning services from Spinner and Spinner  agrees within  the limits of the contract.
  2. Place of contract formation/  jurisdiction for laws under which the contract will be interpreted.
  3. The nature of the relationship between Weaver and Spinner, whether employee or contractor, and the responsibility for reporting income.
  4. Statement as to whether contract is for one task, or an ongoing task order agreement is intended.
  5. Scope of the task(s)
  6. fiber for yarn: material, source, preparation
  7. grist of yarn to be produced
  8. twist of  yarn
  9. fiber rachet
  10. style of yarn (woolen, worsted, other, other other)
  11. Spinning process, and spinning tools to be used/ place where work will be performed/ appropriate permits to be obtained and maintained
  12. Spinning technique to be used, and designated spinner if appropriate.
  13. Use of subcontractors.
  14. Verification of performance, eg lab measurement of yarn, and tests to be used.
  15. Disposition of off-specification materials including liquidated damages for fiber owned by Weaver and damaged by spinner.
  16. Additional fiber prep services such as washing, combing, carding, dying, oiling included, or excluded
  17. All hazardous materials used by Spinner remain property of spinner. Good faith RCRA waste minimization  and pollution prevention efforts by all parties.
  18. OSHA compliance and good faith use of ergonomic practices by all parties. 
  19. Yarn finishing operations services such as blocking, washing, dying included, or excluded
  20. Yarn  packaging and shipping services included, or excluded
  21. Procurement and shipping of fiber, responsibility for scope and payment to 3d parties
  22. How all services are priced, eg by man hour, unit of production, flat price, cost plus and etc.
  23. Detailed schedule of production 
  24. Detailed schedule of  payment
  25. Performance bonds and insurance by Spinner including liquidated damages where Weaver misses contractual deadline due to delay by Spinner.
  26. Payment bonds and letters of credit by Weaver
  27. How disagreements will be resolved (arbitration, court action)
  28. Authority of both signatories to sign contract
  29. Signature block 


The purpose of this blog over the last couple of years is to show people a way to spin faster and easier.  I do not say that that they have to spin fast, I merely blaze a trail to faster spinning.  Nobody has to follow me.

In her last comment, Ruth B seems to be trying to "con" me into sending her a big package of  fine fiber that she can do with as she pleases. The contract she proposes has big gaps in it, all in her favor. Now, cons are funny when Newman and Redford act them out in The Sting, but in real life. they are criminal.

 In spinning, grist and twist count.  Ruth B does not seem to be able to measure and understand grist and twist. She seems to have just enough knowledge of spinning to make her pedantic - like a sophomore.   She needs to get off her high horse, and learn spinning as a craft, or huddle with her Victorian Lady friends who are impressed by her dogmatic tone.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The 15%

Only 15% of Americans do not accept global warming, but it is a really loud 15%.


Likely, I have the same problem. I expect that it is a very small, but loud group that does not accept my work.

Modern Luddites. I know one person that wrotes scathingly of me, is proud of having being descended from a Luddite. They were a small group, that marched, threw rocks, vandalized and burned some factories, and accomplished very little.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Capital 2

The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA, RCRA-HSA) set standards for waste disposal.

I worked for Steve Weil, the EPA Branch Chief that wrote the implementing regulations (40 CFR 260 et seq.)  Industry fought the regulations tooth and nail. I had a front row seat.

Now things are different.  Industry eagerly awaits the second edition of  Emma Popek's

Sampling & Analysis of Environmental Chemical Pollutants, A Complete Guide, due to be published in 2016.  

In every case that I am aware of, smart implementation of the regulations reduced production costs and improved profitability (over the long term).  Sometimes there were capital costs that reduced short term profitability, but ultimately the ideas in RCRA were smart and very cost effective.  Legislators should take note of this. RCRA was very good for business, but it is not the kind of  law that the current crop of legislators would recognize as business friendly.  That is OK, they are not the kind of legislators that I recognize as intelligent.  

In agriculture, where many waste streams were exempted, the operating companies declined to implement potentially very profitable resource recovery and pollution prevention.  Many of these companies have since been sold to the Chinese.(Murphy Family Farms bought Brown, Smithfield bought Murphy. The Chinese bought Smithfield.)

My experience in this field makes me think that most captains of commerce did not get rich by being smart, but by being greedy bullies.  (For all of "The Art of War", the Chinese excel at being bullies. Look at their cross bows from the Warring States Period.  The Chinese hog facilities had more problems than Murphy's.   I toured ag facilities, and I know the conditions, and what the people were paid.  The owners and managers were not fair to their employees or the communities. These ag facilities were owned and managed by folks who were out for every dollar they could grab. these owners and managers dumped their costs onto others.

Along this line, and with Piketty's analysis, I would point to the rich and wealthy as responsible for; ( ) and ( and only now have we gotten to farm waste regulated as solid waste - (

In contrast, after RCRA was passed, Bechtel M and M put some real effort into achieving full compliance with RCRA, and thereby dropped the cost of operating their  M and M Lab.  Later, I was working on a national priority list (NPL- CERCLA) site, and our subcontractor analytical lab went through an agonizing conversion to microanalytical techniques mostly driven by the waste minimization and pollution prevention requirements in RCRA-HSA. However, the lab's profit margins doubled, so in a matter of months, it had recovered the capital expense.  Thus, I know that a smart, highly-principled company can treat its employees well and  make better profits, than a dumb and greedy company.  The problem is that there are very few smart and highly principled companies based in the US today.  The company on the NPL site was a dumb, greedy company that is gone.  Unfortunately, smart and principled companies such as Bechtel and Kaiser are going to suffer from AGW just like the dumb, greedy companies. Riley Bechtel is nice guy, and he has billions of dollars, but he does not know anything about growing food.

 Food in every  2-week period between now and the end of the world is always the bottom line.  Filling a cave with dry food is not the answer.  You cannot put food for all of your descendants for a thousand years in a cave.  For one thing they will eat it up long before the end of the world - you are not going to be there to ration it out.

Now really, how much importance do you think that I attach to the comments that I do not spin as pretty as some? I am more likely to be worrying about how much liquid water has accumulated in the GIS. ( )  I do not like the comments because the comments indicate that those spinners are NOT THINKING! I want spinners to think.

Spinning is boring.  You might as well think while you spin.  And, you might as well spin as fast as possible.

Capital in the 21st Century.

Everyone should read Capital in the 21st  Century by T. Piketty.  I do not care if you have to sit here for 5 years with a dictionary and 5 economics texts and puzzle it out word by  word, sentence by sentence and chapter by chapter, you should read it.  And by "read", I mean really think about it doing the math for all of his cases your self to make sure you understand what he is saying, and then doing the math for the cases that he does not address.

Core to Piketty's arguments is the Victorian idea that some deserve to be rich.  This gives them the right to underpay workers, take natural resources, and otherwise do whatever was necessary to get rich.  America was opened up by trading companies that exploited the natural resources such as gold, cod, and beaver. The kings of France and Spain got rich as did the Hudson Bay trading company, but the trappers, fishermen, and soldiers got very little. However, the real wealth extraction and capital formation came with the building of the US railroads, and men like CarnegieRockefeller, Dupont, Huntington, Morgan, Gary and their ilk.

These men were just greedy - in many ways, true sociopaths.  The underpaid their workers, and by extension the worker's families.  They were willing to defraud the US government, and by extension all other taxpayers. They stole federal land by enclosing it so there was no access. They failed to pay royalties on timber, grazing land, and mining. And, they disposed of their waste in ways that imposed costs on others.  Ultimately, this cavalier waste disposal will drive AGW, which will cause more dollar damage to the rich than to the poor. 

They were rich, and therefor admired and lionized.  Society came to admire the "tough' business man that could get the deal he wanted.  They were followed by another generation of corporate managers such as Sloan, Kaiser, Watson, and Hughes.

Corporate managers were considered the heros of the capitalistic economic system, even when they sent coal miners down into the mines without medical benefits or even fair prices at the company store.   Overall corporate managers were cavalier about proper disposal of waste - including CO2 from all industrial processes.  

All of this created enormous wealth, much of which is now held by the 1%.  

However, much of that wealth formation involved the release of CO2 into the atmosphere.  We made things using the energy from coal and tossing the CO2 into the sky.  We used oil to transport things and tossed the CO2 into the sky.  We encouraged everyone to fly everywhere, and tossed the CO2 into the sky. We have known about the problems of emitting CO2 for more than 100 years. The Club of Rome commissioned a study by Jay Forester, and pollution was part of the scope.  President Johnson raised the issue in the 60s.  As a chemical engineering student in the 70s, I was expected to understand the topic in some detail, but industry was not paying much attention to the issue.  In 1990, the IPCC set about to prove that CO2 was not an imminent problem.  In 2007, the IPCC told us the Arctic sea ice would last at least to 2100, and in fact, since then we have seen significant retreat of Arctic sea ice.

This raises doubts as to the quality of IPCC models.  there are the obvious issues of the models not addressing ice dynamics and carbon feedbacks.  There may also be deeper issues where the science is expressed in differential equations and at the modeled grid level, the domain become discontinuous in ways not fully addressed by the "solvers".

So here we are in January of 2015, with many new disclosures of GIS melt mostly relating to the 2012 season at the SF AGU conference. However, on Christmas day after the conference, there were places on Greenland seeing 50 knot winds at temperatures above freezing.

That brings us to :

Which shows today's Kangerlussuaq Sentinel-1 2015-01-16 image ( including outfall from fjords and melt in the Greenland sea.

Unfortunately, the 2012 Greenland melt season was a powerful clue that we can start expecting increased melt events on Greenland, ultimately resulting in ice collapse events that suddenly raise sea level.  These are driven by the CO2 tossed into the air by the Captains of Commerce and their clients.

For a hint, look at the glacier calving event shown in minute 64 of the movie Chasing Ice. (also at )  Opening up the fjord allows ice to then slide in from both sides, and repeat the process for rapid export of ice from the ice sheet in to the ocean.  However, an ice/water slurry can also flow down a 2% grade, and an ice sheet can contain enough potential  energy to rapidly convert large volumes of ice into an ice/water slurry as part of progressive collapse.  

In the last interglacial period, sea level rose ~ 40 feet in ~500 years, and this rise may have been concentrated in a few brief events.  Now, climate forcing is much greater than the gentile orbital forcing of that period, so I see no reason why sea level rise in the next several decades could not be much more abrupt than in the last interglacial. 

Abrupt sea level rise will destroy infrastructure/capital, resulting in a loss of capital beyond insurance and financial hedging.  It will also ensure the stranding of large amounts of fossil fuels, and  the infrastructure to extract fossil fuel. This will be a blow to the balance sheets of corporations and their owners.  It will change our view of fossil fuel use, such as for air travel, resulting in loss of value in assets related to air transport and travel.  (And, a great many air ports are near sea level.)

Some of the first affected industrial facilities will be the petrochemical plants in the South Pacific which produce the gray plastic used around the world to bed microprocessors, and which are near sea level. Thus, abrupt sea level change will affect all electronics including cell phones, internet, industrial control systems, and even autos, trucks, and tractors. Loss of Malaysian petrochemical facilities means that there are not repair parts for farm tractors -  anywhere.  The local blacksmith cannot make microprocessors, and just in time production means that there are not warehouses of parts/ microprocessors stockpiled around the world.  This was proven by loss of global  Toyota production after the Fukushima Tsunami, and loss of global hard disk drive supplies after local flooding in Bangkok. Just in time manufacture has changed the nature of industrial dynamics.

Many of the industrial facilities that produce fertilizers and pesticides are near sea level, and today most farmers (even the Amish) have lost the skills necessary to grow large amounts of food without industrially produced fertilizers and pesticides.  Without food, people starve and stop working.  Without labor, most capital is worthless.  The Koch brothers do not know how to operate the equipment in the mines that they own.   Without labor, stock  certificates are just paper.  Economics has forgotten what famine does to an  economy, even a capital based economy.  These days, we assume that we can import low cost labor and food from somewhere else, but global warming is – global.  There is nowhere else to get labor, and the food to feed it.

These days we do not maintain large stockpiles of food – we produce it just in time.  One bad harvest, and we have surges in the price of food. (Consider the current price of fresh broccoli!  At the end of last week, one local market had it priced at $5.99/ lb!)  Since the rich and the poor bid for the same food, the poor may get priced out of the market.  A couple of years ago a surge in the price of soybeans caused workers at Malaysian petrochemical facilities to leave and seek food in their home villages. Management stepped in and subsidized food costs and work resumed.   However, this offers a hint that a global rise in food prices could disrupt commodity pricing in industries that depend on cheap labor.  Certainly others have looked at food price driven inflation, but AGW is very likely to cause short crops triggering shortages and high food prices.  Sea level rise offers sustained disruption of fertilizer and pesticide production resulting in ongoing short crops.

A few companies raising wages would merely increase bidding on scarce food stocks, making it even more difficult for some workers to buy food for their families.

Genetics tells us that previous periods of climate change over the last 3 million years resulted in losses in hominid populations of between and 95% and 99% . Current climate change involves much higher rates of forcing, so I expect proportionately higher loss of population.  Experience with the Black Death in the textile industry circa 1400 warns us that it is difficult to maintain an industry during periods of population loss.  Today all of our industries are so interconnected, that the failure of one industry is likely to take down other industries.  That is the failure of plastics takes down microprocessors.  Failure of  microprocessors takes down production of tractor parts.  Failure of tractor parts takes down agriculture. This is not storm flooding that recedes after a day or two, it is flooding that is sustained and increasing. It is something we have not seem before, and thus something that most cannot imagine. Failure of agricultural crops causes workers in industrial centers to move into the country seeking food. That is, diversity of portfolio is not likely to ensure retention of wealth.

In short, we can take climate change to be a massive tax on wealth.  It was foreseeable.  And, the rich brought it on themselves, in that they aggressively marketed consumption of fossil fuel as a desirable activity.  The owners and managers of  corporations did not pursue sustainability. Issues were raised circa 1970 by the Club of Rome, and then promptly ignored.  Limits to Growth was thought to be wrong when plastics were substituted for metals and metal’s prices did not rise as expected.  However, the substitution of plastics for metals resulted in a more fossil-fuel-energy intensive economy, that emitted more CO2 into the atmosphere.  The production of CO2 associated with plastics was real economic cost, that was not recognized at the time.  Thus, the real net cost of metals, and metal’s substitutes (i.e. plastics) did increase.   The real net cost of substituting plastics for metals is greater concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere, and will be expressed as damages from AGW. 

What most people see as wealth and capital, I see as a borrowing (debt) against future environmental conditions.  The cost and penalties of such borrowing  far exceed the value derived from the borrowing, and those costs and penalties exceed anything the borrowers or society as a whole can imagine.  The rich have few skills suited to an economy of limited capital.  On the other hand the poor, have skills for dealing with limited capital. I expect a certain reversal of roles between rich and poor,  in a period of AGW. 

The accounting offered by the IPCC is funded, reviewed and approved by the same governments that condoned and facilitated emissions of CO2 into the atmosphere.   My guess is that governments would prefer to avoid panic(s).

The bottom line is that the curves in Capital, do not reflect the real net costs of increased concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere.  Payback will be taken from physical capital and infrastructure.  This will hurt everyone, but it will hurt the owners more.

A modern farmer may control millions of  dollars worth of  capital, but if he has a home garden, he uses industrially produced fertilizer and pesticide.  A commercial farmer is not likely to have the skills to raise adequate food for his family without commercial fertilizers and pesticides.  The organic gardener, with the skills to produce food without commercial fertilizers and pesticides, is not likely to control millions of dollars worth of capital.  The poor will have more food.

Can the rich by that food?  With what?  Under such conditions, food is the ultimate trade good.  Suddenly the organic gardener with skills,  a spade and a hoe is the rich one.

However, the skills to make warm, durable, clothing do also have value.  Now, you know why I am so interested in basic clothing.

Now, you know why I wanted a faster spinning wheel

Friday, January 16, 2015

The Sociapath

I frequently get comments on this blog to the effect that I am a sociopath and need professional psychiatric help.

I brought up the topic at a holiday party to the group of mental health care professionals standing in one corner of the kitchen. The group included men and women.  Mostly they have known me for several years and have heard stories about me going back to 1983. I asked them, "Am I a sociopath?'

There answer was: "No more so than the typical college professor that must tell weeping freshmen  girls that they are going to fail because the girl did not do her homework.  That is, the task takes a certain amount of bluntness that a self-pitying girl will take as sociopathic tendencies.

The bottom line is that since I am telling truth about my knitting and spinning, I am not a sociopath.

People notice that I am not very good with faces and names, but as long as I show deep and abiding concern about people and their welfare, this is not diagnostic of being a sociopath.  Nor is pride in a real skill. The surgeons in the group understood that some groups of people must be absolutely certain of their skills.  If a surgeon or an engineer makes a mistake there is a good likelihood that one or more people will be injured.  If an engineer depends on information about hazardous, radioactive, toxic or carcinogenic materials, and that information is wrong, or incomplete, then likely somebody will be injured. This must not happen!

At Bechtel, one way to get promoted was to find a mistake.  One way to get demoted was to make a mistake. At Bechtel, mistakes and the comments identifying them were taken very seriously. On one 3-page policy memo I wrote, I got more than a thousand negative comments back from my manager, his manager, program managers, and so forth.  I did not back down, because I had absolute confidence in my skill and the approach.  I called my mentor, and he said, "make sure you are correct and go ahead!" Ultimately, my management chain earned a $10 million performance bonus for the program outline in that 3-page policy memo.

I did all of this to protect people.  To protect people from nitrates, halogenated hydrocarbons, PCBs, radioactive waste, asbestos, heavy metals, and all of the nasty stuff on our scope of the site.  To keep these people safe, I had to get the science correct and properly convey the information to the 600 professional engineers that were doing the actual design work.  People who care about people are not sociopaths.  These days much of my life is consumed over how people can have a better life under conditions of global warming.  I really do care about people.  It is just that I really do think that girls that do their homework have better lives than girls that go weeping to the professor.  I think that many of the women that comment on this blog never learned to do their academic homework. That is considered bluntness, not sociopathy, because I want them to do their homework and have a better life.

In my spinning, I still get the science correct.  Anybody that does not believe that, has not done their homework.  What is in the top of my spinning basket?  A digital tachometer, so I know how fast my wheel is running today. I measure what I get.  My spinning is measured performance, not subjective ego.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Woolen or worsted? Worsted or woolen?

Saying that worsted spun yarn is better than woolen spun  is like saying that chocolate cake is better than apple pie.

Working with yarns plied up from fine woolen spun singles is changing my mind about  woolen and semi woolen yarns.

Yesterdays swatches, including hand spun 5-ply sport weight knit on knitting pins,  It is a bit of a different technique, but it works on worsted spun.

Thursday, January 08, 2015

More twist and grist 2

So, I have this modified Ashford spinning wheel, and it has a fair amount of "play" in its various parts. There seems to be a relatively large amount of vibration in the drive train compared to the high end modern spinning wheels.  The naive observer would look at it and assume that no part of it was particularly precise.  On the other hand, it does insert twist very fast.  It is very much the fastest spinning wheel that I know about.

However, the #1 bobbin whorl is 50.0 mm in diameter, and the various flier whorls range from 51.5 mm to 50.6 mm in diameter.  That is a difference of just over a mm or just over 1/25" of an inch that will change the grist of the produced yarn from 5,600 ypp to 44,500 ypp.  It is not something the casual observer is going to see, and even if they do see it, they will presume that it is simply lack of precision on the part of whoever made the flier/bobbin assembly.

In particular, if the observer, is assuming that the wheel was made to run Scotch Tension or Irish Tension, the observer will will assume an error on the part of the maker.  Even a wheel maker accustomed to working with  double drive wheels designed to spin (soft) first run woolens (1,800 ypp) will assume that a 55 mm flyer whorl would be better.  And indeed, a 55 mm flyer whorl with a 50 mm bobbin whorl working on a effective bobbin circumference of 3 inches will produce a first run woolen yarn.     However, such yarns will rapidly fill the bobbin, changing the effective bobbin diameter, so the DRS system is not very useful with thick woolen yarns.

In short, DD works better with fine singles.  And it does work.  With all of its shaking, my Traddy will spin worsted 5,600 ypp singles about 3 or 4 times faster than any modern out of the box wheel.  And, when I do the measurements and math, it is also about 2.5 to 5 times faster than the best Canadian production wheel (depending on grist).  I simple do not know of anybody else that can sit down and spin worsted 5,600 ypp singles at a good honest hank per hour, all wound off and blocked.

Some might say those hanks are not real pretty, but they are not folks that can come close to spinning a hank per hour themselves.  They are not folks that weave with that grist of hand spun.  The do not produce or use such yarns and do not have a rational quality standard for such yarns.

Those who can, do.  Those who cannot, criticize.

A sweater from hand spun, 5-ply  sport weight for me, in process.  It was started on soft stainless steel needles with a knitting pouch, but I got tired of the slow progress, and switched to real steel knitting pins with a knitting sheath. Progress in the picture is ~45,000 stitches (About as many as in a finished  Elizabeth Zimmerman ski sweater.)  Most gansey knitters would complain that the yarn is over spun and underplied. However, sampling tells me that it yields a warm, durable fabric that I like for outdoor activities. I have spun gansey yarn that is just like mill spun gansey yarn, and this is not it. This is the right yarn to make the right fabric for this garment.

By the by, the knitting is a bit "Irish"; very functional, but no jealous gods are going to come after me. (I was knitting during a movie, and the movie turned out to be better than I thought it would be.)  The good thing about knitting in the dark is that you cannot see your mistakes.

A finished hank of such 5-ply is a good day's spinning.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

AA spinning oil

Alden is a great one for CLEAN textiles.

His spinning oil has a secret advantage - it helps clean the fiber.

Apply his spinning oil (mix olive oil, soap, and water), spin, and wash; and, the yarn will be cleaner with less effort than with any other process that I know.

I have some beautiful Rambouillet from Anne Harvey. I can wash the fiber, spin, and wash to produce a nice white yarn.  However, when I wash, oil with AA's spinning oil (Big Blue Book - page 369) , spin, and wash, the resulting yarn is much cleaner and more beautiful.

It is a matter of degree - you need to process samples both ways, and directly compare them, but when you do, the difference is distinct.  I had been oiling and spinning this fiber, and loading it onto bobbins and prins.  I had to have a sample that missed oiling to see how much better the spinning oil made the finished yarn.

It is little things like this that make me appreciate Alden Amos as a fountain of spinning wisdom.

Yes, there are lots of fancy. expensive wool washes for sale, but there are very few good spinning oils for sale. And, spinning fine is better with oiled fiber, so you do need a spinning oil.  Thus, you might as well use a spinning oil that does other useful things also.  

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Knitting more forcefully

Bed sheets are warm because the weaving process packs the threads together so closely that thermal convection currents in the air cannot easily advect heat through the fabric.

Blankets are warm because they are thick, and with the thermal convection currents blocked by sheets, the thickness of the  blankets reduces conduction of heat.

Most modern knitting depends on thickness for warmth.  The (hand) knit fabric is thick, but porous to air flow. In wind, or any kind of motion of the fabric large amounts of air pass through the fabric, and the moving air carries heat (advection).

In the old days, knitters used knitting sheaths to give them more leverage and thereby produce fabrics that were nearly as tight as woven fabrics.

This blog started when my wife bought me a fisherman's sweater in Nova Scotia, and I wore it fishing off the coast of California, and about froze.  This blog has been an exploration of how warm textiles were produced.

There are many, many earlier posts on how fabrics may be knit tighter - by knitting more forcefully.  There are even pictures and videos.  The three basic approaches are the use of a long flexible needle in a fixed knitting sheath, a shorter stiffer needle in a knitting sheath that moves, and curved needles that are rotated into the stitch.  Faster knitting may also be done using a knitting pouch as shown by Hazel Tindall in .

I looked for warmer yarns, And, yes there are warmer yarns out there, than, what you are likely to find at your local yarn store.  Looking for more warmth, I started hand spinning.  And, discovered that  hand spun can be warmer than any modern mill spun.  And, I discovered that some hand spun yarns are much warmer than other hand spun yarns.

I was ridiculed for hand spinning gansey yarn - but it is warmer and more durable than the yarns spun by the folks that ridicule me.

Warmth and durability is easy to measure.  I try different approaches, report what works, and discard what does not work.  Often I report things that work very well, only get a lot mail containing personal attacks.  Usually, I have tried their approach, and I am reporting a method that gives better results for less effort.  What they forget about me is that if they show me a better way, I will instantly drop my old way and adopt the better way.

My knitting, spinning, and weaving is always an evolution to faster and better.  Jan at told me about using baby oil on ganseys, I tried it for years, decided it worked well, and reported it.  For saying what worked well, I got a lot of hate mail. My conclusion is that most in the textile hobby world are not interested in what works, and what works better.  Rather they treat textiles as a ritual to be performed without deviation.

Now people are poking me because I am not making as much progress on weaving as they think I should.  It is funny, because, usually, I am ahead of them and they have been weaving for years and years. I am just not interested in showing what I am doing, until I am doing something that is worthwhile.  

Why all the hate mail?

I do not tell people that they have to spin faster, I merely point out that it can be done and tell how I do it.

I understand Buddhist monks sitting on the floor chanting. I do not do it, but I do not tell them to  stop.

Likewise, I also understand the "Priestesses of Spinning" wanting to spin slowly.   However,  I like to spin at a reasonable rate, and I am willing to tell others how that can be done .  I try tell the truth, and let others know what I have found to work.  As always, any statement by a Priestesses of Spinning that conflicts with anything in is likely wrong.

However, I do not dictate to the  High Priestesses of Spinning.  I do not subject them to personal insult, even when I try to tell the objective truth about objects and the  processes of textiles, and such truth conflicts with the conventional wisdom and dogma of the "Modern Church of Spinning".

I suggest that the Priestesses of the Modern Church of Spinning ignore me.  I let them do what they do, and they can let me do what I do.

PS  I do not consider Alden Amos a "Priest of Spinning".  His is ever the most observant and astute student.  However, on some issues,  he has bowed to market pressure and at times has recited the conventional wisdom and dogma of the Church of Modern Spinning.  These passages are carefully written, and one may always find the truth by reading these passages carefully.

For example, as you study the passage on tensioning systems on page 187 et.seq. look at the drawing of the chair wheel on the top of pg 185.  And, while accelerators are not discussed in the text, many of the illustrations show them.  Why? Prior to 1780 they were used -- because they work.

No, we do not see accelerators in modern wheels, because the Priestesses of Spinning do not understand their value.  The truth is that if one wants to spin fine yarns at a reasonable pace, then a wheel with an accelerator is the simplest solution.  It is how professional spinners solved the problem for hundreds of years.  

Monday, January 05, 2015

Limits to spinning speed

One limit to spinning speed is how fast one can draft.  I would say that the limit imposed by drafting is on the close order of 8 to 10 yards per minute.  Certainly, one can draft much faster, but the quality of the yarn goes down dramatically.

One can draft woolen much faster, but woolen requires more twist, so the flyer/bobbin must rotate much faster.  1,700 ypp singles require only 4 to 6 tpi, so one can easily draft and spin these yarns well in excess of 8 yards per minute with a wheel that has a flyer/bobbin assembly running at 1,200 rpm.  I have little interest in these yarns, and have not explored the limits.

Thus, here you see that modern commercial wheels will allow one to spin worsted weight yarn as fast as is useful, and this is a rational for making wheels designed to spin at 1,200 rpm.

Lace weight singles (10s, 5,600 ypp) need 9 to 12 tpi depending on whether they are spun worsted or woolen.  Thus, a 1,200 rpm wheel spinning woolen lace singles is down to ~100 inches/min or ~2.7 yards/minute. However, lace weight singles can also be drafted at 8 yd/min, but you need a flyer bobbin assembly  running at 3,500 rpm to insert that much  twist and form a woolen lace single into a  competent yarn.  Looking at the last post, we know you are not going to get here with small whorls and a "screw tensioner" on your wheel.

Shirting weight yarn (40s, 22,400 ypp) was a common product made by traditional hand spinners for weaving.  A bolt of shirting fabric requires ~250,000 yards of yarn, so spinners spun a lot of this yarn. Typical twist is 17 tpi, so spining the 8 yd/ min that can be reasonably drafted requires a wheel running at almost 5,000 rpm.  These days my wheel has no problem running at over 4,000 rpm for sustained periods.  With my wheel, spinning the yarn for a bolt of shirting would be 6 months sustained and continuous full time work.  Having a fast wheel is no assurance that a spinning project can be done quickly. The amount of spinning required to support the weaving of fine fabrics is stunning. Shirting was also plied into hosiery yarns.

Yesterday, during the Dowton Abby bingewatch, I was spinning 10s from (commercial) combed long wool at between 5 and 8 yards per minute.  This was using DRS, so if my drafted grist drifted off spec., I would break off.  Thus, a yard of finished 5-ply yarn costs me ~ a minute, but during bingewatch, the minutes are free, so the yarn is free  :  )  Spinning 10s at 5 to 8 yd/minute can be easy.

Some lace spinners talk about spinning 30,000 ypp lace singles.  Worsted spun, such singles require ~20 tpi, so  I am happy to spin 5 or 6 yards / minute on my wheel, and a 1,000 rpm little Shetland wheel running at 1,000 rpm will produce ~50 inches or 1.4 yards per minute.

30,000 ypp (54s)  is far, far beyond cobweb. As a knitting yarn it needs to be plied, so finished yarn production is on the order of  22 yards per hour.  Much of what many lace spinners claim to be 30,000 ypp is no more than shirting weight. In fact, at one time the best Shetland lace sold to Victorian ladies was knit from 3-ply made up from shirting singles.  That has a grist of ~7,500 ypp compared to the 7,000 ypp of modern cobweb (e.g., ).  However the 3-ply is more stable, stronger, more durable, and more uniform. Compare also with the 12,000 ypp  Gossamer yarns from  From this we see that commercial  "gossamer lace" is just 2 plies of shirting.    

Spinning shirting singles quickly and easily was, and is, a broadly and deeply useful skill.  However, it takes a wheel that inserts a lot of twist, fast.  Working on a slow wheel means the yarn tends to drift apart between drafting after drafting. It takes a lot more skill to spin shirting on a slow wheel than on a fast wheel.   I have great sympathy for anyone and everyone that spins such yarn on a slow wheel.  Spinning shirting drove much of my effort in making a faster wheel.

Fines (70s and 80s, 45,000 ypp) require some 23 or 24 tpi to produce a competent worsted yarn. I am lucky to spin these at 4 or 5 yards per minute. These may be the finest yarns that can be drafted at a good pace. It is not that hard, there is plenty of time to draft, as one waits for enough twist to be inserted.  If twist insertion is too slow, then the yarn drifts apart.  This problem of the yarn drifting apart is a major barrier to spinning very fine yarns on slow wheels (or spindles) and a major reason why I think the old spinners had faster wheels.  My problems with these yarns is not in their spinning, but in handling the singles.

The question is not how fast can one spin, but how fast can one produce the yarn that is wanted.  The craftsman spinner dreams the yarn, and then develops the technology that makes producing that particular and specific yarn feasible.  And, differential rotation speed (DRS) is to the fine spinner, what a table saw is to the fine woodworker.  DRS makes spinning fine threads much easier and faster.

Drive bands and vibration

My original analysis was that as flyer speed increased, wind resistance increased, resulting in drive band slippage at high speed. Now, I think the issue of drive band slippage at speed is more complex.

At higher speeds, drive bands vibrate raising two issues.

1)    The  vibrating drive band departs from a straight line, increasing tension between the drive wheel and the flyer/bobbin assembly, and massively increasing bearing loads at speed.

2)   The vibration of the drive band does not stop at the flyer/bobbin whorl, and the vibration reduces contact between the drive band and the flyer/bobbin whorls. Powerful screws to tighten the drive against the flyer/bobbin whorls simply increase bearing loads causing more flyer/bobbin assembly resistance and reducing flyer/bobbin assembly speed.

I have to admit that when I was first shopping for wheel, I wanted a powerful, screw based drive belt tensioner, and as I started speeding up my Traddy, one of the first things I did was put a bigger screw tensioner on it.  However, that was a reflex based on "conventional wisdom" and not the result of thinking.  When that approach did not work, I had to go back and think about the system.

Wheel makers must make wheels that sell, or they go out of business.  For my needs, my wheel is much better than any available commercial wheel.  However, as a beginning spinner,  I would never have bought my wheel as it is now - there is too much play in the system.  It does not feel solid, strong,  and durable.  That looseness that you feel in the antique wheels tended to damp vibration, while the modern, precision built wheels that feel strong and stable tend to trap the vibration in the drive band/ flyer/bobbin assembly system ensuring the drive band vibration that allow slippage at the flyer/bobbin assembly whorls.  An elastic drive band does not solve the problem- it stretches and vibrates away from the flyer/bobbin assembly whorls at a slightly different frequency.

To wrap your mind around this think how strong a steel guitar string is, and how tightly it is stretched as it is tuned. And yet, when it is plucked, it vibrates enough to (intermittently)  lose contact with a whorl.  When it is not in contact, it cannot drive the whorl.   Get out your strobe light and watch your drive band vibrate at different speeds.

Modern wheels are made to run at speeds low enough that there is not enough energy in the system to drive the drive band to vibrate at frequencies where it loses contact with the whorl(s).

The vibration of the drive band causes the effective length of the drive band to decrease hugely increasing bearing load, just as contact with the whorl is decreased by the vibration. Thus, as contact decreases, resistance increases and the speed of flyer/bobbin assembly is limited. (In addition, wind resistance is a factor.)

Like, all good problems, there are several solutions.  One is larger whorls.  The Lendrum High Speed Flyer has small whorls and will never give you the productivity you expect on the basis of it's 1:44 ratio.  As folks that have one about their actual productivity using those flyers.

A second solution is inertial damping.

A third solution is spring based damping.

I find the first 2 solutions to be adequate for flyer speeds up to 4,500 rpm.  Bearing loads are low, so bronze and Delrin bearings work very well, although I do oil frequently and use a very high grade oil.
These days, both of my drive belts are tensioned by the weight of the Mother of All and the flyer/bobbin assembly.  The mass of the  Mother of All and the flyer/bobbin assembly is the inertial damping. Putting a "screw tensioner" on the system would increase vibration and reduce my available speed.  These days my whorls are large.

Thus, I now know that any spinner using small whorls and a screw tensioner cannot come close to spinning as fast as I do.  I know that a spinner using large whorls without an accelerator has a much lower spinning ratio than I use and is spinning much slower than I spin.

Saturday, January 03, 2015


Practice makes perfect:


Spinning requires the same level of practice to obtain and retain the delicate grip and reflexes that are essential to good spinning.

Practice your spinning grip every day.

Shelves and hooks

Some folk talk of shelves, but some folk talk of "material handling systems".  A material handling system includes shelves.  It also includes conveyer belts, girls on roller skates, folks with hand trucks or forklifts, or these days, little robots whizzing around.

A hook is like a shelf.  A heck array is a material handling system! On a flyer, the heck array transports the yarn from the point of twist insertion (barrel of flyer) to the bobbin for storage. The heck array does this without creating undue tension that would break the yarn or undue slack that would allow the yarn to tangle.  A hook is an object, but a heck array is a yarn transport system.

If I take a class of elementary school kids on a tour of a warehouse, I will point out the "shelves". Depending on the level of their study, I might or might not use the term,"material handling system". If I am teaching a class on Value Engineering to a group of Bechtel professional engineers, then I will certainly use the term "material handling system".  One chooses one's vocabulary depending on the audience.  Many modern hand spinners may know words such as "heck", without understanding subtleties of the concept. Spinning teacher and authors know this and do not use words/concepts that their students do not fully understand. Heck is a word that a hobby spinner is not going to fully understand, and thus it does not get used until the student demonstrates an understanding of the concepts.

If one thinks of a heck as just a "hook", then there is no reason to put a heck on a Lazy Kate, NONE! And if you look around, modern commercial Lazy Kates do not have hooks (or hecks) on them.  I think Will Taylor's Lazy Kates are beautiful, but they do not work at all for the fine, high twist singles that I use.  Peter Teal had that problem of fine, high twist singles tangling, but his tubing solution is not practical for making 5-ply.   Likewise, the various "tensioned" Lazy Kates change the tension as the effective diameter of the bobbin changes, so all bobbins must be of the same type and must have the same amount of yarn on them to start, and still must continuously adjusted as the bobbins empty.  This is not practical for my projects.

However, if one thinks of a heck array as a material handling system to transport yarn at a controlled tension, then one does put a heck array on one's Lazy Kate.  I do!!

I went through generations and generations of "yarn guides" of all kinds in various trials of various kinds of lazy kates. Yarn guides as "yarn guides" do not work very well for avoiding tangles in yarn coming off bobbins in a lazy kate.  What does work with superb effectiveness is a set of  yarn guides designed to control tension and avoid tangling - a yarn transport and management system - a heck array.

The lazy kate that I use these days has a "heck array" that controls and delivers up to 5 singles with uniform tension, regardless of the kind of bobbin or the effective diameter of the bobbins. It works for grists in the range of 2,000 to 22,000 ypp. Yesterday, I plied some 1,500 yards of  sport weight 5-ply using this lazy kate. Yes, this heck array does have 2 hooks, but it is defined by its function - transport of tensioned yarn, rather than by its mechanical shape.  At this time it is optimized for the blocked singles that I use for warp.  Unblocked singles require another row or two of dowels /hecks to increase tension and reduce tangle.

I think that the reason we do not have commercial lazy kates with a yarn transport and management system (heck array) is because, in general, modern hand spinners in the mood to buy do not think in terms of functional systems - they want something that looks like a fairytale decoration.  And, they like to make fun of spinning tools that are functional and actually work effectively. (Yes, YOU!, Rubbernecker!)

This version of my lazy kate will hold 2 Ashford jumbo bobbins, and is actually easily convertible to 8, 10, or 12 ply, if I use the small bobbin size shown lower left. The pix is of the device is as it was used to make the 1.5 pounds yarn that I need to finish a sweater. I stopped when I emptied a bobbin, which got tossed in the "empties bin".  This morning's empties bin and long wool 10s to refill.

Note that each skein is a hand spun hank of 560 yards.

There are 18 hanks, so that is ~10,000 yards. Yesterday's plying consumed another 8,000 yards of those singles, so yesterday morning there were 18,000 yards of worsted -spun,  lace weight singles from that batch of long wool.  When I started that sweater back in October, I had plenty of the 5-ply on hand, based on the   ~ 5 lb / 50 hanks / 28,000 yards of these singles that I did for Spinzilla.  That was all I had from Spinzilla because because most of the Spinzilla week was spent driving my wife around the Eastern Sierra, Bodie Ghost Town, and Mono Lake. (We  were the last campers in Buck Eye Campground for the season, as in, camping in the high Sierra was starting to get cold.) Then, my wife took me shopping, and while she shopped, I knit ski socks and used up a couple of pounds of handspun 5-ply. Thus, I am down to the last third of the singles spun during Spinzilla. The advantage to being a hand spinner is that this is not a problem.

Friday, January 02, 2015

More 5-ply

One of the things that Alden Amos and I disagree about is "5-ply".  He feels that 5-ply is overrated and 3-ply is adequate for all practical use.

I know by calculation that 5-ply requires about twice the twist and hence twice the spinning effort as 3-ply.  On the other hand, by test, I know that 5-ply is much more durable and much warmer than 3-ply. And, both spun to sport weight grist take the same amount of time to knit.

I started making 5-ply because it was traditional -- it was the right yarn for fisherman's sweaters, and I could not see a great benefit in the mill spun gansey yarn over other yarns.  My  first skeins and cakes of 5-ply were a significant effort and trial.  At that level of effort 5-ply was not really worth while, except as a test material.

However, now my wheel is optimized to spin 5,600 ypp worsted singles, and I am way up the experience curve.  I have 12 or 15 pounds (45 miles) of such singles in  the house right now, and that is after much knitting and playing on the loom.  They are what is fast and easy for me to spin.  I spin such singles at 8 to 10 yards per minute/ or just under 400 yards per hour allowing time to wind off, drink coffee, and piss.

I have worked out a Lazy Kate ( , now with the dowels glued to a preferred configuration.) that is optimized to supply 5 parallel and evenly tensioned singles so I can ply 5-ply at about 1,000 yards per hour. (People who do not make such yarns tell me that my 5-ply is under plied, but I like it that way because it works without being steam blocked prior to knitting.)

Thus, over all, I can (hand) spin 5-ply as fast as Alden Amos (hand) spun 3-ply.   I have not asked him, but I think that if he could have 5-ply for same hours of labor that he put into 3-ply, then sometimes he would prefer the 5-ply, particularly for outer wear sweaters and sock yarns.

These days I spin 5-ply because it is convenient. I spin 10s  (10 hanks of 560 yards per pound) for the loom.  It is what my wheel is setup to spin.  I have bins of 10s around.  For knitting, 5-ply from 10s produces a nice, warm, durable, sport weight yarn.  With a good  Lazy Kate and a bin of 10s, 5-ply is the easy yarn to makeup for knitting on 2 mm needles.  And, 5-ply knit on 2 mm needles is much warmer than any 2-ply (or 3-ply) yarn knit on any needles.  If I need a cooler fabric, I knit it on larger needles to make a looser fabric, or I use a lace stitch. If I expected to be in really cold conditions, I would make a Lazy Kate for 8 (or 10 or 12) ply yarn,

If  I need hosiery yarn, I spin shirting warp (40s, 22,000 ypp) and make a ~3,500 ypp 5-ply.  This makes a fine, smooth,  durable yarn.  This gets swaved on finer needles. (Swaving is a knit fabric made by rotating curved needles held in special knitting sheaths.)  It allow the fast production of fine knit objects (gloves, socks), but does not work well on large objects. such as sweaters.

Making 10-ply Aran weight yarn is not that hard.  It tuns out to just be a matter of taking the singles spun for the loom, and making up a Lazy Kate that delivers 10 parallel and evenly tensioned singles and plying onto a large bobbin.  Designing such a  Lazy Kate is just a matter of under standing the concept of heck array. Last fall, I had such a  Lazy Kate for making 10-ply, but it got repurposed.  Now, I understand the design principles better, and it would take me 15 minutes to make another (better) Lazy Kate for 10-ply.

Now, if you are running Scotch Tension, you can not set up your wheel to produce a particular grist.  And, your wheel is not going to spin any faster than Alden's.  Differential Rotation Speed (DRS) is the fast path to high ply yarns.

I know that no matter how fast my spinning goes, spinning 3- 3,000 ypp singles is faster than spinning 5-5,600 ypp singles, but the extra spinning time is trivial compared to the extra durability and more importantly, the extra warmth of the 5-ply. I like a very warm sweater that is "magically" light weight.  Thus, I keep on spinning 5-ply.

I am sure the "rubberneckers" will laugh at much of the above, and by that, show themselves ignorant of the craft of spinning.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Heck Array

I just plied up a few thousand yards of 5-ply gansey yarn.

I could do that because I have a "Lazy Kate" that supplies 5 parallel and evenly tensioned singles at a high rate of speed.

I could design such a Lazy Kate because my conceptual universe includes the concept of  "heck array".  

The concept of "hooks" did not get my reader get to a Lazy Kate that allows plying 5-ply yarn quickly.

If one is going to design textile processes, then one needs textile process design concepts - one of which is "heck array".

a better concept for knitting sheaths

I have been knitting handspun 5-ply sport weight at ~10 spi on US 0 DPN.  Yesterday, I knit ~ 15,000 stitches. For perspective, most modern hand knit sweaters (e.g., Elizabeth Zimmermann patterns) have ~40,000 stitches and a moderate gansey will contain ~ 90,000 stitches.

How can this be done without hurting my wrists?

It is a better knitting sheath - two pieces of wood that clamp over a heavy work belt and  one of  the pieces of wood is drilled to accept the 2 mm DPN.  It also works with a lighter belt that will go through my jeans belt loops, but just now I am lounging around in a sweat suit, and the heavy leather belt works better over the sweat suit.  The belt and knitting sheath are worn under the apron and the working needle comes up beside the apron.

Clamping to the belt give extra stability and having the fulcrum closer to the belt gives  better control of the needle.  Also shown in pix is the general tool that I carry in my knitting bag, and which comes in handy for any required adjustments.

It is not pretty - it is not something one would make as a keepsake for a loved knitter, but it is the VERY BEST KNITTING TOOL (with spring steel DPN) that I know for knitting fine, fast, and tight. I have not tried it yet, but I expect the concept to be even better with the big ol' #1s.

I expect that they will also work for swaveing (with bent needles) which is how I knit socks and gloves from fine yarns.

This one was made using threaded inserts, but I will likely switch to short carriage bolts and  thumbscrews.  

First make it work, then make it pretty!  

Good  solutions inhibit the discovery of excellent discoveries.

The current generation of 2 mm DPN have tips with flat ends, but are still rather pointy, and tend to dig through the cloth aprons that I had been using.  So I moved up to my leather wood turning apron, but those ties would not fit through the holes in the last knitting sheath designed to fit on apron strings.  So I thought about clamping the sheath to the leather apron ties.  However, the ties for the wood turning apron are designed not to be snug around the waist, so I thought about clamping the knitting sheath to a leather belt.  I had made knitting sheaths that fitted snugly on nylon belts, but why, oh why, had I never thought about actually clamping the knitting sheath on to my heavy leather belts?  I do not know!  I think it was because I had never seen anything like this in the historical collections, and thereby assumed that it would not work.  Well it does, and it is very easy to fabricate with minimal tools and supplies. 

These work belts are available a good hardware stores that cater to building trades.