Friday, September 30, 2016

Phase 3

Phase 1 was spinning for knitting.  Phase 2 was learning to spin fast and fine. Phase 3 is spinning for weaving.

The new guild season has started, and last night I had a heart to heart talk with the best weaver around, and we decided that the real problem with my weaving is that I need more twist in the warp thread.  This morning I am back to one of the old bobbins that I made for spinning very fine, along with a more precise flier whorl, all in all, resulting in easier spinning of 5,600 ypp singles at 13 or 14 tpi compared to the mere 9 tpi that I have been spinning knitting singles.  

I think the truth of the matter is that the tighter spun singles will ply up into better knitting yarns- e.g., stronger, more durable, and yes, warmer.

More work, but that is in the nature of textiles.  Sometimes better is more work.

I still have not worked out the best logistics for warping the loom at 68 epi with 2" wide sections on the warping beam ( e.g., 136 ends per section).  And, the tension box only holds 100 ends.  And, the bobbin rack only holds 72 bobbins. Still I am getting to the point where I can reasonably start thinking about these issues.

Monday, September 26, 2016


I get teased and chided on for using the traditional spinner's measures.  In  particular, measuring grist by stating the number of "hanks" of 560 yards that can be spun from a pound of yarn.

My ordinary grist is "10s". That is 5,600 ypp yarn spun worsted. Thus, I know how many pounds of wool I have, I know how much yarn I can spin. Easy.  And, when wrapped to refusal, 10s measure ~75 wpi.  A 75 wpi single can be sleyed to produce plain weave at 68 epi/68ppi, which weighs about 1 pound/ square yard.  Likewise, 20 hanks per pound produce 2 yards of cloth per pound of wool.

Thus, using hanks, I can easily calculate how much yarn I can spin from a given batch of wool, and how much cloth I can weave from that wool.  The more weaving I do, the more useful the old English system of yarn measure is.

This also tells us that the stories we were told in grade school were just that -- stories.  The yard and the inch may have been related to some king's reach and size of hand/toe/foot, but he would have lived before the very fine weavers of Classic Greece.  They had wool, yarn, and cloth trading, so they had measures that extended from Greece to what is now Turkey and Egypt, to say nothing of the silk road with textiles moving east.

Sorry, Love; but the fine fabrics of Classical Greece were not woven on single beam, warp weighted looms.  Oh, I am sure they had such looms, but I doubt if that is what they used to weave 12 meter lengths of 68 epi (and finer) wool fabrics.  No, by Classical Greek times, it was an industry, and they were using  rather sophisticated horizontal double beam looms.  And there was trade.  With trade, there were terms to define the various aspects of textiles.  You may not name your yarns, but merchants do; now and in the past. They give them names like  "45 grams / meter, white worsted single" or white "40s".

I expect that the definitions of (or other words that indicate the same quantity): hank, yard, inch, pound, wool fineness in hanks per pound, ends per inch, pricks per inch, woolen, and worsted, were all set, and known among textile traders by the end of the Greek Classical era.   In particular, the elegance of the hanks of yarn at 560 yards tied to fineness wool and the math of  wraps per inch suggests the mathamatical acumen of Syracuse in classic times.

The fact that we have variations such as the el as a measure of length, suggests that textile measures have been around long enough for dialects to develop.  For the larger, and well nourished Greeks, 36 inches was a reasonable width for a warp. During some periods in the textile centers of  Europe, there was famine, and people were smaller, so a narrower warp allowed much easier weaving.  Thus, during periods of famine, Europeans needed a name for narrower cloth, e.g., the el.

Yards, inches, pounds, and hanks were not isolated measures, but part of an intricate system of measure, essential to a large, profitable, international industry and  systems  of trade.  In systems that goes all the way from from wool fiber to yarn to finished cloth, the old English system with grist and wool fineness in hanks per pound  is the easy way to do the math  and make sure you get correctly paid.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Wool Warp that works.

Easy! More twist!  With enough twist, you are less likely to need sizing.

So, I spin worsted 10s, @ 9 tpi, and it gets plied up into various knitting yarns, and that works very well.

However, that yarn tends to be a bit fragile to use as warp without sizing.  (Perhaps someday, I will be a good enough weaver to adjust my loom so that I can weave with such a soft warp yarn, but not today.)

What works is worsted spun 10s (5,600 ypp) spun "hard" at ~ 14 tpi. Shit!! I was only putting 17 tpi into 40s (22,000 ypp) and calling them "hoisery singles".   The hard 10s come off the spinning bobbin like barbed wire, and must be promptly steam blocked.  Then, when plied as knitting yarns they are more tractable, but you may want to consider blocking them again before knitting.  As warp, they are  stronger, are stiffer, and easier to sley.

This is another case where the ANSWER was in The Big Blue Book (pg 383), but between the lines.  I swear the really good stuff in AA is between the lines.  He was a little like Dumbledore - he points one in the correct direction, and lets one discover the details on their own.

With my twist requirements going up about 50%, I need all the flyer/bobbin speed that I can get.  Thus, I am back on the  Alden Amos #0 competition flyer running at about 4,000 rpm, and am still producing less than 400 yards per hour. It seems a little mean to stuff 45 grams onto it, but with a 3-gang flyer-whorl, it  works. On the other hand, the drafting seems relaxed compared to the hustle of  the 600 yards per hour of the 9 tpt medium 10s that I have been spinning for years.

Look, and read on

Costco also sold The New Ivy Brand Vintage Classics with packaging stating that it was hand spun, hand woven.

Later, Costco  also did sell "Original, Weatherproof  Vintage" brand (made in Vietnam, not China!!)

I own some of both, and did not keep the packaging, from either.

Go to India, and look at their hand spinning frames.  You will need it for the next post!!

Friday, September 23, 2016

More spinning bobbins

Alden really did tell me very emphaticly, several times that whorls, flyer and bobbin should be have  "board cut grain".  That did not stop him from making spindle turned bobbins as in

where he supplied me with bobbins with board cut grain and that were spindle turned. 

  Thus, since then, I ( mostly) made my spinning bobbins form glued up blanks so that the ends of the bobbins (the whorls)  had board cut end grain.

This summer, I did some spinning on the patio, and noticed that over a period of weeks, the spinning bobbin which had been turned from old red oak salvaged from a kitchen remodel, had warped! I never had any problems with Alden's, or Ashford's board cut grain bobbin whorl's warping when I used them for spinning on the patio.  I expect that I could have prevented the problem with a different finish. (The red oak had a Danish Oil finish.)  (Also thicker whorls tend warp less.)  (Also, black walnut tends to be more dimensionally stable than the red oak. )

This was not the first time that whorls had warped on me, but this time, I took action. 

The new spinning bobbin for the AA#1 flier was spindle turned from a solid block of olive wood.

The bobbin above the flier is the oak bobbin that warped, The bobbin in the flyer is one turned in a few minutes.  No making the parts, and gluing up a blank. Certainly it is too wasteful of wood for a commercial operation, but it can be done quickly, without planning.  It good for repairs where a fast fix is needed.  It is just a matter of having a big (2.5" x 2.5"x 4.2"), dry,  block of wood around.

In the sun for a while, the diameter of the spindle turned whorls will change.  For single drive, or DD with slippage that does not matter.  For DRS, inserted twist can be adjusted by changing the flyer whorl. I have a graduated set of flyer whorls, so likewise change in bobbin whorl diameter is not a big problem.  Nevertheless, the groove in this whorl is a little different than that of the old red oak whorl, and it took about 3 hours to get the new olive bobbin spinning 63 m/gram from fine long wool at about 200 m/hr (3+ gr/hr).

It works well, but it sure sounds like an old industrial sewing machine.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Space Cloth

Just when you think you have seen everything!

'Space cloth' to revolutionise textiles industry

A designer and researcher has pioneered a new form of fabric which promises to revolutionise the textiles industry.Sonia Reynolds invented 'space cloth' – the first non-woven material made from yarn. It has a strong potential for use as a smart textile due to its unique structure with space to encase copper wiring, light emitting diodes (LEDs) and more.
Ms Reynolds brought the idea to Nottingham Trent University's Advanced Textile Research Group and is now undertaking a PhD in the subject to further develop the fabric's novel manufacturing process under the direction of Professor Tilak Dias and Dr Amanda Briggs-Goode, of the School of Art and Design.
Scientifically named Zephlinear, unlike traditional woven or knitted materials which are made by the interloping or interlacing of yarns, it is made by a newly established technique known as yarn surface entanglement.
Research shows that it is strongest and most efficient when created from natural yarns such as one hundred per cent wool, hair and wool/silk mixtures, though it can also be made from synthetic yarns.

Read more at:

Um; you know this stuff!  You have likely made this stuff - it is felting with yarn --it happens by accident in sloppy skeins, and on purpose in felting projects. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Old cotton cloth

Oldest textile dyed indigo blue found

A George Washington University researcher has identified a 6,200-year-old indigo-blue fabric from Huaca, Peru, making it one of the oldest-known cotton textiles in the world and the oldest known textile decorated with indigo blue.

Read more at:

Indigo dye requires chemistry!

In context:    
Earth Temperature Timeline

Tuesday, September 13, 2016


Costco had several styles of men's shirts made by The New Ivy Brand:
All had prominent packaging stating they were hand spun and hand woven.

I trust Costco to require accurate labeling.  Unless you want to accuse Costco as an accessory to fraud,  accept the above, as labeled.

I would not have accepted the material as hand spun without having tried to buy such a spinning "frame", and run into the export tariff.  And, remember that Shetland Harris Tweed is also hand woven.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Jerseys and Guernseys

See Patterns for Guernseys, Jerseys and Arans by Gladys Thompson, Page 5, line 12.

See L'Ouvre by E. Zola.  It seems that "Ouvre", as a name for "Jersey" dates only to Victorian Times.

And, yes, ouvre at that time could only be knit with techniques that could not be mentioned in polite society.

Tuesday, September 06, 2016


All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act on their dreams with open eyes, to make them possible.

T. E. Lawrence

Handspun and hand woven cotton!
Why is handspun and hand-woven wool so much harder?

Why do people who seem not to be moving their craft forward, complain about the speed that I move my craft forward?  Why do they complain about my progress without seeing what I have actually done recently?   I solve many of my craft problems, without posting them.  While, I do not see them posting any textile craft solutions at all.

Making sweaters is doing the same thing over and over.   Unless the successive sweaters are better, faster, or cheaper, they are repeats of previous experience, that do not add significant additional expertise.  If you want to claim years of experience, then you should be show a consistent progression toward  better, faster, or cheaper.  If you progress by taking classes, then you are gaining expertise, but you are not advancing the craft.  To advance the craft, we must dream by day.

Where are the other "dreamers of the day"?  We should track "dreamers of the day", for they are dangerous.  (Actually, I think they are rather a fun lot, full of ideas, and always seeking a better, faster, cheaper path to "Better, Faster, Cheaper".)  We dreamers of the day take Blaize to be our hero.  Then, we ask, what is the Noble thing?

Do we consider the "Yarn Harlot" to be a "Dangerous Dreamer of the Day"? No, she follows and reports recent trends and fads, with pleasant humor. She tells us that what modern knitters are doing is good.  She does not incite revolution, she calms.

The cotton above is a commercial product from India. During the Old Kingdom period, when Egyptians were making exceptionally fine linen, they were also importing cotton cloth of similar fineness from India. Thus, I do not feel bad about using fine cotton cloth from India.

Saturday, September 03, 2016


A while back, the Captain of the tall ship Alma, kept a place at Lake Berryessa, and he was a generous host.  However, over the door was a sign, "No Sponges!"

The purpose of the  Lake Berryessa place was the weekly party, and everyone was expected to contribute to the party.   Captain would buy truckloads of booze, and everyone was welcome to drink as much beer and rum as they wanted - but they had to contribute to the party. The Captain had toys, but all the boys had to make sure all the toys were all in perfect working working order and gleaming with fresh wax jobs when the girls arrived on Friday evening.

Here, I have tolerated Sponges!  Sponges carp and criticise about the pace of my research as to how to weave hand spun without contributing to the research.  If they want to complain about how slowly the research proceeds, then they can either tell me the solution to the problems; or, send me a stream of checks to allow me to spend more time on weaving.  If they criticise without  helping the project, they are just Sponges.

Oh yes, and by the way there is a very interesting CPW in the Florence Pioneer Museum.  Note the wheel /bobbin ratios.

Friday, September 02, 2016

Seduced by the Dark Side, I was!

Many times, I have stated that combed top and (pin drafted) roving from mills is more difficult to spin and I have noted that yarn, handspun from mill processed fiber is not as strong or durable as yarn handspun from traditionally processed yarn. Still, I acquired a pile of mill processed fiber and spun a lot of 5,600 ypp worsted singles.  I had a big bin of these singles and they got used for everything.  Along the way, I checked to see that the resulting yarns were stronger than mill spun yarns.  That was the wrong approach. I should have made sure that the singles/yarns spun from mill processed fibers were as strong as singles/yarns spun from fiber that i scour and comb.

Yes, mill processed fiber is fast, easy, and may actually be less expensive than raw fleece.

The dark side is that yarn from mill processed fiber is not as strong and durable.  The Darkside is that unless you are going to dip your handspun warp in steam heated sizing solution prior to warping the loom,  then you are likely going to have to skip mill processed fiber for your warp.

I knew hand scoured fiber  (including processing by folks like Morro Bay) resulted  in stronger singles.  I knew that hand carded and hand combed fiber produced better singles.

Nevertheless, I thought that mill processed fiber would be "good enough". I let the Darkside seduce me.  This is something I need to unlearn.

Today, I think one reason why we do not see hand spun, hand woven cloth is that people try to hand spin mill processed fiber into warp, and it does not work.  This was a useful thing to learn.