Tagged ‘Carol H’

Spin, Span, Spun

May 29th, 2008 by Jill Hall

We get COMMENTS! WHOO! I loves comments, yes I does.

Carolyn H wrote: Jill, Plimoth is so lucky to have this offer from Carol. (I think so too!) I think you’ll be so pleased at the durability of stockings knit from combed long wool. Some years ago I knit a pair of socks for my husband. He put a hole in the heel within a few months (I had used woolen spun Cheviot wool). I subseqeuntly combed some Cotswold long wool, and he has been wearing those socks for over ten years!! This is one of the wonderful things about this blog — chances to read and learn about all aspects of textiles at Plimoth! Thank you.

Thank me? Pfffft. Thank you. I love writing about stuff I love to write about.

Margaret wrote:
In your wildest dreams, did you ever imagine how exciting and interesting this blog would be? I feel humble and proud to have worked on the jacket and toured your costume studio last August. I can hardly wait to see what you do next.

It’s good to hear from you, Margaret. You should be proud, you do lovely work. This project seems to be inspiring a lot of humility and gratitude, though; I feel that every time I get to welcome generous talented embroiderers and lace makers to work on it, and even when I just get to talk about it. And, no, I had no wild blogging dreams, only nightmares where no one came.

Carol from the UK wrote with a technical question:

“two strands S spun and double plied Z”

Is this just another way of saying 2-ply or is this a different technique? I really appreciate all the information you are sharing with us. Yes, I already know a few of the things you write about but I am learning more all the time, and I thank you for it.

This has been an incredible journey, even for those like me who can only watch from the side lines.And before I even had a chance to see this, Kat had written in with the answer:

I’m so flattered that Jill put this up! (I maybe should have warned Kat that everything gets in the blog. Inquiring minds, you know.) I love to spin and this is just such a fun thing to do.

To clarify the “two strands, S spun, and double-plied Z” directions — wool that is S spun was spun on a wheel moving in the clockwise direction (clockwise from where the spinner sits). Wool that is Z spun is spun in a counterclockwise direction. To ply, you want to go in the opposite direction from how the strands were spun. If you ply in the same direction as the spin, you will get a really hard yarn!

The direction also has to do (historically, anyway) with the type of yarn being made. S spun for woolens; Z spun for worsteds. I always think of it in terms of: Woolen — carded — S spun/Worsted — combed — Z spun. Distinguishing between carding and combing is also a tip as to the breeds of wool being spun.

It would be interesting to see if silk responds differently to S or Z spin. An archaeologist friend sent me an article where a colleague of his proved that flax naturally spins in one direction, and hemp in the other. She was able to use the cordage impressions in pottery shards to determine what the clay had been wrapped with, which absolutely blows me away!

Kat, inquiring minds will also want the citation for the article, would you send it please, when you have a chance? Thanks.

And Melanie Anne connected the dots for us:

Ah, another instance of S and Z. In embroidery, we see the S and Z as the differentiation between the Stem Stitch and the Outline Stitch. Depending on the direction you make your stitch it creates a twisted border that makes an “S” or a “Z”. I can never remember which is which, but I believe the “S”tem stitch makes the S and the Outline stitch makes the Z. In practice, most people interchange them without differentiation- but technically there is a difference. This of course, is completely different than just using a stitch to outline something… but I digress… Now that I realize that yarn also has a directional “twist”…. does silk spinning also vary with the directional S & Z?

Yes, I believe that anything you spin, whatever fiber it is, fine like silk or coarse like rope, can either have a right-leaning or left-leaning twist, usually described as S/Z, or clockwise/counterclockwise. I remember seeing an article by Deb Pulliam in Piecework? Spin-Off? one of those magazines about spinning Z and plying S for crochet; that the natural motions of the crochet stitches tended to un-spin “usual” S-spun Z-plied yarn.

More Spinning

May 28th, 2008 by Jill Hall

Here’s an update on what Kat C has been working on. She’s one of the generous spinners who contacted me a few months ago offering to spin some yarn suitable for finer stockings.

During our first email exchange we considered different breeds of sheep. Here’s what Kat said:

I work a lot with Shetlands, due to the range of colors, and they are correct for any time period, being a primitive breed. The Cotswold tends to be a hairy yarn, but I have seen a woodcut of stocking knitters shearing the surface of the final product, so I would be willing to posit that they surface sheared the same as the cappers did. Romney is nice; I just washed one out and have it drying. I have a gray one, roved, some place in my stash. Cheviot would be period-correct, as well, although I just mixed what I had with a load of Scottish Blackface to make tweed.

You’ll remember from last night that Romney is what Carol H is working with, combing and spinning to make a worsted yarn. We’re all working with tiny scraps of information; there is not a great deal of detail on early 17th century knitted stockings. We keep referring to the “Gunnister” stockings, or gloves, or man. Gunnister man, or the Gunnister find, is a body of a man preserved in a peat bank, found in 1951 outside of Gunnister, Shetland. The wool garments he was wearing when he died sometime after 1689 (based on coins in his pocket) were very well preserved; whatever of linen or cotton he may have had was long gone. The find was described in great detail in an article in the Proceedings of the Society for Antiquaries of Scotland, 1951-52. This is part of the description of his stockings: “The woollen yarn is heavy, spun S, 2 ply. It is dark brown in colour, a mixture of various shades of brown fibres, including some black. The spinning and knitting are very even.” So that’s what Kat was aiming for. Carol H and some others are aiming for the same stitches per inch as the Gunnister stocking but in a variety of sorts and preparations of wool. Joan Thirsk’s research supports having several different qualities of knitted stocking during the early 17th century. Many were available ready-made, and cheap enough to make it worth while even for ordinary people to buy them rather than knit their own.

“Spun S” refers to the direction of twist. If you’re familiar with cables in knitting, you know they can twist to the right or to the left. So can rope, and yarn, and thread. “S” and “Z” are the terms spinners use to describe the twist direction. “2 ply” means two strands are twisted together, usually in the direction opposite to the original twist. So you might spin S and ply Z. You can ply two or more strands together. If you ply 3, you have 3 ply yarn, or thread, or whatever. Forgive me the explanation; if you know all this already you’ll find it overly simplistic, and if you don’t it probably doesn’t really explain what’s going on. You can do an internet search for more information tonight, and I can also do some bibliography blogs on spinning books.

Not very long after those first emails, Kat wrote again:

5 mini skeins with swatches from Kat C.After 5 tries, I got the right 7.5 stitch per inch gauge on a size 0 needle which is a typical sock/stocking size. Small, but typical. Without being able to feel the hand of the originals, the actual weight is a supposition based on what is known. I had a very nice dark brown Shetland fleece that is working out perfectly, two strands S spun and double plied Z.

I did a two day spinning demonstration at a local site last weekend (this was written in late April) and made you several single strand skeins of gray Shetland. It is 7.5 per inch on a size 0, so could be used for lighter weight stockings. I will be spinning at the NJ State History Fair this Saturday. Once I get out from under the demonstrations, I will pack up the swatches, samples, and skeins that are finished and send them off to you. It will take another week or so to spin and ply enough yardage of the 2-ply brown.

I think this is enough for tonight. I’ll share some pictures of that box full of treats I got from Kat a couple of weeks ago. And more historical sources, primary and secondary. Looks like we’re only scratching the stocking surface.

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