A (Very) Brief History of the Technology of String - C Wringe

A (Very) Brief History of the Technology of String - C Wringe

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Hello everyone! I'm Chester and  welcome to yet another HackSoc talk,   the talk series of everything that's  all about computers, definitely.   Yes, so this talk is about string.  Some preliminaries before we start,   and here is where I noticed that I  haven't set my timer, many apologies,   and this is going to be the whole tone of this  talk I am afraid. This is just going to be a 30  

minute ramble about a topic that I'm passionate  about, and it is very last minute because   turns out doing a PhD is hard, and I did not  leave myself enough time to do this talk, so   please forgive me, it's not going to be  anywhere near as polished as it usually is.   Another disclaimer is that this talk is going to  rely quite strongly on props. Some of them are   easier to move around than others. That  means that I'm going to occasionally rely  

on moving the camera around, and while I'm  going to try and do that in the least motion   sensitive triggering way as possible, I'm just  going to give you this warning before we begin. OK, now with that out of the way, let's talk  string! Now also another disclaimer apologies,   this talk is slightly misnamed in that I'm going  to take a historical perspective, but I'm not   going to necessarily have much sourcing. I  am not a historian, while I do have a couple   of sources for what I'm going to claim, these  are going to be all secondary sources because,   as I said, I'm not a historian. This is going  to more strongly focus on the techniques because   those are things that I can actually get my  hands dirty and do, so I'm going to try and   explain more about techniques. So what this talk  is going to be, is going to be an explanation  

of how you do the process of: fluff, to string,  to fabric, and the various techniques to do so,   and it's going to go over and explain how this  works, and give you sort of an understanding of   what these different things are. Because  to my mind, the way I feel about string is   how I perceive most of HackSoc feels about  computers. Yeah there are some things that   you can do, like wear clothes, where you don't  really need to understand what's going on,   but for a lot of things, after a while you do  have to have a bit of understanding of how it   all goes together if you want to, say, modify  your clothes to work better, and I find that   I have found it in my day slightly difficult  to know where to start with computers, and   I get the impression that this is sort of the  same thing that can happen with textile art.  

So I'm hoping that in this talk I'm going to give  you sort of an understanding of the various sorts   of things that can be going on with textiles,  in the hopes that then if you're interested   in finding out more and perhaps learning one of  the textile arts that I'm talking about, or just   understanding wherever clothes you wear  come from, you will have a starting point And so without that out of the way,  let's go with some definitions.   I'm going to have to distinguish between  several types of thing during this talk.   There is going to be the materials, that is to  say the substances that things are made out of,   say natural fibers, so sheep's wool or polyester--  and I am so sorry if you can hear the various   car noises, I'm afraid I am doing this out of  my flat, which is not for best soundproofed.   Anyway, so you have the raw substances  that things are made out of, the   materials, bamboo, sheep's wool, polyester all of  that. And then you have the form that things come   under, the three main forms of this are going to  be what i'm going to call fluff, or fiber, and [clattering noises] Yep, that was eminently predictable, I hope  that I didn't murder anyone's ears with that,   nor that I broke anything. Anyway now that  that crisis is done, fluff of this form,  

followed by yarn or string or anything of this  form, followed by cloth that I'm wearing. OK,   so what we're going to talk about is  how you go between these three forms,   the various technologies and techniques involved,   OK. And to start at the beginning, let's  start with how you go from fluff to string. Well the main way that you go from something like  this to something like this is by applying pull   and twist, and there are multiple  ways of doing that, but the most   obvious way is doing what I'm  doing right now with my hands. So   hands are one of the main tools, however you  might be able to see this is not only very slow,   but also the moment I let go i'm losing all  that twist that I just worked to put in,   and if you can see the less twist you have  the more likely you can pull it apart.  

So hands are one way to do this  art, which is called spinning.   But they're not by any means the easiest or  the most obvious, so let's talk about spindles!   Spindles are incredibly cool and incredibly old.  Some of the secondary sources I found have said,   "oh yeah, they basically predate any form  of written word or any historical record,"   and the one that I have personally-- the oldest  spindle that I personally have seen was from the--   sorry I'm going to have to look this up. The Chalcolithic age which is between 5500 and  3000 BC. This was in the Anatolian Civilizations   Museum, which is a very good museum, you can  see it on-- you can visit this museum virtually,   I'll put a link in the description because it's  really cool, and if you are ever in Ankara,   please let me know, because I always want an  excuse to visit that museum. But yes anyway,  

so that's the oldest one that I personally have  seen. It's not the oldest one in existence,   the oldest spindle that I personally own which  is also ironically the newest spindle that I   personally own, is this 3D printed viking spindle,  which is in fairness currently in two parts.   It's 3D printed from a model on Thingiverse,  i just love the juxtaposition of this   really new technology being used to build this  really old technology, it's something that I just   find neat. I do need to glue them together  because resin printers be like that, but yes.

So how do spindles work? Well I talked  about the two ways-- the two forces that   you needed to apply didn't I: spin and  twist. And the way that a spindle works,   let's take this one, is having a weight  and a thing that you can wind your yarn on. And then you just spin it. Now what this does, it allows you to pull on your  fluff while also having some measure of control. Behold! And the reason why they're called drop spindles  is that, if you're not paying attention to what   you're doing, and if you don't know how to  do it very well, you drop it quite often.  

And I probably wouldn't be dropping this  if I weren't doing an off-the-cuff talk,   but there you have it! Anyway, spindles can come  in plenty of different forms, they usually come--   the two components are the shaft and  the whorl. The whorl is the weight,   and I am probably not pronouncing it correctly,  because who the fuck knows how to pronounce W-H.   That said however, those can be  arranged in various different ways.   As you can see in this one, the whorl is at the  top of the spindle, and the yarn hangs like so.   On this one, the whorl is at the bottom, this  is a bottom weighted spindle. You might be able  

to see that both of these spindles have  a groove to hang the yarn around from. And top pointed spindles also often have a groove  in the whorl where the yarn can go into. That   said, not all spindles have whorls that can come  off, for example this one is just attached to   the shaft itself. Sometimes it's even better  than that, the whorl is part of the spindle.   This is a Russian-style spindle that i got  off eBay and I haven't actually used yet,   so I wouldn't be able to tell you how  to use it, but it is still really cool.   And yeah, you can have a bunch of  different things, for example this is,   well, two-thirds of a Turkish-style spindle. The  aim with this one is that these come off and it   winds up the yarn in a nice little ball,  that you can then knit from immediately.

So that being said, the pulling and  the twisting is not the only part   of the "turning it into yarn" process. When  you have something like this, this is called   "singles", and now this is perfectly fine for some  yarns, for example this yarn is a single-ply yarn,   it was just spun in the way that I  just demonstrated, and then wound up.   But that's not how all yarns work, if you see this  one for example it is made out of two different   sets of singles, that's how you've got that  color winding effect going on. And if I unwind it  

like so, I don't know if you can see that if  that's in focus, the various singles composing   it come apart. This is six-ply yarn, that is to  say there are six sets of singles composing it.   So how do you get this plying process? Well, once  you have a bunch of singles like so, you want to   wind them together, and the really cool thing  comes in here, because while you're winding them   together, you're spinning them in the opposite  direction that you spun the spindle in previously.   So I was spinning these singles in a clockwise  manner, so when I ply them, I spin them in a   counter-clockwise manner. And it's just a case  of, you want to lock them in together as it were,   and that way your yarn, once it's unwound,  lies flat, it doesn't have any sort of joining.   So yeah, that's plying in a nutshell,  and if you want to see the three forms   that this comes in with the same yarn, here's my  fluff, here are my singles, and here is my yarn.  

I don't know if you can see, but this is still  significantly thicker than these singles.   So yeah, however the thing about drop spindles is  that they do take quite a long time to do anything   with, and so enter the spinning wheel. As far  as i have been able to source, spinning wheels   were originally from India from the  late Middle Ages. That being said again,   this is not strong historical-- this  is not a strong historical process,   I just looked it up on the internet,  I will source what I've said, but   please take it with a grain of salt. So the main  idea behind the spinning wheel is the idea that,  

with the same amount of motion, a small circle  will have more revolutions than a large circle.   That is to say, if two of these circles  are attached, and therefore I can move   one by moving the other, then I don't need  to apply as much movement to this wheel   to get a bunch of revolutions from this. So,  what we do is we attach this wheel to this setup,   which I will go through this setup in more  detail in a bit, and then, I apologize... Use the treadle to move the wheel.

Now there are actually multiple ways to  move a wheel in a spinning wheel, this is a   single-treadle wheel, however double-treadle  wheels exist, electric wheels exist,   and the great walking wheel for example  doesn't use any sort of treadle, but instead   you walk back and forth, it's a very large wheel,   you walk back and forth and turn it with  your hand while spinning with the other hand. Now the movement of this wheel  moves this bobbin and flyer setup,   and let's go into more detail into  this bobbin and flyer setup, because   there's also some really cool stuff going  on there which I would like to go into. OK let's move camera back, apologies for  this again, so bobbin and flyer. Here we have   some words that are reused from the old one.  This itself is the bobbin, this is the spindle,  

this is the flyer, and this is the whorl. And  so the idea is that, because the bobbin has a   smaller revolution than the whorl, this  turns faster than this. And that is how   you gain the friction and the spin needed to both,  get the spin onto the fiber, but also then wind   it onto the bobbin. I'm afraid I'm not going to be  able to demonstrate this because it's already been  

15 minutes, and I'm still in the "going from  fluff to yarn." OK, so you've got your yarn,   that's fine I guess, but you want fabric. How  are you going to make fabric? Well I'm going   to talk about this in, I guess, three different  categories of things that are vaguely similar,   although I'm going to talk about five different  textile arts. OK, so the first ones are weaving   and sprang, because those have the same sort  of idea between them. Weaving you probably   know about, but sprang is a much older one, which  is also really cool. So moving the camera again.

Here you go, here is some sprang.  So this is what we call the frame,   well it's what we call "my chair," but it's  being used as a frame. And moving it back. OK, so we can see, so sprang is a  again prehistoric form of textile art,   I will link to a video by someone who's actually  an expert on this stuff so that you can get more   details, but basically the conceit behind both  weaving and sprang is the idea that you have   string that goes back and forth, but  is being held into place by something.   Now if you've ever seen a piece of  weaving, which you definitely have,   but if you ever look closely at say a woven basket  or maybe the plaid that you're wearing if you're   like me and queer, you can see that the way that  it's done is by having a certain type of fabric--   a certain type of string that is to  say-- sorry again, I'm having to look. OK, so you have your warp, which is a vertical set  of strings, and then you have your weft string,   which goes between the strings, and if you've ever  looked at a piece of weaving, you know that the   weft alternates which ones it goes between. Now  this is a good way to understand the structure  

and how it's held together, that being said that's  not the most efficient way to weave. Most people   generally when weaving do not have a bunch of  vertical threads but stay in the same place,   and then needle and a thread that goes throughout  it. No, the way that weaving mostly takes place   is that you separate those threads into two  sets. They go-- you have them in a V shape.   You pass weft through, with a piece of technology  called the shuttle, and this is where your weft is   wound around, you pass it through that V shape,  and then you exchange it, and the weft is caught   in between, and then you pass the weft through  again, and once again it's caught in between. So that's how you get quite a strong,  powerful structure. With sprang it's  

a little bit different, because instead of  having a weft string that goes through it,   the way that you do it instead is by having  the side threads go through the other ones.   So you take the first thread, and you switch it  with the second thread. And then you take the   third thread, and you switch it with the fourth  thread. And so forth, and that gives you a sort   of like half-braided half-woven technique. I'm  afraid that I'm not fully doing it justice,   but I will link to some very cool videos  about it. So yeah, that gives you a sort of,  

I guess interlaced structure, but let's talk  about the arts that rely more on knotting.   So these are going to be Nålebinding and crochet. Now Nålebinding and crochet both are performed by   instituting a series of knots,  one on top of the other.   That is to say, you create one knot, and then you  use that knot as base for your subsequent knots,   and the nice thing about this is, well, when you  do that in crochet, you do it with a crochet hook.  

In Nålebinding you do that using a needle, and  Nålebinding is another one of those arts which is   ancient as all hell, the word itself comes from  Scandinavia because that's where the art was most   active, however there is evidence of Nålebinding  in Ancient Egypt, and there is also evidence   of Nålebinding in a Neolithic era, I am again  going to have to link two videos about that.   So, series of knots, those knots can  be undone by pulling on the string,   however you can only undo one knot at a  time. This gives you quite a lot of freedom,   both in shape and in the forms of things  that you can do, so if you've ever seen   little amigurumi such as these,  they're almost certainly crocheted.  

Because the thing is, if you're building  a knot on top of the other knot,   you can build it in virtually  any direction you want. I hope that makes sense, but yeah so some examples  of cool shapes you can do with crochet, this,   dragon scales, and little flowers,   and a heart. So yeah, the nice thing--  fascinating thing about crochet and Nålebinding   both is that they are not something that  you can automate. Now I've failed to   talk about this previously, but with spinning  wheels, you can run them on electricity. With   weaving, with looms, you have the whole Jacquard  loom structure, that is-- you can program them to   do work essentially automatically. You still need  skilled labor to do it, but the movement itself  

is automated. Sprang is not a common enough thing  to be automated, but if you look at the structure,   it's almost identical to a chain-link fence,  and while the way that chain-link fences   are made are not the way that you would be able  to do if you were manipulating string, because   they're made out of wire, and wire holds its shape  in a way that string doesn't, but you can still   automate the creation of that structure. That's  not possible for crochet and Nålebinding, you have   to do every bit of it by hand. And that's just  really fascinating to me, because all of these   arts we've spoken about have technology that's  evolved, and here we have a crochet hook,   or we have a needle when it comes to Nålebinding,  and it's the same thing, and there are different   techniques, there are different ways of moving  your hands, but it's always down to those hands.   And so yeah, knotting. And I've just  

realized that that was perhaps not the  best way to refer to that, but moving on. And now my first love, knitting. Knitting is  really really weird to explain from a non-visual   point of view I'm afraid, I'm going to do my  best, and I am very sorry if I fail, but yeah,   essentially knitting is, sorry for the noise, a  series of loops that you build upon one another. So you have a row of loops, and you have  your string, and the single piece of string   creates another row of loops that's  above that different piece of string.

And now there are many ways to do this, the  thing is the most common way to think about it   is by using knitting needles, but it's not the  only way. Again let's talk about automation,   if you just want loops that go over  each other and hold each other up,   there is a very simple way to do that. If  you've ever done a knitting doll for example,   or even a loom band bracelet, then you've  already done it. You build the loops by  

passing them over a structure, and  that's how a knitting machine works. And now this loopiness means that, of the fabrics  that we've talked about, this is-- knitted fabric   is generally the stretchiest. This means that for  example, if you're wearing a t-shirt it is almost   certainly knitted, if you're wearing socks that  you bought from a shop rather than made yourself,   then they are definitely knitted. It's got a very  stretchy, very versatile fabric. Now this does   mean that if you have a knitted mask, please wear  another mask under it, because if it's stretchy,   it's going to leave holes of quite a big size,  so yeah. But yeah, if you look at the structure  

of these different fabrics, you can see why  some are going to be stretchier than others,   and in directions than others. A woven fabric for  example is not that stretchy, if you pull it in   the direction of the grain or cross grain, that  is to say, if you try and pull the warp threads   from each other, or if you try to  pull the weft threads, because those   are quite structurally integrated with each other.  However if you pull it cross grain, that is to say   diagonally, you have quite a lot of that  stretchiness. With knitting you have   basically as much stretchiness as you want, there  are knitting techniques which give you even more   stretchiness, for example if you have a technique  called ribbing, which is alternating knitting   stitches and pull stitches, which are-- let's  describe them as the inverse of a knitting stitch,   that gives you an extremely  stretchy fabric. If you've got   any sort of knitted garment with cuffs,  or if you have a hat with a brim,   then that's almost certainly ribbed.  So you can have a look at that. And then yeah, there are various ways as  well to integrate color into these fabrics.  

If you're knitting then the most obvious way is,  well let's look at this, you just change the color   of the yarn from row to row. You have similar  techniques with weaving. Now of course the more   complicated things can be programmatically  done with Jacquard looms, but you also have   things like this, which are done by hand. If  you look closely, you can see that it's just   an alternation of what color  weft threads are being used. And then finally you've got printing,  which is just using the fabric as a   material to print on. Some clothes that you  might be wearing will probably be printed,   if you're wearing a HackSoc hoodie then it's  almost definitely printed, finally I think I've   already said finally but never mind, you've got  embroidery, which is sewing on designs. You can   also add any sort of decoration using different  shapes, which again you can have sewn on, or you   can have with various structures made with your  textile art, and you can add on various structures   as well, such as this flower, this flower could  make an ideal decoration for say, a dress.

So yeah, I hope that this very brief introduction  to the massive world of textile arts has been at   all useful, and at least has given you some idea  of terms to Google if you ever feel the need or   the want to find out more about this subject.  And, thank you very much for listening! Goodbye!

2021-10-25 08:23

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