Vis a vis something I saw this morning.
So, how much human labour would be required to handspin the current global output of machine spun yarn?
Weird question I know. But interesting all the same for a certain level of interest.
I see one modern number which is 40 metres per second of yarn from a modern machine.
I see a re-enactor number (which is probably longer than actual pre-modern wimmins who did this a lot) of one metre a minute.
After much practice since this past spring, I now can spin an arm’s length of highly twisted fine thread, using the long draw, with naturally colored cotton whose fiber length is less than an inch, with my brass Indian takhli support spindle, in less than one minute.
Those are good enough numbers.
At which point I get stuck. Can’t see any numbers for global production of yarn in metres (70 million tonnes for manmade, but that’s not quite the same thing) and 70 billion sq metres of cloth made in India alone a year. But what’s length of yarn to sq m of cloth? Yes, obviously, depends upon the yarn and the cloth. But some rough idea?
The aim is to work backwards. The machines are 2,400 times faster at the spinning than humans alone (although the hand spin is still using a machine we’ll overlook that). So, how many human labour hours do we need to produce the current global production of yarn?
A guess here is that there’s not enough female labour hours among the 7 billion of us to produce that amount. But it would be fun to check that.
Aha. Global yarn (cotton, and cotton alone) production is perhaps 20 million tonnes. Not an accurate number but useful as to magnitude.
Hmm. T-shirts seem to be made from cloth that is 200 grammes per square metre. Ish-ish.
But that’s still not getting to metres of yearn per fabric produced which is what we need for hours of labour…..
OK, and yes, the $3,500 shirt in the comments. 2,000 metres of thread/yarn to 1 sq m of cloth. We have 70 billion sq m of cloth. And so 140 trillion metres of thread. Or, 140 trillion womanminutes of handspinning. Divide by 60 and 2,000 (minutes per hour and hours of a working year) to give us 1166666666 hours. Or, 1,166,666,666 woman years of labour.
Hmm, surprises. It would actually be possible to do this by hand. If one third of all women, of all ages, did nothing but hand spinning we could produce the world’s current consumption of cloth.
Anyone got any different calculations to offer?