Ward House

Spinning a yarn

In addition to the fab book about Living with Goats, another timely publication arrived last week – a trial copy of Spin Off magazine.  We do not yet have wool producing animals, however I still found this edition an interesting read.   There was one article, in particular, that caught my eye, and it was about Polwarth Fleece and the process Robin Russo (the author) went through from washing the wool to eventually spinning. 

I have read on the net that when people say they are allergic to wool it is not the fiber that creates the allergic reaction but the chemical process that is used to remove the lanolin (greasy coating) that makes wool workable.  Robin mentions that she uses Kookaburra wool scouring formula to clean the wool.  I like this part of the product description:

This plant based, non-ionic cleaner is an earth friendly option for wool processing. Rinsing is optional.  Scour contains no peroxide, alkali, phosphates, or enzymes so it is safe for all septic systems and the environment.

I have to wonder if the “plant based, non-ionic cleaner” is a selling point for this product, do commercial processors use non plant based, ionic cleansers and is that what creates the itchy in wool?  Things that make you go Hmm.

In researching the above question I found that fleece can be ‘damaged’ by everyday particles like dirt, hay, straw etc.  The University of Maine has a great article, Handling and Marketing Wool, that discusses how wool is valued and its grading and classification.  Gleasons has a great article on cleaning wool fleece using your washing machine!  This is all an interesting read yet it still begs the question of why wool is itchy.  Then I found this which addresses the carbonization process of scouring wool and now it roughens up the fiber.  Roughened fibers could definately make someone itchy. 

Another popular thought is that the itchiness of wool is based upon the diameter of the fibers. Sheep 101 states that if more than 3-4% of fibers are more than 28 microns thick, it becomes uncomfortable to wear.   So what about in the ‘olden days’ when wool was it. The schsnizzle?.  Were all those people walking around wearing itchy stuff?  I need to ask my grandmother.

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January 2, 2010 - Posted by | Crafting, economy, self sufficiency

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