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merino

Woolful Podcast

Episode 30: Kristin Ford – Architectural influence, Northwest palette, Patagonian Merino, and Bleacher projects

July 28, 2015

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Sponsor: I wanted to thank this week’s sponsor, Knit Purl in Portland, Oregon. A wonderfully motivating yarn shop founded by Darcy Cameron in 2004, with the intention to create a unique curated experience for yarn buyers. They’ve worked closely with local, regional and international makers and designers to provide a one of a kind experience, to fuel creativity for fiber and design enthusiasts. Each month they offer a great calendar of classes and events, and every other Wednesday you can join other fiber folk for Knit Night at 6pm. Make sure to stop by in person when in Portland and shop their large selection of yarns including Woolfolk yarns at knit-purl.com.

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Fiber folk: Kristin is an architect, mother, maker, farmer, entrepreneur and inspiration. Design has been a thread deeply woven in the fabric of her life…from her career as an architect to her recent entrepreneurial endeavors with Woolfolk Yarn, an incredibly thoughtful and beautifully created and curated yarn brand with focuses heavy in sustainability and softness. Her mile a minute life has been fun to keep up and hearing her passion and witnessing her gumption for life is pretty awesome. You can find Kristin at woolfolkyarn.com and on Instagram @woolfolk_yarn.

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Man on the street: For this week’s “Man on the Street” I asked the question, “What are some of your non-fiber inspirations…what feeds your creative voice besides yarn/knitting/weaving itself?” shared by Mary in our woolful raveler grow.” We had some great answers from Maria @fernfiber, Amy @urban_farm_wife and Lauren @woolpickle.

Giveaway: The winner of last week’s giveaway, is Amanda! You’ve won a skein of Swans Island Natural Colors Worsted weight yarn in Garnet and the Olivia Cowl pattern from NorthCoast Knittery. Congratulations!

This week we’re giving away 2 skeins of the Woolfolk yarn Tynd in #7, along with Fure Armwarmers pattern, designed especially for Woolfolk by Olga Buraya-Kefelian. To enter this giveaway, leave a comment in the comment section at the bottom of the post page.

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Sponsor: I wanted to make sure and thank today’s sponsor again, Knit Purl. Along with their impactful presence as a local yarn shop in Portland, Oregon, they’ve put together a dream collection of yarns in their online shop, including some of my favorites, Woolfolk, Brooklyn Tweed, Sincere Sheep, Swans Island and Twirl. To find these yarns, along with patterns and notions visit knit-purl.com. And coming this Fall and Winter, Knit Purl has some very exciting events and classes featuring Jared Flood of Brooklyn Tweed, Shellie Anderson of Shibui, Cecilia Compochiaro of Sequence Knitting and designers Olga Buraya-Kefelian and Melanie Berg. Sign up for their newsletter at knit-purl.com to learn more, get updates and receive details on how to register. And through the end of this month, Knit Purl is celebrating Lace Month, use code LACEYARN for 10% all lace yarns.

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Events: This September 20th -24th, enjoy 4 evenings & 3 full days of fiber fun with lessons and supervised hands-on practice of needlefelting, handspinning yarn and hooking a wool rug sampler at Wing & A Prayer Farm in Shaftsbury, VT using wool that was grown on the farm & sourced locally.  Novice fiber-enthusiasts will build fundamentals, while experienced students can focus on improving and picking up new techniques.  There’ll be traditional rug hooking design and needle felting in addition to basic principles of spinning, learning about the tools, equipment, carding, combing, yarn design, color & dyeing.

There’ll be plenty of time for spinning, and, as a bonus, you will be welcome to enjoy walks about the farm and local country roads, self-touring to include Wing & A Prayer Farm’s fiber flocks. Many of the flock are very keen to snuggle with visitors, so you’ll want to make sure to bring along some boots for the outdoors and pack your flannel for crisp Vermont fall days, pack your camera for beautiful foliage.  All meals & snacks are home cooked and farm stay accommodations are included in the registration.  Fresh air, starry nights, & making new friends are on the house. A limited number of signups are available and more information is on the Wing & A Prayer Farm website at wingandaprayerfarm.com.

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Music by Jónsi.

Woolful Podcast

Episode 18: Nan Bray – Active shepherding, drought, superfine Merino and reflections.

April 14, 2015

I’m very excited to share the eighteenth episode of the Woolful podcast. Today we get to meet an incredibly inspiring sheep farmer and shepherdess from Tasmania, Nan Bray of White Gum Wool.

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Sponsor: This episode is sponsored by Yarn, a charming online and local yarn shop based in Eureka, California. Yarn was created by Sunni Schrivner who has a dedication for natural fibers and supporting local yarns. Make sure to visit Yarn in person when on the coast in hum bolt county and online at yarn-fun.com.

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Fiber folk: Nan Bray first came on my fiber radar when a listener sent me an email sharing a bit about what Nan was up to and encouraging me to reach out and learn more. I’m so glad I did. Nan’s journey as a scientist to fiber farmer and shepherdess touches on a lot of interesting challenges and her approach to farming wool has evolved into something quite special, both personally and as a business. You can find Nan at Whitegumwool.com.au

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Man on the street: For this week’s “Man on the Street” I asked a handful of fiber enthusiasts to answer the following question, shared by Susan in the Woolful Ravelry group. “Desert island scenario: What knitting book or project or yarn would you bring along and why?” We had a great reply from Nikki (@woolenviolets).

Giveaway: The winner of last week’s giveaway is…Samantha Symon! Congratulations, you’ve won a set of 5 bento bags from Ambatalia.

This giveaway this week is sponsored by White Gum Wool, and we’re giving away two skeins of Nan’s 8-ply Superfine Merino Wool in Flax Lily. To enter, leave a comment on this blog post.

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Music by Jónsi.

 

Transcription coming soon!

Fiber-conscious Knitting Natural Living

Fiber-conscious: Superwash wool

November 15, 2014

*Find the sequel to this post here, Alternative to Superwash wool, for a list of yarns and brands I love – for socks and beyond

**Find additional sources that explain more about Hercosett 125, polyamide-epichlorohydrin resins and the science behind the superwash process at the bottom of this post

This post has been in progress for a little over a month now. I was unsure if I should post it, worried I would offend someone, even friends in the community I’ve made, but I’ve decided to go ahead and share. Not a lot of light has been shed on the topic of superwash wool, specifically superwash Merino.

In our home we’ve taken great strides to minimize as much use of plastic as possible. Six years ago we got rid of all our plastic food containers, stopped using a microwave, started using reusable water bottles and began really thinking about what and where this stuff was coming from. My friend Kirsten is quite passionate about the subject of plastic and that’s really where the idea for this post began. After spending a weekend with her exuberantly extolling a plastic-free life, I felt compelled to share what I now know about superwash wool.

By no means are we completely plastic free, in today’s world it’s unavoidable to a certain extent. If we’re all being honest, plastic does have it’s place, however we try to be as conscious as possible when it comes to things we eat, drink, wear, and use in our daily life. If there are healthier and safer alternatives to using plastic, why not? Which brings me to this topic of which I’ve recently become quite passionate about.

When I first began as a knitter, I had no idea of the different compositions and idiosyncrasies of fiber other than there was cotton and there was wool. I soon learned the different blends and the advantages and preferences for each. I became obsessed with the gorgeous hand dyed superwash yarn from boutique brands and soon my stash consisted of primarily that. As time went on, I became more “fiber-conscious”, I guess you could call it a sort of maturity or awareness. I started looking deeper into each of these yarns, what they were comprised of and how they were processed. What was even more intriguing was that the question around superwash kept coming up quite randomly through various conversations I was having with persons more experienced and knowledgeable than I. It wasn’t until a few months back that I discovered superwash wool is very heavily processed and the fibers are coated in plastic. When I first heard this I was stunned. Plastic? Really?! Then it all began to make sense. Superwash wool was the answer to our desire to machine wash and dry our knits. A compromise for the sake of convenience. Though it may have started as this, superwash Merino has taken on a life of its own and is a mainstream fiber these days, regardless of the buyer’s laundering preferences.

At what point does something that has been so drastically processed, losing many of it’s natural characteristics, become a different thing all together? As I read more and more about how superwash wool is made and the plastic in which it is coated, I started to question if we can or should really, truly still call it wool. Wool in all its natural glory is an incredible protein fiber, with so many valuable qualities. It has scales that interlock when agitated or teased at certain temperatures. Wool is naturally fire resistant and has incredible health benefits which I’ve talked about when we purchased our wool mattress. To avoid felting wool, you have to follow careful, yet relatively simple cleaning instructions. It’s not rocket science, yet it is inconvenient at times, although I’d hand wash my hand knits any day over throwing something I spent countless hours on into the washing machine and dryer. Superwash wool is made by exposing the fiber to a chlorine gas that erodes the scales and then it is coated in a plastic called Hercosett 125. This doesn’t even include the toxic chemicals that are used in the overall process. Disturbing no?

Superwash wool has some cool benefits aside from the laundry. Because of it’s heavy processing, it takes up dye much better than most other wools. The vibrancy of all the gorgeous hand dyed superwash yarn is intoxicating for sure, and one of the reasons I still have so much in my stash. Another interesting characteristic that’s been mentioned over time has been the softness of the worsted superwash Merino yarns. It’s true, it is incredibly soft! However after discovering non-superwash Merino, Cormo and different Alpaca blends, I challenge anyone to say they can’t find a more natural wool that’s just as soft or more so than superwash.

So all of this has lead me to the decision to purge my stash of superwash yarn, whether it be by selling it or using what’s left in projects. I recently finished my first wrap, using up some of my superwash and have sold several skeins on Ravelry as well. For me it was a personal decision based on convictions I have, however as with anything else in life, everyone is entitled to their opinion and decisions. Some could say my decision is drastic or dramatic, however it wasn’t a hard one. Like I said before, if there are healthier and more natural alternatives, then why not?

I would love to learn even more about all of this and if anyone knows if there are alternative treatments being developed to superwash wool, without the toxic chemicals and plastic? I’m sure there is a way!

And for those wanting to avoid superwash wool or just wanting to learn good ways to wash their wool hand knits, my friend Kirsten shared a blog post recently with some great information.

**Since this post was released nearly a year and a half ago it’s gained a lot of attention and thus a lot of questions. One of the more popular asking for further sources on the science and understanding behind polyamide-epichlorohydrin (Hercosett 125), the resin used in the superwash process, both domestically and overseas. Here are a list of further resources. I’ll add more as I find them. 

-The original patent for Hercosett (polyamide-epichlorohydrin resin) applied for by Hercules Powder Co, invented by John D Floyd, in 1957 – Process for preventing shrinkage and felting of wool

The chemistry of a polyamide–epichlorohydrin resin (hercosett 125) used to shrink‐resist wool (unfortunately in order to read the full article you have to pay :/) You can find the same article HERE

-A patent that includes the use of Hercosett or other similar polymers – “Ionizing radiation treatment of wool textiles with resin for shrink resistance”

-A patent applied for by Chargeurs (a European and US scour and fiber processing plant) for “Method for oxidising or activating a textile mass with a gas mixture containing ozone”

-A more detailed explanation of epichlorohydrin

-Did you know the many facial tissues, toilet papers and paper towels use polyaminopolyamide-epichlorohydrin? This was brought to my attention recently and is another interesting thing to be aware of. Here’s a scientific paper with more detail.

-A list of industrial resins and a little about each of them

-A little more info on polyamide resins