Tag Archives: wool

Ria + June | Episode #4 Non-Wool Animal Fibers

Hiya! I’m diving back into my trusty copy of the Principles of Knitting to learn more about fibers. For the most part I’ll be reading this book cover to cover, but I’m skipping ahead to part 7 this week to learn about the materials that make knitting possible. Yarn obsessed? YES.

We’ve already heard what June has to say about wool, but there is much more to the fiber world than the fluffy stuff found on sheep backs. Chapter 27 has loads of facts about wool, the most commonly used fiber and specialty wools like mohair, cashmere, quivit and our favorite, possum.  A lot of these fibers fall into the luxury category for their fineness (rated by microns, with lower numbers indicating finer fibers) and for their relative scarcity. Cashmere goats, for instance, only produce a few ounces of down per year. Some animals, like  vicuña and guanaco from Peru, are only shorn every third year, making their fleeces even more precious than cashmere!

Bison fiber is on the rise and while it resembles sheep’s wool in many ways, it’s an ideal candidate for those with lanolin allergies, as it has none. The most fascinating section was the one on silk. June explains the terminology that often goes along with silk, words like ‘mulberry’, ‘tussah’ and ‘raw’; she even explains the cause of the distinctive odor of raw silk (you’ll have to read to find out).

Lastly, June covers fur fibers like Angora and possum. While the brushtail possum found in Zealana yarns do fall into this category, it’s a free-range fur, not raised for the express purpose of yarn production. Zealana yarns use brushtail possum fiber in an effort to correct an ecological imbalance. The resulting yarns are as soft as cashmere and because of the hollow core of the fiber, they’re warm and lightweight. June states that it’s usually blended with merino wool, which is absolutely true, but Zealana has expanded on that even further with unique blends like Kiwi and Kauri, which include organic cotton and silk, respectively.

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These high-performance yarns prove that blending fibers is a way to coax the best from each, and to even out the inconsistencies or flaws in every fiber. A bit like a yarn cocktail, the sum is often greater than its already great parts.

CR

Ria + June | Episode #2 Wool

Hi everyone! I’m diving into Principles of Knitting, but straying just a bit from June’s recommendation to work from cover to cover in order. I had fiber on the brain after getting back from the New York Sheep and Wool Festival, so I thought I’d skip ahead to Part 7 Materials, Chapter 27 Fibers (page 539). I quickly realized that WOOL deserved its very own posts, so I’ll be tackling non-wool fibers another day.

Knitters who knit with wool already know that wool is an amazing fiber. In just a few pages, June illuminates WHY. I’d like to stress that this project isn’t intended to replace her book–I’ll only be touching on the highlights, and facts I found especially interesting.

It’s clear that June favors natural fibers, and so do I, but she allows for synthetics when they make sense. It’s interesting to note that technology hasn’t been able to replicate what nature does so well in wool. People avoid working with wool for a lot of reasons, but June manages to counter all of them with sound logic.

Cost is an issue, but she echos Cat Bordhi is urging people to save up for the best materials they can afford–your knitting deserves this, and your purchases encourage future textile production.

Allergies are another roadblock, but June points our that animal fibers are made up of keratin, the same protein that comprises human hair and nails. Its a contentious issue to be sure, but even people suffering from wool irritation tend to fall silent in the face of soft, smooth Merino (the type of wool used in every Zealana yarn).

One of the most interesting facts I read was that Queen Elizabeth I won Merino sheep from the Spanish Armada, which in turn fueled the British wool industry and the expanding empire. That means Zealana wool may have royal lineage!

Another fun fact: fleeces are shorn in one piece and they average about 10 pounds. I was curious and did the math. That equals about 90 50 gram balls of yarn, or about 8-10 adult sweaters. It’s an inexact science of course, as some of the weight will be lost in the scouring process that removes “barnyard,” dander, grasses, seeds, lanolin and whatever else the sheep happens to be hiding in its coat.

Watch the video to learn even more about wool, and to see a bit of footage from my trip to Rhinebeck!

More soon,

CR