Wednesday, June 17, 2009

washing wool

Fortunately the weather's been great this past week so I've managed to dye another few pounds of yarn and fleece for the fall. I think between Betsy and I, we've washed about 60 pounds so far...another 40 or so to go and then the blending and carding begins!
Anyway, because washing fiber has been top of mind for me these past few weeks, I found it interesting to read this week that the Mongolian nomads wash their camel fiber in mare's milk! I guess you use what you have available and since water is in shorter supply on the steppes of the Gobi desert and horses are plentiful...? I also discovered that fermented mare's milk is what the Mongolian nomads drink for nutrition. It's called airag. And despite that the Mongolian nomads have the highest incidence of liver cirrhosis in the world (they are said to drink up to 5 litres of this slightly alcoholic beverage a day), apparently this beverage is experiencing renewed popularity in other parts of the world since the fermentation process converts the high lactose content to lactic acid, making airag drinkable by the lactose intolerant. That is, if they can stomach the taste!
Having had to drink the Turkish version of a fermented milk beverage at age 13 when it was offered to me in the home of some very poor and rural locals in a remote part of Turkey, I can safely say airag won't be making it to my table anytime soon!

Monday, June 8, 2009

What's "new" mean to you?

The last 6-8 weeks I've been meeting with yarn reps to order my fall inventory...still 1 rep to go this week. It's fun and exciting to see what's coming out, but it also incredibly difficult to anticipate what you'll all be looking for.
Especially in this evolving era of online chatting, when, tho' there might be 10 fabulous new yarns of the same gauge and same fiber blend introduced in a year, momentum grows around just one of them and grows like a snowball rolling down Tuckerman's Ravine such that the others...equally as nice, perhaps even better in some regards... go unappreciated! It really makes you appreciate the power of the press to sway minds!
Anyway, I'm at that stage of sorting thru and weeding out the duplicates, trying to fill in the holes that I've missed with respect to gauge or other feature, and reconfiguring the quantities in hopes of trying to get my inventory "right". All in an effort to have "what's new". And I'm wondering... what you mean when you say "what's new"? Do you mean "what yarn is hot off the press", or, "what is the fiber du jour" or "remind me what great olides but goodies yarns I haven't worked with yet", or "what color is hot" or "what project is new and different"? What's the "new" you're looking for?
Just for fun, can you guess how many new yarns for fall 2009 I've been shown just from the following companies? The reader with the closest submission, wins 2 bags of Mission Falls 1824 cotton! Now I'm only talking about completely new yarns...not new colors of existing yarns...
Plymouth, Cascade, JCA/Reynolds, Noro, Debbie Bliss, Sublime, Ella Rae, Araucania, Sir Dar, Louisa Harding, Elsebeth Lavold, SWTC, Mirasol, and Online. Comment with your guess and next week I'll reveal the winner!
So one of the things I learned from meeting with the reps that I found interesting and thought I'd pass along, is something about the sourcing, processing, and general mission of Noro.
People seem to either love or hate Noro yarns. And interestingly, I run into people who seem to love to hate Noro! Anyway, Noro seems to be eco-conscious even tho' they haven't been that verbal about it the way other companies have. They use paper and packaging that is from 54-81% recycled paper. Their spinning equipment uses just 21% of the energy required to operate the industry's standard equipment at other mills. The wool they use for their Kureyon, Iro, etc is either from a particular flock of Polwarths in Adelaid, Australia or from Patagonia. Both the Polwarth breed and the sheep raised in Patagonia apparently have a natural resistance to mulesing and flystrike, reducing the agicultural chemicals used to keep insects at bay. Their wool is scoured in several places from Australia and Britain to Brazil, but in each place it is cleaned using an environmentally friendly natural detergent and further, the wool is also inspected after cleaning at an Australian inspection station that is known to be very strict in their clearance for chemically free fiber. They source their mohair from S. surprise there since that's where just about everyone gets it...and their cotton is pima cotton from the San Joaquin valley in California!
It's not organic, but for those of you interested in supporting companies that are at least "concious" of their footprint, there you have one company's tale.
Happy knitting, spinning, felting, dyeing!