How Much Should My 8 Year Old Golden Retriever Weight Knitting With Wool Yarn

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Knitting With Wool Yarn

I once spun my own yarn from the fibers of our sheep, dog, angora rabbits and angora goats. I would go to sheep and wool festivals and buy cashmere, silk, alpaca, llama and have fun spinning them into yarn. I don’t have the time or access to fiber like I used to, so now buy commercially spun yarn, but I learned a lot about how fiber affects the yarn and what properties and qualities it brings to the finished yarn.

I would like to talk about the universal fiber, wool. Wool is a term that refers to many types of animal fibers. The best known is the fiber from sheep. Wool has very unique properties. It has great insulating ability, which keeps the heat in, or in hot climates it keeps the heat out. It is naturally flame retardant. Instead of flashing into fire when a match is struck, it will often smolder and extinguish itself. Sheep wool is an excellent sock material as it is absorbent and will keep the wearer warm even when wet. Scots in the Highlands would remove their kilts and soak them in streams and put them back on to keep the wind out and stay warmer. Not many man-made fibers can boast these properties. It has three major disadvantages. Some people are allergic to the proteins in the wool, the fibers are attractive to clothes moths, which eat it and leave holes, and care must be taken when washing items made from it to prevent felting and shrinkage. There are several treatments to avoid clothes moths, such as storing wool in the freezer, mothballs or many natural remedies. There is no answer to the allergy except not to wear wool. And below is how I wash woolen clothes.

Wool varies in texture and use depending on the breed of sheep it comes from. There are sheep specially bred to produce the finest, softest wool. The best known breed is the Merino. Incredibly soft yarn is made from Merino fiber. The Ramboulet is another soft wool breed. Yarn made from these types of fibers can be worn next to the skin with very little discomfort in the form of scratching… unless you are allergic to wool. The very finest and softest Merino is called Cashwool. It is as soft as cashmere. At the other end of the spectrum are very coarse, thick fibers used to make felt and carpets. All the other types vary in softness and are what make up the bulk of knitting yarn. Of course, there are also a great many blends that use wool as one of the components. Wool always adds its properties to the mix.

Wool of all types can be spun soft and airy, hard and strong. Soft spun raised yarn is the warmest because it traps air between the fibers and this helps keep the wearer warm. Closely spun yarn is very strong and is not usually used for clothing, but for weaving carpets and other applications that require strength.

Sheep wool comes in natural colors white, cream, black, shades of gray and occasionally brown. It also dyes well with either natural vegetable dyes or chemical dyes. As long as someone isn’t allergic to it, it’s a versatile choice of yarn to knit with.

As previously mentioned, woolen clothes must be washed very carefully. Unless the garment is made from yarn that specifically states that it can be machine washed, do not wash wool in the washing machine. The soap, the agitation and the changing temperature of the water will cause the wool to felt and shrink, thereby ruining it. Machine washable wool is usually merino mixed with at least 10 percent nylon to prevent it from shrinking during machine washing. These are the only things that can go in a washing machine. Other products must be hand washed. Fill a basin or wash dishes with lukewarm water. Add your favorite laundry detergent…enough to make a little lather. Carefully submerge the article in the water and avoid shaking or rubbing the fabric as this will cause it to felt and shrink. Let it sit for a while and gently press the soapy water through the fabric, being careful not to be too rough. Rough treatment of the fiber will cause the shrinkage. Lift the garment out of the water and gently try to support the weight evenly.. I usually put it in a colander to drain while I change the water. Note, by feel, the temperature of the water you dump. It doesn’t have to be exact, but the rinse water needs to be close to the same temperature or the wool will be shocked into shrinking. Gently squeeze the soapy water out of the garment, do not wring it out, again, this roughness will cause felting. Carefully place it in the water and let it soak. Repeat this process until you are satisfied that the soap has been rinsed out. There are 2 ways to remove excess water to facilitate drying. One is to do something called “wuzzing” and the other is to use the washer’s spin cycle. Wuzzing is an ancient practice and is similar to what happens during the spin cycle. Put the garment in a pillowcase, take it outside and spin it fairly quickly through the air above your head or by your side to get the water to eject. Keep doing this until no more water comes out. To use the spin cycle, place the garment in a pillowcase and into the washing machine, add something to balance the machine and turn on the spin cycle. When the cycle is over, remove the garment. It is now ready to dry.

Place one or more towels on the floor and place the clothes on the towel(s). Arrange it to the shape it needs, or in the case of a sweater, to the measurements it was knitted for. Smooth out any wrinkles and let it air dry. This is called blocking and must be done each time the article is washed.

With proper care and protection from moths, wool items can last quite a long time. It’s still one of my first choices to work with for winter wear, either all wool or blends. If you’ve never worked with it, give it a try. Then you become part of a tradition of wool processing that is a few thousand years old.

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