Saturday, March 23, 2013

Now What Kind of Wool Is This?

There are eighteen names so far to choose from  for our new yak but hubby is spending long hours this weekend judging a college in combination with a high school welding competition so discussion haven't happened. Thank you so much for your imput I'll give you the name list next week but for now I'm working on cleaning the basement. It will take weeks since I'm feeling kind of rough still. No, not the flu this time. I recently completed having removed all the silver fillings from my mouth and my body is starting to naturally detox. My... do my kidneys hurt and I'm tired, tired.

When it became apparent that my body had once again filled with metals and toxins my doctor determined that a repeat of another year long detox was useless if my body wasn't able to do its part. Mercury in silver fillings if released can block your body's natural ability to flush toxins, this includes heavy metals. Personally, I have found that my fibromyalgia problems is directly linked to my toxin levels. No toxins, no fibromyalgia. So you know who has once more became my companion, yes, fibromyalgia.

Since silver fillings have some mercury in them in order for the metal to adhere to your teeth, there is a risk of poisoning if the mercury is released. I grind my teeth severely. Hence, my night time mouth piece looks like something the dog got ahold of. There was no question that I am at high risk for release of mercury. In fact I use to feel tiny metal pieces on occasion in my mouth. My dentist is not usually to hept on the whole mercury being a problem in fillings kind of thing. But this was me ---not his average patient. My visits are always filled with laughter as we jokingly deal with the unusual that keeps creeping up so he didn't hesitate when I asked to have the metal removed.

He decided to use cubic zirconia as a replacement for the silver. You know the stuff they make fake diamonds from. Must be working because my mouth feels lighter and I'm not grinding my teeth as badly. And the clincher that this must be working is that my kidneys hurt just like they did when we did the other detox program.  No, it was not the over the counter kind of detox but a closely, ever few day call to the doctor, monitored kind of detox done medically. I had some dangerous levels of metals in my system. Toxins coming out is just as dangerous as toxins going in so it had to be done ever so slowly with long breaks for recovery.

This time we will do another method that is even more gentle. Especially now that my body seems to be able to help.
But hey, I was suppose to be talking about wool. It is a three pay day month and I'm spending some of the extra cash on shelving. My basement is a disaster and my goal is to go through everything. One of those things is wool. I have Rubbermaids and plastic garbage bags of the stuff. I've already gotten rid of most of what I don't want some time ago. I don't seem to be getting the rest spun up.  In part because it isn't washed and ready to spin. So I'm washing the smaller bags of wool for now with a plan to continue the project again in the fall. I know it won't all get done with spring having sprung. There are three large bags of state fair winning Cormo and Targee wool. I'm not parting with it but it would take up less space and be much lighter if it were all cleaned. 

I'm starting with this mystery wool. It had the staple length of a possible Rambouillet but not the fine crimp. When I washed it, I figured I'd know by how it cleaned up and reacted to washing. Yes, I've washed a lot of wool over the years.
The short length had me wondering if it was a lamb. I'd had a brown one from a Columbia lamb years ago. I'd had other brown fleeces though so I wasn't completely sure so I suds up some hot water in a tub.


Then I pulled off a section of the fleece and gently submerged it. The hot water relaxes the wool and releases the trapped dirt. Wool fibers are similar to a pine cone. The heat spreads and opens up the layers.


 Since a sheep never takes a bath, you can imagine the amount of dirt a years growth of wool contains. It is filthy. 


I let the wool soak for a few minutes or yesterday it was in between taking care of the eleven month old and the four year old.  Then I scooped up the wool in my hands and gently squeezed out the water, dump the water, refill the basin with hot water from the tap and let it sit all over again.  You do not want to combine heat and agitation for that spells felt. But hot water alone won't do it so if carefully handled the wool will remain in locks. The finer the wool, or the more individual strands per square inch, the easier wool felts and the more gentle you have to handle it. This wasn't a fine fleece so I wasn't worried.

When most of the dirt has washed out, you can then begin to see the yellowy lanolin.
Five baths later, the wool is fairly clean.  The structure open and seconds begin floating to the sides of the clump of  wool. Seconds are created when the shearer takes a swipe with his shears and then swipes the same place over once more. They are small pieces of wool. A no no if  you have a shearer who does this very often for this wool is discarded. Each small section of wool from the fleece has to go through this same five bath process and so it is quite time  consuming.  

For a comparison for you. The light colored wool lock is the unclean and the dark, the clean. 


See how open and sponge like this wool is. My suspicions have been confirmed. This is a Columbia fleece. A bit finer because it is a lamb's fleece but the problem comes in that I'm not fond of spinning this wool breed. Luckily, there isn't much and the color is nice so I'll put aside my prejudice and spin it up as soon as it dries. As soon as it dries for this breed produces lots of lanolin and the washed fleece if let sit will get gummy. I hadn't used hot enough water nor enough Dawn grease removing soap to eliminate enough of the lanolin. Lanolin is great for water resistance but too much and the yarn is stiff and sticky feeling.  Many other wools don't require the heat level nor the amount of soap that Columbia does. I now know what wool I'm dealing with so I will take appropriate action.

I know this wool well on many levels. My dad raised this breed of sheep. They are a multi-purpose animal with a medium grade fleece and a meatier carcass than for instance a Rambouillet who has a lovely fine fleece but of short length and a bit scrawny in size.  Yet, not nearly as meaty though as a Suffolk for instance. To me, they don't do either wool nor meat well and so not a breed I have interest in.

When the day comes that we have to be more self-sufficient, sheep will be once more added to our animal menagerie and I have been contemplating what kind we will have.

But for now I have to deal with my stash. I have some mohair to clean. I have a small Rambouillet fleece in the basement along with Cormo, and Targee and none of them require as hot a water nor as much soap as Columbia wool. They each have there own distinct white color too from a creamy yellow like Columbia to a silvery white of Targee.  Combine the crimp and length and how it feels and reacts and you can get a pretty good guess of the breed of wool you have in a bag.

Those of you who don't spin. Take a moment to think of what it must of been like for the pioneers.
1. Take care of the sheep.
2. Shear the sheep.
3. Wash the fleece.
4. Dry the fleece.
5. Card and comb the wool.
6. Spin the carded wool into yarn.
7. Dye the wool if desired.
8. Knit or weave the yarn.
9. Block the garment.
FINALLY -- wear the garment.

How much more appreciative would you be of a sweater after all this work and how differently would you treat it ? Self-sufficiency naturally creates a reverence for things.

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