When life gets rocky, as it has been around here lately, balance and a sense of safe harbor for me can come from friends (two-footed, four-footed, and other), fibers (especially wool), and good books.
Tussah Redfurr has been doing her best to fill the hole in our lives that remains following the death of Ariel, our fifteen-year-old Border collie-ish.
It's amazing how many household habits revolved around our newly
I've greatly appreciated the comments and notes that have come in from friends, especially while our family has also been caring for a few human members with acute ailments. Those folks are on the mend now, and we are all, I hope, taking care of ourselves in the ways that work best for us.
For me, that often means wrapping myself in wool, both physically and mentally. For the former, I have sweaters, shawls, hats, and more (a nice woolly afghan I knitted more than a year ago is still at the publisher's for photography: I look forward to having it back! and I will be showing it here on a blog tour early in 2010).
For mental comfort and joy, I'm working on The Project. I also have a couple of nearly complete book reviews and some knitting updates that I hope to get posted in the near future.
Which brings me to the woolly photo of the day, about the importance of crimp. Put simply, crimp is waviness in a fiber. If there's lots of it, the fiber coils a bit like a spring. Crimp forms as part of the growth process of the fiber. Fibers can have more, less, or no crimp.
Here are two small sample skeins for The Project. They were wound on the same sample niddy-noddy, so if crimp were not a factor they would have identical circumference measurements.
The longer skein on the left is OptimTM Fine, which is wool that has been processed in ways that reduce the individual fibers' micron counts (make them finer and softer), increase their length, and remove their crimp. OptimTM still has many of wool's qualities (breathability, moisture-handling, and so on) but in many other ways it has become more silk-like (elasticity disappears and draping qualities increase). While the process can be applied to other wools, it's pretty much focused on use with 19-micron Merinos, turning them into 15.5- to 16-micron Optim fibers. (The micron counts refer to average fiber diameters: under Optim processing, the fibers get skinnier and longer.)
The shorter skein on the right is Polwarth, which by breeding is about 75% Merino and 25% Lincoln (details in The Project's book). I'd compare the Optim to Merino, but Polwarth was what was on the drying rack when I realized the value of a photo comparison. Same basic idea. The Polwarth skein can be stretched to extend as far as the Optim skein does, but when the Polwarth is relaxed it bounces back, while the Optim skein stays put.
For some applications, Optim (less crimp) is a better choice. Crimp-free fibers are more elegant. For drape that doesn't cling (at least in a low-static environment), crimp-free fibers will work better.
For other purposes, Polwarth or another crimpy fiber will excel. Crimpy fibers are cosier than crimp-free ones. For a fabric where elasticity and body-hugging qualities are important, crimp wins. For example, it makes socks that will pull over the heel easily yet won't fall down (at least if they're sized correctly!). Crimp also increases warmth: all those trapped air spaces increase the fabric's insulating qualities.
The person selecting the yarn for an envisioned purpose is the one who decides what matters.
Does all this mean crimp = comfort? It might.
Over the past few days, I've been enjoying the power of crimp, spinning samples of Merino (including its Optim variant), Polwarth, Rambouillet, and Île de France. This afternoon, I plan to begin on Corriedale and Bond. Later this week, I've got Cormo, Romeldale, CVM, and Targhee. All fine wools, each with an individual array of qualities.
We have some brushings from Ariel, saved over the last year or so. A lot got tossed (Ariel grew, and shed, fiber generously), but we have a nice small box full. My daughter asked last week whether I thought we could make some wrist warmers from the collected fiber. This seems like a perfect way to remember a pup who collected the nickname Snow-nose because she adored playing in the snow.
Ariel's fur is a lot like angora. It's fine, exceptionally soft, and has almost no crimp. It's warm. A little Ari-fur will have a big effect on a yarn (as the dog herself had a big effect in our lives), but it could use an infusion of crimp to give it enough elasticity to make good wrist warmers or fingerless gloves.
While I'm working up my samples, I'll be looking for the right match. A good fiber match takes into account fineness, color, and fiber length, in addition to the behavioral qualities (like crimp) that are desired in the finished yarn. Any of the fibers I'm spinning now would be a good match in fineness. The overall effect of Ari's fur spun by itself is a light gray. The colored Merinos and Rambouillets I'm using have shorter staple lengths than Ari's fiber. I have some exquisite colored Bonds here, but they're longer. I'm guessing one of the CVMs or the colored Romeldales will pair with the fur best. As a plus, they're rare wools. That bit of wool will also give the yarn some of the bounce that Ariel herself contributed to our lives.
Comfort and crimp.