Wollmeise – knowledge base
What is wool?
Thinking of wool connects intuitively with a ball of wool, ready for knitting a sweater or other warming garments. The next thought carries us to a sheep with its snug and cosy skin. All those thoughts are right of course, but wool can be much more than that.
A ball of wool is in reality yarn or twisted yarn and can consist of plant-, animal- or synthetic fibers. Most common plant fibers are cotton and linen, while animal fibers are collected from a multitude of animals: Lamas, alpacas, yaks, dogs, goats, silkworms, cats, …. sheep are of course the most popular givers of wool and today we count over 200 different sheep races contributing with the most different kind of fibers: Wavy curls or robust thick hair.
Now we know what makes our wool, what is the different between yarn and twisted yarn? Yarn is made by twinning fibers, commonly called spinning. It is hard to believe, but in the cross section of a yarn are between 40 and 50 fibers. With this you can weave or knit. Resourceful spinners developed further this basic yarn and “threaded” together a couple of yarns. The result was much more robust than basic yarn. As a bonus came the possibility to alter the thickness of the yarn and to use colours in a more creative way. Both wool sorts are used according to their attributes. Yarn can be very fluffy and soft, while twisted yarn is more sleek and reveals the pattern-structure of the knitting. Especially for socks twisted yarn is a big advantage. A mixture of both polyamide and wool guarantees a long life, but of course there is nothing compared to the feeling of having pure wool in the socks.
Small hints for using multi-colour wool
This wool is dyed by hand, which means, every skein is an unique specimen. Wool with the same name contains always the same basic colours, but there appear sometimes brighter, sometimes darker, some times dominates one colour, sometimes the other.
This multicolor dye arises in socks striping and no spirals :
Flohmarkt, Aspentree, Auf dem roten Teppich, Daisy, Flower Power, Gewitterhimmel, Hoochie Mama, Indisch Rot, Iris Sibirica, Koralle im Meer, Maharani, Marias deepest purple, Martha, Peggy, Raku-Regenbogen, Regenbogen, Saami, Sultan, Tiefer See, Wichtelwalzer, Wilder Mohn.
Therefore it is important to consider following, when knitting
When knitting lager pieces, the result will be especially nice by alternating between two balls, like knitting striped sweaters. The colour progression of different skeins will then harmonize, without building up stripes. When working with high contrast yarn it is advised to sort all wool in lighter and darker shades in advance, so all colours can be distributed equal.
Taking care of your wool
Pure wool is a natural product and should be taken care of as your own hair. I myself like liquid wool detergent best. Powder detergent most often will not dissolve completely on low temperatures and powder rests can remain in the fabric. Detergent should be used economical, because the dirt repelling surface of the wool doesn’t need heavy cleaning. Most often it is enough to give your wool an extensive airing.
When is wool felting?
Everybody, who deliberate tried felting, knows that you need hot water, soap and mechanics. What is intended when felting should be avoided, when taking care of wool.
Hot Water: This is not the hot water felting the wool, it’s the difference in temperature. 30 degrees in the washing machine are a disaster for not prepared wool since the cold rinse water is felting the wool. A “cold water” washing cycle would have solved the problem and yet given a clean result.
Mechanics: Strong kneading and wringing makes the scaly fibre surfaces of the wool to hook into each other, even the main washing cycle of your machine is doing this. Special wool wash cycles are rocking the wool gently and are only way in washing wool in a washing machine. The alternative is hand wash.
Soap: Alkaloid substances alone are not responsible for felting wool, but they support this process. Therefore even special wool wash detergents should be used sparingly.