Category Archives: Peace Arch Weavers and Spinners Guild

Going easy on the environment

On Wednesday this week, I had the honour of presenting the program at the Peach Arch Weavers and Spinners (PAWS) Guild meeting.  I was asked to talk about my blog; the concept of 100-mile wear; and my creative practice.  Can you imagine that — being asked to talk about something you love and are passionate about to a willing audience?  Doesn’t get much better than that.

Envariably, as I am engaged in showing people new things it often brings to mind things that they were thinking about or puzzling over.  It often happens that when I am teaching or presenting, I have the greatest chance of learning new things.  And it happened at the PAWS meeting.

After the presentation, the group started asking questions about fibre, spinning techniques, fibre preparation and so forth.  Then, I was asked a series of questions about scouring wool.  That’s the process of cleaning dirty fibre that comes right off the sheep.  I told the group about my various success and failures and current practice.  And then a woman told us of her experience cleaning wool. 

A while back, she had a filthy fibre that she tried to clean.  No luck, at least not to her satisfaction.  So she decided to throw the rest of it out and use it as mulch for her garden.  She placed it around some plants and then left it.  The fall rains came; the winter rains came, with the occasional dusting of snow; and then the spring rains came.  When she went back into her garden to tidy up and get ready for planting, she noticed this wonderfully clean, good looking fibre.  “I’ll take that back” she told us.  And did.

Time, rain, and air (who knows) cleaned that fibre.  Which makes me, and the rest of us at that presentation on Wednesday wonder, what does it take to clean wool fibre enough for processing?  Do we really need to use the hottest water we can make?  Use Orvus Paste (sodium lauryl sulphate) — that’s pretty nasty stuff.  In what ways can we simplify the process, so it works for spinning purposes, but also minimizes the impact on the environment?

As one who really dislikes the process of scouring fibre, I’m keen on a process that is not only easier on the environment, but easy on me.  I’m going to try putting a dirty fleece into a mesh bag and then leaving it my garden for a few months.  The mesh will protect it from the leaves and twigs and such, but still allow the rains — and boy there’s plenty of that to be had around here — to wash everything clean.

I’ve got just the fleece; the perfect spot in my garden, just need a mesh bag big enough to hold it all.