Sunday, July 11, 2010

An apology about waterproofing wool

A couple of years ago, a yarn supplier told me that a drop of baby oil would oil ,and waterproof wool. I tried it, and it has worked very well for me on a large number of swatches and objects. I have repeated the advice often.
I now find that the situation is more complex, and the baby oil was acting a carrier for other materials with which I inadvertently contaminated the yarns and/or objects. Thus, the waterproofing that I see in my knit woolens requires more than just baby oil.
Other materials in my crafting environment which may be causing the effect include:

• Spinning oil on a yarn that I frequently use

• Bees wax,

• Petrolatum

• Lanolin.
One, or all of these, is likely contributing to the weatherproof qualities of the objects that I make.
In any case, my weatherproof fabrics are not noticeably oily or waxy, nor do they smell like sheep when wet. Thus, I am taking bout trace quantities of contamination. The advice to knit very tightly, full completely, and oil the wool stands. The ambiguity is what “oil” is best.
Anyway, I am sorry for any confusion or problems that this may have caused.


Marin (AntiM) said...

This is a subject near to my heart. My father recently severed nerves and blood supply to his middle finger on his right hand. As there is no bloodflow, there is no means for the finger to stay warm. He can wear big old mittens when puttering around town, but he's started worrying about flyfishing. We discussed things I could design and knit to help maintain heat while keeping bulk down (we've settled on a sort of single-fingered glove he can wear alone or under other gloves).

He pointed out that it would have to be waterproof or at least water resistant, else defeating the purpose.

I don't spin, so I'm thinking some of what you're talking about is out of my regular realm.

Do you think a tightly-knit, fulled qiviut or alpaca with a bit of oil would still be warm? And do you think that would make it water-resistant?

Any input you have would be greatly appreciated.



Aaron said...

I love fly fishing for steel head.

My approach would be MacAusland's woolen works ( yarns knit very tightly. I like MacAusland yarns. I like the price. I like the durability. I like the service. I would also suggest these yarns for fly fishing socks. This is a woolen spun coarse (rug) wool with enough fine staples in it to full well. However, you need a knitting sheath to get enough leverage to pack the yarns together tightly.

Another option is in Robin Hansen's book, Favorite Mittens where she talks about Chebeague Island hooked mittens used by Maine fishermen. These are made with a hook.

The downside of MacAusland yarns is that they only come in skeins and the have a spinning oil on them that stinks.