Spinning what comes naturally

Spinners have a love affair with natural fibers—natural meaning “as grown in nature.” But what about the entirely different class of fiber available to us that are manufactured in labs? Some of them are wholly synthetic, but some start out as natural material. And their history may go back further than you think. The viscose or rayon process, which turns cellulose into a silky fiber and gives us most of our bamboo for spinning, was patented in 1892!

   
 
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Some of the new manufactured fibers rival silk for softness, sheen, and ability to take dye beautifully.

 

When new manufactured yarns started hitting the market during the first few years of the twenty-first century, spinners were intrigued. All the wonders professed by their makers sounded grand, but were they true? It can be difficult to get good information about how these fibers are actually made, because the manufactuers hold back a good bit of information as proprietary. We can't go to the mills and watch the yarn being made, because it happens in a lab in mostly faraway places.

 

 
Patsy Zawistoski leads you on a practical tour of new fibers such as soy silk, bamboo, and nano-fibers. Spacer 15x15 pixels

So what’s a spinner to do? If you really want to know how the fibers are made, Patsy Zawistoski can answer those questions with a healthy balance of skepticism and joy. The fiber geek's need to know is satisfied in this video about production of the four major classes of manmade fiber: cellulose (mostly rayons—bamboo, Tencel, and viscose); protein-based Azaons (think soy and milk fibers); synthetic nylons; and nano-fiber (carbonized bamboo and Seacell), along with a smattering of whiz-bang techno-fibers in their own class.

 

With plenty of hands-on instruction, Patsy’s video shows you how to spin a yarn plied with a spool of maufactured Woolly Nylon to produce a spiral yarn with a lot of memory. To identify which new fiber you have on hand, she walks you though the intricacies of the burn test. (She will also tell you how to make peace with a two year old.)

 

We may think of cold winter weather as the time to keep warm with a lap full of wool, but if you live in an area that has a pronounced summer with hot and humid weather, the silky feel of some manufactured fiber slipping through your hands may sound like heaven.

 


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