Foraged Fiber Fails, Week Ending 12/15/2019

If my family depended on my ability to clothe them, we would all freeze to death from exposure.

In one week, I failed to spin even half an ounce of fiber. This was the milkweed-merino that I started last Sunday. It’s just a sample, so it didn’t seem intimidating to spin that amount. I spun every free moment, and still haven’t finished by this post!

For readers unfamiliar with fiber production, generally after spinning the yarn is then plied for extra durability and balance. Then twist is set, and only after those additional steps is the yarn ready to be used for its intended project whether it be knitting, crocheting, weaving or something else.

Meaning, I still have a long way to go before I can share any “real” results with you regarding how the milkweed experiment went.

I can say already that loose milkweed fibers get. on. everything. We are still finding tufts of milkweed silk clinging to the upholstery. And I noticed as I spun the blended fiber, any fine milkweed bits sticking out tended to break off and flutter away. You can see in this photo the little cloud white of broken milkweed fibers in a halo around the spindle.

Milkweed-merino blend sample, spun on a supported spindle
Milkweed-merino blend sample, spun on a supported spindle

(OK, maybe the “halo” is a result of a dusty monitor… your mileage may vary!)

This photo shows the milkweed-merino blend (top) alongside straight merino (bottom). The blend is thicker, and more inclined to have slubs. I couldn’t tell whether the luster and shine of the milkweed really made a difference in the overall look and feel of the yarn-in-process.

Milkweed-merino blend (top) compared to straight merino (bottom)
Milkweed-merino blend (top) compared to straight merino (bottom)

The real question is: would milkweed be a good fiber to use in a lower energy future where clothing might be more expensive or harder to acquire because of changes in the global trade network?

I haven’t decided yet.

While milkweed is plentiful in this area and relatively easy to harvest, it was a hassle to remove the seeds and then blend the fiber with a sturdier wool. Until my sample is done, I won’t know whether the milkweed adds additional warmth, softness, or other characteristic to the yarn which would make it worth the trouble. I guess I could always stuff pillows or blankets or outerwear with the down, skipping several steps and leveraging milkweed’s fluffy nature. I could even leave the seeds … and then if the item ever got wet and the seeds germinated, it would magically become food! Brilliant!

Have you tried foraging fiber or other materials to make clothing? How did it go?

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