Wool: sexy, hypnotic and magical! Don't be scared!
So last night I was leisurely handwashing the soft, blue and luscious Christian Dior doubleknit wool fabric I'm using for my Mad Men Challenge dress in a basin of tepid water and Eucalan...
And as I squeezed it very gently with my hands, that delicious lanolin smell wafted up to my nostrils and I thought: "Wow! I can't believe I ever was afraid of wool!"
In fact, before I started knitting with better-quality soft merino wools (thanks to the inspiring words of Elizabeth Zimmerman and The Yarn Harlot), I not only feared handwashing wool garments, I thought I was actually allergic to the stuff.* I even sought out acrylic and cotton yarns OVER wool. For real!
So in case you are still struggling with wool-o-phobia, I present (in random, arbitrary, unscientific fashion):
5 Reasons I Love Working With Wool
- It keeps you warm but lets your skin breathe.
- It resists odors, stains and bacteria, and rarely needs cleaning.
- Wool kicks water to the curb and keeps you toasty and dry, absorbing up to 30 percent of its weight in water before even feeling wet. This is why I wear wool socks almost every day (except in the summer).
- It comes in gazillions of beautiful colors and weights and styles to suit any taste. Slinky sexy soft merino wool jerseys, nubbly gorgeous sturdy tweeds and plaids, thin tropical wools, flattering drapey crepes...
- It has amazing springiness and recovery and takes fabulously to pressing and steaming and shaping and fitting and tailoring (see Joan photo at top--do you think cotton can do that? I don't think so!)
Bonus Reasons For Crafty Mamas to Love Wool
- Wool makes baby pee vanish. Like magic! Wool diaper soakers make the best cloth diaper covers because the lanolin in the wool does some weird tricky thing that actually just makes the urine go away as it dries. Really! (Not that I'm going to let Z pee on my Mad Men dress, mind you.) When Z was a newborn, I used the awesome and quick Sheepy Soaker pattern to make the below:
- Wool fights embarrassing breastmilk leaks. I ONLY wear merino wool nursing pads (which I could have made easily, but bought--mine are LanaCare and OnGuard brands). I have a few pairs, and one dries while the other is in use. They are soft, warm, absorbent and dry, fight bacteria and don't feel cold and clammy, and can be easily handwashed as necessary.
2 Ways to Wash Wool
- Handwash with gentle wool wash and tepid water. I use this method for all handknits and all my wool sweaters and wool knit tops. It's SO easy. Seriously. Just: fill a basin with tepid water, add a dash of wool wash (the real gentle lanolin-containing kind, like Eucalan, not Woolite or any harsh chemical ones) gently squeeze through, let soak 15 minutes, roll gently in a towel to remove excess water, lay flat to dry. DONE. No rinsing required!
- Pam's Dry-Clean-free Fast & Easy pre-treatment method. I haven't tried this yet, but many sewists swear by it, and I love that no dry cleaner is required! Though I'm not clear on whether occasional dry-cleaning would still be required once a garment is actually worn--my guess is yes.
And as they used to say on Reading Rainbow, don't just take my word for it!
Nothing beats wool. It's an extraordinary material—annually renewable and recyclable—with infinite potential. It can be wispy and sensual when it wants to be, it can be gruff and powerful, it can put out fires and keep families warm at night, it can be stepped on, sat under, rained on, and wrapped up in again and again.
--Clara Parkes, author of The Knitter's Book of Wool
So: do you fear--or embrace--wool? And why? What's your favorite source for buying wool fabric?
*Mohair, on the other hand--that stuff turns my skin bright red in SECONDS. Yowch!