The other night I came across a little book in my library which had been put together in 1994 by the Huronia Spinners’ Guild. It’s called Fibre Fever Fix, and it’s full of little bits of advice from the ladies of the guild.
One particularly useful one is how to unshrink a shrunken wool garment. (Mary Grant contributed this bit of wisdom.) Keep it handy – you never know when someone is going to put a favourite sweater or hat into the washer.
Dissolve 3 oz of Epsom salts in enough water to cover the garment. Soak it overnight. In the morning, squeeze the water out gently and pull the garment back into shape. Let dry.
Mary recommends a Woollee Board or Woollee Horse (obligatory trademark thingies after each) if the garment needs it. You could also block it back into shape, as you would if it were freshly knitted. Use a blocking board, or a section of carpeted floor that doesn’t get a lot of traffic, or a mattress. Pin with bead-headed pins or T-pins, and pin thoroughly, with one every half-inch.
If you need to soften a wool sweater, fill a pan with hot tap water, put in a capful or so of fabric softener and add the sweater. Gently heat the water to 180 degrees on the stove. Remove from heat, let cool to the temperature of hot tap water. Rinse in water the same temperature, squeeze out and lay flat to dry. Block if necessary.
June Sorenson contributed this little bit of verse about burrs and chaff in your wool. She had handspun in mind, but I’ve picked enough little bits of chaff out of Briggs & Little yarn, too! Noils are little dense bits in the fibre that show up in carding. Carbonising is a chemical process that dissolves the vegetable matter in wool.
A burr is quite a common seed
That looks just like a centipede
When, in the combing, it uncoils
And spreads itself among your noils.
When you observe them first, no doubt,
You do your best to pick them out,
But in the end you’ll find it wiser
To send them to the carboniser.
For if they’re woven in a shirt,
Men scratch themselves until they hurt,
And if girls get them in their undies,
They mustn’t go to church on Sundays.
For when they’re kneeling down in prayer,
They shouldn’t scratch themselves and swear.
I miss the ladies of the guild – that was a fun guild, full of women interested in the qualities of different fleeces, the husbandry of fibre critters and the ins and outs of natural dyes. Going through Fibre Fever Fix again was a lovely memory. I hope you find these tidbits useful, or at least entertaining!