A Mess of Wool

There is a question that I am always surprised I am not asked more often. That question, which I keep expecting to hear, but which everyone around me is apparently too gracious or accommodating to ask, is…

“Why is there wool here?”

In and around my house, there is wool sort of everywhere. Because I am sure everyone who lives in or visits or has occasion to stand near my house is asking themselves this question, and is only holding it in out of politeness (and a desire not to upset the lady with all the wool, who is clearly 2 squares short of an afghan), I will attempt to answer for various locations, “Why is there wool…?”

1. On the floor. When I am dyeing things, I don’t trust the outdoors to be a safe place for leaving things to dry. (There was a little incident involving 22 oz. of green roving and a whole lot of maggot eggs. You don’t want to know.) So on towels and racks, broad swaths of the carpet are rather frequently covered by yarn or roving or fleece of various colors, pretty and otherwise, busily evaporating. Below is a Jacob fleece, divided into three parts – the black-and-white section was also supposed to be blue, but there was some turmeric residue in the pot that I didn’t know about. It turned into a very nice green that, with the black, carded into a wonderful mint-chocolate-chip that I forgot to take pictures of. The white in the middle is reserved for the next experiment, when you might have found yourself asking…

2. Why is there wool at the top of the steps? There are some things that I am comfortable with dyeing outside, and iron oxide is one of them. R.J. at Breezy Willow had a bunch of these dyes lying around, so I thought I’d take them for a test drive.

They made very powerful colors, but I’m pretty sure they weren’t intended for use on wool. Iron, whether used as a dye or a mordant, weakens wool, meaning it will degrade a lot faster than it would normally. But I had set aside some of that Jacob for an experiment, so I tried the green below.

Again, I forgot to take pictures of the finished wool, but it’s about the color of the dye in the bag below. The other thing we discovered about Iron Oxide, which I read on the internet after the stuff had been simmering on my stove for an hour, is that heated iron solution creates TOXIC FUMES! Oh noes!!! We’d noticed that it was smelling pretty impressively bad, but warm wet wool doesn’t smell so great either, so we figured it was okay. Besides, your nose can get used to almost anything. But when I read it was toxic, Jared graciously complied with my request to put it outside at the top of the steps. To give you an idea of how bad this smell really was – That evening, our landlady came down to make sure we were still alive, as the smell had traveled up and permeated their house as well. I felt really horrible about this, but they are very kind (although they surely think we are very weird) and mostly wanted to make sure the smell of “rotten eggs and a bad perm” hadn’t killed us.

3. Why is there wool in the washing machine? These are the last two fleeces I washed before chucking the whole lot of nasty sheep-smelling trash bags into the back room to evade guests and eventually be packed in a moving van. But for a while there, the things were really monopolizing the washing machine; I had to schedule carefully to make sure the machine was clear for friday, when I actually wash, you know, clothes.

On a slightly different note,

4. What the heck are you doing? As it’s probably related to wool… Black walnuts have started falling, and friends and family who know my inclinations have started bringing them to me. Quite out of freezer space, I needed to husk the things to condense them, leading to the get-up you see below. I was tired of having to explain to people why my fingers were brown and wrinkled for two weeks after husking, so I decided to be careful this time. However, I discovered that black walnut juice is so powerful that it penetrates two layers of rubber gloves to leave a nice henna-like stain on the fingers. This stuff is caustic! Now you know why the garden you planted under the black walnut trees in the front yard never takes off. They are like nature’s napalm. By the way, until I acquire a deep freezer, you kind people can stop bringing me walnuts…

5. Why is there wool… in the bathroom? My last dyeing adventure in this house has been some Nature Wool Chunky for Jonica. It looks a lot more purply-grey than it really is; it’s actually the nicest blue I’ve yet gotten out of black beans.

But now the house is about half packed, so there is not wool half so many places as it usually is. I can’t wait to get established in our new place, but for now I’ll have to be content with having wool in its usual spots – on the couch, on shelves, in purses, on the kitchen table…

6 thoughts on “A Mess of Wool

  1. Hey! That looks great! Can not wait to pick it up on friday! Also, when one walks into my house one never asks why there is yarn all over. The flying needles kind of make them not ask! LOL!!


  2. The blue yarn really IS a lot nicer in person. I LOVE it….esp. since I’m more of a worsted weight lover than a fingering yarn person. I never ask WHY is there yarn hither and thither; I want to know what it is, what yarn did you use or make, what needles are you using, etc. etc. I have a fine arts degree and visiting Rebecca’s house is visiting an artist in residence. It’s exciting! However, her little 9-year old sister DOES ask: why is there yarn in the bathroom? Why is there yarn on the floor….on the couch, all over the shelves….I need to fix my house and start putting yarn everywhere….MY house must be far too unwooly.


  3. Yes the blue is beautiful! Thanks Rebbie! My little nephew is going to love his new wooly outdoor outfit. Sweater, nether garments, booties, hat and gloves!

    I did freak out my husband when he saw the yarn hanging in the bathroom to finish dying! Maybe I should take you up on the suggestion of getting a fleece and tossing it on the floor to dry out! He was shocked when he read this post with me! It would be funny to watch his face and watch how he tries not to fuss!

    Gonna miss you girl!


  4. I still say that for april fool’s day you should find a farm with sheep, borrow a bunch of fleeces (stinky if possible) and lay them out everywhere just to see what he does.


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