Research Shows that Wool Eases Eczema Symptoms

A new study has confirmed that wearing superfine Merino wool helps ease the symptoms of eczema and improves the wearer’s quality of life.

Professor Joe Fowler at Dermatology Specialists Research in Louisville, Ky., undertook this two-year study assessing the effect of Merino base-layer fabrics on 50 of his patients with mild-to-moderate eczema.

Using a cross-over design, participants were placed in two groups. The first group was dressed in their regular clothing for six weeks and then changed to superfine Merino wool garments. The second group began with the superfine Merino wool for six weeks and then crossed over to their regular clothing for the final six weeks. Each patient undertook an initial visit to establish their baseline condition, followed by regular visits until completion of the study. They were assessed for clinical, physiological and quality of life outcome measures.

Significant decreases in eczema symptoms from Baseline to Week Three were seen in both groups. However, those who switched to Merino wool at Week Six experienced a further significant decrease in symptoms, in contrast to those who switched to regular clothing. Further, “it was only when Merino wool was worn that improved quality of life scores occurred,” Fowler said.

“I still wear the [wool] clothing, even though I’ve finished the study,” one participant said. “I’m super sensitive about clothing and never keep any that are not comfortable.”

Another participant commented, “I could feel it working, my skin got softer and I wear [wool] now when my skin needs help.”

Source: ASI Weekly November 9, 2018

Full Article (IWTO = Intnat’l Wool Textile Org.): https://www.iwto.org/news/us-study-confirms-wool-benefits-to-skin

Where Your Wool Comes From

Outdoor Online recently published an article about the Peruvian immigrants who work as shepherds on the last large-scale sheep-herding operation on Washington state’s public forestland.   It’s likely that the wool in your outdoor gear came from these 4,000 sheep, owned by the family ranch S. Martinez Livestock, near Mabton, Wash.  The wool goes to companies such as Farm to Feet, Pendleton, and Woolrich to be turned into American-made performance clothing.  Check out the outstanding photography.

https://www.outsideonline.com/2360806/sheep-herding-s-martinez-peru

The Martinez family immigrated to American from Spain in 1920, starting as sheepherders and becoming ranch owners.  Today the operation has diversified into fruit, cattle and grain as well as continuing the sheep operation.  They have a lot of issues to resolve due to grazing on public lands!  They’ve been successful by staying in touch with the Federal government and private landowners to avoid impacting bighorn sheep, being impacted by protected wolves and avoiding wildfire areas.

http://www.sheepusa.org/NewsMedia_SheepIndustryNews_PastIssues_2013_May2013_WashingtonProducersContinueGenerationalBusiness

 

 

2018 Shetland Wool Week Pattern Available

The free pattern is online!

Introducing the Merrie Dancers Toorie

We are thrilled to announce this year’s Shetland Wool Week patron as Shetland knitwear designer and handspinner, Elizabeth Johnston.

The news was officially launched this morning at the start of the Edinburgh Yarn Festival, where Shetland Wool Week has a stand.

The annual SWW hat pattern, which is now synonymous with the launch of the patron, was also released. This year’s official hat pattern is called ‘The Merrie Dancers Toorie’ and was designed by Elizabeth Johnston. The hat is based on a fisherman’s kep in the Shetland Museum and Archives’ Boat Hall, and features three small patterns, but is not a Fair Isle design.

Elizabeth has lived in Shetland all her life, and like many others who grew up in the islands, has knitted from childhood. Elizabeth bought her first spinning wheel in 1978, which changed her focus from knitting to spinning, and also teaching these skills. She eventually started her own business, Shetland Handspun, which has taken her to many places around the world and she is in high demand as a speaker and instructor.

Elizabeth said: “I have loved designing the Merrie Dancers Toorie. The kep has a dark background with colours that remind me of the northern lights, or ‘merrie dancers’, and a familiar sight to fishermen. You can blend or contrast any colours and I have suggested a variety that use yarns from Jamieson & SmithJamieson’s of ShetlandUradale Yarns and Shetland Handspun.”

We are delighted to have Elizabeth as our new patron. She has a life-time of knowledge about Shetland wool, learned from those who came before and honed through practice. Centuries of Shetland textile craft come together in her work: sheep-rearing, wool processing, dyeing, spinning, knitting, weaving. Perhaps more importantly, she is passing on her skills and knowledge to others through practice-based teaching, just as Shetlanders have always done.

Download your copy of the hat pattern

The Merrie Dancers Toorie pattern can be downloaded for free here or come along to our stand at EYF and pick up a printed copy. Elizabeth will be splitting her time between the SWW stand and also her own stand, Shetland Handspun, so drop by and say hello.

The pattern will also be available from the Shetland Museum and Archives shop and textile outlets in Shetland.

Knit the hat in any of the suggested colour variations, or come up with your own colour scheme, and wear it to Shetland Wool Week 2018 – identify your fellow Wool Weekers and compare hats throughout the week and at the official SWW 2018 photograph!

Remember to share your creations and experiences with us by tagging your photos with #merriedancerstoorie or #shetlandwoolweek2018

 

Source: http://www.shetlandwoolweek.com/introducing-the-merrie-dancers-toorie/

 

Last Mechanical Loom Mill Making Jeans in US Closing Dec 2017

Cone Denim’s White Oak plant in Greensboro, North Carolina. Unlike most other textile plants in the U.S., White Oak has always produced nothing but denim. In the late 1800s, the plant’s owners, Cone Denim, sold Levi Strauss his first wholesale supplies, soon therafter filing the original patents on selvage denim. photo courtesy of Cone Denim, LLC, a division of International Textile Group

The facility closing at the end of the year is using looms built in the 1940s (!) which uses shuttles like traditional looms.  At 3 passes of through the warp per second they are clearly more technologically savvy than hand powered looms.  They make a sturdier cloth than modern looms because the weft (horizontal fibers that are woven through the warp which are the vertical fibers) is continuous, it goes back and forth across the weft all the way through the cloth.  Modern looms cut the weft at the end of each pass (and use air jets to propel the fiber!) because the width of the loom is too wide to use shuttles.

The other interesting aspect of these older looms is that the motion of the shuttles on a wood floor causes small imperfections in the weave that give the cloth a unique look that isn’t found in cloth produced on a “modern” loom.  In addition, vintage jeans were also dyed with indigo plants (vs synthetic indigo)  and only the warp threads are dyed to give the finished fabric that familiar worn blue color (blue warp, white weft).

Primarily cheaper labor in other countries (Turkey) caused this plant closing.  The looms (Draper X3 manufactured in Hopedale, MA) are being bought up by other small specialty startup mills so there is hope that they will some day be making quality cloth in the US again.

Source:  https://craftsmanship.net/secret-vintage-jeans/

 

Science in Support of Small Farms – Micronutrient Maps

That different foods provide different essential micronutrients (such as calcium, vitamin A, and folate) isn’t news. But now we know which farms produce the most. New research published in the inaugural issue of The Lancet Planetary Health is the first to map production of micronutrients worldwide on farms of different sizes, spanning 41 crops, 7 livestock products, and 14 fish groups.

The study was led by Mario Herrero, of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, Australia, and co-authors include Paul West, James Gerber, and Leah Samberg of IonE’s Global Landscapes Initiative. The researchers discovered that worldwide, small and medium farms (≤ 50 ha.) produce more than half (51–77 percent) of nearly all commodities and nutrients examined in the study. Other key findings include:

  • Large farms (> 50 ha.) reign in North America, South America, Australia, and New Zealand, contributing 75–100 percent of cereal, livestock, and fruit production—while small farms (≤ 20 ha.) account for more than 75 percent of food production in Sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia, South Asia, and China
  • The majority of global micronutrients (53–81 percent) and protein (57 percent) are produced in more diverse agricultural landscapes
  • The diversity of agricultural and nutrient production diminishes as farm size increases—but areas of the world with higher agricultural diversity

A new interactive Food Matters report, Small Farms: Stewards of Global Nutrition?, complements the study and highlights the key findings. Published by the Institute on the Environment, Food Matters reports—including its graphs, infographics, and other data visualizations—are freely shared under a Creative Commons license.

Excerpted from: https://phys.org/news/2017-10-micronutrients-importance-small-medium-farms.html

Original article: Mario Herrero et al. Farming and the geography of nutrient production for human use: a transdisciplinary analysis, The Lancet Planetary Health (2017). DOI: 10.1016/S2542-5196(17)30007-4

 

USA Made Super Wash Wool and Other Purchasing Decisions

https://extension.umd.edu/sites/extension.umd.edu/files/_images/locations/queen_annes_county/LESREC_chickens.jpg

Commercial “Free Range” Egg Production Photo from University of MD extension website

Versus

Dominique Laying Hen at Dancing Waters Farm

Installing a super wash processing facility in the USA back in 2011 allowed the production of 100% USA produced commercial wool products for the first time.  It rescued the American wool industry which could not compete with wool products made in other countries since USA produced wool had to be sent over seas to be super wash processed.  Good or bad, in order for wool to compete with other fibers used in cloth/ yarns it needs to be super wash processed so it can be machine washed.  A blog article by Pigeonroof Studios gives a good overview of the historical details and impacts of opening this super wash facility, in particular with respect to environmental issues.

The article is focused on large commercial producers, so when it says “Chargeurs is the only remaining top making facility in the United States, and one of only two remaining commercial scouring facilities.” it is excluding small USA fiber mills.  I have my tops processed by Zeilinger’s in Michigan for example, but they are one of the few mills that process tops in small lots (10 pounds minimum raw, 5 pounds minimum washed).  The other thing that has happened recently is that the military cancelled their contract for American wool and although it ‘s certain to have a negative impact on the US wool industry, it won’t be as bad as it would have been 5 years ago as many other commercial users are now taking advantage of the facility (socks for consumers, etc.).   Chargeurs is still the only super wash facility in the USA but the minimums are too large for small producers unless they combine lots with other small producers.

The real issue with farming is that it is so labor intensive that the real cost of producing anything (eggs, vegetables, wool, mohair, etc.) is so high that no one will buy it at true cost.  Eggs would sell for about $9/dozen to be equal to what they sold for back in the 1920s, after  adjusting only for inflation/ value of the dollar changes.

The only way to make a profit is by economies of scale, using the cheapest possible ingredients, practices that reduce labor costs and depending on government subsidies.  This translates into poorer feed quality, smaller living quarters (ridiculously small for chickens and pigs)  and less attention to health in animals and large scale use of herbicides/ pesticides/ genetically modified plants and large equipment in the case of plant crops.

A somewhat humorous sidebar is that John Deere makes more money financing than selling equipment.  [See: https://www.statista.com/statistics/271866/john-deere-net-sales-since-2001/which shows $23B in sales, net income $1.5B in 2016 from equipment, but $2.7B from financing (look at revenue by segment to get amount from finance)].   They are making their money by financing bigger and more expensive equipment to farmers who are trying to keep their economies of scale large enough to pay their bills (those big tractors can easily cost $500,000).

That’s why the majority of small farms have a second job to pay the bills that can’t be paid with their farm sales.  Keep this is mind when you’re buying farm products.  Do you want to use your money for products that have been produced using the best sustainable practices (kind to the environment) and which provide animals humane care or do you only care about the cheapest product?  This is a social issue which receives very little discussion.  I believe there has to be a way to feed and cloth people including those with limited means as well as pay the producers (small farmers) what it costs to produce the items and provide some profit.  Small farmers are doing what we do for the perks: enjoying and assuring  good life for animals and the environment, the ability to work in the great outdoors and to be our own boss.  However, I believe they should be earning at least minimum wage for their efforts.

 

Sock Knitting Exploration – Version 2

My second project ….

Used FLK  (Fish Lip Kiss) pattern for sizing and heel.   I used Turkish Cast On and Magic Loop from the toe up approach. This pair was done on two circulars, and I did an inch on one sock then an inch on the other sock in order to avoid the dreaded SSS (single sock syndrome).  Still not quite ready for two at a time Magic Loop!  It took me about 15 hours of knitting for the pair which was dramatically better than for the 1st pair (>40 hours). I can only hope this trend will continue!

The yarn used for the  sock body was Rambler’s Way Handpaint Rambouillet DK (100% American raised wool and spinning) which is spun with a high twist.  The heels were done in a worsted 2ply 100% mohair yarn which was very slippery and hard to knit with to keep about the same gauge as the sock body.

I also tried “Feeding Ducks and Holding Hands” stitch pattern for the top of the sock body (available as a scarf pattern free on Ravelry). I converted it to a knit only version (it’s written as a purl version).  The knit version is initially slightly more difficult to do than as a purl version, but easy enough as long as the stitches are not made too tightly.  Loved this stitch pattern as it’s easy to do as well as remember (no need to keep checking the pattern!) and looks fantastic with this kind of yarn (relatively short color repeats).

Due to the size of the yarn they don’t fit in regular shoes but are fine in boots or slippers.

Now to test wear ability vs version 1!

 

Learnings:

100% mohair is slippery and more difficult to knit with than all wool.  Up to this point had only knit with my 75% mohair – 25% wool roving/ tops that had been handspun.

Next….Same pattern, but using superwash wool with 25% nylon ie-classic sock yarn. Already not happy with my choice – took 4 hours to convert the skein into a center pull ball. It’s also a very slippery yarn.  The superwash process removes the scales from the wool (so it won’t felt) which not surprisingly makes the yarn slippery vs regular wool.

Project info

Fish Lips Kiss Heel by Sox Therapist

US 4 – 3.5 mm

: Rambler’s Way Handpainted Rambouillet DK, = 600.0 yards (548.6 meters), 10.58 ounces – I used about half a skein;
: Sunglow;
: Discontinued Brand Name Yarn

Construction Details:

Toe up, each sock on it’s own circular working one then the other about an inch at a time

Turkish Cast on (4 stitches = 1″), wedge toe, increased (inserted a backwards yarn loop) 4 stitches/ row up to 24 stitches then increased every other row up to 40 stitches total

Foot and leg: Stockinette (on circulars so straight knitting)

Heel: 100% 2 ply mohair yarn, FLK pattern

Finish: 2 x 2 rib for an inch and a standard loose bind off

Socks Version 1
Socks Version 2
Socks Version 3

Commercial Cage Free Egg Production – Bigger Cage, Just As Crowded

This video promotes an engineering feat – the industrialization of cage free buildings for egg production.

https://cagefree.summitlivestock.com/

Even thinking about producing 1.1 billion eggs in only 10 layer houses in only 3 sites in the US is scary.   They never show how the building looks from the inside (ie-hen view) but it’s pretty clear from the other video stills/links provided at the end how it will be.  The “cage” is bigger and the amount of space provided is pretty much the same – way too small for a living animal.

People think they are doing a good thing by buying cage free eggs but big industry has figured a way to claim the tag phrase without allowing the hens to live like chickens.  “Free range” has similar issues although arguably somewhat better for the hens as they are only crammed wing to wing at night (vs 24 x 7).

Use your money to provide good lives for hens by buying your eggs from a local small farmer where the hens ARE cage free!

Dominique Hen Looking at Catnip