Our Worsted Weight Yarn is Mule Spun.
What is Mule Spun Yarn? Mule spun yarns have a characteristic all their own. Yarns spun on traditional frames have a constant tension, and are spun and wound continuously. Mule spun yarns are drawn, spun, relaxed, then wound about six feet at a time. The draw allows for a more uniform product, and the relaxation of the tension allows the yarn to fluff up more. Many experts consider the mule to make the very highest quality of hand work yarns. Mule spun yarn retains the softness of the natural wool fibers, and has a homespun appearance and durability that is highly valued by knitters. Our mule spun yarns are spun at the only remaining commercial mill in Canada using this technology. Our wool is washed at the mill during the yarn making process. We wash each skein again when we receive it at the farm to remove residual spinning oils and present the yarn in its true natural colour.
Is it normal to find a little chaff in 100% wool yarn? Yes. Many wool mills use a process called carbonizing to remove bits of vegetative matter that naturally come in the fleece of grazing sheep. This harsh chemical process zaps everything and gives a perfectly clean product. However, it is the residue from such chemical treatment to which many people react. The mill that processes our yarn uses nothing stronger than dish soap to clean the wool. To deal with chaff, we remove as much as we reasonably can at shearing time, before shipping the fleece to the mill. Then the mill removes as much as they can with their picking equipment. And finally, we go through each skein after washing and pick out what leftovers we can find. There will always be a little that we miss, which can be easily removed while knitting. This is a small trade off for a natural wool that hasn't been carbonized in sulphur based chemicals!
What is 'naturally machine washable? If you look at wool under a microscope you will see it has scales (as do human hair and other protein fibers). Wool felts and shrinks when these scales snag on each other during the agitation of washing. Superwash wool has been chemically treated to withstand washing machine agitation. In this process chemicals fill in the little edges between the scales - so the surface is absolutely smooth and there is nothing to snag. This is not natural - just another chemical treatment. Columbia sheep, for reasons tracing to their original genetic development, have scales whose edges are not as pronounced as many other wool breeds - so it takes a lot of agitation to felt it. This natural quality allows you to wash your garments safely on the delicate cycle of an automatic washing machine. (On the other hand, if you WANT to felt it such as when making a felt hat or purse, you will have to work very hard!)
What dyes are used on our yarn? We use wash fast acid dyes to colour our wool. We were initially inclined towards natural dyes but found many such dyes require toxic chemicals as mordants (to set the dye) with toxic byproducts to dispose of afterward. The acid dyes we use are non toxic and we use citric acid (like lemon juice) as our mordant - no toxic leftovers, just clean water. In addition, wash fast acid dyes give a colour that resists fading in sunlight or in the washing machine. Bonus!