Fiber Memory

Fiber Memory
Resilience would be easily defined as the ability to return to original form. This sounds like a very basic concept and the importance may not be immediately obvious. Then, you reach for a sweater that has been left on a hanger in your closet. The shoulders have those knobs from the sides of the hanger and the need for memory is glaring right at you.

As spinners we all search the fiber shops and farms for fiber that has a great hand, but don’t forget that an item that holds it’s shape is just as important as one that feels soft.

There are a few ways to check fiber to test its memory as it is often called. Begin by looking at just a few fibers. The crimp must be present in the raw fiber for the yarn to have good resilience. Pull the fiber at both ends to be sure it returns to its original crimp. This is pretty much a given with wool, but with other protein fiber, there can be some variation.

If the fiber is something you have already purchased, you can iron a washed lock then wet it out again to see if the crimp returns. Remember to wet out a fiber means to soak it for awhile, at least 15 minutes, not just a quick spritz with water.

Have you ever taken one of your own hairs and stretched it to see how far you could go before it broke? I remember being told once that healthy human hair will stretch to one and a half times its length before breaking. After you have stretched your own hair, consider the fact that it is a protein fiber.

Some camelid fibers behave in the same manner as human hair. They do offer a great deal of stretch before breaking. This will reduce tears in finished items, but does not help the item to retain its original shape.

There are some occasions that require fiber with little memory. To weave a fine cloth, the yarn should be a very smooth and taut preparation. This will help you achieve a crisp finish to linens and other woven items.
Have no fear, if you are working with wool or any other fiber that has crimp, drying the yarn under tension will impair the fiber memory enough for the yarn to be woven. After the woven item is finished, it may require drying under tension to maintain the original shape.

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