Posts Tagged ‘cotton’

Screw that whole “present participle” business. Here in far northern California, Winter Has Landed. We didn’t get much of an “autumn,” so everyone I know has “conservation” on the brain — canning produce, winterizing homes and vehicles, wintering over gardens, &c. Even though the poplar tree outside my front door still has most of its bright yellow leaves intact, the temps have dropped into the thirties at night and I officially can’t get my feet warm if I’m standing on any non-carpeted surface in this house. The tent-sized, purple velour robe is daily wear in the mornings, and the fabric creates a delightful little nest when I sit with my legs folded which makes my little grimalkin purr contentedly while discharging acres of fur all over it. She and I have renewed our yearly discussion about “specialty fibers” — how its her duty to provide those fine, tiny fur strands to tangle in my flosses as I stitch, and how its mine to pick every one of those fuckers off the fabric when I find them.

The question I get asked — by humans, not Libby — is “Why?” Why bother? You’ll never get them all, anyway. Who’s going to notice?

It’s a good question, but one without a snappy, satisfactory answer. I can only say what I’ve been told, and a bit more I researched for myself, and then pass it on. Whether you’ll regard it as “wisdom” or not might also be dependent on if you’re interested in long-term conservation of your stitching. If you’re not, don’t waste another moment of your precious time on this post — this one isn’t for you. 🙂

For those of us who are interested in this, at least for some projects, the wisdom runs thusly:

  • Each strand of animal fur, if looked at under a microscope, is a strand of sharp serrated blades (scales) wrapped around a flexible keratin core that will, over time, slice the ever-loving fuck out of cotton, linen, and other vegetable fibers. These tiny cuts degrade both fabric and floss over time, and are part of the reason for the fiber decay you see in older stitched works.
  • The addition of this kind of organic matter includes introducing mites and mite shit into your work. This isn’t such a big deal if they can be washed after stitching is complete, but in projects that can’t be washed (delicate or non-colorfast fibers), it is another factor to consider. Apparently the pH of mite shit and dead mite carcasses isn’t a great mix with that of your stitching, or so I learned when I looked into it.

The last reason is less about conservation than coverage.

  • The finest of those furry bits, particularly from a fur undercoat, are problematic in that they will twist themselves up in floss strands as you’re stitching, and tighten around as you pull the floss through(like bundling grasses with twine), reducing the floss’s coverage over the fabric. I consider this more a contributing factor to poor floss coverage than a prime cause, but with the tiny fractions we’re talking about, every micron matters.

They’re three points to consider in your decision to pluck, or not to pluck. If you do decide plucking matters, in addition to a good light source and a magnifier of some sort, I recommend at least one pair of these:

How do you deal with “specialty fibers” in your stitched work?