Friday, July 25, 2008

Why Recycle Cotton?

Some ask why. I usually ask why not. It probably made me an annoying child. I know it makes me an annoying student.

Since cotton does not have the resilience of wool, it cannot be reconstituted with the same success. That doesn't mean that it cannot be reused--anyway, that's my theory.

In the last post you were introduced to two charming Liz Claiborne sweaters which were found grazing at the same Portland thrift store four weeks apart from each other. Each sweater was made of the same high quality cotton in a similar color-way. The gauge of the stockinette was 9 stitches and 12 rows to the inch.

The sweaters were unravelled stripe by stripe onto a yarn winder and from the yarn winder onto a swift. Each stripe's hank was tied in four places with white craft cotton. The unravelled yarn was quite curly and had a certain charm of its own, but it was nevertheless destined to become an experiment in straightening.

After all the unravelled stripes from sweater #1 were neatly tied, the hanks were transported to the kitchen where a stock pot full of boiling water awaited. I turned off the heat and gently eased all the hanks into the pot. If you try this at home, don't be tempted to stir the hanks around like so much spaghetti because that truly can make a mess. While I went off to find some other mischief to engage me, the stripes were left to sit in the pot until the water cooled to room temperature.

Here are the wet hanks enjoying a warm summer afternoon on the back deck. When taken back inside at dusk, they were perhaps 50% dry. Indoors the hanks were weighted to straighten them even more. The dried fiber ended up in a subtle wave pattern--not totally straight, but straight enough to be refashioned into something else. When straightening the hanks from sweater #2, I'll try ironing the hanks when they are still mildly wet.

So, you might wonder about the destiny of this cache of cotton. Socks, of course.

Wool socks, except for wintertime lounging around the house in the evening, just totally drive me bonkers. Probably a result of all those years working in offices or lecturing college students while wearing trouser socks or hosiery with dress shoes. Cotton socks, especially thin ones, are a favorite for afterwork foot apparel. Thick socks, not so much.

This recycled fiber doesn't have much elasticity, but the addition of a strand of nylon serger thread adds just enough stretch, even if it is a bit of a pain to knit along with the cotton.

This is the first and only sock in progress so far. It's 10 stitches and 15 rows to the inch on size on size 0 DPNs. I'm designing it on the fly and there will probably never be a matching sock because it's virtually dogma for me to avoid making two things exactly alike.

So, there will be a lot of fraternals and no identicals. The best thing about that is who cares if one goes missing on laundry day.

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