Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Tuesday Book Review

Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet

4 star review of Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet by Charlie Holmberg

The title of this fantasy story is appropriate, as the protagonist, Maire, is a baker who infuses her confections with emotions and attitudes just by thinking of them. The story is also sometimes bitter, sometimes sweet, and sometimes bittersweet. Maire goes from her sweet life as the baker in an idyllic town, where she lives with lovable Dorice and Franc to the bitter life of a slave to the simple but cruel Allemas. His demands evoke known fairy tales and, like them, have their dark moments. All the while, she’s visited sporadically by the ephemeral Fyel. I won’t spoil the story, but I will say, as bittersweet as the ending is, the epilogue is almost too sweet.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Sunday Wool Blog

Superwash wool 
First a couple answers on the why of superwash wool. Why do people want it?
A big reason is washability. Non-superwash baby gifts can end up doll clothes, and socks that have been tossed accidentally in the washer and dryer barely fit a big toe. Dyers and knitters also love the intense color produced by dyeing on superwash. Lots of folks also say that superwash yarns are softer; they are certainly smoother.
Only a very small percentage of the superwash produced in the United States goes to the hobby market (that’s us knitters).
Much of the US-made superwash wool goes to ready-to-wear fashion, and to the military for uniforms. Wool for military wear is praised for its durability, its suitability in a variety of climates, and its fire resistance. The superwash process makes it washable, and it makes the United States wool pool (a variety of sheep breeds mixed into one yarn) soft enough to wear. The military uses a lot of wool and helps keep wool farming viable in the United States.

What Exactly Is Superwash?

Superwash is a process that makes wool less susceptible to felting when it is washed and dried by machine. There are two ways most commonly used to make a superwash yarn. One is to strip or dull the scales of a fiber, then fill the irregularities left behind with a polymer to smooth the fiber. The other is to coat the fiber to suppress the scales. There are many scientists working on developing new ways of shrink-proofing wool. Most methods are the super secret, proprietary information of the companies and labs developing them.

Felting: It’s All About Scales

Each individual wool fiber is covered with tiny scales, like a snake’s skin. When these little suckers are agitated, literally, that’s how felting happens.
Felting needs moisture, friction, and sometimes a change in temperature like accidentally putting things in the dryer. Wool relaxes in water, even more if it’s warm or hot: the scales open like the hatch on the back of a car. Agitation makes the fibers scootch closer together so that the scales hang on to each other. As the fiber dries the scales slam shut, locking out the ability for fibers to move past each other and locking in the new shrunken size. Your beautiful knitwear is now smaller, stiffer, and not so soft. If you’ve ever knit and then felted a bag or slippers on purpose, you know exactly how much the felting experience can change knitting.

Superwash and the Environment

There are environmental issues with many superwash processes, but not all superwash or anti-felting processes are the same. Different companies use different processes and chemicals, and different countries have different environmental regulations for their wool industry. The only way to know what process your favorite yarn company uses is to ask them.
While many yarn companies don’t know the process their suppliers use, some do, and a growing number are making it a priority to be aware and to choose supplies with the environment in mind. This is true about yarns processed in North America and the rest of the world.
For example, in most countries there are strict regulations on the cleanliness of water that gets dumped from any  industry, and there are companies that go beyond what the law requires to remove chemicals from their wastewater.
One of the most used methods to make a fiber superwash is to remove or reduce the scales on the fiber with chlorine, either as a gas or as a solution. Then the modified fibers are smoothed with a coat of a polymer.
Chlorine gas is the most toxic way to make superwash, both for the people working in the plants and the environment. A chlorine solution in water is less toxic to workers, and chlorine in this form can be filtered from wastewater.
The polymers used to smooth the fiber are made from different types of plastics. The type most commonly used is also used in paper processing. It’s a polymer that keeps paper from reverting to pulp when it gets wet.
Newer, more environmentally friendly methods of creating superwash are being developed and used in several different countries. I’ve read about some scientists experimenting with heat, and others working on a coating that biodegrades quickly, making the shrink resistance temporary. All of this work is industrial and secret.
One environmentally friendly method is used by O-Wool. They use a natural (and proprietary) polymer to coat the fiber to keep scales from interlocking. They do not remove or reduce scales, but only smooth them down—like using pomade on unruly hair.

With a regular and a shrink-proofed merino side by side, you get a visual to help connect all the words.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Tuesday Book Reviews

50 States of Consciousness

4 star review of 50 States of Consciousness by DJ Jones

DJ Jones is a tall, African American woman who loves her children, country music and her motorcycle, Big Bertha. She describes her adventures and the people she met as she took that 800 pound bike to each of the fifty states in 2006. The story of her journey is accompanied by great photographs. The reader also gets a glimpse of her backstory.

Thursday Midnight (Immortal Wake #2)

5 star review of Thursday Midnight by Zachry Wheeler

The sequel to Transient picks up the story of mortal humans and vampires several years later. Jonas is in hiding with Anna, but has kept his pledge to NExUS, the worldwide ruling body. He thinks the few remaining humans can work together with the dominant vampires until a human commits a gruesome axe murder. Turns out to be the tip of an iceberg of humans targeting large congregations of vampires, bringing Jonas out of hiding. The story is filled with tension, thrills and chills. The only thing I didn't like were the number of humans (and vampires) died, especially the ones I liked.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Tuesday Book Reviews

Three star review of KiMo Theatre: Fact and Folklore Jacqueline Murray Loring Writer/Editor

Some of the writing in this anthology of pieces was fascinating and I loved the pictures, but there were a few that lacked the ‘feel’ of the old theater. The KiMo is an art deco theater in Albuquerque that has lived many lives in its over ninety years. From conflicting stories about how it got its name to its heyday presenting live shows and first-run movies and to the present, the book shows how the history of the KiMo and of Albuquerque are intertwined. The theater has retained much of the incredible d├ęcor it started with.

Mass Effect: Initiation (Mass Effect: Andromeda, #2)

Five star review of Mass Effect: Andromeda by N.K. Jemisin

Cora is one badass soldier. Technically, she isn't military, but she's been trained. And she has a personal AI. Sent to recapture the source code, she proves her worth and abilities. Jemisin's amazing writing gives the reader an exciting story, part of a series of stories. I'll have to read more of them, because I'm curious about how the Andromeda initiative plays out.