Thursday, November 17, 2016

Learning to be cloth

Cloth as it comes from the loom is referred to as "gray goods" or "greige."  I think of it as proto-cloth - a coalition of warp and weft threads that haven't yet realized that they're part of something bigger.  For the cloth that I weave, the transition from gray goods to finished cloth starts with washing.

I take a fairly old-fashioned approach to washing my gray goods:  lots of water, lots of soap, and a little agitation (of the cloth, not me - I actually find the process quite relaxing.)

And when I say "soap," I mean real soap, not detergent.  Try to think back to your high school chemistry class - I'm sure this topic was covered there.  Real soap flakes can be hard to find, so for years I made soap and shaved flakes with a cheese grater.  Recently I've found that I can buy Zote brand soap flakes locally, so I'm giving them a try.  For a bath tub of hot water, I use about a cup of soap flakes that has been dissolved in a quart or two of water.

Here's recent warp of wool and cotton blankets in the wash water.  Don't see the blankets?  That's because the soap has done a good job of binding to the various waxes and spinning oils from the yarns and holding them in suspension.

Here's the first rinse water.

And here's the second rinse water - that's more like it!

In the time line between banging cloth on stones by the stream's edge and the modern domestic washing machine, many laundry aids were invented.  Most people have at least a passing acquaintance with washboards, but the aerating washer is far less well known.

Tin plated washers are still available, but I decided to go with a non-rusting plastic version.
From Mobile Washer
I really admire the Mobile Washer folks for their commitment to this piece of appropriate technology.  And isn't that a great shade of blue?

I bought my washer without a handle and then attached a standard broom handle so that I can stand while agitating the blankets in the tub.  I use it in both the wash and the rinse waters.

No comments: