SciFiber: Welcome to the World of Fiber Science!

Yes, it's been a while, my friends. And I miss y'all every. single. day. If you've commented on my Instagram, Ravelry, Facebook and asked if I was planning on making a new episode... THANK YOU. If you haven't done any of those things but still found yourself here to read this post, THANK YOU TOO. I've missed my Hops and Hanks family and it's good to know that y'all have been missing me too.

The reality of my life right now is that I simply do not have the time to sit down and record a podcast episode, much less take the time to edit and produce it to the quality I prefer. The good news is that this is because I have so much on my plate at the moment and I'm loving all of it. I realize now that I started Hops and Hanks in an effort to escape from a "real life" that I was completely unhappy with. I intend to either write or speak more on this topic in the future, but just know that the support you all gave me during the first year of Hops and Hanks saved me. From a lot of things. I love you all.

The problem: even if I can't record episodes regularly, I want to make sure that this little internet home of mine doesn't die.

The solution: I'm going to write more. I can write in fits and spurts, as opposed to sitting down for the large chunks of time necessary to record podcast episodes. I can't promise any regularity, but this also means that whenever I update it's because there is something in my brain that I just have to get out. So you know it's gonna be good. 

One of the many, many things I've been working on in the months and months since I last updated this website is a little side research project on the structure of fiber. I gave a presentation last night to the Windy City Knitting Guild and I wasn't able to fit nearly enough information into the one hour time limit. So I thought I would try writing about it here, to give myself a little more space to ramble. What follows is the first post of hopefully many exploring the word of fiber science!

The world of fiber is a diverse one. While knitters like myself are at least familiar with using protein-based fibers like wool and silk, plant fibers like cotton and some synthetic fibers like acrylic, for the most part our understanding of the materials we are using usually stops there. I began researching the fibers I use in my knitting in an effort to better understand why they work the way that they do.

Why is wool so warm? How does it stay warm while it is wet? Why do alpaca sweaters grow irreversibly? Why does acrylic take dye so much better than wool? Just what, exactly, does it mean to make a yarn superwash?

These were some of the many questions bouncing around in my head when I was approached by the Windy City Knitting Guild to present on the topic of the science behind fiber, and I was more than happy to have an excuse to explore deeper the materials properties of the fiber we knitters use on a daily basis. I quickly found that there is a plethora of fiber research out there that has answered many of my questions, but it doesn't seem like most of it has been interpreted in a way for laypeople to understand. 

That's where I come in.

Because I am, very fortunately, a student at a research-oriented university, I have access to research journals and academic databases such as the Textile Research Journal. Which, the fact that this is even a journal that exists might be one of the most exciting revelations I have had during this little project. I mean, seriously?! An academic journal that has articles about the computational study of fabric drape? I mean, just look at some of these titles (with included interpretations!)...

Interpretation: Which felts more, merino wool or alpaca?

Interpretation: Which felts more, merino wool or alpaca?

Interpretation: How does the crimp of wool affect the way it feels against skin?

Interpretation: How does the crimp of wool affect the way it feels against skin?

And the list of really cool scientific articles does not stop there. So the point of this little blog series will be to pick out specific topics in bite-sized chunks for me to read about, hopefully understand, and then convey the most interesting bits to y'all, my Fearless Readers. Stay tuned for the first official exploration of fibers coming to a blog near you. And just for funsies, here's a sneak peak of what we'll be talking about...

SciFiber: Keratinous Fibers

What the heck is that weird s-shaped thing over there? Is that really a fiber? Why do I care? TUNE IN NEXT TIME.

Thanks Dr. Desai [1]!

Thanks Dr. Desai [1]!