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Posts Tagged ‘milk protein fiber’

Got Milk?

Expecting to lose power a la Sandy, I decided today was not conducive to polishing off Rhinebeck: the Sequel.

Each time I went to do any time-consuming activity that involved electricity…power: off.

Aside from a few flickers, to my surprise the lights are still on.

I should quantify the significance of this — we ALWAYS lose power:

Rain: blackout.
Wind: blackout.
Ever so slight northwest breeze: blackout.
Sneeze outside: blackout.
Hurricane: no blackout. what??

Well, there IS still time.

~~~

Rainy days and mondays, feeling pretty tired, joints swollen and painful….

Overall, not a productive day.

And, now that it’s time to power off, the juice is flowing fine. Not even a slight flicker — my lamp or my eyes!

This evening I spun Milk Protein for the first time. I felt it before, but not enough of a sample to bother spinning.

I plan to use a Russian turned by Mark at Pumpkin Hill Farm from a piece of Panga Panga.

I know, Panga what? At first appearance, it looks like the negative of wenge. A brief internet search…it’s a relative of wenge! Sibling? Cousin? Second-generation once removed? … Panga and wenge are family. Both from East Africa, with similar hardwood traits; Wenge is notably darker.

My Panga Russian, chosen from my collection for its light weight and fast spin — two traits I find essential when spinning silk on a support. Although my first time spinning this fiber, I am approaching similar as I do silk.

Surprisingly, fiber from milk protein (casein) is not a new conception.

In fact, the use of casein (not as a fiber or beverage component) dates back centuries! An artist, history buff and somewhat nerdy, this exemplifies the sort of tidbit of useless information I carry around in my head. I have a near-photographic memory; “near” as medication, health, possible old age results the occasional wayward tidbit of (useful) information. Sans the opportunity to buzz in questions on jeopardy, the majority of my truly intellectual conversations of late occur with Murph…my dog (shh…it offends him when I call him the D-word).

Oy. A master of segue….

Casein.

Centuries before the advent of an alternative fiber, casein served as a “binder” of sorts in paints commonly referred to as tempera (not to be confused with tempura, another protein, derived from a Japanese fish dish).

Tempera paints were made by mixing a pigment, egg yolk and something like casein or vinegar or water — the latter three or similar substances meant to prevent cracking by extending the time it takes an egg yolk to dry. Adding substances like casein enabled artists to control the consistency of paint; unlike water-based acrylics, I used to know artists that used tempera as a base layer to conserve on oils or, better, conserve on money). Although not completely passé (I used as a kid!); I don’t recall seeing tempera as the primary medium in a work of art for decades — last that comes to mind: Andy Warhol….think early Warhol? My art history regarding such facts is limited and this blog is about fiber arts.

Still, it’s art and if not interested in a few facts I’m overjoyed to have a use for, kindly skip the next few paragraphs.

The casein extended the life of the tempera; many community buildings with mosaics or maybe it’s merely murals (?? see, a detail I cannot recall!) that have stood the “test of time” (ugh. I’m so tired I resorted to cliché) contain casein in the paint.

During the first world war, casein paints were used to create camouflage. My Uncle Mike, a proud Marine, talented artist and mentor of sorts — art and life — helped to create camouflage during WWII. He was a well respected and known local artist, but I’m not sure if he designed or actually helped paint it…just know he was very proud to share with me the non-violent contributions to the US war efforts.

What does this have to do with spinning fiber?

Nothing.

Well, a little. During the WWII, when many families were still struggling as a result of the depression and other families needed to watch pennies with so many husbands overseas milk fiber was a common textile.

Produced in Italy and the US around the WWII (possibly earlier) casein was used as a more economic alternative to wool. Not as successful, I assume, as it hasn’t been used for this purpose in any major way of which I am aware.

I read this long before I ever saw or felt a sample of milk protein fiber; so, when it arrived, I was very surprised! It doesn’t feel or spin like “wool.”

Milk protein is soft and light and the fibers….well, you know how silk fibers seem to easily part? Say, if you grabbed a length of mulberry silk and brought your hands together — you can see individual fibers…they don’t “cling” in the same way as Merino or Corrie wool.

Yet, the attractiveness of the fiber is obvious — it’s lovely, takes color, has moisture-resistant properties similar to wool (a factoid I read in a recent shop’s description). I can’t say whether it drapes similar, if it feels breathable if you wear an item or the care needed to wash it.

I must say, knowing it was used as substitute to wool, I expected it to look, feel and spin similar to wool. Yes, wool is a broad term; maybe baby alpaca or something similarly slick. However, to me, it looks and feels like silk — not as shiny as a Mulberry/Bombyx, but possibly a Tussah — the kind I recently heard described as “creamy.”

Yes. Milk protein fiber is like an unpasteurized, creamy, opaque Tussah.

Now, a day later — storm, not feeling well or blog-erly — and too lazy to try to find the source of these facts when I first heard about milk fiber for spinning a few years ago. Milk fiber is not the eco-friendly dream granola nuts like myself assumed when first hearing about “alternative” fibers.

Myth: Milk fiber does not use chemicals.

It does. Same as rayon. Same as Acrylic. Well, maybe different chemicals..
I don’t know. The chemicals listed…well, don’t eat your milk fiber.

Myth: Milk fiber is good for the environment.

Nope. Not even a little. From cow to liquid to binders that make it a solid fiber — it is not a completely eco-friendly process. Whether it’s more/less harmful than making a rayon…I don’t know.

Myth: Milk protein fibers are similar to wool.

Um, not really. Certainly there is some overlap in properties….however, if you want to wear/make a woolen item, buy wool.

Myth: Milk protein fiber should be avoid if you have lactose intolerance.

That’s just me being silly!
In all seriousness, my sense is sheep need not be concerned spinners, crochet and knitters and weavers will abandon all love for a nice fleece or the fiber and yarn made from it.

That said, I am enjoying this lovely sample of milk fiber I’m spinning. I was surprised with how well it took color. I’m not sure how to set the twist when finished though!

I received this truly generous sample Roo, from Moonwood Farms, placed in the box of a recent order. Truly generous in size, as well as the time she took to dye the sample — the sample-braid is just as lovely as every other item I ordered.

Where most would send un-dyed or a surplus of whatever fiber/colorway on hand — and that’s fine — my lovely milk is dyed in my favorite (greens), a color that matches other items in my order.

I LOVE when sellers include fiber samples in my order — fiber and spindle purchases. The latter, I have fiber in hand to spin the moment I remove the spindle from the box. Malcolm Felding (The Lace and Bobbin Shop) has given the largest sample of a single fiber to date — TAZ Corrie…which changed my mind about Corriedale!

And I can easily list five shops that gave me samples of fibers I hadn’t used prior and, because of this, I made purchases I otherwise would not have made.

Sometimes, if unsure about a shop or fiber, I will ask for a sample; many oblige and each time, I’ve purchased the fiber. Sometimes, if it’s a shop I frequent and I know they include samples, I ask to try something new.

And sometimes, on my fiber-bucket list, sits a fiber I really want to spin, but I put it off — money, availability, a large fiber stash — and a talented fiber artist (like Roo) throws a sample of the very fiber sitting atop your wish-list.

Got Milk?

Yes, Indeed I do.

~~~

(between the storm, not feeling well and other goings-on…seems my musings are posted days after writing. I still need to finish Rhinebeck, but with tired eyes, hope this doesn’t have many grammar errors!)

PS: Getting REALLY close to announcing the site — maybe next week. Depends on how I’m feeling and whether I can complete the writing I want to in that amount of time…almost there.

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