Recycled Sari Silk Yarn and a small ph lesson

I’ve been lurking around ebay auctions with recycled sari silk yarn waiting for something different to pop up. Once in a while unique color combination skeins may appear and you know it’s time to bid. These auctions always go higher than the usual purple/red skeins but not too much. Don’t get me wrong I like the purple/red/blue/green when looked upon close enough but from a distance it seems like dirty to me. It looks nice on some projects I’ve seen but not at all of them. Not to mention the fact that the colors bleed a bit after washing the thingy and you know what happens when all these colors bleed together: mud.

First thing was to wash the whole thing cause it has this particular musty smell. With what was the big question. After my green-living crusade has started I avoid buying chemicals and detergents, so I’ve searched in (what I call for now) my “green-living bible”, Annie Berthold-Bond’s book, “Better Basics For The Home“. And there I found lots of information about silk and wool that I didn’t know. First of all, wool and silk, being animal derived fibers are acidic, which means they have a ph lower than 7 (neutral). On the other hand, cotton, linen and other plant derived fibers are alkaline (ph higher than 7). Chemistry blah, you’d say but I’ll get to the point. Detergents and most commercial soaps are alkaline, which means that by washing silk and wool with them will cause a reaction and the silk/wool will harden and gradually loose its texture. That’s the big secret behind commercial detergents for wool and silk, an acidic solution.
The green-living alternative is to use a neutral castille soap (superfatted or else not lye-heavy). The extra oil in the soap and the glycerin will supposedly help the silk keeps its soft texture. Remember commercial soaps have glycerin removed from them, so prefer homemade or natural ones. If you are not sure about the alkalinity of your soap you can add to the water a tablespoon of lemon juice or white distilled vinegar. Both are acidic and will do good to the water that will clean your wool or silk.

What I did, was to use my homemade cold process castille bar of soap. You could use liquid soap too. I rubbed the bar in tepid water until it was soapy enough and then added a tablespoon of lemon. Smelled kind of funny but the smell was gone after washing the yarn. Put the silk skeins in the water and squeeze, so that the water can enter inside the yarn. When the skeins sink in the water leave them and go check your emails for a while. 15 to 20 minutes should be fine. Empty the water and rinse with cold water 2 or 3 times. Gently open the skeins and squeeze the water out, arrange them nicely so that they don’t end up like a mesh and let them dry, away from the sun. My homemade soap was perfumed with cedar and lavender essential oils and it made the yarn smell lovely. Now I can focus in crochet and take my mind off the terrible odor it had.

(here it is, clean perfumed and ready to become…oh I haven’t decided yet. Any help?)