MKG Cable Gram - Volume 22, Number 4
Have you sniffed your yarn lately? Perhaps this question brings to mind the essence of vinegar, sheep eau de cologne and mothballs? Time to readjust your nostrils! There's a new scent of yarn out there and it doesn't suggest wet dog. How does lavender and ginseng sound?
Yes, scent-infused yarns are on the loose in your local yarn shop! This movement has fans in aromatherapy enthusiasts--and foes in scent-sensitive individuals.
But no matter what your position is on the subject, these new scented fibers are an amazing technological feat. Aroma micro-capsules, containing certain essential oils or aromas, are placed within the fibers at the time of manufacture. The capsules are so small that they are not felt or seen by the user. As the fabric is used, the capsules gradually release the aromas. The longevity of the scent varies with the claims of the yarn manufacturer but can be from 5 to 40 washings.
The following is excerpted from the November 2005 National Textile Center Annual Report: Scent-Infused Textiles to Enhance Consumer Experiences:
"...international companies such as Woolmark have formed joint ventures with the International Fragrances and Flavors association to delve into R&D initiatives with mills around the world. Woolmark calls its use of microencapsulation Sensory Perception Technology fabrics. Woolmark is applying this technology to hosiery, lingerie, underwear, socks, outdoor clothing, carpeting and other interior textiles. In 2005, the Invista Company, owner of fiber brands such as LYCRA(R), TACTEL(R) and SUPPLEX(R), launched the LYCRA(R)Body Care Collection. The Body Care Collection includes moisturizing and fragrance features in the yarns to enhance the wearer‘s sense of well being in the intimate apparel category. The micro-beads which are built into the fibers release their contents when the elastane content fabrics are stretched during wear. The Olga clothing brand, launched a collection utilizing LYCRA(R)Body Care Collection in April 2005. The Nike clothing brand has also explored encapsulation methods to a limited extent." [This will be revolutionary for high school locker rooms!]
A research project is currently underway at Philadelphia University on the production of scented fabrics with respect to the pigments used and the acceptance of the scent in textiles. With their business partners, the researchers have developed two different types of yarns that improve the fastness of the scent. They have been using lavender, mint and citrus as their scent focus and various fiber colors in an attempt to study whether pigment affects the way the fiber retains the scent.
The fiber industry has barely tapped the potential in scent infusion. From the interest shown in the subject by researchers and scientists, we will certainly hear more about this in the future.
But back to our interest: knitting. I found two yarn manufacturers who have had scented yarns in the knitting marketplace for about a year: Skacel and Lang.
After finding out that both of these brands of yarn were on the shelf at Three Kittens Yarn Shoppe in St. Paul, I took a road trip across town to see for myself whether scented yarns are a migraine waiting to happen. What a strange sight I must have been, standing in the aisle with my nose sniffing the air; then placing my nose up to the yarn to try to catch something akin to lavender and aloe vera. (I did get a few sideways glances but they must have known I was on a scientific mission since no one said a word to me--either that or they thought it best to avoid the crazy lady.)
I was surprised to discover that there was no apparent scent coming from the "scented" yarn on the rack. A helpful sales person came by and said to rub the fiber just a bit. OK, that worked. But the results were mixed. The scent of Skacel's "Meditation," proclaiming to be a lavender scent, was pretty non-descript. It took many sniffs and rubs to find a ball that had any hint of lavender. Lang's "Emotion" was more pronounced but also required a nice rub to emit an adequate scent. Of course, any good scientific study requires more research so I took home a ball of Meditation that had a more pronounced aroma of lavender and a ball of Emotion with a good ginseng scent. I plan to use them to knit covers for a couple of back massagers that are losing their vinyl covering. Since the yarn needs some rubbing to "come alive", massager covers seem like a good match for the fiber. I will bring the yarn to our December meeting and you can experience these scented yarns for yourself.
Knitter, Heal Thyself!
There is so much discussion today on the healthy aspects of knitting. It seems that every other book is about the relaxing effect of two needles and a bit of fiber. Ready for another reason to turn to your needles? How about a medical reason? This involves another technological feat from some other crazy fiber scientists. Fibers that offer healing benefits to the skin!
It's a concept that makes perfect sense, considering the benefits of lanolin in our friend, wool. One particularly interesting scientifically-created product is called "SeaCell(R)." SeaCell(R) is a cellulose fiber made from seaweed. It is considered an antibacterial and anti-inflammatory fiber, although no absolute medical claims are made to that--I am sure the FDA would want to know more about those sorts of claims anyway. This is what the manufacturer says about SeaCell(R):
"The structure of SeaCell(R) facilitates the active exchange of substances between the fiber and the skin - nutrients such as calcium, magnesium and vitamin E are released by the natural body moisture when the fiber is worn, thereby creating a complete sense of well-being. The fiber is what creates the "healthy combination" of perceptible comfort, a wide array of different processing possibilities and the versatility of being combined with other fibers in knitted fabrics, wovens and non-wovens. Its textile properties also offer advantages such as breathability and softness.
It comes in two versions with different properties. The "pure" version stands for the unadulterated effects of the seaweed. The "active" version with added silver is for extra antimicrobial properties and even greater benefits.
Because seawater ingredients are enriched in the seaweed, [this] explains the high levels of various minerals, trace elements, carbohydrates, fats and vitamins in the fiber.
The seaweed extracts also promote the production of glucosaminoglycans, which not only accelerate the healing process of skin inflammations, but also protect the skin from free radicals (acc. to Alban Muller International). Numerous tests at a wide array of institutes and establishments have examined and verified the long-lasting benefits of the "SeaCell(R) effect".
All in all, SeaCell(R) is more than just a fiber--it can promote activity and create a sense of well-being."
Wow! This begs the question: Can knitting be a physical cure for what ails you? So much for the "Zen" of knitting. How about the "medicine" of knitting?
Hand Maiden Fine Yarn (Canada) makes the yarn "Sea Silk" from SeaCell(R). It is made with 70% silk and 30% SeaCell(R). (Tests have shown that the effects of SeaCell(R) are not diminished by blending the fiber with other fibers.) A sales person at Hand Maiden told me that it can have a mild briny smell when it is wet but that smell will fade over time.
So it's time for another road trip! This time to Yarnzilla in Minnetonka, who just got a fresh shipment of Sea Silk delivered from Hand Maiden. Oh, what beautiful yarn it is! A mermaid would be perfectly suited to this earthy (oceany?), hand-dyed variegated yarn. It has a wonderful drape, an incredible shine and is ever so soft. I fell in love with it so now there are a couple of skeins in my stash, which will soon be a couple of wristlets on my wrists so I can soak up the wonderful properties of "SeaCell(R)." I will also bring this yarn to the December meeting. (You will know who I am by the flipper and gills that I will have formed!)
Find more information about "Meditation" (lavender scent) at www.skacelknitting.com/products
Product specs: multi-colored pastel colors & multiple ply
60%cotton, 40% polyamide
77 yards/50 g
Size US 8-9 needle
About $7 a ball
Find more information about "Emotion" (lavender, aloe vera and ginseng scents) at www.langyarns.ch/en
Product specs: multi-colored pastels, solids & multiple ply
70% cotton, 30% polyamide/nylon microfiber
approx. 99 yards/50 g
Size US 9 needle
About $10 a ball
Call your yarn shop for actual prices and availability.
Are you a secret yarn sniffer?
Check out this blog discussing the compulsion to sniff yarn: http://www.grumperina.com/knitblog/archives/2006/04/the_sniffles.htm
A forum with mixed reviews about scented yarns: http://knittersreview.com/forum/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=53263
Find more information about Sea Silk at http://www.handmaiden.ca
Sea Silk product specs:
variegated, hand-dyed hanks
70% silk, 30% SeaCell(R)
400 m (about 440 yards)/100 g
28 st/4 in.
about $30 a hank (call your yarn shop for actual price)
Wendy J. Johnson is an MKG member and the Cable Gram designer. Wendy works as a legibility design consultant under the moniker "The Legibility Doctor." She is the founder of Elder Eye Design and Saga Hill Designs (her "weekend" knitting design business).