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in search of natural clothing - especially winter gear

 
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I got halfway through reading everyone's bits here and had to stop and ask something.
I really love the idea of buying oversized wool pants at the thrift store and felting them to make for myself something warm and wonderful. I also love the layering idea first because I understand that that helps with warmth but also because I must be allergic to wool fibers because I cant stand to have it on my skin for any length of time its so so itchy.
So here is what I am wondering.
Should I have underneath those felted wool pants a silk pant (or some other thin comfy fiber) and should it be tight or loose?
I ask because for some reason long johns always seems that the crotch ends up half way down my leg and its really disconcerting to be walking around that way.  I suppose its because of the stretch relaxing, or maybe I just don't have enough hip to hold them up! Loose pants seem to be the better answer to me, with a drawstring or elastic waist. I also wondered if the loose pants would make little folds all over inside the wool pant causing warm air pockets which a tight form fitting long john wouldn't do? Perhaps elastic or drawstring at the ankle also to keep drafts out?
Any thoughts?
 
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Should I have underneath those felted wool pants a silk pant (or some other thin comfy fiber) and should it be tight or loose?



Loose is better, definitely.  I think the reason long johns are tight is more to do with looking fit, stylish and hot in that winter outfit than for warmth.  If the long johns crotch is down too low you definitely need a bigger size!  I've found that an old pair of sweat pants work really well, if my pants are big enough and I'm not going to get wet.

As a funny aside, my brother borrowed my wetsuit (one piece, full lenth bottom and tank top top) to go skiing one day  because it was -20 F (about -30 C) and windy.  He wore the wetsuit against his skin and came back and reported the wet suit was wonderful and he was the warmest guy on the mountain.... until he had to pee.  There was no opening in the front to pee.  In order to pee he had to disrobe completely down to around his knees, on top of the mountain, in the wind, exposing his tender,  moist skin.  He said at that point he nearly froze to death and was pretty sure he was peeing icicles.  He got so cold that he said he never really warmed up again.  The lesson is, the little things matter, like how are you going to perform when nature calls.
 
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Forgive me if I missed a previous mention of it - but it is worth noting that a lot if wool winter gear (icebreakers, smartwool, probably others) are made with superwash wool. Superwash is a treatment that makes the wool not felt when you machine wash it, anf makes it super soft. It consists of treating the wool with chlorine gas (some sites say acid) and/or coating it in plastic resin.
So, if you are looking to avoid petroleum, even undyed superwash yarn won’t fit the bill.
 
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I learned a lot about superwash this summer.  I didn't think I would ever change my mind about it, but learning how it's actually produced and how much benefit it has on the world of textiles, made a huge difference.

Superwash has the big advantage of making machine washable wool - so people who would normally buy petroleum and synthetic based clothing, now buy wool instead.  It's saved the woollen industry.  Superwash wool is Worlds better than petroleum but not as good as untreated wool.

Imagine a scale.  Top is more good for the environment, the bottom is less good.  If industrial cotton is about half an inch higher than synthetic clothing, and organic cotton about four inches higher than that.  Superwash wool is about 180 miles better than synthetic clothing.  Untreated wool is about an inch better than superwash wool.  Superwash wool gets an extra 12 miles because it is a gateway fibre for people who would otherwise buy synthetic clothing.  

There are lots of different ways to produce Superwash.  The 'glue' used to produce superwash in the US, according to my instructor - one of the top experts in the American Wool Industry - is the same glue used to seal tea bags.  It takes less of this glue to make a sweater than it does to brew a cuppa tea.  Like tea bags are better than soft drinks, but not as good as loose tea, they are a stepping stone to a healthier life.


I avoid superwash wool because untreated wool has more of the qualities that make wool wonderful.  However, I was delighted to hear my visiting family member say this Holiday season, about the new wool shirts he's buying.  A solid level zero point five on the Eco-scale, superwash wool introduced him to a whole new world of caring about the environmental impact of his clothes.  He's even talking about buying an organic cotton shirt and maybe even something made of linen for work.  Speaking about work, he works in the artic part of the year (during the winter) and loves his superwash wool shirt so much that he's going to insist that everyone is issued with this instead of the synthetic stuff the "southerners" (aka, below the artic circle) bring.  That's nearly a thousand people switching from synthetic to wool.

All because of one superewash shirt.  

 
Mick Fisch
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Ann Torrence wrote:
... For mittens, I would make myself a pair with a thrummed lining, which is a Scandinavian technique for incorporating unspun wool into the underside of a garment. I've never heard of anyone thrumming a sweater, but I see no reason why it could not be done. Smaller objects like hats and mittens are more typical. Might not be a good idea for socks, but could make some wicked slippers. I should try that. ...


I used that technique, but with different material. Instead of unspun wool I used strips cut from old bed sheets.



I've learned something new!  Woo Hoo!  What a great concept.  I'm excited to tell my wife and daughters about this.  They are the knitters in the family.
 
Lina Joana
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If I understand Paul’s rules correctly, I suspect that tea bags will not be used either.
I’m a bit surprised that the coating on an entire sweater is less than the glue on a single tea bag. R Ranson, do you have a reference for that? Or for the process as a whole? I have been curious about the process for awhile, but have had trouble fining more than vague descriptions.
 
r ranson
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I understand that industrial secrets are involved so I don't have a secondary reference.  Just my instructor who works with that mill and is highly regarded in the wool industry.  She showed us photos she took of the process, but the scope of the seminar was on handling wool from the time it come off the sheep until it gets to the mill or artisan.

Superwash isn't something I would use in my own life, but the proof of the pudding is in the eating, or so they say.  It has proven to be a gateway fibre for getting people away from synthetic.  Given that clothing takes up half of the agricultural carbon footprint (carbon farming solution), not including the damage transport and synthetic do to the world, I'm very happy that superwash exists.

A bit like recycling, really.  It's not as good for the world as other solutions, but it's a starting place to get people in the right mindset.
 
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Haha-- buckskin overalls, Paul?
 
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would like a duster type over cost, it can be oilcloth (cotton) or Leather & wax.
But I do not know any craft persons who can make this, no I am not near able for anything like that.
 
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Since we are in the beginning of winter weather I'm curious.. Jocelyn, did you have any items prioritized on this list? Like you're going to need X item replaced soonest or would really love better X item?
 
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Keeping this response strictly aligned to natural fabrics, I personally can only recommend two types.  My favorite natural winter fabrics are wool and silk.  Wool is obvious.  Silk might make some people scratch their heads and give me some funny looks.  

But silk is a great, GREAT base layer.  Clearly it is soft and smooth and therefore comfortable next to the skin.  It also is surprisingly warm while having absolutely no bulk so it is great for layering.  It sits close to the skin without being tight, thereby creating dead air, exactly what one wants from an insulator.

I try to avoid cotton.  Even though it is soft and fuzzy, it soaks up water (from the environment and your own body) and in doing so becomes more conducive of heat—exactly what you don’t want.

Eric
 
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