For this post, I'm going to stick to fiber, though. I'm a knitter and crocheter, you see, so I'm going to geek out a little here.
|"The knitting Madonna." She's almost |
done, too, just putting the neck on with
a set of double-pointed needles.
There were forerunners to true, multi-needle knitting -- nalbinding is the most well known.
Crochet was invented much later. We think. It became popular in Europe in the 19th century as an alternative, easier, faster and therefore cheaper way to make lace. Easier and faster than traditional bobbin lace and tatting, that is.
Let's talk about wool. Wool is a lovely thing. If you think it's scratchy and nasty, two words for you: merino, and lambswool. Better yet, merino lambswool.
Merino is a particular breed of sheep, originally from Spain but now raised everywhere. Their wool is fine and soft because they were bred specifically for their wool (not for meat) starting sometime in the late medieval period or the early Renaissance.
Some sheep are bred for eating and the wool is an afterthought. Sometimes tough, scratchy wool is what you want -- for rugs or tapestries.
"Wool's hard to take care of" -- for fantasy folks who don't have washing machines, it's no harder than anything else. Wool will felt (as in, compact down int a solid, smaller mass that won't fit you anymore) when it's dunked in hot water and agitated. Washing machines are good at that. When washing by hand, it's not something you're likely to do accidentally. Felted wool has its own uses, of course -- it's tougher and even warmer than un-felted wool.
|Knitted wool shawl, pinned out|
Wool comes off the sheep in a surprisingly coherent, sheep-shaped piece and is steeped in both the sheep's natural oils (lanolin, which your skin likes too) and whatever filth the sheep has been rolling in. Clean wool that has not been stripped of the lanolin has a scent to it... your best bet would be to find some unscented lanolin hand lotion if you want to smell it. Sometimes you can find "unstripped" wool with the lanolin at specialty yarn shops.
If you're still reading (lol) and you have questions about wool or knitting or crochet for your character-costuming needs, I'd be glad to talk your ear off or at least point you in the direction of an answer.