19 June 2007

Down Goes the Gauntlet

So I'm reading Steph's blog post today, in which she recounts more of her Alaska trip and her visit holy pilgrimage to the fabled and glorious Oomingmak co-op store. If you have ever held lovingly stroked qiviut, then you know. If you've only heard about it, then believe me when I say that it is truly that transcendental. Anyway, Steph is expounding away upon the glory that is qiviut and then she writes, "It's hypoallergenic and like wool, it stays warm even when wet...though it's 8 times warmer than wool (italics mine)."

Okay, here's the thing: The exact same claim gets made about alpaca (and pretty much any other exotic animal fiber, as far as I can tell), and the number varies nearly every goddamned time you read it. The problem is that neither David nor myself have ever seen any reference cited to support the claim, and he's got a background of 15 years in the fashion industry, including experience on the production & technical side. He's even discussed it with a textile scientist friend who had no idea where the numbers come from. Alpaca people write glowingly about the "superior insulating capacity of alpaca's hollow fibers", but the hollow ones are the coarse guard hairs that you don't want in a fine luxury garment, even though they work great to help insulate the animal. Alpacas have actually been selectively bred to try to minimize the number of guard hairs they have. But still people gush these numbers, while we just roll our eyes and remain ever-hopeful that someone will step forward with the data.

So I made this public challenge to Steph: If she can find a verifiable source (I'm talking cold, hard scientific data with a proper statistical analysis) for these numbers and share them with the rest of us, I pledge to buy her good beer (I am a proudly self-confessed beer snob) whenever our paths may cross...forever. We are talking free beer for life here, folks. I have even offered her our spare room here on the alpaca farm by the sea if that's what it takes for her to collect.

If you are a textile scientist and have information that can help her in this challenge, then you are allowed to share it with her (Seriously, tell her and not me. More people read her blog, and I'd like this question answered for everyone). I really don't want to deny the woman beer, because I think it could get really scary. She has already tried fielding an argument that is not without merit to sway me, but there are many variables that would have to be taken into consideration when you consider a finished garment - fiber diameter, air space between fibers, scale structure & the related degree of twist required to hold the fibers together in yarn, etc. - so I'm thinking that a solid multivariate analysis is a necessity in order to answer this question. I'm also thinking that "8 times warmer", or whatever figure happens to get tossed around at any given moment, is just an arbitrary value along what is likely a fairly broad range - which is what happens when the final number is dependent on several factors.

David says she should get the MythBusters to look into it.

Fox Update

When I got home from work today, I discovered that the fox has apparently claimed both our lower driveway and the huge mound of cedar mulch at the top of our driveway (not more than 10 feet from our door, in fact). I was going to take pictures, but I think you all know what poo looks like and I don't know if anyone other than KnitNZu would really share my biology nerd interest in it.

Shawl Update

Carol received the shawl today. She e-mailed me to let me know that she put it on right away and sat in Bill's chair a while to remember all the love they'd shared. Which is why it wanted to be hers.


Anonymous said...

I second the mythbusters suggestion.

Anonymous said...

Homeschoolers are always interested in learning how to identify animals from their poo! so I guess that makes 2 of us interested.

Great challenge with the appropriate incentive (and I love that photo of the possible consequences of deny Steph beer). It'll be interesting to see what comes of it.

Glad your aunt liked the shawl. It is great to be able to give such a comforting gift.

Sheepish Annie said...

The Yarn Harlot, Mythbusters and a good challenge...these are a few of my favorite things! (So is good beer, but the hops and I have parted ways, sadly. ::sigh::)

I look forward to seeing how this plays out!

Adrienne said...

LOL, asking the Mythbusters was my first thought too. But I don't think there's any explosives involved so they might not be interested.

knitnzu said...

Glad to see somebody else out there has an odd bio nerd interest in things! Have you tried making your own beer? I don't anymore, but did, and dh occasionally still does...it is generally VERY good. You get to do things like name your brew 'owl pellet stout'...that one raised a few eyebrows. 'did you really?' smile sweetly 'but isn't it the best stout you've had in a while?' (it won in a regional NY contest!) But you run up against a time involved versus spending money on good beer issue. At least with the saying that Sphagnum moss absorbs 20x its own weight, well, you can weigh it.

FiberQat said...

It's most definitely a Mythbusters challenge, but it will probably be passed on to Grant, Tori, and Karri. Which I don't mind. Karri's *hot*. Now if you add combustibility to the fiber, I think you have a winner.

I added a comment to the Yarn Harlot's blog to take you up on your offer. After all it's not like you're halfway around the globe from her house. ;)

So when's Daryl Hall moving in?

Anonymous said...

I LOVE the Mythbusters and think having them figure this out is an excellent idea. I think they'd be more inclined to look into it if the claim was whether or not it was fire proof or bullet proof!