I have been looking for USA superwash for my shop. Who would have known that there were zero facilities in the USA by 2010 that super washed wool? The journey has also taken me to find Larry Kissell on my radar, a democrat from North Carolina, who worked in a hosiery factory, understood the effect NAFTA had on the textile industry, and who worked to beef up the Berry Amendment, which basically “restricts the Department of Defense (DoD) from using funds appropriated or otherwise available to DoD for procurement of food, clothing, fabrics, fibers, yarns, other made-up textiles, and hand or measuring tools that are not grown, reprocessed, reused, or produced in the United States.” The DoD has been the biggest influence on the rebirth of the wool industry in America. In 2010, a grant to Chargeurs enabled the company to buy equipment to super wash wool. One company, Jaggerspun of Maine, buys from Chargeurs. A good article by Debra Cobb in the Sourcing Journal talks about this history.
All well and good. It is important to note, however, that many people don’t support super washing wool…period. It uses chemicals and often people don’t even consider it a natural product by the end of the process. As one hand spinner writes, “Superwash wool is created in a surprisingly toxic way. There are several different processes that can be used to make superwash wool, but all of them start with its chlorination by caustic chlorine-based chemicals. These chemicals can cause burns and can easily produce deadly chlorine gas.” (Bren) It’s hard for sock knitters and people knitting for families with young children to think about not using superwash, so I think its place in our knitting lives is pretty secure; however, in a world where we want to know what is in everything we consume, yarns should be part of that landscape.