If I were to go to all the laundromats in San Diego County and collect all of the lint from the dryers, would I be able to make it into articles of clothing or does the material physically change property?
-- Fashion Conscious in Clairemont
Hankering for a hand-loomed lint sweater? Cool. In that universal vacuum-cleaner-bag-dirt gray color, right? Oh, actually, I hope you weren't planning on knitting some for Christmas gifts. A little late for '04. But for '05, you're all set. So gather up your lint-picking equipment while we explain the situation. We dialed up spinmaster Lorraine Powell of Back Country Spinners in Ramona. Lorraine suggests that pretty much anything stringy can be spun into a yarn, and that would include dryer lint, the little cotton wads in the tops of aspirin bottles, and pet hair. Lint is just free-range fuzz scraped off our clothes, so why couldn't we recycle it into new duds?
The easiest fiber to spin, apparently, is wool, because each strand is a column of overlapping scales, like a human hair, that lock into one another as they are twisted and spun into a thread. That makes a nice strong yarn that's easy to handle. Something like polyester has no scale surface, so it's trickier to work with, and you generally need to twist it very tightly as you spin it, then make a two- or three-ply thread out of it to have enough bulk and strength in the finished product. Dryer lint is a jumble of the scaly and the slick, so other than being made up of tiny bits that would be hard to work with, it would make a so-so yarn. Lorraine suggests carding the lint before you spin, maybe, to get all the random bits going in the same direction and to clean out paper shreds and other pocket junk that ends up in lint traps. And I gather she speaks from experience when she says you can spin golden retriever yarn from your sweet, dopey-faced pet; and you can knit a golden retriever sweater from that yarn; but it will probably always smell like golden retriever-- so spin it, knit it, put it back on dog.