Be prepared for a longer than normal post as I am concluding the oven mitt saga. If you have been following along, you will know that I have been working with Bergschaf wool for the first time. There is a tutorial in Felt Matters magazine for making oven mitts with Bergschaf. It seemed like a simple enough thing to do, and I happened to have ordered some Bergschaf from DHG with my last order before Christmas. In the photo above, the set on top is the first pair I made. They are 87cm long. I was aiming for 80 (the tutorial said 90) It took me days to shrink and felt this down. I already wrote about it.
I ordered some more Bergschaf from Adelaide Walker and I got my order the next day. Some people thought that the wool I got from DHG was not that great and suggested other suppliers. Was there a difference in the wool? Well, for starters, the wool from DHG definitely smells like sheep and that did not really go away the whole time I was working with it. I expect some smell from wool, but not that much. The wool from DHG also left a lot of fiber lying around, otherwise there was no difference to look at them. The red and grey mitts are from the tutorial except for two things. Firstly, I used muslin for the thick side of the mitts instead of the decorative side. Your hands are not really in the mitts for long when taking things out of the oven, so I didn’t really notice much difference in comfort on that front and thought the muslin would be better used on the thick side and to give extra protection.
Unfortunately, I didn’t take into consideration shrinkage and this part is now exposed. Lesson learned for the next one. You can also see that this new Bergschaf is quite hairy and there was a fair amount of migration. Secondly, I laid out my mitts 100cm apart from each other from the tips instead of the 115cm as recommended in the tutorial as I was aiming to shrink them down to 80cm (instead of 90) as that is the size of my cloth mitts and I didn’t want to spend days working on them. As it is, I laid everything out, wet out, rubbed and left overnight and then rolled and finished the next day.
Here it is all finished with another one on the go underneath. These are 84cm long. Although these felted more quickly than the first pair, I still had trouble trying to shrink them down to 80cm. However, I was able to shrink the width faster in comparison and that became my control. I made prefelt hearts, and had to needle felt them down on the edges as the prefelt was quite lofty in comparison to the shetland prefelt. They held up their shape really well. I might have ended up using a wee bit more batt compared to the first pair, and that could have had an affect on the shrinkage.
You can see that there was a fair amount of migration here. I was surprised at how much there was. I think that this Bergschaf is even more hairy than the previous lot.
I am not sure why this particular Bergschaf is more hairy than the other lot. I don’t think the fact that it felted more quickly is an advantage if it is going to be more hairy.
I am not particularly satisfied with this pair and would considerate a fail and not suitable for sale or even a gift. However, it is a learning experience for sure. I am keeping these for myself. But it doesn’t end there. I had more brown merino batt and made another mitt from them.
The merino/Bergschaf mitts are 92cm long. These were the second pair I made and laid out to 115cm. I used more layers with Bergschaf between the merino and this might have had an affect on the shrinkage. They are quite sturdy and less hairy than the Bergschaf ones.
The Merino pair (and final ones) were the quickest to felt down and I laid them out only to 100cm. I managed to cover the muslin a bit better, but I have a couple of areas where the wool was thin. I will need to needle in some more to cover that up and rework it. For the future, it really isn’t necessary to add muslin to any of these mitts, and if one is going to do it, then layer it between a batt to cover it all up.
As far as migration is concerned, there was less using only merino. I am not going to shave the hearts on the merino mitts as the fibers are well felted into them.
So, what is my conclusion? Bergschaf is hairy and takes a long time to felt. I am not sure I will be going out of my way to purchase it again any time soon. I still have some batts left over and will most likely use it with merino as the feel of the felt is better and the look is less hairy. I was surprised that the second pair of mitts made with the Bergschaf from a different supplier ended up being more hairy (the grey) than the first pair. That could be because it wasn’t a true grey, but a blend. Even though they felted more quickly, I’m not sure that I will be purchasing from the UK supplier again as it was more costly to purchase from them than from DHG, especially the colors as you can only get them in 50g size. That is what you get for convenience. If I were to buy more Bergshaf, I would also probably go for a color and use it with a similar color in merino. Another option would be to purchase maori blend which is a Bergschaf and New Zealand (probably corriedale) blend. It is also less expensive than Bergschaf on its own. There is a post about it on the DHG blog.
Someone made a comment about wool being a conductor of heat and so you had to be careful about the mitts getting hot. Bearing in mind that wool is an insulator, I found that comment odd and a bit off putting. I have tested these mitts out and although my cloth ones are probably the best for heat resistance, you will not burn yourself with these mitts. Yes, you can feel heat, but it is not hot or uncomfortable to take things out of the oven with them. The more layers you use on the picking up side, the less of a problem it will be and I don’t really recommend using less than 4 layers. It doesn’t matter too much on the decorative side or the middle bit, 2-3 layers. You just want those to be strong enough.
Another thing about working with batts, it can be difficult to work out a ‘layer’ as there are lots of thin spots that need to be filled in. So, for me, a layer was actually two super thin layers laid out in different directions and that was to ensure the thin spots were covered up. I have been able to separate out layers quite thin, so you need to eyeball your ‘layer’ and feel it and maybe even lift it up to see where you need more wool. The nice thing is you can also add more wool even when it is wet out. Batts are very forgiving in that way. You can also cut your batt. I like to cut from the edge as it is thin there and then it is easier to peel layers off. We are always told not to cut roving, but batts are different as the fibers are short and going in all directions. So, don’t be afraid to cut the batt.