wool, alpaca, cashmere, mohair
Wool is a staple of heritage garment production in North America. Nostalgic, warm and breathable, wool is a wonderful insulator with beautiful potential for styling. Wool’s porous structure allows it to absorb up to 30% of its weight before feeling damp, wick away sweat and odour and remain warm when wet.
As a sheep grows its fleece, the various cell structures in the wool react differently moisture, causing the fibres to crimp or bend. This bend in the fibre ranges, according to breed and animal, from small and tightly packed to large and widely spaced. Crimp traps air between the fibers,providing wool with strong insulating properties.
The inner structure of wool fibres, the cortex, has long cells that overlap and are able to slide over one another. This structure gives wool elasticity and memory, or the capacity to return to its original shape. It also means that wool is quite resilient and wrinkle resistant.
Using wool means choosing the proper type of fleece for the desired garment. Wool exists on a spectrum of fineness that is assessed according to the micron count, or diameter, of the individual fibre. Different breeds of sheep produce different micron counts. Fine Merino and Rambouillet sheep (18-24 microns) offer soft, next to skin wool, whereas heavier fibres, such as those from the English Longwool breeds (24-28 microns) create strong, smooth fabrics. The Peggy Sue Collection uses Rambouillet fleece for its fineness and Romney, Gotland and Blue Faced Leicester fleece for their strength and lustre.
Originally from the Andes, these camelids produce a beautiful cashmere-like fibre. Alpacas are divided into two groups: Suri, which have long locks up to 28 cm and Huacaya, which have shorter staples of 5-15 cm. The Peggy Sue Collection uses Huacaya alpaca fibre.
There are 22 natural alpaca colours in whites, browns, reddish-browns and greys. Black, the rarest of these natural colours, produces the finest fibres with micron counts that fall into the range of cashmere (below 19.5 microns). In contrast, alpaca fibres in the other colour groups generally fall in the mid-20 micron range.
In addition to its beautiful hand, alpaca fibre is known for its delightful drape and natural swing. The cellular structure of the fibre, which is very different from wool, allows for these characteristics. Whereas wool has elasticity and memory, alpaca does not, allowing the skilled artisan to produce exquisite drape in a garment.
Alpaca is often blended with wool to capture the benefits of wool’s memory and alpaca’s softness. Like sheep, different alpaca blankets are suited to particular garments; the finer the fibre, the closer to the skin it can be worn.
The Peggy Sue Collection also designs with alpaca hides from Pootcorners Alpacas. These hides are the by-product of the meat industry and their use reduces waste along the farm to fashion supply chain.
Cashmere is a luxuriously soft, downy fibre produced by goats. To qualify as cashmere the down must have a micron count that falls below 19.5. While most cashmere is produced in Northern China, Mongolia, Tibet and Afghanistan, there are some cashmere producing flocks, such as Northern Breeze Goat Farm, in North America.
Cashmere refers to the soft undercoat that goats grow in reaction to cold climates, rather than to the goats themselves. However, goats that have been bred for their cashmere production are generally referred to as Cashmere Goats. All Cashmere Goats also produce guard hairs, or long, coarse outer fibres that must be removed, using a process called de-hairing, from the finer down.
Each goat will only produce a few grams of cashmere a year. This low yield, combined with the added step of de-hairing, translates into a higher cost for cashmere garments. Despite this, the sheer luxury of cashmere makes the extra work and cost worthwhile.
Mohair is the fine, lustrous fibre grown by the Angora goat. The Angora goat can grow up to 2cm of fibre a month, expending a lot of energy in the process. Not surprisingly, Angora goats tend to thrive in warmer climates, which means animals in northern climates require extra care and attention.
The cellular structure of mohair is slightly different from wool, giving it greater sheen and higher levels of drape. Despite its fineness, mohair is very resilient. Able to repel water and dirt due to its smoothness, mohair’s long staple length is also hard-wearing and resists pilling.
organic cotton, upcycled denim
Cotton is a resource intensive crop that requires a long, warm growing season and intensive irrigation. Traditional cotton cultivation also requires high rates of chemical herbicide and pesticide application. Organic cotton practices, such as those used by the Texas Organic Cotton Marketing Cooperative, encourage balanced ecosystems where pests are kept in check by their natural predators, soil fertility is maintained via crop rotation and compost application and water use is reduced.
After the cotton plant flowers it produces a cotton boll, or green pod. Inside the boll short staples of fluffy fibre grow from the seeds until they burst through the browned-off boll like cotton candy. The seed cotton is harvested and ginned, or cleaned. Although most commonly found in white, cotton is grown in a variety of natural colours.
Like wool and alpaca, the cotton fibres (lint) are carded to remove any remaining debris and any fibres shorter than 1 – 1 ¾“ (2.5-4.5 cm). The carders also align the lint into a sliver that can then be spun into a fine, high-twist yarn that is either woven or knit into fabric.
Cotton is known for being lightweight, cool and very breathable. While it is prone to wrinkling, cotton has excellent drape and an unmatched versatility. Not surprisingly, it is the world’s most popular fibre.
Closed Loop Denim
The average Canadian contributes 14 kg of textile waste to the landfill every year. Discovering ways to close the loop our used clothing can significantly reduce this waste. Denim, the fabric used to make our jeans, is made from cotton. Cotton’s inherent strength allows the denim fabric to be reused by cutting the fabric into strips and re-spinning it. The Peggy Sue Collections incorporate closed loop denim yarn into our handwoven fabrics.
natural shed antler, wood, zippers,
Natural Shed Antler
Harvesting deer and moose for their antlers is not legal in Canada. However, antlers that are shed naturally every winter can be collected legally in Canadian forests. Antler is a very durable and strong substance, far outstripping wood in its hardness.The Peggy Sue Collection uses naturally shed antler from deer and moose to craft buttons and toggles.
Our buttons are hand crafted in Ontario from local hard woods. Supplied by Canadian Ewe, these beautiful creations are their own small works of art.
Sourcing North American-made zippers is a difficult task. At the moment we use metal zippers from YKK, a fastener product company from the USA that has been in business of 75 years.