If you are a Small Business volunteer who works with a group that does anything with fiber or textiles and had to deal with some aspect of quality control, chances are you've wondered what kind of materials your group is actually using. So, you ask your group, "what is this made of?"
Many times the reply would be "sufa" (wool).
For me, my response was, "Hmmm..." I'd think to myself, I don't think so...
In my case my cooperative was making mostly knit gloves for winter at the time. They were using a yarn that they'd have stranded together at the local yarn shop to make it as thick or thin as they wanted. It was a "fuzzy" yarn, and kind of scratchy, but it wasn't wool.
At first it was difficult because my language skills weren't as developed. Maybe they know it's not wool, they just don't have a word for synthetic. Or maybe they really thought it was wool.
So later on we had a little chat and I explained the difference between wool and acrylic. That was really all my cooperative needed. For the types of products the cooperative makes now, it isn't important that they use wool or even cotton for them to be appealing to a tourist or export market. In fact, using the acrylic yarns that they use work better for making their coin purses because they are easily washed, the colors don't bleed, and the yarn has a slight sheen to it.
But for some cooperatives, especially those who make carpets and want to export them, it's really important that they at least know the fiber content of their products.
About a year ago I was talking to a fellow volunteer (Lynn) who was having this problem with her group. That's when I remembered the Fiber Burn Chart that I had learned about in my Fibers class back in college. I showed her the chart, and since then she's been burning just about every yarn in sight wherever she goes! The link above explains the simple process of burning unknown fiber to see what it's made from. It's a great resource for volunteers working with textile-based cooperatives. I love to hear Lynn's stories about bringing her lighter to her cooperative and showing the women if a yarn is wool or not. It's been very enlightening for the women.