A Bit About What I Post Here and Why

I thought I would talk a little bit more about why I post what I do on this blog. If you came to this site looking for knitting patterns or tech editing services, it may seem strange to find blog posts on hand spinning and natural dyeing (I’ll be posting more on both topics soon). The short answer is, of course, because I’m interested in those topics. But it’s also because they inform my design work.

I started out my professional career as an engineer working in environmental research. So I care about how my clothes are made, and where I source my materials. And I also care about using the best materials for the job.

As I said in my recent post about spinning different sheep breeds, I started learning to spin in large part to learn about different types of wool, and I wanted to share some of the things I’m learning. I love the feel of working with wool, and there are so many different bree specific yarns becoming available to knitters these days, which is great for us designers. I know some knitters don’t like wool at all. And there is a perception, I think, that the only advantage in trading off less softness in wool is durability. But sturdiness isn’t the only quality some ‘scratchier’ wools have – some of them have a beautiful sheen or come in gorgeous natural, undyed shades (something I’m particularly a sucker for). The shawl pictured her, for example, is probably my favorite item I’ve knitted. It’s made from Romney, which is more of a longwool breed, and definitely not the softest. But it’s plenty squishy, thanks to being knit in garter stitch, and the wool has a beautiful sheen to it. I used one shade of natural, undyed grey, and one that is overdyed with weld, a natural plant dye. The depth of color in the dyed yarn is just incredible – whenever I am out in the sun I can’t stop staring at it and noticing how the colors shift. The photo doesn’t do it justice. That sheen that lends a special depth to the colors isn’t something I would find in a superwash merino. Which is one reason I chose to use Tukuwool Fingering, a Finn sheep blend, for my Rionnag cowl. The depth of the colors is just incredible.

shawl photo

I highly recommend that you seek out some breed specific yarns if you can, and try them out. And I hope you’ll join me in my spinning and dyeing adventures as I try out as many breeds of fiber as I can find.

Spinning Adventures

Last year I started learning to spin on a drop spindle. I’m interested in learning about¬† different sheep breeds and their wool, and I think the best way to learn is to get my hands in the fiber and spin it. I’ve amassed several different types of single-breed roving and, since I recently purchased a lovely new drop spindle,¬† I decided to try spinning some of them. Most of the fiber was purchased at the Carolina Fiber Fest this Spring.

First up, some Icelandic fleece roving from Heelside Farms (http://www.heelsidefarms.com). That’s the one with the swatch on the left. I can’t believe how beautifully this turned out. I was able to spin it very fine and create a 2-ply fingering weight yarn (~20 wpi) that is next-to-skin soft. Look at that beautiful halo! This is begging to be a baby garment or a fine lace shawl. I just need to get some more of it – I only bought a 2 oz bag to try it out.

Next up was Navajo-Churro roving that I purchased in 2 natural colors from Stoney Mountain Fiber Farm (http://www.stoneymountainfarm.com/) on last years Piedmont Farm Tour. The sample of the lighter color is on the far right above. This stuff is pretty coarse and has a fairly long staple. After spinning a 2-ply sample I decided that this would make a nice weaving yarn and so I will probably try spinning some warp 2-ply and singles for weft for my table loom. I think I’ll try weaving some small table decorations.

Third, I spun up some Finn sheep roving, in the middle of the photo, also from Heelside Farms. I have fallen in love with Tuku Wool yarn (see my Rionnag Cowl design), which is made from a blend of Finn sheep, and I love this natural light gray color. I spun it into a 2-ply sport weight yarn (~16 wpi). I’m not sure this is the best use for this particular fleece, so I don’t know what I’ll make out of it. Probably some further sampling is in order. It’s fairly soft, though, and would make nice garments or accessories.

I also recently finished my first spinning project, from about 4oz of two-color Jacob fleece acquired from Humbug Farm (http://www.humbugfarm.com/Index.html) at another farm’s festival. I separated the two colors and spun them separately, then plied them together for a marled yarn. I’m pretty happy with how it turned out, and I gifted it to my brother for his birthday.

Jacob yarn


More to come. I still have several fibers to sample, including some CVM/ Romeldale and Cormo combed top to try out.