Shetland Wool and a Breed Sampler project

It’s been a minute since I did a spinning post. I’ve been so busy spinning on my wheel that I’ve neglected to document my impressions of the various breeds I’ve spun. Did I mention I’ve also acquired a second Ashford Traddy that I just happened to have the parts to fix up? I’ve named it Thing 2.

I have, however, come up with a project for all those approximately 2 oz skeins of various wools. I’ve been knitting these hexagons from Taproot Magazine Issue 31: Revive. My plan is to include natural shades of all the breeds, plus a few naturally dyed pieces in various shades of yellow, and to eventually stitch them together into a blanket. I’m knitting them to a larger size than shown in the article – for most of them I’ve been increasing until there are 16 sts on each side of the hexagon, or 32 sts on each needle. It’s a perfect quarantine knitting project for this strange time we find ourselves in.

My Hexagon Patchwork so far; L-R: Finn, Corriedale dyed with Pomegranate, Romney lambswool, Shetland.

Anyway, back to the breed study. I purchased some Shetland roving last year at Carolina FiberFest, which sadly didn’t happen this year due to COVID-19. I spun up enough for a hexagon in the darker of the two gray shades I purchased. I found it much like the other Northern European breeds I’ve spun – relatively easy and pleasurable to spin. It bloomed nicely after soaking but didn’t fluff up as much as, say, my Targhee sample. (As a side note, this isn’t actually the first time I’ve spun Shetland wool – we used Shetland roving in my wheel spinning class, but I wasn’t really paying attention to the type of wool at the time.) I love the natural grays, of course, and can’t wait to spin up the other color. I’m finding that the Northern European breeds, along with Jacob, are my favorites to spin and to knit with. I haven’t had any experience with Down-type breeds, other than a Clun Forest/ Corriedale cross, so that’s next on my list to purchase.

Close up of Shetland wool block.

I’ve also been spinning up the Cormo I’ve had sitting around for at least 2 years now. I had made a small sample before (I talked about it in this post), but I had bought 4oz and it was sort of staring me down. Plus I was running out of skeins to knit more hexagons. So I spun up enough for a blanket ‘square’ in the same style as the other samples, and am working on spinning a fingering weight 2-ply from the rest.

Cormo on the wheel.

I’ve realized as I write this that I haven’t talked yet about my fleece processing adventures, so that will be my next post. In the meantime I hope you all are staying safe and well.


Spinning Gotland Wool and Some Natural Dyeing

I’ve been busy with some deadline knitting, so I haven’t posted in awhile. Which means I have a few new things to share.

Spinning-wise, I’ve been sampling some of the fibers that I bought at SAFF this year. The first one I decided to try was the Gotland wool fibers. I had purchased both roving and combed top, and I tried spinning the roving first – that’s the lighter gray one in the middle of the picture. I spun a 2-ply, as usual, using my best approximation of a woolen draw; this one was about 16 wpi.

Next came the darker gray combed top. I spun that to my usual fine(ish) 2-ply at ~15 wpi and also to a heavier ~10 wpi to see how that would feel. The swatch shown is knitted with the finer version. I didn’t love the heavier yarn – I think a garment with that yarn would feel too heavy.

A side note on my technique: I haven’t been trying to choose the amount of  twist I add ahead of time, but just going by what feels right when I’m spinning.

All in all I’m not sure I love the feel of spinning with a longwool, but I am quite fascinated with the Gotland. It has almost no give or springiness, unlike most wools I’ve encountered thus far. Even my Navajo-Churro fiber had some give. The finished yarn looks like it will be rough, but it has a silky feeling to it. I’m not a lover of yarns with a lot of halo, but if you like fibers like mohair this is definitely one to try. I also love the range of grays that I’ve found in Gotland – both of my samples are be cooler, silvery grays, whereas the Jacob and Finn I’ve found are warmer, beige-y grays (which I also love).

I’ve also been doing some natural dye experiments on my handspun Corriedale. My first attempt at dyeing with pokeberries, which I had found in the back of a parking lot, didn’t go well at all. I used the recipe from the book Harvesting Color by Rebecca Burgess, and I think I heated the dyepot too much. The yarn turned a pale pink color and then lost all its color. I then found another spot where I could harvest more pokeberries – the bushes were still producing into October this year – and I tried using a room-temperature vinegar dyebath. That produced the intense color I expected. As I understand it, this pokeberries aren’t very lightfast, so I don’t know how long this will last.

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Corriedale wool dyed with (L-R): pokeberries, lichen (acid and alkali baths), weld with alum mordant, and weld with alum mordant + iron afterbath

I’ve also tried dyeing with foraged lichen from my yard, and with dried weld, which I purchased from Echoview Fiber Mill. The lichen I tried with both acid and alkaline dyebaths, and didn’t see much difference. With the weld I tried with and without an iron aftermordant (I used an alum mordant on both). I also purchased some madder from Echoview, and I plan to use the rest of the Corriedale I have to see how many shades I can get from the madder using different mordants and modifiers.

Last but not least, I’ve spun up an ounce of the dyed BFL that I acquired at SAFF. And I even taught my brother to spin a bit with it!

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Spinning Adventures, SAFF 2018 edition

Fiber bought at SAFF

Clockwise from top left: Teeswater roving, Gotland roving Gotland top, Polwarth top, Romney lambswool roving, BFL top, and Targhee top.

This past weekend I attended the Southeast Animal Fiber Fair for the first time, and came back with a lot of new fiber to spin. I arrived with my family Friday afternoon and started with a bit of shopping – my main goal was to find fiber as many sheep breeds as I could that I hadn’t tried spinning yet. The photo at the top shows what I bought,  all in about 2 oz quantities. Clockwise from top left: Teeswater roving, Gotland roving, Gotland combed top, Polwarth combed top, Romney lambswool roving, Blue-faced Leicester combed top, and Targhee combed top. So far I’ve only spun a bit of the Gotland roving – I had a hard time deciding what to try first.

On Sunday morning I took a traditional wool prep class and got a few more goodies:

Fleece samples

These are all washed locks, about 1/2 oz each. The class covered the characteristics of different breeds, how to choose a fleece and wash it, and how to card using hand cards and a drum carder. I brought some hand cards I bought for around $5 at The Scrap Exchange, a local reuse shop, and it turns out they’re were a pretty good bargain. They’re in good shape and good medium all-purpose cards. I hope I can find as good a deal on some wool combs!

In a departure from my usual obsessions, I also bought some dyed fiber to play with. I have been given a 1970s-era Ashford spinning wheel I’m trying to fix up (more on that later) and I spied this while picking up a replacement bobbin for it. It’s hard to see all the colors since they’re so dark, but I’m looking forward to spinning them up.

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We also visited the animal barn on Saturday afternoon with my 8-year-old son, who after rolling his eyes at me talking about wool all the time, concluded that sheep are pretty cool after all. In fact, by the end we had decided that on our hypothetical fiber farm, we would have Jacob, Shetland and Icelandic sheep, Pygora goats (my husband’s favorite), and Angora rabbits (for my son).


Spinning Adventures, Part 2

Since my last post about spinning I’ve finished a couple of small projects. The first is a fingering weight Icelandic 2-ply. I’m really happy with how this turned out – it’s soft and light with a beautiful halo. I’m not sure what I’ll use this for yet. If I can get more of this fiber to spin, it would make a really nice lace shawl, and I might try dyeing it too.

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My current project is with the Navajo-Churro I showed in Part 1. I decided to try spinning this fiber for weaving on my table loom. I have natural light and dark colored roving in this breed, so I decided to spin half of the light color into a 2-ply to use as warp yarn. The rest of the lighter color and the dark I will spin as a thicker single for the weft, and weave a small 2-color table rug. That’s the plan, anyway. I’ll keep you posted how it turns out.

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I’ve also finished sampling the other fiber I had in my stash. First up was the CVM/ Romeldale from Rising Meadow Farms. This fiber makes a very squishy, bouncy yarn with a slightly fuzzier texture than other wools I’ve encountered. I’ve knitted a shawl from Clara Yarns CVM/ Romeldale, and it had a similar texture. I’m honestly not sure I like it.

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The latest sampling I did was of some Cormo combed top from Heelside Farms. I’m not sure I’m practiced enough at worsted vs. woolen spinning on the drop spindle to call this a true worsted yarn, but it is noticeably smoother and shinier despite the bounciness of the Cormo fleece. This would make a lovely squishy yarn. I’m tempted to make up a bunch of mini-skeins and dye them.

 


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.