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).


Introducing the Sagebrush Tee

Alana_full

The Sagebrush Tee is a short-sleeved, slightly vintage style top that is perfect for transitional weather. The inspiration for this sweater came from the shows Land Girls  and Home Fires, which I was binge-watching at the time, and from the colors of the desert in New Mexico, and the lace pattern reminded me of sagebrush – hence the name. I decided to design a raglan sleeve to complement the angles of the lace pattern I chose, and to add back waist shaping to make it a top that could be worn with skirts. The top is designed to be worn relatively fitted, with 1-2 inches of positive ease in the upper chest, and to hit at the high hip.

The pattern is now available on Ravelry, and is 15% off until October 15, 2018. Hope you enjoy!


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.

 


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.