Eight skeins of solid-colored Polwarth/ silk yarn in various colors

Tour de Fleece Spinning

This year I joined the Three Waters Farm Tour de Fleece team for the second time. I decided to spin the braid of the Mountain’s Edge colorway on Polwarth/ Silk from my stash. Until now I’ve been somewhat intimidated by hand dyed braids (if you’ve been following me you’ll notice I spin a lot of undyed roving and top), but I decided to get a bit adventurous this time.

A braid of handyed fiber in shades of teal, purple, yellow and brown.
Mountain’s Edge on 85% Polwarth/ 15% silk from Three Waters Farm

Much as I love to look at beautiful hand-dyed fiber, I don’t really knit with variegated yarns all that much. I’m not one for gradient or self-striping yarns, except for sock knitting. I guess I’m too much of a control freak – I like to have control over the color changes. So I decided to break down the braid and spin mini skeins to use in colorwork knitting. When I broke down the braid, I ended up with sections where two colors were mixed, and so I was inspired to try a bit of color mixing with my handcards. I was inspired by an article in Spin Off last summer (?) [Spin Off article] about creating tweed yarns.

I grouped my leftover sections into three piles: teal/ purple , teal/ yellow, and purple/ gray/ white. I used my handcards to blend those sections as evenly as I could, then removed them from the cards (without forming rolags, so the fibers were still somewhat directional) and did a bit more blending by hand as I formed the fibers into a loose roving. I didn’t get a great picture, but you can see my roving in the photo below.

Nests of blended, dyed roving.
Blended Rovings

And here are the resulting yarns. At the top you can see the full set of mini skeins from this braid.

Three mini skeins of handspun yarn in blue, yellow and lavender.
The resulting blended yarns

I think the blends turned out beautifully, and I can envision combining the skeins in any number of ways for colorwork. I spun them into a fingering weight (the Polwarth did fluff up a bit after washing), and with the sheen from the silk these will combine wonderfully with one of my favorite colorwork yarns, Tukuwool fingering. In fact, I’m thinking my first project will be to use the blue blend, and maybe a bit of the yellow or green, in a cardigan I’ve been planning for my niece.

Photo of a childs cardigan pattern next to three skeins of yarn.

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Spinning from Raw Fleece

Last year while visiting my aunt in Saskatchewan I purchased a few ounces of raw fleece from a local yarn shop. This was my first time working with raw fleece, and I never got around to sharing my experience. The fleece is a Clun Forest/ Corriedale cross, and since I hadn’t worked with Clun Forest before, I decided to buy a few ounces as a souvenir. I’m not sure how much the characteristics of this fleece resemble pure Clun Forest, but I’ve recently purchased some Clun Forest Roving for one of my Shave ‘Em to Save ‘Em projects, and both have a certain spongy quality that is different than other wool types I’ve encountered.

My first adventure was figuring out how to get my purchase across the border. I learned that it is legal to send fleece across the border, but decided to mail the fleece home in case the TSA agents weren’t aware of this fact. I figured the postal inspectors know what they’re doing, but I was still a little bit nervous about it being confiscated.

Raw Clun Forest x Corriedale fleece

The fleece did arrive in the mail, however, and I set about washing and drying it. There was a fair bit of dirt and VM in the fleece, so I went through several soakings in plain water after the initial scouring with mild soap (I used Dr. Bronner’s unscented formula).

Washing the fleece
Locks post-washing

Once dried I decided to process the locks with my flick-carder. About half the fleece was leftover from this process, so I hand carded it to spin separately. I was finding it difficult to manage a short-forward draft, so after a bit of experimentation I settled on long-draw, which I used for both the flicked locks and the carded fleece.

A single lock
The final skeins. (L) Flick-carded, undyed. (R) Hand carded, dyed with avocado pits.

I’m pretty pleased with the finished result. The carded fleece had a few neps in it and so is a bit more irregular. The flick-carded yarn is fairly even and pleasantly bouncy, and the yarn took the dye well. I’m looking forward to spinning the Clun Forest roving I’ve bought so I can compare the two.

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Spinning Teeswater

Recently I spun up a sample of Teeswater roving that I bought at SAFF a couple of years ago (from Gwyneth Glynn Longwools). Now that I have more experience with spinning, and especially on my wheel, I’m attempting to be a little bit more scientific about my breed sampling. Even though it’s not a combed prep, the small sample that I Andean plied had a bit of sheen to it, so I decided to spin it with a short forward draft to maximize the sheen. I aimed for a thickness that would match my other breed samples. The roving had a bit of grease left in it, and I found it a wee bit difficult to draft consistently.

The finished yarn does have a nice sheen, and a certain silkiness. I plan to use this sample to knit one of my hexagon blanket ‘squares’, but I could also see it being used as a weft yarn for weaving. The finished skein is 41 g/ about 65 yds at 14wpi and 2-3 twists per inch.


Spinning Romney and Finn

It’s been awhile since I’ve talked about spinning different sheep breeds. I got distracted by my spinning wheel, the Tour de Fleece (which I participated in for the first time with Three Waters Farm), and learning to weave. Phew!

Last year I was given a 1970s-era Ashford Traditional wheel that needed some TLC, and I finally got it fixed up a couple of months ago (the main difficulty being a rusted out, stuck hub pin). Since then I’ve been creating yarn at a rather alarming rate, though as I’m rather new to wheel spinning I’m not as good as with my spindles yet. So I’ve also continued to do some sampling on my spindles, and I can now compare my spindle spun and wheel-spun samples with different breeds.

I’ve actually got a bit of a backlog I’d like to tell you about, but I’ll start with some Finn and Romney. First up is some Finn roving from Heelside Farms that I talked about spindle spinning in my first spinning post. Finns are a primitive breed, and I’ve been enamored of their wool since I discovered Tukuwool yarns, which are a blend of Finn with a bit of Texel. The yarns have a faint sheen and depth that makes the colors really beautiful.

I had around 4 oz of the Finn minus that bit for previous sampling, so it was the first fiber I tried out on my new-to-me wheel. I found it fairly easy to spin on both the spindle and the wheel. I plied the wheel-spun tighter, which will make for a sturdier yarn, but the more softly plied spindle-spun yarn is pleasantly squishy. I love the natural gray-brown color, and the wheel-spun yarn does have a slight sheen, even with the more woolen preparation (I did a short forward draft on the wheel).

Finn Roving. Left: spindle-spun. Right: wheel-spun.

The second is one I’ve just finished – some Romney lambswool that I bought at SAFF last year. I decided to try spinning this one on my dealgan, which I hadn’t had much success with before. This time I did manage to create yarn. The dealgan doesn’t spin for very long until you build up a bit of a cop, and some of my early singles didn’t have quite enough twist, so I had some breakage when I went to ply. But I spit-spliced the broken ends and soldiered on.

Romney lambswool on a dealgan

Romney isn’t the softest of wools – it’s intermediate between the fine wools and longwool breeds, though usually grouped with the longwools. Having said that, I have a garter-stitch shawl knitted in Romney from farms in the western part of my state (from the now-defunct Fern Fiber), and it’s one of my favorite knits of all time. The Romney is in a natural gray plus a gray overdyed with weld, and it has a beautiful sheen and depth of color. And the garter stitch makes it nicely squishy. So I was eager to try the lambswool.

Romney lambswool, spindle spun

I can’t say it was my favorite fiber to spin with, but as lambswool the Romney is reasonably soft, and the chocolate brown color is lovely. I’ve since knitted up a hat (the Ljós pattern by Ysolda Teague) using the Romney and Finn along with some white Targhee and Corriedale that I dyed with pomegranate rinds.

Colorwork hat knit with Romney, Finn, Targhee and Corriedale wools.

I’m starting to discover which sheep breads I like working with best, and I’ve also started working with blends and dyed rovings, which is a big subject in and of itself. Much more learning and experimenting to come!


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.