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 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!