Spinning Round Up – Shave ‘Em To Save ‘Em ProJects

I recently completed my second and third Shave ‘Em to Save ‘Em project. So far I’ve done Clun Forest (which I wrote about in this post), Tunis lambswool, and Leicester Longwool. If you’re not familiar with the Shave ‘Em to Save ‘Em (SE2SE) program, it’s a program run by The Livestock Conservancy to promote rare and endangered sheep breeds. You can learn more by visiting rarewool.org.

Now that I’m knitting my hexagon blanket ‘squares’ for each breed it’s given a bit of structure to my breed sampling. For each new breed I take around 1/2 an ounce to an ounce of the wool and spin a ~DK-weight 2-ply to get a gauge that will work for the blanket piece. Most of the time I spin with a short forward draft, but sometimes another draft just works better, as with the Clun Forest. If I have more than about 2 oz, as for the SE2SE projects (the minimum purchase is 4 oz), I spin it however I think will be best based on my sampling. I have to admit I haven’t been great about keeping fiber or plyback samples, but I do record the WPI, weight and yardage of my finished skeins, so that I can figure out the grist for selecting a potential knitting project. Note that I record my grist as yds/ 100 g for easier comparison to commercially-spun yarns.

My second project was American Tunis lambswool roving from Tarheel Billy Farm. I didn’t really know what to expect from this breed. The information I have from the breeder and The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook tells me this is a dual-purpose breed (bred mainly for meat) and that the first Tunisian Barbary sheep were sent to North America when a few sheep were sent as a gift to the government in 1799. Tunis lambs have a reddish color to their wool when born, which fades to a creamy white over time. The breed is well adapted to hot, humid climates and is popular throughout the Southeastern US.

This lambswool was lovely and fluffy, and after spinning a two-ply sample for my blanket square, I decided to spin the rest into a 3-ply woolen yarn using a long draw technique. I think the resulting yarn will make a lovely hat and/ or pair of mittens.

Two skeins of woolen-spun Tunis lambswool next to a SE2SE passport
Tunis lambswool 3-ply, woolen spun

Final yarn: grist 152 yds/ 100g; ~11 wpi

My third project was Leicester Longwool spun from washed locks. I bought this wool from Fuzzy Ewe Farm after seeing a photo of the dyed, millspun yarn on Instagram – it had so much depth sheen you’d swear it was silk! While I had worked from raw wool before, this was my first time working from washed locks. Since I don’t yet have wool combs I decided to use my flick carder to maximize the sheen. After sampling I also decided I needed to re-wind my bobbins and ply in the same direction that I spun in to make the yarn as smooth as possible.

I divided the flicked locks into two groups by color and spun separate skeins. Although washed, the locks still had a fair amount of grease in them, and I found the fiber somewhat tricky to spin. I probably would’ve been happier if I’d given the wool another wash before prepping, so I did wash the leftovers from flicking before carding it. For the carded batch I blended the colors together at random. I was pleasantly surprised by how soft and fluffy the leftover fibers were. Since the fiber lengths varied a lot in the carded preparation, I decided to try spinning it with supported longdraw. It came out rather uneven, but I decided to knit my blanket ‘square’ from this carded preparation.

(L-R) An knitted hexagon from carded longwool; two skeins of Leicester Longwool yarn.
Leicester Longwool spun from washed locks.

Final yarn: grist 220 yds/ 100g; ~17wpi

This project confirmed my sense that I don’t love spinning longwools. I’m still fascinated by their sheen, and I just might have to buy one of the dyed millspun skeins and knit up a project with it. I also really liked the color variation in this fleece. I’m not sure yet what I’ll knit or weave with the yarn I’ve spun, but I think maybe some lace knitting or incorporating into some free-form weaving might work well. If you’ve worked with longwools, what have you knit or woven with them?


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 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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