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).