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 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 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, 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.

 


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.