Sampling CVM for Cables – Woolen vs. Semi-Woolen

I’ve been sampling some CVM fiber (from Heelside Farms) for my next Shave ‘Em to Save ‘Em project. I’ve been thinking I might want to knit a cabled sweater with this fiber, and I was wondering if my drafting method would make a difference in the cable definition. I would expect that, since worsted-spun yarns are often touted for their cable definition, getting closer to that with a semi-woolen yarn would give me cables that ‘pop’ more while retaining the softer, rustic look of a woolen-spun yarn. But a woolen spun yarn would likely be faster to spin, so I wanted to make sure the extra time for a worsted draft was really worth it. So I did a little experiment.

I’m starting from roving, so my options are to create a semi-woolen yarn using a short forward draft, or go for a fully woolen-spun yarn using longdraw. I pulled off a small amount to sample each way, and attempted to spin yarns with approximately the same diameter and ply twist. Both yarns came out to around a DK weight, and with similar ply twist. The woolen-spun sample came out a bit more uneven, and has a bit of a thick and think quality to it. I also had some areas that were underspun in the singles, so breakage was a problem. I would want to spin a more careful sample before I decided to use this for a sweater, but for my comparison purposes I assumed it would suffice. Unsurprisingly the woolen-spun sample had slightly less twist overall in the singles.

Left: woolen-spun CVM (spun longdraw); Right: semi-woolen CVM (spun with short forward draft)

I cast on and knit two swatches on US #7 (4.5mm) needles, using a simple 3×3 cable as a test. The woolen-spun swatch came out slightly bigger for the same number of stitches as I would expect – it measured about 3 3/4″ over 20 stitches vs about 3 1/2″ for the semi-woolen swatch. And the cable does appear a bit flatter and less three-dimensional, which I suspected might happen. The semi-woolen swatch also has better stitch definition overall. What surprised me a bit, though, was in that the swatch spun with a short forward draft the stitches appear a bit puffier and seem to fill in the space better. That could be because of my inconsistency in spinning the woolen swatch, though. The other thing that surprised me was the difference in weight of the swatches. I know woolen-spun yarns tend to be lighter, but I was surprised that the two swatches spun from roving were so different. The semi-woolen swatch weighed 4.5 g versus 4.3 g for the woolen-spun – not a huge difference in a swatch of this size. But it made a noticeable difference to the feel of the swatch in my hand. It might be worth sacrificing a bit of cable definition to get a lighter, cozier feeling sweater. I like the look of both cables, and even though the draft did make a difference I’m not sure it was enough to prefer one draft over the other on that basis.

My two cable swatches: woolen spun using longdraw (L) and semi-woolen (R) using short forward draft.

I haven’t decided yet if I will knit a sweater with this fiber – I would need to purchase more of it – or, if I do, which draft I will use. I also want to test how these swatches will stand up to wear – maybe a topic for another post. But I do have an idea of how my choices will affect the final yarn and what I might use it for.


Spinning Project Roundup

I confess I haven’t been knitting all that much lately. True, it’s summer in North Carolina, and some afternoons it’s just too hot to knit. But like many people in these COVID times, I haven’t been able to concentrate on the things that usually give me joy. I have, however, been doing a lot of spinning. There is something so fundamental about the rhythm of the spinning wheel (or spindle) that I have found comforting.

I’ve already written about my main Tour de Fleece project. I had a bit of time left after finishing my mini skeins, so I did some sampling on another Three Waters Farm colorway: Radicchio (also on the Polwarth/ silk base). I plan to use it for colorwork, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted a 2- or 3-ply yarn. So I took a third of the braid, which is one complete color sequence, and tried both a straight 2-ply and a chain-ply. I was pleasantly surprised that I managed to get the colors to line up so well in the 2-ply, and I like the way they reflect the light more than the chain-ply, so I think I will do the rest of the braid that way. First I want to swatch it to see if I’m happy with the length of the repeat.

Handspun Polwarth/ silk yarn from Three Waters Farm in colorway Radicchio. On the left is the straight 2-pym on the right the chain ply.

I’ve also completed my first Shave ‘Em to Save ‘Em project, which I shared on Instagram. I bought Clun Forest roving from Left Hand Wool Company – you may recall I got my hands on some Clun Forest x Corriedale awhile back (I wrote about it here), and I really wanted to see how it compared to 100% Clun Forest. This is also my first time spinning a Down-type breed (Clun Forest isn’t one of the true Down breeds, but it has similar characteristics). This roving had the same spongy, springy quality as the Corriedale cross I had spun, but it’s less soft. It’s not prickly, though, and I think it will do nicely as socks. I plied it with a high twist with that purpose in mind – so much so that the finished yarn is a bit wavy. I’m confident that it will knit up okay, though. I’m also thinking of dyeing it using walnuts or other natural dyes I have available.

The finished Clun Forest sock yarn.

Before starting the sock yarn, I also took a portion of the roving and spun it a bit thicker for my blanket project and knit it up into a hexagon. I’ve got 10 hexagons so far, representing 9 different sheep breeds (I’ve used Corriedale with two different natural dyes; the rest are undyed.) I figure I need at least 24 hexagon pieces to make a small blanket, so I need to spin a few more breeds!

My Clun Forest blanket ‘square’.

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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.

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.

Blended Rovings

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

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.

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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.

Spinning Finn Roving

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.

Sampling Romney Lambswool

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!


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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.

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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