Three skeins of natural white fingering weight yarn next to a passport page with the breed name Gulf Coast Native

Spinning Gulf Coast Native Wool – a New SE2SE Project

I’ve been sitting on some fiber for a couple of my Shave ‘Em to Save ‘Em projects for awhile. I’ve been on a kick of spinning dyed fiber, and generally working on other projects. But I finally got around to pulling a new one out. This is my 7th SE2SE project – Gulf Coast Native from Gulf Breeze Alpaca Ranch. I purchased the fiber from Lynns Cozy Fibers on Etsy.

About Gulf Coast Native Fiber

As is my habit, I tried spinning a bit on my drop spindles first. Gulf Coast Native is a feral breed that developed in the Southeastern United States, like the Florida Cracker. According to The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook, the wool is variable in quality, but tends to have a moderate staple length averaging 2-4 inches, which was about the staple length of my sample. My first impression was that the wool seemed similar to the Florida Cracker I’d previously spun, but a bit whiter in color, where the Florida Cracker I spun was definitely more of a cream color. It’s fairly fluffy in the roving preparation, low in grease, and has a slighlty spongy feel that reminded me a bit of a down-type breed.

My Project

I then set about spinning the bulk of the fiber on my wheel. Lately when I try a new fiber on my wheel, I tend to spin it according to the preparation. So, since I was dealing with roving, I decided to spin the fiber using supported longdraw. I spun on a 9:1 ratio, and plied on the 12:1 ratio; judging from the breaks I had in the singles while plying, I probably could have spun on the 12: 1 as well. I’ve found shorter staple fibers like Clun Forest a bit easier to spin longdraw than this somewhat longer fiber, but the fiber drafted relatively easily and I was able to spin it quite fine.

I soaked and thwacked the yarn as I typically do. I ended up with approximately 447 yds of lovely fingering weight yarn at 20-22 wpi. The finished yarn has a nice amount of elasticity. I’m not sure yet what I’ll knit with this, but it might be nice to try dyeing and using for a colorwork project.


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New Fall Knitting Patterns

I’m delighted to have three new fall patterns just released as part of the Valley Yarns Designer Series. I designed these around the theme of Fall on Campus, with an eye on creating easy wardrobe pieces you’ll turn to again and again.

The first pattern is the Campus Cardigan (pictured above) – a modern take on the classic v-neck cardigan featuring a relaxed fit with straight shaping, colorblocking, and set-in pockets. Knit in Valley Yarns Northampton, this cardigan is sure to become a wardrobe staple.

The cardigan is knit in one piece from hem to underarm, then back and fronts are worked separately and joined with a 3-needle bind off. Sleeves are knit flat and seamed. The pattern is available as an individual download or a kit, and the finished chest size ranges from 34 – 66 inches with a suggested ease of 4-6 inches; see this post for my suggestions on choosing a sweater size.

The second pattern in the collection is a pair of Fair Isle mittens, also in Valley Yarns Northampton. The Snowbound mittens feature a long ribbed cuff to keep the snow out, and integrated thumb gusset. The colorwork motif occurs after the thumb shaping and uses only two colors, making it a perfect first Fair Isle project. The mittens can also be purchased as a kit, and the pattern is written for 3 sizes, so you can make a pair for the whole family.

Photo courtesy of WEBS

Last but not least, you’ll need a cozy hat and cowl to go with those mittens, and what better way to add a pop of color and texture to your winter clothes. The Golden Hour hat and cowl feature squishy cables in Valley Yarns Valley Superwash DK. The hat is written for two sizes, the cowl for one generous size, and a kit is also available for this pattern.

Photo courtesy of WEBS

Subscribe to my Monthly Musings newsletter and receive a free cowl pattern! When you subscribe you will receive a free download of my Diagonal Rib Cowl. You’ll also be the first to hear about new releases and other fiber-related news.


Breed Specific Commercial Yarns

I recently taught a class on working with breed specific wools for Piedmont Fibershed, and since I’ve been talking a lot about my spinning projects with different breeds, I thought I’d do a roundup of commercial breed-specific yarns so that the knitters can get in on the action too. There are a number of breed-specific commercial yarns available these days. Many of these are pretty widely available, but I’ve also included a few smaller brands, and listed the websites for those not generally available in retail yarn shops.

  • Brooklyn Tweed – Merino (Peerie, Arbor), Targhee-Columbia (Loft, Shelter), Rambouillet (Vale)
  • Fibre Co. Lore – Romney
  • Hudson + West (Forge + Weld) – Merino/ Corriedale
  • Blacker Yarns (UK – https://www.blackeryarns.co.uk) – various breeds
  • Sincere Sheep -Cormo, Rambouillet
  • Jamieson’s – Shetland
  • Tukuwool Fingering – Finn/ Texel
  • Lana Plantae – Rambouillet, Targhee, Lincoln Longwool
  • Echoview Fiber Mill Ranger DK & Ranger Bulky (https://www.echoviewnc.com)- Merino
  • West Yorkshire Spinners – Bluefaced Leicester
  • Stone Wool – Merino, Cheviot, Cormo, Corriedale, Romney
  • Solitude Wool (https://solitudewool.com)- various breeds

What breed-specific yarns have you found? Please add to my list in the comments.


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 from Raw Fleece

Last year while visiting my aunt in Saskatchewan I purchased a few ounces of raw fleece from a local yarn shop. This was my first time working with raw fleece, and I never got around to sharing my experience. The fleece is a Clun Forest/ Corriedale cross, and since I hadn’t worked with Clun Forest before, I decided to buy a few ounces as a souvenir. I’m not sure how much the characteristics of this fleece resemble pure Clun Forest, but I’ve recently purchased some Clun Forest Roving for one of my Shave ‘Em to Save ‘Em projects, and both have a certain spongy quality that is different than other wool types I’ve encountered.

My first adventure was figuring out how to get my purchase across the border. I learned that it is legal to send fleece across the border, but decided to mail the fleece home in case the TSA agents weren’t aware of this fact. I figured the postal inspectors know what they’re doing, but I was still a little bit nervous about it being confiscated.

Raw Clun Forest x Corriedale fleece

The fleece did arrive in the mail, however, and I set about washing and drying it. There was a fair bit of dirt and VM in the fleece, so I went through several soakings in plain water after the initial scouring with mild soap (I used Dr. Bronner’s unscented formula).

Washing the fleece
Locks post-washing

Once dried I decided to process the locks with my flick-carder. About half the fleece was leftover from this process, so I hand carded it to spin separately. I was finding it difficult to manage a short-forward draft, so after a bit of experimentation I settled on long-draw, which I used for both the flicked locks and the carded fleece.

A single lock
The final skeins. (L) Flick-carded, undyed. (R) Hand carded, dyed with avocado pits.

I’m pretty pleased with the finished result. The carded fleece had a few neps in it and so is a bit more irregular. The flick-carded yarn is fairly even and pleasantly bouncy, and the yarn took the dye well. I’m looking forward to spinning the Clun Forest roving I’ve bought so I can compare the two.