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 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.

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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.


Shetland Wool and a Breed Sampler project

It’s been a minute since I did a spinning post. I’ve been so busy spinning on my wheel that I’ve neglected to document my impressions of the various breeds I’ve spun. Did I mention I’ve also acquired a second Ashford Traddy that I just happened to have the parts to fix up? I’ve named it Thing 2.

I have, however, come up with a project for all those approximately 2 oz skeins of various wools. I’ve been knitting these hexagons from Taproot Magazine Issue 31: Revive. My plan is to include natural shades of all the breeds, plus a few naturally dyed pieces in various shades of yellow, and to eventually stitch them together into a blanket. I’m knitting them to a larger size than shown in the article – for most of them I’ve been increasing until there are 16 sts on each side of the hexagon, or 32 sts on each needle. It’s a perfect quarantine knitting project for this strange time we find ourselves in.

My Hexagon Patchwork so far; L-R: Finn, Corriedale dyed with Pomegranate, Romney lambswool, Shetland.

Anyway, back to the breed study. I purchased some Shetland roving last year at Carolina FiberFest, which sadly didn’t happen this year due to COVID-19. I spun up enough for a hexagon in the darker of the two gray shades I purchased. I found it much like the other Northern European breeds I’ve spun – relatively easy and pleasurable to spin. It bloomed nicely after soaking but didn’t fluff up as much as, say, my Targhee sample. (As a side note, this isn’t actually the first time I’ve spun Shetland wool – we used Shetland roving in my wheel spinning class, but I wasn’t really paying attention to the type of wool at the time.) I love the natural grays, of course, and can’t wait to spin up the other color. I’m finding that the Northern European breeds, along with Jacob, are my favorites to spin and to knit with. I haven’t had any experience with Down-type breeds, other than a Clun Forest/ Corriedale cross, so that’s next on my list to purchase.

Close up of Shetland wool block.

I’ve also been spinning up the Cormo I’ve had sitting around for at least 2 years now. I had made a small sample before (I talked about it in this post), but I had bought 4oz and it was sort of staring me down. Plus I was running out of skeins to knit more hexagons. So I spun up enough for a blanket ‘square’ in the same style as the other samples, and am working on spinning a fingering weight 2-ply from the rest.

Cormo on the wheel.

I’ve realized as I write this that I haven’t talked yet about my fleece processing adventures, so that will be my next post. In the meantime I hope you all are staying safe and well.


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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