July 28, 2011

Tour de Fleece 2011

This year's goal for the TdF was to spin and ply thirty-six ounces of Bluefaced Leicester (BFL) commercial top for a sweater for me. I split up the top into sixteen daily allotments which was supposed to leave me with days of rest and time for plying. That was the plan. It didn't quite go according to plan. Well, it did, until the heat came and mucked up my spinning mojo. At the end of the Tour, I was left with three days allotments unspun and a lot of plying to do.

This is what I was left with: One completed skein of 4ply 2x2 cable yarn which I really, really like how it came out. Three days allotment unspun, five bobbins of plied 2ply, three and a quarter unplied 2ply plying balls, and two partially filled bobbins of singles.

BFL multi natural

BFL multi

BFL multi 1st skein

Each of the plied bobbins and plying balls is about two hundred yards, probably more, of yarn. The big wheel bobbins hold about a thousand yards of singles at the wpi I've been spinning. Which means I managed to spindle spin over four thousand yards of singles in less than 22 days (there were more than a few days when I didn't spin or just plied what was already spun). So I may not have completed my goal, but I'm satisfied with what I've accomplished. Looking forward to next year's Tour when I think I'll concentrate on non-wool spinning. Perhaps cotton or alpaca. Definitely something to look forward to.

July 13, 2011

Wool Breeds Challenge - Norwegian and Navajo-Churro

Black Norwegian

Black Norwegian is not listed is any of my reference books. The label said "Louet Black Norwegian" which their website says comes from Norwegian sheep. A google search did not find a specific breed called "Black Norwegian", however, I did find an "Old Norwegian Sheep" that I believe is the same (it comes in colors including black).
Norwegian sheep are an old Primitive breed of Northern short-tailed sheep. They are dual-coated with fine undercoat wool.

My sample was spun worsted to semi-worsted from the end of commercial top. This has a four inch staple length, and is a very easy spin, drafting smoothly with little to no pre-drafting. VERY nice wool, soft and smooshy, and I think this would make lovely sweater yarn.

Norwegian closeup

Navajo Churro

Churro sheep were brought to the American Southwest in the mid-1500's by the Spanish.
They are dual-coated breed with a coarse, long outercoat (4-14 inch staple, 38+ micron count), and a fine, short undercoat (2-4 inch staple, 22-23 micron count).

My sample came from fleece with an average lock length of five inches, varying from four to seven inches. The undercoat is very soft and silky. I hand combed the locks and spun semi-worsted from the fold for a 2ply yarn. Combing was minimal since I wasn't trying to separate the outer and undercoats, just align the fibers. My singles spun easily when I switched to spinning from the fold instead of from the end.

I liked this fiber and look forward to processing the rest of the fleece at a later date. I'd like to try separating the coats but I think to do that properly I might need different combs. I'd also like to try carding it.

Navajo-Churro closeup

It's been a while!

And I'm falling way behind.

The Wool Breeds Challenge ended on June 30th. I didn't finish all the different breeds I had collected for the Challenge, but I did manage to spin thirty-two of them for a total of seventy points. I have the last few breeds to post here and then I will be officially finished, although I will continue posting about new breeds here as I spin them.

Speaking of spinning and challenges, the Tour de Fleece started on July 2nd. This year my challenge is to spin the thirty-six ounces of BFL (Bluefaced Leicester) natural multicolored top into a 4ply 2x2 cabled yarn for a sweater I'm planning on knitting for myself. At a 4ply yarn I'm not sure if I'll have enough for a sweater, but I also have another pound of plain natural BFL that I can also use if there isn't enough of the multi. Or I can order more of the natural multi top.

This is a pic of my TdF progress thru Day 3 and all the unspun top.

BFL natural multi

I'm also participating in The Knit Girllls Stash Dash 2011 and have finished objects: the Summer Mystery Shawl, two pair of socks, and some plied yarn. Squeee!

This is the Summer Mystery Shawl by Wendy Johnson, hot off the needles, ends dangling and unblocked. I used one of my beginning handspun yarns (Little Fish colorway spun from hand dyed roving from Enchanted Knoll Farms). The yarn is definitely thick and thin but it doesn't seem to affect the shawl construction or pattern. I like it.

Summer Mystery Shawl

I also finished the "Native Traditions" colorway socks and the modified Hermione pattern socks. Both are afterthought heel socks.

Three Ewes Twisted in Fiber Socks for Ewe sock yarn Native Traditions colorway:
Native Traditions socks

Zen Yarn Garden Tencelicious yarn in Sun Kiss colorway:
Hermione (modified) socks

June 14, 2011

Wool Breeds Challenge - Gotland, Texel & California Red


Gotland is a Swedish short-tail breed which originated on the Isle of Gotland in the Baltic Sea. It is a dual purpose breed, grown for it's meat and it's silky, shiny, gray, hairlike wool. Gotland has a micron count of 28 to 32 and a staple length of 3 to 5 inches.

This was another breed that I spun the samples at two separate times, April and June.

My samples were spun from commercial top that was very matted. Not felted, just really stuck together. Staple length was five inches. I had a really hard time getting the twist right on my singles. Because of the length of the staple I tended to spin with less twist. But because the fiber is very slippery, if there wasn't enough twist the singles drifted apart. Finding a happy medium took a little while.

Because the top was so matted, I chose to re-card some of the top and spin the first sample long draw from rolags. The second sample was eventually spun worsted from the top end. It took a little while to figure out how much pre-drafting I needed to do to make it draft easily. (This is a very strange, paradoxical fiber in that it is both sticky and slippery.)

Gotland is a very nice fiber. It is both strong and silky-soft. I love the gray color. It has fantastic drape and would make a wonderful shawl. I would spin this again in a heartbeat (well not in a heartbeat, it takes time and concentration to spin, but it's worth it).

Gotland samples


Texel originated by crossing native sheep on the Island of Texel off the Netherlands coast with Lincoln and Leicester Longwool sheep. It is a meat breed with a springy, crisp wool. Texel has a micron count of 28 to 33 and an average staple length of 3 to 6 inches.

My sample is from raw fleece from the Spinning Loft with an extremely short staple length of about one to two inches. It is much softer than I expected and very lofty. Because of the short staple length, I flicked (when I could) then hand carded enough for a small 2ply sample. It spun easily long draw from very fluffy rolags. I was disappointed with the staple length but other than that, I thought this made a very nice yarn.

Texel sample

California Red

California Red are tan sheep with reddish kemp fibers developed by crossing American Tunis and Barbados Blackbelly sheep. They have a micron count of 28 to 31 and an average staple length of 3 to 6 inches.

My sample is from the Spinning Loft, raw fleece. It washed easily, in fact I think I may have over scoured it. Staple length is about 4-5 inches. No noticeable kemp. I hand combed enough to make a small 2ply worsted spun sample skein. Spinning California Red reminded me of the Border Leicester, with the CalRed slightly softer. They felt very much the same running through my fingers, and they drafted/spun similarly.

California Red sample

Wool Breeds Challenge - Border Leicester & Lincoln

Border Leicester

Border Leicester is one of the English Longwool breeds created by crossing English Leicester and Cheviot breeds. I have two reference books, "In Sheep's Clothing" (ISC) and "The Knitter's Book of Wool" (KBW) which give slightly different statistics for this breed. According to ISC, Border Leicesters have an average staple length between 6 and 8 inches, and a micron count ranging from 37 to 40. KBW lists a staple length of 6 to 10 inches and a micron count of 30 to 38. Both books say it is a silky and lustrous breed.

My sample is from pre-washed fleece with a shorter than average staple length of about four to six inches. It has lots of shine and an interesting hand that I can only describe as a silky coarseness. It almost feels artificial.

I hand combed the fiber for two samples. The first is a 2ply semi-woolen (long draw from combed top). I plied this sample at a looser twist than my normal in an effort to soften the final yarn. Or at least I thought it was less twist. When I skeined it and held it up, it back twisted more than halfway up the skein. It ended up balanced, tho.

The second sample is a 4ply worsted spun, plied normally. I was looking to maintain shine and maybe stitch definition. When skeined, it hung balanced - a first for me.

Border Leicester closeups

Lincoln Longwool

Lincoln Longwool is one of the (surprise!) Longwool breeds and is the basis for a number of the newer breeds such as Corriedale, Targhee, Polwarth and Columbia. It originated in the Lincolnshire, England area. Lincoln has an average staple length of 7 to 10 inches, and a micron count of 36 to 38. It should be a strong and lustrous wool.

I tried three times to spin Lincoln. The first time in February was a dismal failure. My singles looked like cat vomit and were tossed in disgust. The second time in April was better but difficult. I got decent singles spinning from the fold. The following is the writeup I did in April:

"This is another wool I did not like working with. My sample is made from commercial top with a staple length of about nine inches. And yes, it is strong and shiny. Too strong for my taste. I felt like I was trying to spin sisal twine. Unfortunately, this was the first really long (over six inches) wool that I tried spinning and I had a really hard time with it. I don't think I would spin this again by itself. I would, however, cut it and blend it with another breed, perhaps a down, to lend the down some strength and shine. Here's my sample, a very small 2ply spun worsted with great difficulty from commercial top."

I tried it again today (June) spinning first worsted (no problem) then switching to long draw from the top end. The only real problem I had was getting the right amount of twist in my singles. I have to note that the staple length in this particular section I spun from was shorter at about six inches. I don't know if that made the difference, or if it was just that I have more experience spinning longer fibers than I did four months ago. Maybe a little of both.

So what do I think of Lincoln? It is the coarsest wool I've spun so far, but it also has luster and I think would have a good stitch definition. It also drapes nicely. Would I spin it again? Yes.

Two 2ply samples: (left) long draw from the end of top, (right) short draw from the fold. Both samples have halo, but the long draw sample has excessive halo.

Lincoln closeups

June 2, 2011

Wool Breeds Challenge - Perendale, Polypay, Swaledale, Tunis


The Perendale is a dual purpose (meat and wool) breed developed in New Zealand in the 1950s by crossing Cheviot and Romney breeds. It is considered a Longwool with an average staple length of five inches. Perendale has a micron count of 28-32.

My sample was listed as pre-washed Black Perendale fleece, although it's actually dark brown. It has a staple length of about 3.5 to 4.5 inches, and appears to be in the 30s on the micron/softness scale.

I chose to hand card and spin long draw for a 2ply sample which I wasn't happy with because it showed too much of the carding imperfections. So I also made a small 4ply sample which better hid my bad carding. The carded fiber was very neppy. In retrospect, I probably should have flick carded before hand carding for my rolags. Oh well, this is a learning process for me.

I think I would try this breed again, but I must admit I liked working with the Montadale (Cheviot x Columbia) much better.

Perendale (brown) 4ply sample:

Polypay and Perendale samples


Polypal is a new US breed developed in the 1960s/1970s to provide good meat and wool and a high breeding/birth rate. This was done by breeding a Targhee/Dorset cross to a Rambouillet/Finn cross. Polypay has a medium to fine wool with a micron count of 22 to 28, and an average staple length of 3 to 4 inches.

My sample was spun from commercial top which had a staple length of 3 inches. It is a spongy wool, but not as soft as I expected considering the Targhee, Finn and Rambouillet heritage. Perhaps this particular sheep is heavy on the Dorset genes.

I tried spinning worsted from top end but that was not comfortable. So I re-carded the top and spun it long draw from the rolags on my turnip supported spindle for a small 4ply yarn sample. I would spin this again.

Polypay (white) closeup:

Polypay and Perendale closeups


Swaledale is one of the UK mountain breeds from the Yorkshire/Lake District area. It is dual coated with an average staplelength of 4 to 8 inches, and a micron count ranging from the 30s through the 40s, depending on whether or not the outer coat is included.

My sample is from commercial top with a 4 inch staple. It is a grayish off-white with short black and white kemp fibers. A lot of the white kemp fibers shed while spinning. My guess for the micron count of this sample would be high 30s/low 40s. Definitely not a next to the skin yarn for sensitive areas.

It spun easily into two 2ply samples. The first was spun worsted from the end. The second was spun long draw from pseudo-rolags I made from the top. Both methods worked nicely.

I would spin this again. I was thinking it might make very nice thrummed mittens if the thrumming was very soft.

Top: Swaledale worsted spun; Bottom: Swaledale long draw from pseudo-rolags
Swaledale samples closeup

American Tunis

Tunis sheep were developed from Tunisian Barbary sheep, a very old breed, with possible infusions of Southdown and Leicester blood. Tunis have a micron count of 24 to 31 and an average staple length of 3 to 6 inches.

My sample came from a 4oz raw fleece sample. Fleece did not seem to have a lot of lanolin so it washed easily. I only flicked a portion of the washed fleece sufficient for this sample. Locks ranged from one inch to three inches, with the majority in the two inch range. They were soft locks with a good deal of crimp. Normally, I would card after flicking and spin from the rolags, but as I wasn't home with access to my hand cards, I just spun semi-worsted from the locks. It spun easily with just a few bumps into a nice little 4ply sample. It was much softer than I expected. I would spin this again.

Tunis sample

May 2011 wrap-up

A lot of spinning this month, both fiber prep and actual spinning. Very little knitting to speak of.

On/Off My Spindles:

Finished spinning all the Black Perendale (it's actually brown) and plied one sample skein for the Challenge. I saved plying the rest for the 5k Stash Dash.

Finished flicking and carding the pound of Montadale, and flicking and combing the thirteen ounces of Clun Forest. Both were pre-washed fleece I got from Katrina's Wool World on etsy.

Finished spinning and plying my first sock yarn. It's a hand combed blend of Friesian and Border Leicester spun worsted. Not as soft as commercial sock yarns are, but I think it might hold up okay. I have three skeins of finished yarn at about 14wpi, say a heavy fingering weight. I'm liking it very much.

Sock Yarn - Friesian/Border Leicester blend

Did a good bit of fleece washing this month. Washed Cormo sample and almost felted it (boy that stuff is delicate!). Washed Dorset Horn sample and flicked all. Also washed 1 lb of Shetland, and 4oz each of California Red, Texel and Tunis. I processed enough of the last three to make sample skeins for the WBC. Started washing the 9 1/2 pounds of Clun Forest (2 fleeces) I got this month.

Speaking of raw fleece to wash, I also bought a 6 1/2 pound Black Perendale fleece, a 4 pound Cotswold/Shetland fleece, and a 2 1/2 pound Finn/Dorset/Targhee cross fleece, as well as almost 3 pounds of washed Cormo fleece.

Flicked a bit of the washed Cormo fleece. I just love Cormo. It's sooooo soft. Nom nom nom.... I think I like it better than Merino.

On My Needles:

I'm participating in the Knit Girllls 5k Stash Dash which started on May 27th and ends in early Aug, so my WIPs are all included. Spinning counts too so I don't think I'll have too much trouble reaching the 5k yardage goal. If nothing else, it's incentive to get rid of old UFOs and languishing WIPs of which I have waaaay too many.

In addition to all the socks I have in progress (yes, I cast on several new pairs, I can't help it I have chronic startitis), I started the Summer Mystery Shawlette which is a fairly easy pattern by Wendy Johnson. I'm using my handspun yarn in the Little Fish colorway (shades of blue with a wee touch of green) that I finished in last year's Tour de Fleece. It was one of my first spinning attempts so is a bit thick and thin, but not too bad. It's nice to be using my own handspun.

May 28, 2011

Wool Breeds Challenge - Columbia and Hog Island

Columbia and Hog Island

Columbia is a recent US breed created by crossing Rambouillet and Lincoln sheep. It is a dual purpose (meat and wool) breed with a micron count of 24 to 31, and an average staple length of 3.5 to 5 inches.

My sample fiber, from pre-washed fleece, falls on the short end of the scale. Many locks are only two inches, although there are locks in the three to four inch range. Just not many of them, or at least there weren't in the portion of the sample I worked with. There's a lot more left that I haven't gone through yet, so....

Anyway, it has a soft but crisp hand, no luster. I flicked first then hand carded. It cards nicely and spins well from the rolags. I spun long drawish from the rolags for a 2ply and a 4ply yarn.

Columbia samples

Columbia samples closeup

Hog Island

Hog Island is a critically rare feral sheep breed, and not listed in either of my reference books. About 200 years ago a flock of sheep were left on Hog Island off the Virginia coast to fend for themselves. Over time, they adapted to the island conditions and became feral sheep. The island was purchased in the 1970s by the Nature Conservancy who considered the sheep detrimental to the island environment. Some sheep were slaughtered, others were removed from the island and now reside at historical sites in Virginia. Because they are feral, Hog Island wool is variable in type and amount [hogislandsheep.org]

I found the sample I received had a short staple length of less than 1.5 inches and was coarse feeling. Like it was all combing waste. This was commercial roving prep. It was very difficult to spin directly from the roving, so I re-carded it (hand cards) and spun it long draw for a 2ply sample.

I realize, because of the variability of this Sheep's fleece quality, that my sample might not be the best or even typical of the breed. That said, I found Hog Island to be very unpleasant to work with, and I would need some serious bribery (like really, really good chocolate, or some washed Cormo) to tackle this breed again. And that's very unfortunate considering the critical rare status of the breed.

Hog Island sample

Hog Island sample closeup

Wool Breeds Challenge - Shetland & Friesian


Shetland sheep are a Primitive/Northern European short-tail breed probably brought to the Shetland Islands by the Vikings. They come in many natural colors, more than any other breed of sheep, and are the basis of the Shetland wool industry.

As a Primitive breed, Shetlands shed their wool annually, but are often sheared to suit our schedules. Shetlands may or may not be dual-coated. Their wool is soft and fine with a micron count of 12 to 20 for the undercoat, 30 to 40 for the outercoat (big difference), and an average staple length of 2 to 4.5 inches ("Knitter's Book of Wool"). My other reference book ("In Sheep's Clothing") gives slightly different stats: one micron count of 23 to 30, and a staple length up to 5 inches.

My sample came from light gray pre-washed fleece with an average staple length of three inches, give or take. I tried carding it but there was too much vm so I wound up combing it. This was several months ago, before I learned the virtues of flicking before hand carding.

I spun longdraw from badly carded rolags and better hand combed top for a 2ply yarn. As this was several months ago when I was learning longdraw, my singles were a bit uneven. Uneven or not, it made a nice light, soft yarn, and turned me into a Shetland lover.

The skein on the left is the Shetland. On the right is Friesian:

Shetland and Friesian


Friesian sheep are a dual purpose (milk and wool) breed. They are one of the Northern European breeds originating in the Friesland-Netherlands/Germany region. Friesian sheep generally have a staple length of 4 to 6 inches, and a micron count of 29-33. [They are not listed in either of my reference books; breed info is from sheepusa.org/East_Friesian.]

My sample is from pre-washed fleece with a staple length of 3 to 4/4.5 inches. No luster. Some portions are a little crisp, but most seem to fall in the softer end of the micron count range. I hand combed the wool for my sample and spun worsted for a 2ply yarn.

This was easy to work with, both the spinning and the prep, and I would spin it again. In fact, I'm using the remainder of this (I started with eight ounces) as the base for a 3ply sock yarn. For the sock yarn, I am flicking the locks before combing and blending with flicked Border Leicester. I'm adding the Border Leicester to give the yarn some shine and also, hopefully, to add some strength to the yarn in lieu of nylon. Don't know if it will work, but it's an interesting experiment.

May 14, 2011

April Wrap-up

April Wrap-up - a little behind schedule, but

Yippee! I have finished objects!

The Opal Rainforest socks and the Lizard Toes Gluttony socks are done. The Opal socks were my first afterthought heel socks, and as such, they came out okay. My afterthought heel sock basic pattern needs refinement, though, and I'll work on that over the next couple of pair.

Gluttony socks (I just love that blue!):

Gluttony socks

The Opal socks:

Opal socks

Also finished is...drum roll please...The Shetland Pi Shawl for Mom. I haven't blocked it yet but otherwise it's done. Of course, now that I'm thinking about it, it's lovely but not very practical for her to use at the nursing home. I should have used machine wash and dryable yarn and probably a less lacy, warmer pattern. Guess that means I'll have to cast on another shawl. ;)

Shetland Pi shawl

Things I've learned/tried this month...Magic Loop and spinning from the lock:
I'm knitting the feet of the BBS (Big Black Socks) for SFS two at a time on Magic Loop. I work the socks one at a time when doing the heels, then switch to two at a time to keep the feet the same length. Can't wait to finish them so I can switch to the olive drab. It's such a relief to work with the OD after the black.

I tried spinning from the lock for the Yarnspinners Tales April SAL on some Merino cross fleece. This particular fleece has a lot of well defined locks, making flicking and spinning fun and easy to do. I'm using a little dog slicker as my flicker brush - cheap, works well enough, and I had it around the house anyway. I'm going to try it on the Border Leicester and maybe on the Jacob I washed. Which reminds me

I washed my first fleece - some pretty multicolored Jacob two ounce sample from The Spinning Loft sampler box. I soaked it overnight in cold water and then hot washed in Power Scour with two rinses. Got the lanolin and dirt out but not the VM, and there are a couple of sections with ALOT of VM.

My first attempt at making my own sock yarn is coming along. I'm blending Friesian and Border Leicester wools on my hand combs, eyeballing an approximate 70/30 F/BL ratio, and spinning worsted for a 3-ply heavy fingering wt yarn. I'm hoping the Border Leicester will give the yarn some strength without too much coarseness as well as some luster. My first skein doesn't have as much luster as I thought it would, but it's definitely got some shine. It's a nice looking yarn but i think more sport wt than fingering (it bloomed a little) I can work with that though. I need to swatch it for gauge.

May 8, 2011

Wool Breeds Challenge - Montadale

Montadale is a Down and Meat breed created by crossing Cheviot and Columbia breeds. It is a springy, medium wool with a little bit of shine. Montadale should have a micron count of 25-30, and an average staple length of 3 to 4.5 inches.

My sample is from a Coated pre-washed fleece, very clean with an average of four inch locks. My sample ran the micron count range with some very soft and some coarse and with the majority on the softer side of mid-range. For the purposes of this sampling, I chose to hand card and spin long draw from my rolags for a two ply and four ply yarn sample. The remainder of this fleece (I have a pound) will be flick carded before hand carding. I would like to see if the additional flick prep will make a difference in the quality of my hand carded rolags and the resultant yarn.


Montadale samples

April 29, 2011

Things I've learned/tried this month

Magic Loop, washing fleece, creating yarn blend, and spinning from the lock:

I'm knitting the feet of the BBS (Big Black Socks) for SFS two at a time on Magic Loop. I work the socks one at a time when doing the heels, then switch to two at a time to keep the feet the same length. Can't wait to finish them so I can switch to the olive drab. It's such a relief to work with the OD after the black.

I tried spinning from the lock for the Yarnspinners Tales April SAL on some pre-washed Merino cross fleece. This particular fleece has a lot of well defined locks, making flicking and spinning fun and easy to do. I'm going to try it on a Longwool and maybe on the Jacob I washed. Which reminds me...

I washed my first fleece - some pretty multicolored Jacob. I soaked it overnight in cold water and then hot washed in Power Scour with two rinses. Got the lanolin and dirt out but not the VM, and there are sections with ALOT of VM.

My first attempt at making my own sock yarn is coming along. I'm blending Friesian and Border Leicester wools on my hand combs, eyeballing an approximate 70/30 F/BL ratio, and spinning worsted for a 3-ply heavy fingering wt yarn. I'm hoping the Border Leicester will give the yarn some strength without too much coarseness as well as some luster. My first skein doesn't have as much luster as I thought it would, but it's definitely got some shine. It's a nice looking yarn but more sport wt than fingering (it bloomed a little) I can work with that though. I need to swatch it for gauge.

April 25, 2011

Wool Breeds Challenge - Coopworth and Blue-faced Leicester

Coopworth is a Longwool breed developed in New Zealand during the 1950s and 60s by crossing Border Leicester and Romney breeds. It has luster or shine, an average staple length of six to eight inches, and a micron count of thirty-five to thirty-nine.

My sample is a commercial top preparation, and has a staple length of about four inches (maybe a little more) - shorter than the breed standard.

I spun my sample long draw from the fold for a 3ply yarn. I enjoyed spinning this, but I think that if the staple length had been truer to the breed standard, I might not have liked it. I've found spinning staples of more than five inches (six max) is a struggle and takes me out of my comfort zone (not always a bad thing).


Blue-faced Leicester is also a Longwool breed. It originated in Hexam, Northumberland County, England and is a decendant of the Leicester Longwool. It is sometimes called a Hexam Leicester. Under certain lighting conditions, the short white hairs covering the black skin on their heads makes their faces/heads look blue, hence the name. Blue-faced Leicester, or BFL, should have a micron count of twenty-four to twenty-eight and an average staple length of three to six inches.

My sample is commercially prepared top with a staple length of five plus inches. I've spun very small amounts of BFL before, but as I have two pounds of BFL top that I'm planning on spinning for a sweater project, I thought I'd use this sample as a test on how I'd like to ply for the sweater.

I spun the top from the fold worsted (well, I guess technically that's semi-worsted) for a 3ply yarn. It spun easily. BFL is soft with a bit of shine. Like spinning Merino, I find spinning BFL kinda boring, but I did like the feel of the wool better than a Border Leicester or Lincoln. Anything feels better than Lincoln.

I left a third of my total 3ply yardage as 3ply sample. The remaining two thirds I used to make a 6ply cable yarn which I liked much better than the 3ply. When I get around to testing the actual project BFL, I will try a 4ply cable to see if I like it as much as the six.

BFL samples

Breed information provided by "The Knitter's Book of Wool" by Clara Parkes and "In Sheep's Clothing" by Nola & Jane Fournier.

April 19, 2011

Wool Breeds Challenge - Clun Forest

Clun Forest is one of the Down type breeds, originating in the Welsh Border area. It should have an average staple length of 2.5 to 4 inches, and a micron count of either 25-28 (In Sheep's Clothing) or 28-33 (Knitter's Book of Wool) depending on which book you check.

This is a very nice wool, and I really, really like it. My sample came from pre-washed fleece from Katrina's Wool World. It is soft (by my inexpert guess probably around 26/27 microns), fuzzy, silky, and has an average staple length of 4-5 inches. The locks were mostly intact with a nice crimp and yellow tips. I'm hoping the yellow will come out in the finishing. If not it will just make the wool more cream colored than white. Or I could dye it.

A good deal of the locks I carded were closer to five inches than four which made the carding a little tricky, but as long as I was careful, it made really soft, fluffy rolags that were a pleasure to spin long draw. I only carded enough for the sample. I am combing the rest.

A 2ply and a 4ply sample spindle spun long draw from hand carded rolags:

Clun Forest

April 3, 2011

February/March update

I've done a lot of spinning over the last two months, but not much knitting. Well, at least not enough knitting. And I have a ton of pics to take for the Breeds Challenge, but first I have to set the twist on all the samples. At the rate I'm going, if I wait until that's done, it'll be June before I post again, so....no pics this time, but anyway....

I did finish the pretty blue Gluttony colorway socks. They were plain vanilla cuff down heel flap socks in Lizard Toes yarn from the now defunct Cables and Lace.

The first socks for both the Cherry Tree Hill "Rustic" and the Opal Rainforest "Cassandra?" colorway are done and the second for both started. These are both afterthought heel socks (something new for me) vanilla cuff downs. The Rustic I've been working on in between spinning while visiting Mom, and the Opals are my nighttime DVD knitting.

I found (yeah, like they were lost) some new (to me) podcasts I really like: Electric Sheep, Ba Ba Blacksheep, Subway Knits, and The Fiber Files.

On the spinning front, my "Wash Me" finishing box for my spinning is almost full (it's small - 7x7x6) with completed samples skeins from Gulf Coast, Fressian, Montadale, Border Leicester and Clun Forest breeds, as well as five tiny Phat Fiber samples. I've also got four skeins of the Merino/Bamboo/Silk blend to wash, but I'm keeping them separate. On my spindles are Gotland, Hog Island (big yuck), Perendale and BFL. And the MBS blend.

The Wool Breeds Challenge has been very interesting. I'm learning a lot, both about the different breeds and about myself and my preferences. I like Down breeds better than the really long Longwools. I like prepping my own fiber. I like both combing and carding but prefer carding. I love spinning long draw even though it can be frustrating on a spindle. When it works, it's magic.

March 17, 2011

Wool Breeds Challenge - Jacob

Jacob is.... I'm not sure what.  It's listed in the Dual-Coated and Primitives group in "The Knitter's Book of Wool" and in the Other Breeds group in "In Sheep's Clothing".  Jacob has an average staple length of four to seven inches which makes it edge into the longwools.  It has a micron count of 27-35 which could make it kinda soft or kinda coarse.

The fiber sample I have seems to fall into the softer end of the scale with about a four to four and a half inch staple length.  It is dark brown with a lot of gray strands (kemp I presume).  Definitely softer than the Wensleydale I spun before it, but it doesn't have the silky feel the Wensleydale has.

I spun this longdraw from the fold for a two-ply and a four-ply sample.  It drafted easily and was very quick to spin and ply.  Almost boring. Nevertheless, it's nice to work with and I would spin it again.

Jacob samples



Wool Breeds Challenge - Wensleydale and CVM/Romeldale

Wensleydale is one of the Longwool Breeds with a micron count of 33-35 and an average staple length of eight to twelve inches ("Knitter's Book of Wool")

This particular sample is combed top with a fairly soft (considering the micron ct) and slightly silky texture.  It is also a bit shiny.  The only other really long Longwool I've tried was Lincoln which I didn't like at all.  This Wensleydale is nice though, and I'd consider spinning this again if I needed a Longwool either alone or blended with other wools.

Since it's top and really long, I spun this fiber worsted for a three-ply yarn.  I had an uneven amount of singles for my three-ply which left me with two strands of singles sufficient to make another sample.  I doubled them for a four-ply.  However, I couldn't see much difference in the three and four-ply samples, so I took the four-ply and re-plyed doubled, making an eight-ply cabled yarn with very nice ply definition. My first cabled yarn and very interesting look. I'd like to spin up another sample of cabled yarn so I could see what a knit swatch looks like.


Wensleydale closeup

CVM/Romeldale is one of the Finewools and is a rare breed.  CVM (California Variegated Mutant) was developed in the US from a multiple-colored mutation in the Romeldale breed.  It is soft with a micron count of 22-25 and an average staple length of three to six inches (from "Knitter's Book of Wool"). 

My sample comes from a portion of a pre-washed fleece in colors of grey, tan, dark and red-brown and a miniscule amount of white.  It's staple length is from 1.5 to 3.5 inches.  It had an acceptable amount of vegetable matter and dust.  Some sections were matted (but not felted). The locks were highly crimped, and the lighter colors seemed softer than the darker, however, all of it is next to the skin soft. 

CVMxRomeldale fleece

I separated the colors and hand carded into rolags which I spun long draw (very easy spinning).  The two-ply sample I made was spun and plied by counting the color sequence of rolags in an effort to keep the colors from blending or barber poling.  However, that's too fussy for me to continue for the rest of the rolags, so the remainder will be chain plied.    Unfortunately, I was unable to get a picture of the sample that shows the colors properly.  Everything looks dark brown or light gray and it's not.  There are three shades of gray and a very light tan, as well as the dark brown.

I liked working with CVM, both carding and spinning, and would happily do so again. 

CVM/Romeldale sample

CVMxRomeldale rolags

March 4, 2011

Wool Breeds Challenge - Gulf Coast

I did not find Gulf Coast listed in either of my reference books.  however, according to the Gulf Coast Sheep Breeders Association (www.gulfcoastsheep.info), they are one of the oldest breeds in America, descended from sheep brought to the Gulf Coast area early on in American history by the Spaniards. They were allowed to range free and adapted to the hot, humid conditions of the Gulf Coast area. They are also presumed to have interbred with other sheep breeds in the area, particularly French breeds. Gulf Coast wool has an average micron count of 26-32 and an average staple length of 2.5 to 4 inches.

My sample fiber is squishy-spongey, very much like the Down Breeds I previously sampled but perhaps a little denser.   Because of this, I decided to experiment a little.  This sample's fiber prep seems to be top, but it begged to be spun woolen.  So I carded it on my hand cards into rolags and spun longdraw from the rolags.  OMG, I never had such an easy time or so much fun spinning longdraw before.   I really, really liked spinning this wool this way.  I wish I had more than just this little sample.

The sample skein is a four-ply yarn. The other little skein and the bobbin are singles.

Gulf Coast sample

Gulf Coast closeup

February 16, 2011

Wool Breeds Challenge - Polwarth

Polwarth is not a rare breed, it is one of the Fine Breeds, developed in Australia by crossing Merino and Lincoln sheep (3/4 Merino, 1/4 Lincoln).  According to my reference books, it has a micron count of 22-25 (very close to the Merino's 18-24) and an average staple length of four to five and a half inches (from the Lincoln stock).

I've spun Polwarth before (see my August 15, 2010 blog entry)  but that was spun worsted and chain plied.  I thought for this sample I'd try spinning long draw and doing a regular three-ply. 

Polwarth is very soft and squishy-spongey and is very nice to work with.  I like to think of it as Merino with character.  The fiber prep for this sample is combed top which drafted easily longdraw both from the end and from the fold.  I split some of the fiber into three sections, and after I'd spun one from the end and one from the fold, I decided to experiment with the last section by carding it and spinning from a rolag.   I found no discernable difference between the from the end and fold strands and only a slight difference (fuzzier or more of a halo) in the from the rolag strand.

Group sample pic is top to bottom:  fiber, two-ply worsted spun, three-ply longdraw worsted & woolen spun.  The closeup is of both samples.

Polwarth samples

Polwarth sample closeup

I'm looking forward to spinning up the rest of the Polwarth I have in my stash.

February 9, 2011

Wool Breeds Challenge - Welsh Mountain

Welsh Mountain is another Down breed from the UK, specifically from the Welsh Highlands. It is also called a Hill breed. Welsh Mountain has a micron count of 32-40 and a staple length of 2-6 inches (per In Sheep's Clothing).

My sample is dark brown with a lot of gray kemp fibers. Some of the kemp strands were very long, long enough that I didn't recognize them as kemp in the beginning - I thought I was shedding.  ;)   I stopped pulling them out when I realized there were way too many (and too short) to be mine. 

Although it is classified as a Down breed it is not dense and springy like both the Dorset Horn and Cheviot samples were (or perhaps more accurately I should say not as dense or springy). It has a silky softness as compared to a squishy softness.

The Welsh Mtn sample was a pleasure to spin. It appears to be top (strands were a little messy but pretty much aligned) and drafted easily long draw from the end into thin singles. It had a staple length of about four inches, give or take.   I spun two sample skeins from this: a very small two-ply and a slightly larger four-ply. I liked the texture of both, but I prefer the four-ply.   Welsh Mountain is another breed that I would definitely like to spin again.

Bottom: four-ply sample; Middle Right: two-ply sample; Middle Left: singles; Top: roving/top sample.  The two-ply and singles have not been set; the four-ply was.

Welsh Mountain sample

This closeup clearly shows all the (mostly shorter) gray kemp fibers which add a light reflecting quality to the yarn:

Welsh Mountain

February 1, 2011

January Wrap Up

2011 is the year of finishing and stash busting for me, so I've got a moratorium on yarn buying for the year. The exception would be for special yarn required for gift knitting. During February I will be collecting and sorting through all the UFOs I can find (and finding them is a job in itself - they are hiding everywhere) to decide whether to finish or frog. I will also be inventorying all my yarn skeins, which are also all over the place and which will probably take me through March to finish. I've got a lot of yarn to use, sell, or trade (for fiber to spin), enough that if I was just using it up, it would last me for several years.

On/Off My Needles:
Still knitting on Shetland Pi shawl; and the Gluttony, BBS, Risk, Hermione and mom socks. Also got the urge to crochet a little, so I am crocheting washcloths from cotton and cotton/linen yarn in stash.

Nothing off my needles yet.

On/Off My Spindles:

Unlike the yarn moratorium there's no prohibition on fiber purchases for me this year. But, I do need to knit up some of the yarns I spun last year. Or sell them, or trade them for more fiber to spin.

During January i spun up samples of Dorset Horn, Cheviot, Romney, Falkland, and Welsh Mountain for the Wool Breeds Challenge. And I've posted about all but the Welsh Mountain. I'm really enjoying working with the different breeds and practicing different drafting/spinning techniques. What I'm looking for are the breeds that I would use either singly or blended as "My Breeds" for "My Yarns" (if I had my own line/lines of yarn, and why can't I?).

I'm looking forward to sampling Lincoln, Polwarth, Wensleydale, Jacob and maybe a Merino this month for the Breeds Challenge. The Polwarth and Merino I've spun before, but the others are new to me.

I finally finished spinning the Falkland combed top. I think it was only eight ounces but it seemed to go on forever! I expect I'll finish chain plying it this week.

I'm still combing/carding and spinning the Romney fleece. I'm about half way through the bag. Some of the fleece is softer in lock than others but I'm mixing it all together and it seems to balance out. I think spinning the combed fiber long draw helps add to the overall softness, and as a result, I'm much happier with the yarn I'm producing and Romney in general.  So much so that I've changed my mind and now would spin this again, albeit more likely blended with another (softer) breed.

January 24, 2011

Wool Breeds Challenge - Falkland and Cheviot


Falkland wool comes from sheep grown on the Falkland Islands. It is not a distinct breed but rather a crossbreed of mainly Corriedale and Polwarth. . Therefore, there is no mention of a Falkland sheep in either In Sheep's Clothing or The Knitter's Book of Wool. I did an internet search for Falkland sheep and found several references to it, including the following from the Falkland Islands government site and Crown Mountain Farms. Both mentioned the lack of synthetics and chemicals used in growing the fleece.

The Falkland I spun was dyed top from Crown Mountain Farms (Purple Rain colorway), and I found very little difference in either feel or draft-ability between the Falkland and the Merino I've spun (also from CMF). The Falkland is not quite as soft and not quite as smooth but still very nice to work with.

This first skein was spun in my default semi-worsted style and chain plied, both on spindles. The only problem I found (actually just a little annoyance) was when smoothing the freshly twisted single it didn't really feel smooth but more like I was ruffling the wool scales back (if that makes any sense). And it didn't seem to make a difference which end of the top I spun from, or whether I spun semi-worsted or true worsted. I got used to it eventually, but it made me wonder what this wool would be like to spin woolen. Perhaps if my next bump of Falkland is a natural, solid or semi-solid color I might try carding the top and spinning woolen. Something to look forward to.
I would very much like to spin this again.

Falkland top



Like the Dorset Horn I spun a few weeks ago, Cheviot is one of the Down breeds.  According to The Knitter's Book of Wool it has a micron count of 27-33 and an average staple length of 3 to 5 inches. 

This sample was spun from pre-processed fiber from the Spinning Loft's sampler (as was the Dorset Horn).  Again, I'm not quite sure what the prep is, combed or carded.  It might be pin-drafted roving? maybe?  But as I've never seen that, I'm just guessing.  The fibers are somewhat aligned but then again not.  Regardless, I chose to spin long draw, but because of the unknown prep, it should more acurately be called semi-woolen.

Cheviot feels very similar to the Dorset Horn - spongy, heavy or dense - and maybe a little bit softer.  It drafted very easily and gave me fairly thin singles which I made into a three ply yarn.   My small sample skein ended up as approximately 37 yards of three-ply with a wpi in the 14-18 range. 

It was easy to spin and I would spin it again.  I think it would lend itself to worsted spinning more easily than the Dorset Horn, and in the future I would choose between Cheviot and Dorset Horn based on how I planned to spin - Cheviot for worsted and Dorset Horn for woolen.

Cheviot sample

January 15, 2011

Wool Breeds Challenge - Romney

Romney is a Longwool breed with a fineness count of 32-39 microns, in otherwords kinda scratchy, and a staple length of 5 to 8 inches (per the Knitter's Book of Wool).

This particular sample is of pre-washed Romney fleece from  katrinaswoolworld.etsy.com  

Romney fleece (washed)

I have not gone through the entire bag of fleece, but what I have gone through has sections with a lot (to me) of VM concentrated in spots.  These locks I'm separating from the cleaner, ready to comb/card locks, and will flick-clean them later (using my little dog slicker).  

 The staple length seems short (only 3-4") compared to breed standard.  It is clean, lanolinwise, and feels softer in lock than the micron count would suggest.  However, the first single I spun was prickly and unconfortable to handle.  And the first very small sample of two ply I made wasn't much better.

The breed standard staple length suggested it should be combed and spun worsted, however, my locks are shorter than standard so I tried carding as well.  It both cards and combs easily.  I tried spinning worsted and woolen from carded and combed prep and finally settled on spinning semi woolen (spinning woolen from combed prep).  I chose this because it made my singles feel softer and less scratchy.  There is a lot of waste from the combed prep which doesn't look too bad, so I'm saving it to card up, picking out the little neps and little balls of very short fibers. 

This is a closeup of my sample skein - three-ply, spun semi-woolen, guessing probably worsted weight - I haven't checked wpi yet.

Romney 3ply

It came out better than I anticipated.  I think three-ply was a good choice.  It is light and soft enough to use for mittens, hats, anything worn over something else, and possibly a scarf.   However, the jury is still out on whether I like this enough to spin again.   I know a lot of books suggest Romney as a good wool for beginners to spin, but I did not find it as easy to spin as suggested.  Perhaps that is the fault of my prep and not the wool, but still...I have to think about this more.  Maybe by the time I've finished spinning the whole bag I'll change my mind.