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.