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.