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 []

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]

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