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.