June 14, 2011

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

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