FF: Tour de wool, Part I

Earlier this spring I decided that the easiest way to get a bunch of different fibers to spin would be to get a sampler pack. Off to Woodland Woolworks went my busy little typing fingers, and I ordered their Natural Colored Wool sampler pack: 0.5 oz of 16 different wools. Over the course of the last couple of months I've been spinning up these little samples, and I've pulled together some thoughts about them that may be of interest to other spinners out there. There are other reviews of these wools out there, but maybe I can contribute some further information.

All the fibers were spun under (more-or-less) the same conditions. I stripped each top in half lengthwise and spun from the end with a short-forward draw, smoothing the fibers as the twist entered (worsted spun). Samples were spun on a ST Lendrum folding wheel at 8:1 (I'm still a beginner!) and plied at 6:1 immediately after spinning the singles. Twist was set by submerging the skeins in very hot water, and skeins were agitated slightly as the water cooled. Finally, the skeins were dried hanging without weight. All of the samples were easy to draft and spin.

The samples in the pack broke down into softer and coarser wools. In this post I'll talk about the coarser wools, and save the softies for the second installment.

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(left to right - Grey Swalesdale, Romney and Jacob Brown)

1) Grey Swalesdale - 4" staple, didn't make note of the crimp. This stuff was probably the coarsest of the samples, and even after washing only really feels suitable for heavy outerwear. The final sample ended up at 8 wpi, about 11 yds from 0.5 oz.

2) Romney sliver - 6" staple, some crimp. Had to keep my hands farther apart then with the Swalesdale, which took some getting used to, but aside from that this was easy to spin. It feels ok in the skein - a bit coarse, but much softer then the Swalesdale. It has a nice sheen to it as well. 8 wpi, about yds/0.5 oz.

3) Jacob Brown - 4-4.5" staple, crimpy. A beautiful dark brown color. This was the only sample that had any real amount of VM, and even that was minor and easy to pick out as I was spinning. The fiber felt sort of clumpy - it was harder to draft evenly, and ended up being much thicker. The final stats were 6 wpi, only 8 yds/0.5 oz.

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(from left to right - Finnsheep, Grey Icelandic, Wensleydale and Corriedale Cross)

4) Finnsheep - >6" staple, no (low) crimp. This was particularly easy to draft, and I found myself doing quite a bit of backdrafting with this. Spun up quite similar to the Romney, and also had a bit of a sheen (maybe a function of the longer staple?). 8 wpi, 10 yds/0.5 oz.

5) Grey Icelandic - 6" staple, medium crimp. Slightly coarse fiber, slightly fuzzy when spun up. Good for sturdy outerwear. 8 wpi, 11 yds/0.5 oz.

6) Wensleydale Longwool - 7+ inch staple. Slightly coarse but spun up beautiful. Nice and smooth, it softened up after setting the twist and has a beautiful sheen to it. 8 wpi, 9+ yds/0.5 oz.

7) Corriedale Cross - 4" staple, medium crimp. Coarse as fiber, but felt much nicer in the skein. And such a pretty chocolate brown! 9 wpi, 12 yds/0.5 oz

That's it for this installment - next week the softer samples.

A fiber Friday with no fiber

In lieu of posting fiber-related items here today (since I have a multitude of projects ongoing and no pictures of anything to share), and since as of yesterday I am now old enough to run for President, I'm going to discuss my favorite present so far:

The cow print Mukka Express stove top cappuccino/latte maker. Some might be tempted to classify me as a bit of a coffee fiend. As far as I can tell, I am nowhere near as bad as some other people I might name (PWB I'm thinking of you), but fine - when you live with a man who refers to the nectar of the gods as "evil bean water" there's only so much you can do. My at-home coffee making has been sorely limited in the last three years due to my conversion to decaf, since I've been either pregnant or nursing for all but three months of the last 36. And it's a bit tougher these days to sit down and enjoy a nice cup of coffee when the instant my butt hits the chair someone starts a) screaming to be picked up, or b) throwing themselves on the floor in a dramatic show of My-life-is-ending-right-now-because-you-won't-let-me-eat-graham-crackers-until-I-puke. Not exactly relaxing.

In any event, thanks to my mothers-in-law (thank you, thank you!), I am now equiped to grind beans, pour in water and milk, and set on the stove for a brief few minutes before enjoying a lovely cup of cappuccino or latte. Bliss!

Now my only complaint is this: what, they didn't have it in

purple and gold cow print


Fiber Friday - Lantern Festival

One of the great things about joining the Hello Yarn fiber club has been getting fiber in colors I would never have chosen. Of the three packages received so far, only one (June) has been colors that I would have picked for myself. When last months fiber, Lantern Festival, came out of the box, I set it on the table and looked at it for a moment. Iron Man came in and said “Woah! That is bright!” I was very dubious about how it was going to look, and at a complete loss as to how to spin it without getting more cat barf.

After some introspection and input from other folks in the group, I split the top by color repeats, and then split each repeat into pieces about a finger wide (8 per repeat). I predraft the strips and wound them into two balls, hoping that I’d get the same weight in each (and therefore, theoretically the same length of singles from each).

Lantern Moon Corriedale
Lantern Moon Corriedale

Each ball was spun in the correct color sequence (purple to green to red to orange to purple).

Lantern Moon Corriedale

This is the first time I’ve spun on the wheel after splitting the fiber down in to more manageable pieces, and not surprisingly my singles are a lot thinner. They’re getting more even too. I spun up both big fluff balls over the weekend while the kids were napping and in the evenings after they’d gone to bed, and started plying on Tuesday. I’m still plying. It’s going to take a long time to ply all of this stuff, and my hopes of having the color repeats more or less line up have been sorely dashed. I guess I’m not yet consistent enough for that.

Lantern Moon Corriedale

But it is coming out pretty – I’m always amazed to see how different the colors look in the final yarn as compared to the starting fiber. I have no idea what this will become yet, or what the final yarn weight will be, but I hope to finish it up over the weekend. And the next Yarn Club package should be here soon!

Fiber Friday - Pretty redness

I've been having lots of fun playing with my new wheel. I'm definitely getting faster, but still not so even. I haven't been trying to spin very fine singles yet, but that's the next challenge now that I have a better feel for what I'm doing.

Last Friday I was at home waiting for the tree guys to come (they didn't - it was, yet again, raining). So I took this:

Colonial heather top

Woodland Woolworks Colonial Heather Wool top in Dark Red, to try as my next spin. I split the top in half and spun each half from the end, without any further predrafting or splitting of the top. It spun pretty easily up into two bobbins of this:

Colonial heather top on the bobbin

and ended up plied into a 2-ply. I used the plying head for my wheel, and didn't much like it at all. Yes, it's got a huge mother bobbin on it that will hold a lot of yarn, but I found it made the wheel very hard to treadle. I would get going and then get hung up at the top of the treadle stroke. In order to keep the wheel spinning I needed to treadle with a lot of force. I suspect operator-error in this - clearly I have not yet figured out how to adjust things optimally - but am still feeling sorry for myself (plus I gave myself a blister on the side of my big toe where it was rubbing against the side of the treadle).

Colonial Heather wool top

This last picture is closest to the actual color (at least on my screen). I soaked the skein in hot hot hot water, swishing occasionally as the water cooled down and I could stick my hands in, then squeezed out the excess water and hung it to dry. Before washing the plied yarn was 7-8 wpi (let's hear it for super bulky!). Whatever I do next (probably the July Hello Yarn fiber option), I'm definitely splitting the roving down to aid in getting some thinner singles. This yarn is destined to be a Christmas present for someone, maybe this?

ETA: post-wash, 8-9 wpi, 4 oz/113 gr, 108 yds.

Fiber Friday, er...Sunday

So blogging took a back seat to paper writing last week. With said paper now in the virtual hands of my co-authors, I can get back to the more important things in life, namely: obsessive spinning with every single spare moment I have, and the realization that I have no idea what I'm doing.

Case in point - I took this dyed Corriedale roving to spin, thinking I would do a two-ply and get a nice barberpole effect.

Handdyed Corriedale

Instead, what I ended up with showed a striking resemblance to cat barf:

Corriedale handdyed handspun

Somehow the coppery sections ended up more of a salmon pink. Although I split the roving in half lengthwise, with the intention of having the colors more or less line up in the finished yarn, more often then not the salmon pink lined up with some really really bright green. Ugh.

I had a little bit left on one bobbin, so I chain plied that to see if it looked better. Only slightly...

Corriedale handdyed handspun

Here's a close up of the little skein - it definitely works better then the two ply, and they both look better in the daylight then under internal lighting but...sigh. Better luck next time I suppose. The chain plied hank is also really really overplied.

Corriedale handdyed handspun

One last shot of the cat barf:

Corriedale handdyed handspun

It's definitely going to take a bit for me to really figure out what I'm doing here. I did order a bunch of spinning and dyeing books from the Interweave Knits dinged book sale which should arrive, oh sometime by the end of the year, so I'm hoping those will provide some insight. In any event, I'm certainly having a good time.

ETA: Clearly I need to take all my pictures outside - natural light works so much better!