Posts Tagged ‘Fiber’

I just put up 3 single skeins of yarn on Etsy. Sometimes when I am spinning for a customer or a personal project I will get the first skein a little fine or a bit too thick for the order or I may have a skein left over from a knitting project. These single skeins will appear as only 1 available but you can always custom order most of the handspun yarns in your choice of yarn weights and hand dyed colours.

To see these skeins on Etsy: special prices available

The Eastport Alpaca in DK weight and natural snowy white colour, 2.1 oz. 132 yds The New Zealand Merino fleece imported as a raw fleece and washed and hand combed lock by lock, handspun by the worsted method to a very fine lace weight yarn and finally kettle dyed in Garnet. 1.75 oz. 250 yards The lace weight pure Angora Rabbit, the picture says it all 1.1 oz  140 yards

 

I can’t tell you how much enjoyment I am getting out of my new Merino fleece recently imported from Stuart Albrey at Fine Fiber Farms in New Zealand

According to Margaret Stove The Merino wool of New Zealand is among the finest and highest quality wool fiber to be found anywhere in the world and I second this opinion. The New Zealand climate is just perfect for this particular breed and quality of wool and the sheep can be raised out of door without any coats on and without getting chaff and other veggie matter in the wool. It is super clean, ultra fine and soft and surprisingly white.

Spinning a raw fleece this fine is not like anything I have ever hand spun before and I’ve been spinning for many years. I really had to throw all of my preconceived rules and ideas out the window and just experiment over and over until I got it right. This very fine Merino wool is stretchy and elastic with a great deal of crimp. It is fine to the point of being vulnerable and it needs to be handled very lightly and carefully if you don’t want to stretch or damage the fibers, especially when wet.

A lot of what I learned about spinning this wonder fiber was from the amazing Margaret Stove through a video purchased at Interweave press called “Spinning for Lace “. I also have everything that Deborah Robson (Handspinning Rare Wools ) and Judith MacKenzie ( “Three Bags Full ” or “A Spinners Toolbox“) have published. These ladies have done so much work to share their vast knowledge of wool and spinning with the rest of us and I just thank them so much for all that I have learned from each of them.

Spinning Merino for Lace with Margaret Stove involves working with individual locks of fiber. It is tactile pleasure paradise from moment one and the slow cloth mindset is very necessary. So with a “mind like water” and immersed in the moment I began by separating out these lovely locks, one from another, and laying them out side by side on a piece of cloth in preparation for washing. I actually started my washing with a bit of advise from Margaret Stove. Here is how I washed my first batch.  I picked up a single lock and dipped 2/3 of it into very (almost boiling) hot water and then rubbed it vigorously on a bar of soap. Horrors, you say? as I did when I first saw this, but guess what… it works! yes, the lubrication of so much soap seems to keep it from felting together. I then dipped the lock into equally hot rinse water and squeezed, turned it end for end and repeated the process. When I had all of the locks washed and rinsed I rolled them in a towel and squeezes out the excess water. After a surprisingly small amount of time they puffed right up and were dry and ready to comb. The second and all subsequent batches of washing I did a little differently. My method is from Judith MacKenzie and is very close to that taught by Margaret Stove with the addition of heat under the wash pot and a slightly different way of keeping the locks in line so they can’t move around in the wash water.  I go into greater detail here and here but I will just say the locks are sorted and  laid out side by side on a light cloth (I used a piece of old window curtain this time). the cloth is folded over to keep the locks securely in place. Lots of detergent (I used Tide liquid) and very hot water was added. I then put the pot on the stove top on low for 30 min. The high and constant heat is needed to melt the dense wax and grease found on Merino wool.  I let it cool to warm, rolled up the bundles to keep the individual locks from moving and rinsed under the tap with same temperature water. Roll in a towel and squeeze out excess moisture and lay flat to dry.

Combing is “the only way” to prepare this fiber for lace yarn. You really don’t want to go through all of this and end up with something that felts and pills and wears out before your eyes. You want a yarn that will be strong and smooth and careful preparation at every step of the process is a must. Remember your mind like water, be here now, right in this moment doing this work. It is really very pleasant if you don’t try to rush it.  So the drum carder will be used for another project at another time. I will confess here and now that since I have started combing I may never need the drum carder again. I love the combs!  Some I did on my Louet mini combs and some on my handmade viking combs that I bough on Etsy from BenjaminGreenStudio and I LOVE THEM!  To use the big combs I had to break off the tips or brush them out with a dog brush. They are probably a little open for this fine fleece but I got it combed after a few passes and enjoyed every second of it.

At the spinning wheel I tried to follow Margaret’s advise. There was so much to remember and the technique was not exactly what I was used to but I tried to keep the tension of the fiber as I drafted so that the twist would go in with the fiber crimp stretched out. If the crimp is flattened when the twist goes in the yarn will always be trying to regain the crimp and your yarn is springy and elastic. I guess she must have mentioned not to stretch it, just a gently tension, but of course I did stretch it and the first skein I made was just coiling and unruly like a curly boucle.

One of my problems was the stretching but another one was twist. You cannot just ply this lovely fine fiber back to balanced by checking it in the usual way. The twist has “set” in the singles even if it has only been sitting on the bobbin for a few hours. If you put some ply twist in and check this yarn by letting a bit hang between your hand and the orifice you will find it will look balanced but will actually not have nearly enough ply twist in the yarn. You will have to put in enough twist to make a 45 degree angle and you will find it balances only after washing. Handle the singles very very carefully as you ply and do not stretch or your yarn will be unbalanced and unruly. Ask me how I know?

I’m knitting the Queen Sylvia Shawl by Nancy Bush from Knitted Lace of Estonia.

Next in this project: Managing Color in a Raw Fleece

     I spun this yarn for a customer in DK (3 Light) weight from some lovely moorit or brown shetland wool. It was spun from a combed preparation and I pulled off several staple lengths and held them folded over my finger. Spinning from the fold with a long draw and a very light touch, gave me a wonderfully airy and bouncy yarn that is not too fuzzy. I think it’s the best way to spin this wool for knitting. It will last a very long time, it is more consistant and will show the stitch definition much better than a true woolen yarn but has all of the bounce and airy lightness of a woolen yarn. This method will also keep the wool from pilling as much … if at all. While the wool of the Shetland Sheep is not as “next to the skin” soft as the Merino and others like Polwarth and Corriedale, many wool lovers not only like to wear Shetland wool but prefer it to it’s softer and less robust peers. Many use the finer Shetland for next to the skin wear and even for baby things.

The Shetland is a small sheep originating in the Shetland Isles. When the Rare Breeds Survival Trust was set up in the 1970′s The Shetland was considered a Rare Breed and was listed with them as Category 2 – Endangered. Since that time the Shetland has become more popular with many smaller farms and has graduated to Category 6 – Other Native Breeds. This is excellent news for us as spinners. The Shetland produces a variety of characteristics in it’s wool from the superfine wool from around the neck area that is chosen for Shetland lace shawls to the sturdier wool for use in garments that are made to last for many years. Shetland sheep are also very well know for the variety of shades and natural colours in which their fleece will grow. The Shetland sheep is hardy, adaptable and long-lived. Their wool has been used, traditionally, in fine shawls and Fair Isle knitting patterns.

Order Custom Handspun Shetland Wool in your choice of yarn weights. Design it yourself hand spun Shetland wool yarn

 

Meredith has just sent me a few pictures of the sweater vest she created with the last of the Mango Merino Wool and Silk that I spun up into a yarn for her.

She’s amazing. When I spin for Meredith she doesn’t ask for yardage or WPI and I don’t have to match a gauge. She lets the yarn do the talking and doesn’t even decide what it will be until she’s had it in her hands for a while. This is creative freedom at it’s best.

Meredith has also generously sent me a testimony for our testimonials section.

Here’s what she says about the yarn and a few pictures. Thanks Meredith

” I ordered the merino wool and silk in “mango” and the baby camel and silk custom made yarns from Nancy Elizabeth Designs. Never having used hand-spun yarn, when it arrived the color and texture took my breath away. As an intuitive knitter, I let the yarn carry my thoughts and garment design and was excited by the results. For an unschooled knitter, this extraordinarily high quality yarn allowed me to a one-of-a-kind artsy original to suit my taste.”

Gaywool Colourful Merino and Silk Yarn

 

Louet Spinning Wheels S90 and S45

I haven’t posted in March because I’ve just been too busy spinning my custom orders. This month required another wheel so we got out the S90 and dusted it off. It didn’t even need a tune up but it got a new drive band just because…

I’m reminded why I got this wheel in the first place and I really enjoyed spinning with it this month. I’ve been spinning everything on the smaller S45 recently. I switch over to the little S45 from the larger S90 because the S45 has Scotch tension and I can spin a yarn as fine and delicate as I wish with no drag or pull from the wheel. It’s perfect for spinning lace weight yarns in any fiber but it’s pretty much mandatory to have feather light tension when spinning the fine luxury fibers from Merino wool to Cashmere.

I got out the S90 this time because I wanted to spin 3 ply and I really like the lazy kate on this wheel. The S90 comes with 4 bobbins and a 3 bobbin lazy kate which is just what I needed. It’s built in and can be swung out to the side, with or without brake, right in line with where I want to pull from. I found the pull / tension of the traditional Louet drive set up somewhat difficult to deal with after having been used to the scotch tension. I tried everything I could think of to get it to lessen the pull onto the bobbin. As you can see from the picture I don’t even use the leather tension strap. I might if I was spinning a very bulky yarn or something thick and artsy but mostly I don’t even have it on at all. I don’t like to lubricate the brass cup that holds the orifice end of the flyer because it will produce a black gunk that is too close to my lovely yarn for my taste. I ended up padding the bobbin and threading the yarn through both of the flyer hooks. First over one side and then through the eye on the opposite arm of the flyer. It was probably a bit more abrasive to the yarn but the resistance caused by the yarn crossing over the bobbin of already spun yarn was just enough to lessen the pull and I was able to spin the yarn just exactly how I intended.

Highlights: A few of the Orders

For Breed Specific and Rare wools I had a commission the spin some Shetland Wool for a customer who is knitting Ranger by Jared Flood. I was challenged to spin a yarn that would give my customer the correct gauge, body and drape for the design. The yarn used by the designer for this project is “Shelter”.  First, I spent a few days of experimenting with small differences in the spinning technique and swatching, until I was able to spin a yarn that would behave just how I wanted for this design. Of course the choice of fiber was of paramount importance to this end and the Shetland wool was perfect. I see this cardigan needing a yarn with some body, not too soft and limp. It also needs to be bouncy and robust without being too scratchy at the neck and wrists. I worked a few more swatches to be sure I could get the gauge right and I had a plan   They love it!  Some Ontario Alpaca

For Kerstin at Alpaca Avenue – ladyolivia  on Etsy. I had the opportunity to spin some of Viola (fawn) and Lily( White), 100% pure Fine Ontario Alpaca fiber. It was heavenly. I did a 3 ply this time to make it thick enough to knit as a worsted weight. The fiber is so lovely and fine it kept wanting to be fingering weight but with 3 plies it works beautifully. Kerstin has already knit these super mitts.

We are also working on a project in Eastport Alpaca. I’ve spun some fingering weight yarn for Kerstin to knit Winterberry Hood by Carina Spencer.  This yarn is a 2 ply and is also hand painted in shades of Garnet from the Gaywool dye collection of colours.

I have a lovely Polwarth fleece which I imported from New Zealand and I want to spin it worsted, probably for some socks. It’s really very soft with a micron count of about 23 but has a 4 inch staple length so I think I can spin a nice strong and durable 3 ply worsted sock yarn with it. With this fleece I can also spin a fluffy light and warm woolen yarn that will be soft enough for a baby. What a lovely versatile fleece.

Polwarth wool laid out in preparation for washing the worsted way

How to wash a fleece for worsted spinning

The goal is to wash individual locks of wool that are all the same length and texture so the first step is to pull out the locks individually, sort them out and line them up.

Find a old cotton cloth and lay the locks side by side with the tips in toward the center. This is just in case the ends of the 2 rows touch as the tips are much less likely to cling to one another as the cut end. Make another line facing this one (tip to tip) on the other side of the cloth. Fold the cloth over to cover each side, fold in half lengthwise and fold over the ends. You have made a nice secure package for the locks that will not only keep them lined up and intact but will also help to prevent any felting as it keeps the locks from touching one another or moving very much.

Folding locks of Polwarth fleece in cotton cloth for washing. Prepaing the Polwarth fleece locks for washing in worsted preparation Polwarth fleece locks laid out on cloth and folded ready for washing

Get out a pot that will go on the stove top and drizzle a bit of detergent into the botton. Coat both sided of your envelope of locks and fold it up. Drizzle a little more detergent on top and pour the hotest tap water over it until it is covered but not floating. Push gently to immerse the package in the hot soapy water and put your pot on the stove to simmer for 30 minutes. This high heat will take all of the greese out of your fleece and it will be soft and clean. After the time is up you can turn off the element and wait for the water to cool enough to handle your fleece. If you have used detergent for the washing liquid you don’t have to worry about the grease redepositing on the wool. When cooled enough to handle squeeze out as much soap and water as you can and adjust the tap to steam of water that is the same temperature as the wash water has cooled to. If you use water that is colder than your wash water the wool will felt and be ruined. Rinse your wool, still in the cloth package under the running water and squeeze and rinse until you are satisfied with the result. Roll it in a towel to squeeze out excess water, open the package by unfolding and wait for the locks to dry. They will puff up and be so wonderfully lovely you won’t believe it.

To spin from the lock now just take a simple dog brush. Hold one lock tightly in you hand and brush the tips out with the dog brush just as if it were hair on someones head. Turn it around and brush the other end. Go to the spinning wheel and being carefull to spin from the very end of the lock spin with tips first by a short draw.

Yesterday I got out one of the wonderful Polwarth fleeces I imported from New Zealand where they are able to produce some of the finest and highest quality wool in the entire world.

Polwarth

The Polwarth is not a rare breed but its fleece certainly has enough wonderful characteristic to make it a favorite among hand spinners, knitters and those who wear their creations. It is a dual-purpose sheep, developed in Victoria, Australia in 1880; they were first introduced into New Zealand in 1932. It has been crossbred to 75 percent Merino and 25 percent Lincoln. Polwarth wool is similar to Merino in softness but has a longer staple length and more sheen or luster. It is fine and soft, suitable for knitted or woven garments, knitting yarns and apparel, baby clothing and fine fibre blends that can easily be worn next to the skin. Polwarth wool is also excellent for felting. The fibers average about 23 microns and the staple length approx. 7.5-11cm (3-4.5in).

For the handspinner Polwarth fleece is a dream to spin. The softness combined with the longer fiber length and luster allow us the maximum pleasure and possibilities for preparation method, spinning technique and finished product for yarn or final garment.

Preparing the Polwarth Fleece

Because it is a medium length staple I was able to choose between woolen or worsted method for my preparation before spinning. This decision had to be made even before I washed it as there are different washing methods depending on whether one will be carding, combing or flicking the locks to open them for hand spinning. I decided that since I could do either, I would do some of each.

Woolen

A woolen yarn is airy and light, usually fuzzier with fibers going every which way and trapping lots of air. Woolen yarn is very warm but, in general, not as durable as a worsted yarn. The fibers are of various lengths and are carded to intentionally mix them up. It is spun by a method which should wrap this net of fibers around large pockets of air. The resulting yarn is light and springy.

Worsted

For worsted yarn the fibers are combed. This process will not only line up all of the fibers so they all go into the yarn in a parallel fashion but it

also rids the prepared wool of any shorter or broken pieces as well as all chaff and vegetable matter. The yarn is spun with the intention of keeping the individual fibers parallel, straight and smooth without any fuzzy texture. The resulting yarn is higher in luster and usually feels softer to the touch because there are less ends sticking out. It will be stronger, more durable, smoother and elastic if spun with the correct technique.

Washing for Woolen Preparation

I washed the fleece sections that I intended to spin into a woolen yarn in a large pot full of very very hot water and detergent (I used liquid Tide). I let it sit in the water for about an hour, squeezed out as much soapy water as I could gently, then carefully put it into another pot of clear *same temperature* water to rinse. I like to rinse until the water comes clean but it won’t hurt to leave a bit of detergent in the fiber as you will be washing your yarn when it is finished. This is similar to the way I wash in the machine. See this post.  I rolled the wool in a thick towel and applied pressure to draw out some of the water and spread the fleece on an old sheet to dry.

Washing for Worsted Preparation

I think this is important enough to have its own page (here) but I’ll give a summary on this one. There are several popular methods for washing individual locks of wool for worsted spinning but the one I find most efficient and appealing to me I learned from Judith MacKenzie. You can find her books & DVD’s at Interweave Press. Three Bags Full would be the one with this information in it. What a wonderful woman and oh, so knowledgable! I really enjoyed these videos. Individual locks are pulled from the fleece intact, sorted & laid out on an old piece of cloth side by side and tip to tip. They are then folded and immersed in soapy water, simmered on the stove, cooled and rinsed under the tap. Simply amazing results, see my pictures below. THANK YOU JUDITH!

Now, to do some spinning and I’ll get back to you with the results.

The raw Polwarth fleece before any washing. Isn’t it wonderful, so clean. Polwarth wool laid out in preparation for washing the worsted way Folding locks of Polwarth fleece in cotton cloth for washing. Prepaing the Polwarth fleece locks for washing in worsted preparation Polwarth fleece locks laid out on cloth and folded ready for washing individual Polwarth locks showing the 4 + inches of staple length Polwarth wool locks washed and flicked with dog brush to open the fibers for spinning Polwarth fleece washed for woolen method in pot of hot water and detergent.
My new passion! Breed Specific and Rare Wool Breeds.

I have always been totally in love with wool – my number 1 favorite fiber without rival. This love of wool has risen to a whole new level of passion with my virtually “meeting” of Deborah Robson and becoming aquainted with her work with Breed Specific Wool and Rare Breeds of Sheep.

It all started with a free class on Craftsy Know Your Wool. Highly recommended for anyone with an interest in wool. This sparked some research on the subject of Breed Specific Wools for spinning and knitting and expecially the Rare Wool Breeds.

I found a few resources over at Interweave as they are the publisher for a lot of this work. Try a search for “rare wool”.

I now have a Video “Handspinning Rare Wools” and an ebook Selections from Handspun Treasures from Rare Wools (eBook)

The “Fleece & Fiber Sourcebook” is now at the top of my wishlist at Amazon.

I am still discovering new resources that Deb has had a hand in bringing to us and I just really wanted to give her a big “shout out” and thanks for this body of work.

Deborah has an easy and friendly manner as well as an obviously thorough knowledge of her subject matter. I find myself trusting and admiring the person as much as the work.