Posts Tagged ‘handspinning’

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

A new design in progress – I guess that would be a DIP, right?

Handspun Breed Specific Romney Wool, Hand Dyed for new pattern design Grace

Along with the Custom Fit Sweater for Amy Herzog and her team (beta testing) I’ve been working on a few custom orders and a new designs that I will call Grace after my Mom who just passed away last year at this time. Mom was my mentor, my soul mate, my best friend and the one who taught and inspired me to knit and be creative in so many way. She was also my biggest fan and alway gave me so much encouragement. Well, anyway, the new design is Grace. It will be an elegant but casual cardigan/jacket and will be spectacular for showing off hand dyed and handspun yarns. Super stylish and super easy to knit and fit, you will knit it all from the top down in one piece with no seaming or finishing. I’m including a few “sneak peak” pictures that will give you a feel for the design without giving it away. This sweater allowed me some freedom to play with my dyes, my spinning techniques and let my imagination run free. It is also part of my study in Breed Specific and Rare Breed Wools.

The wool in this garment is Romney.  The Romney breed evolved from medieval longwool types. The fibers are long, silky and strong without being prickly. A very good wool to use for durability where you need something sturdy  and not overly soft and delicate. My Romney is one of the Canturbury Prize Wool Group imported from New Zealand by Louet Sales. These wools are breed-specific fibers that are handled in such a way as to retain their unique qualities. “Working with Wadsworth Heap Ltd, a fiber supplier in New Zealand, each fleece in this line is grown with passion and great care; each is chosen with a critical eye, scoured in a modern scouring plant, and carded with pride on gentle machinery to maintain the fibre’s integrity and give spinners maximum enjoyment.” So far I have totally enjoyed working with them. If you are interested in having any of these wools custom handspun for a project please just email me. I will get them on the web site eventually, but in the mean time…  😉

If you’ve been keep up with my adventures you will have read Spinning a Fine New Zealand Merino Fleece where I talk about spinning a beautiful fine Merino fleece into lace weight yarn after washing it lock by lock and hand combing it. There were some mistakes, and I leaned a lot from them, but I found myself spinning a lovely lace weight yarn that would be excellent in a handknit shawl by the third skein so I started to knit.

I choose a pattern from Nancy Bush’s book Knitted Lace of Estonia, the Queen Sylvia Shawl and cast on.  The knitting was fun and after a few days I got to the end of my first skein and joined the second. After a few rows I noticed, to my horror, that the colour was so different that I would have to overdye the whole shawl even if I choose to keep it for myself unless I can find a way to lighten the creamy parts. Upon closer inspection I did notice that there were bands of lighter and darker areas within the first skein that I just had not noticed until I gave it a better look in natural light.

You will have to click on this thumbnail to see the worst of the bands. It is at the very top. I stopped after just a few rows to take this picture. I posted my question on Ravelry Joy of Handspinning discussion board and I got some very helpful suggestions.

In retrospect I feel like it was really a “duh” move. I should have known this would happen and I will have to be more aware and careful whenever I spin from a raw fleece. I have been spinning from prepared fiber too much lately and have forgotten one of the basics of spinning from a fleece. Any fleece, and especially a coloured one will have this issue. It is something that a spinner *should* be thinking about right from the beginning of the project. Whether you are spinning a white fleece and you want to leave your yarn white or you are spinning a coloured fleece you usually don’t want the changes in color to come suddenly at the end of a skein creating a very obvious line.

Tip for Managing Color when Handspinning a Raw Fleece

If the fleece has obvious colour differences you should spread out the whole fleece and sort it before you start. You may want to emphasise the differences by sorting for stripes or blend them all into a solid or create a heather effect and they would all take different sorting and preparation. Wash enough fleece for the whole project at the same time. (I was testing different washing methods and I’m sure some were cleaner than others and this was one of the main causes for the colour difference) If you want a white fleece to end up white in a yarn you must break or cut off the tips. This is especially true for the fleece I was spinning. A fine New Zealand white merino will always have dirty tips that need to come off. (I am quite sure that this was the other reason for my colour variations.) If you are spinning a woolen yarn and you would like your colour to be even throughout the project you can put it all through the drum carder, split all of your batts and blend them by putting them through again mixed. Do this as many times as you feel is needed to get consistent colour. You can make a tweed by sorting the colours first, card them separately, stack and roll and spin from the end of the roll. If you are combing your locks you can also comb the whole amount needed for the project, go back and split them and re-comb to combine just as we did above with the drum carder. Further ensure evenness of color by spinning all of the yarn for the entire project and winding it onto inexpensive weaver’s bobbins before plying. Randomly ply bobbins back together. A helpful Raveler suggests this one, and it really appeals to me; I always knit with three balls of wool, that way the colour differences are not so noticeable, being only one line and not blocks. I use the three balls so there will always be a ball to change to at the end of each row of knitting. I find that any differences in colour is less noticeable if only one row is knitted with each ball rather than two rows. Finally, always plan with this in mind from step one when spinning from a raw fleece, even and perhaps especially when spinning a white one.

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.