Review & Giveaway: Louet Perendale Fiber

Remember the giant box of fiber I received from Louet?

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Lots of spinning ahead of me…

Last weekend, I began working through it! I started with some Perendale fiber, since I’d never heard of the breed before. The Perendale is part of their Canterbury Prize Wools group. Here’s the website description about the group:

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.

The fiber is a carded preparation (so it’s roving or sliver, where the fibers are arranged every-which-way, rather than combed top) and ships in generous 8 oz. bags. My bag contained a slip of paper describing its origin:

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Apparently, this wool is stylish!

I love that I know where this wool came from and who grew it, even though I accessed it through a major distributor. I really appreciate the respect to the wool’s origins that the Canterbury group shows. Also, you really can’t beat the price. Each half pound bag is only $16. That’s a lot of really well-prepared wool for the price!

Rather handsome devil, no? Copyright Perendale Sheep Society. Click for website.

Perendale sheep are a cross between the Romney and Cheviot breeds, developed in New Zealand. As such, they have longwool roots but fall under the ‘other sheep breeds’ category in the Fleece & Fiber Sourcebook. What I find really fascinating is that I wasn’t super enthusiastic about either Romney or Cheviot when I spun them for my Spinner’s Study, but I really enjoyed spinning the Perendale fiber.

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Fluffy!

After a few minutes of attempting to spin this preparation worsted-style (short forward draw), I gave up and decided to practice my woolen-style drafting (long-draw) instead. The prep pretty much begged for woolen spinning, and it did not disappoint.

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Action shot!

I don’t usually spin this way on the wheel, but it went really smoothly once I got into a rhythm. (Oddly enough, I tend to spin semi-woolen on my spindles as I often spin combed top from the fold for easier drafting.) Woolen spinning creates lofty, springy, fuzzy yarns with lots of air trapped in the singles.

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Fuzzy!

I must have been in an adventurous mood because besides trying out new drafting techniques, I also decided to conduct a twist experiment. Yarns can have either S twist or Z twist depending on the direction in which they were spun. I’ve read that most commercial yarns are spun so that they are plied with S twist and that the action of knitting or crocheting adds or removes twist depending on whether the yarns have S or Z twist. Because my wheel feels better spinning counterclockwise (S twist), I tend to ply my yarns clockwise (because you ply for less time than you spin) producing Z twist yarns when I spin on my wheel. I decided to see if I could really tell the difference between S & Z twist yarns when spinning and knitting.

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Skeins 1 & 2

So I took 2 oz of fiber, split it into fourths, and spun 2 singles with S twist and 2 singles with Z twist to create 2 little 2-ply skeins: one plied Z and the other plied S. Then I got really curious and thought ‘I wonder what an opposing yarn ply would feel like?’ and spun some of those, too.

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Skeins 3 & 4

Opposing ply yarns are composed of singles that have the opposite direction of twist, plied together one way or the other. So I took 1 S and 1 Z single and plied them together in both the Z direction and S direction. Opposing ply yarns are super bouncy and elastic and I think I really like them, though I’m withholding judgement until after I finish knitting my swatches.

So yes, this is what happens when a scientist gets a new type of fiber to play with. 🙂 Stay tuned for the results and conclusions. In the meantime, LET’S HAVE A GIVEAWAY!

If you’d like to win your very own 1/2 pound bag of Louet Perendale fiber, leave a comment below telling me how you like to spin your yarns (S or Z? Clockwise, counterclockwise, unsure?). Each comment gains you one entry, and if you share this post via Twitter, Facebook, or on your own blog, let me know and you’ll earn extra entries. I’ll choose a winner with a random number generator on Friday, May 2nd so you have until 11:59 pm Eastern time the day before to enter. Good luck, and please spread the word!

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SS: Romeldale

Remember my spinner’s study series? I know, I know, it’s been far too long (since April!). For those unfamiliar or those who might have forgotten (woops), I’m doing a bit of a breed study where I spin about an ounce of wool from different breeds of sheep and summarize characteristics of each one using the handy, dandy Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook by Deborah Robson and Carol Ikarius and various breed association websites as my sources. I do the breed research in the ‘start’ post and I also record my own thoughts/opinions on the way the fiber spins and the characteristics of the yarn in the ‘finish’ post. I’ve linked to posts for all the breeds I’ve done so far on the ‘Spin-Tastic!’ tab. We left off last time finishing a skein of Romney and starting to spin Cheviot.

cheviotEven though my initial impressions of the wool were fairly mild, it turns out that I ended up hating spinning Cheviot. That ‘chalky’ characteristic described in the F&F Sourcebook turned out to be a problem for my spinning. I noted that the wool wasn’t exactly silky/shiny but it didn’t feel very grabby, either, and this lack of ‘grabbiness’ caused my single to break and spindle to drop constantly. It was really annoying and just did not feel good in my hands.

IMG_5051You can see the resulting skein was very loosely spun and thick-and-thin in many places. This fiber and I just did not get along. That’s not to say that there aren’t excellent uses for it or that other people wouldn’t enjoy it, but let’s just say it’s not very high on my “breed to raise in the future” list. Now, onto the next: Romeldale.

Photo credit Reflection Farm from the breed association page (click for link).

Romaledales are actually quite variable in appearance, with CVM (California Variegated Mutant) sheep being a particularly colored variant of the breed. The breed was developed in 1915 when A.T. Spencer crossed his Ramboillet sheep (a French-modified descendent of Spanish Merino sheep) with a New Zealand Romney (a longwool) to add length and strength to the wool. The breed was only ever raised in the western U.S. and has been classified as critically rare. The only reason any CVM’s exist is because handspinners wanted their colorful fleeces (go spinners!).

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Romeldale wool

As for spinning, this stuff is about as different from Cheviot as you can get! It is very soft and has lots of crimp that makes it plenty grabby. The top I have is very dense and has a bit of a lanolin feel to it, which makes sense since sheep in the Merino family tend to have lots of grease in their wool. The F&F Sourcebook says that the wool is great for soft, lofty yarns because all of the disorganized crimp gives the yarn lots of bounce and resilience.

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It is spinning up easily and is producing a fine, soft single. I like it very much so far. I like even more what spinning wool from rare breeds does for their conservation. It’s crazy to think that entire breeds of colorful sheep would not exist if it weren’t for people interested in handspinning their wool, since commercial enterprises only want consistent white wool. Making a difference, one fleece at a time!

I hope to finish the Romeldale soon so my next SS post won’t be months and months from now…

IS #50: The Llama Life

This week’s inspiration comes from a visit to the Long Island Livestock Co. in Yaphank, New York. The owner, Tabbethia Haubold-Magee, is the only person breeding and raising llamas on Long Island and travels up and down the east coast shearing sheep, llamas, and alpacas on other small hobby farms. You may have seen her booth at Stitches East, which is where I first came across her yarns. Here’s a brief but informative article about her company. She hosted an open farm day last week and my parents and cousin and I enjoyed meeting all of her animals.

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Clockwise from top left: sweetest sheep ever, regal llama, cute alpacas, my parents with the llama.

That sheep was the friendliest sheep, ever. She came right up to me and practically started to doze while I scratched her chin for a good 10 min. So sweet! My parents got a real kick out of seeing all of the animals, especially since they only barely understand my fiber obsession. It was fun to see my dad getting into the tours. Did you know that unlike sheep who poop anywhere, llamas only poop in specified places? Now you do! (That was my dad’s favorite tidbit.)

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Clockwise from top left: Mama and baby llama, llama I will always call Elvis (no matter his real name), and another regal-looking llama.

I really loved that Elvis-looking llama.

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Clockwise from left: pig and puppy, Megan and me petting a llama, baby llama playing peek-a-boo between the adults (see the tiny head?).

Tabbethia opened her home to us as well, providing hot cocoa and cider and other refreshments and allowing us to play with her adorable little puppy and pet pig. And finally, we did a little shopping in the store below her home.

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On the left is 6 oz. of alpaca mixed with nylon sparkle that my mom wants me to spin into yarn for her. On the right is a gorgeous alpaca/merino blend mixed with some turquoise sparkly stuff that I’ve been eying at different festivals and finally purchased. Tabbethia also carries amazing, lanolin-based skincare products, which you can purchase from her website. My favorite is the honey almond body butter, which will hopefully be added to the site soon after the redesign is finished.

In short, I’m completely inspired by (and more than a little jealous of) Tabbethia’s work: raising animals, shearing them, working with local wool cooperatives, creating natural skin-care products, promoting animal and fiber education, traveling to all sorts of fiber festivals, and producing beautiful fibers and yarns.

Do you have a favorite small farm or local yarn producer? What’s been inspiring you lately? Feel free to link to your own post in the comments and share!

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Fiber-Induced Joy

Somehow, I managed to miss every. single. fiber festival this year. When my best friend planned a spontaneous trip to visit me last weekend, I was determined to make both the visit AND the fiber festival I had planned to attend happen. I was up before 6 am (without an alarm! voluntarily! on a Saturday!), was out the door by 7, drove the 2 hours to the New England Fiber Festival, and somehow saw the whole thing in the 2 hours I had before I needed to leave to pick my friend up from the bus. It was a bit rushed but no less awesome!

newenglandffThere were awesome zipper-flowers, a cool tree display, and a new-to-me yarn dyer that I loved.

newenglandff3 There was yet another new-to-me-dyer I loved, someone who made awesome candlestick holders from old bobbins (sorry, didn’t catch who it was!), and a booth carrying spindles with interchangeable shafts.

newenglandff2And of course there were animals! Some Herdwick sheep (one of which was named Afleecia… no joke.), adorable alpaca, and a whole ton of fleeces for sale. I barely restrained myself from buying one. So cool to see so many types of wool in one room!

I was moderately restrained in my purchases (I was pressed for time, after all) and only took home a mere 11 oz. of fiber and one skein of yarn but man are they some really great fiber and yarn!

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Calypso approved.

On the left is 5 oz. of a lovely silver-grey llama fiber from West Mountain Farm in Vermont. It feels like a fluffier version of alpaca and I can’t wait to spin it up. Next to that is a precious 1 oz. of cashmere/silk blend from Boreas Farm Cashmere. I plan to spin this into a single and ply it with some quiviut I’m working on, which will basically make the softest, most heavenly little skein of yarn ever. Below that is 1 oz. of beautiful grey  plucked angora from Dorchester Farms (no website found). I’m not sure yet what I’m going to do with it but would like to try blending it with something else (suggestions welcome). The bright white fluff is 2 oz. silk top from I-forgot-which-booth, just to experiment with since I haven’t spun pure silk before. Below that is a lovely merino/silk DK weight yarn from Bittersweet, so I can knit the Adiri hat for the Indie Designer #Giftalong. Finally, in the box on the right is 2 oz. of Leicester Longwool roving that I didn’t actually want but bought because the owners were so nice and so loved their endangered sheep, I felt bad not buying something and wanted to support their cause. Plus, it’ll just add another breed to my Spinner’s Study!

All in all, it was a successful quickie-festival! And if that wasn’t enough fiber-y delight, when I returned home, the next shipment of the Blue Moon Fiber Arts Rockin’ Whorl Club was waiting for me. (Click away if you don’t want to be spoiled!)

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This shipment is a fabulous two-fer: one 5 oz. braid of mixed Bluefaced Leicester wool with one 3 oz. braid of 50/50 Merino/silk blend in the colorway Sleep Hollow. It’s a gorgeous mix of greys, blues, greens, and purples — essentially, my favorite colors. This is the shipment that would’ve made me weep with regret if I hadn’t signed up (only slightly exaggerating). I can’t wait to spin this!

I’ll leave you with this:

IMG_5396Oooooh yeah. 🙂

My First Time, Part 1

I realized when I talked about watching the video on fleece processing yesterday that I never shared my own fleece-washing experience with you! I started this post way back in mid-August but things got busy with my manuscript and here we are. Like many new things, my first fleece-washing experience was mildly terrifying, kind of confusing, and a little bit messy — but overall, it was just fine. There is a plethora of information available on how best to wash a fleece. I suspect that they all work equally well and whichever is best depends on what you are working with (equipment-, fleece-, and patience-wise). Now that I’ve seen Judith’s video, I’d recommend watching that first because I was a bit of a nervous wreck thinking I would ruin the thing at every step and she very calmly talks about the whole business in a way that make it seem much less daunting. For reference, here’s what I did for my first fleece.

Click for photo source.

Breed: American Southdown. Obtained: Fresh off the sheep at a farmer’s market in June 2013. The shearer picked it up, felt it, and said something like “this is probably about 3 or 4 pounds” then stuck it in a bag and I took it home.

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Fresh off the sheep!

Pre-washing prep: I sorted through the fleece and took out the really nasty bits since it had not been skirted. The short fibers near the legs are usually covered with dung tags and other unpleasantness, so it’s best to get rid of them. I also laid mine out on a garbage bag in the sun for a day or so to let it dry off because it was humid from the animal and the heat. I’ve since read that fibers can be damaged in direct sunlight, so this might not have been the best idea and I believe it allowed a lot of vegetable matter to settle into the wool from nearby trees, so I likely will not be doing this next time. I sorted the fleece into paper grocery bags and stored it in a shed until I had the time and the right weather  to wash. I did the paper bag thing on the vague notion that wool likes to breathe but I think it probably runs the risk of attracting critters this way so I wouldn’t recommend it for long-term storage.

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After two months in storage — that yellow is likely lanolin that has crystallized (which is hard to get out) but could also be something called canary stain, which is caused by a bacteria.

Cold soak #1: I live in an apartment building with a bit of grass outside. My Fiasco uses a neat connection hose to fill his fish tank from the kitchen sink so we used the same thing hooked to an outdoor hose to fill two 18 gallon tubs with cold water. I split the fleece roughly in half, pushed the wool under the water gently, and let it soak for a half hour.

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Soaking.

Drain: Next, the Fiasco tipped the tubs while I rather inelegantly held the wool back with my arms to drain. This was trickier than it sounds. The water was tipped directly into surrounding flower beds, which is supposed to be great for them. We then used a handy window screen upon which we spread the wool to drain while we refilled the tubs.

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Draining, and much cleaner already!

Cold soak #2: Repeated the first cold soak, this time breaking the wool up more and swishing it around a bit as I put it back in the tubs. Drained again.

Cold soak #3: Out of paranoia of clogging my washing machine with dirt, I decided to cold soak the fleece once more for another half hour and drained. I then prepared for the hot wash by sorting the fleece into about a dozen small-ish lingerie bags. (I did the bags initially, then realized they did not really help at all. Too much fiber in the bags, too many clumps not getting clean enough. I DON’T recommend using the bags.)

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Hot soak, in bags.

Hot wash #1: According to Spinderella, water needs to be around 150 degrees F to remove lanolin from the wool, and should not drop below 100 deg F. I have no idea what temperature my water was but others have just used the hottest water that came out of their washing machines so that’s what I did, too. I filled the machine with hot water (on soak) and mixed in a bit more than 1/2 cup of Dawn liquid detergent. Then I placed half of the bags of wool in the water and let it soak for 20 minutes.  Avoid agitating the wool at this point because it can cause felting. (I suspect I could’ve done the same thing with hot water from the sink in the tubs outside but didn’t feel like sticking my arms in scalding hot water to drain.)

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Spun out.

Drain: Your washing machine should have a rinse and spin cycle. Make sure you SKIP the rinse cycle and go straight to the spin. This will drain the water out. You don’t want to rinse as that will agitate the fibers, plus if your machine rinses with cold water it could felt the wool.

Hot wash #2: Removed the wool from the washer, wiped the wash basin clean, and refilled with hot water and this time a bit less than 1/2 cup of soap. Placed the wool back in and soaked for another 20 minutes. Drained as before.

Hot wash #3: At this point, my wool still looked pretty dirty and this is when I realized that the lingerie bag plan was crap. So I refilled with hot water, used about 1/4 c of soap, then removed the wool from the bags and put it in the machine, gently breaking up clumps as I went. I also swished the wool in the water a bit (with gloves on since it was hot!), felting be damned. Drained as before.

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Cold-soaked wool on left, wool that’s been through the hot soak/wash process as well on right.

Vinegar rinse: Removed the wool from the washer, wiped the wash basin clean, and refilled with hot water and this time 1 cup of white distilled vinegar. Waited 15 more minutes, then drained as before.

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That’s a lot of wool!

Drying: I bought three cheap sweater-drying racks and placed these outside, out of direct sunlight this time. (Also, by this point it was early evening. Ha! Note to self: begin wool washing before noon.) I spread the wool out and fluffed it up a bit to dry and left it outdoors overnight.

After all that work and worry, my fleece is clean and unfelted, so yay! It still has some yellowish coloring to it and there is a heck of a lot of vegetable matter in there but there is not much I can do about that. I’ve learned from the video I watched (see resources below) that I probably could’ve sorted my fleece better beforehand and saved myself some trouble only washing the best bits. But considering I completed the process without 1) felting the wool or 2) breaking my washing machine, I’m calling it a win.

Fleece-washing resources:

IS #35: Sheep-y Dreams

Happy Saturday, everyone! This week for Inspiration Saturday I’d like to talk about a cooperatively-funded project that I think is wonderful… both the project itself and the way it came about.

Photo from Violently Domestic

I first heard about this project on Hunter Hammersen’s blog, Violently Domestic. She is one of my favorite designers and she, along with many other talented people, contributed a pattern to this series of pattern e-books that you can purchase for $20. The proceeds from the sale of these patterns will go to support research into Shetland sheep conducted by Deborah Robson. There are 36 patterns included in the series, all of them interesting and look like they’d make great gifts. I particularly like Hunter’s Interstices mitts:

and the Shetland Flat Cap by Ava Coleman:

If you aren’t familiar with Deborah Robson, she teaches a free, mini-course on Craftsy (“Know Your Wool”) and she’s one of the co-authors on The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook, which as you know is my go-to resource for sheep-related information for my personal spinner’s study. She is a fantastic writer, a thorough researcher, and she’s contributing enormously to our understanding of sheep breeds from a biological, historical, and ecological perspective. As a scientist myself, I have a giant crush on everything she writes. It’s informative, interesting, and important work. It also costs money, which is where this e-book of patterns comes in. Here’s an older blog post and a more recent blog post she wrote on the topic, plus a summary of why she’s focusing on Shetland sheep. I find both her work and the fact that dozens of designers donated their time and effort to raise money to support her work equally inspiring. What’s been inspiring you, lately?

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(Ummm… it appears that Mr. Linky forms don’t work on WordPress.com sites? Oops. Let us know in the comments if you’ve blogged an Inspiration post!)

SS: Cheviot

Ready for another installment of my ongoing Spinner’s Study?

My thoughts on Romney align with what I wrote in my last post, which is that it’s known to be an all-around good workhorse of a fiber that plays nicely, and that definitely seems to be true. It drafted smoothly and easily and made a nice, strong-feeling yarn with just a little bit of shine to it (from its longwool nature).

The wool from the next breed, Cheviot, feels somewhat similar.

Photo from wikipedia

The Ceviot is a dual-purpose sheep, raised for both meat and wool, and comprises its own ‘family’ within the Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook. It is the dominant breed in the Cheviot Hills area on the border between England and Scotland.The sheep themselves have ‘clean’ faces free of wool with dark eyes and noses and their origin is something of a mystery (rumors of sheep escaping from Spanish ships) but they’ve been around since sometime in the 15th to 17th centuries.

Long staple length with ‘3-dimensional crimp’
The book describes Cheviot as a neighborly fiber known for durability without harshness. It has a micron range between 27 and 33, which lands it squarely in the medium softness category, edging towards coarse. The book also calls the fiber ‘chalky’, which is kind of a strange word to apply to wool, but I think I get it. 

The fiber I have is almost fluid in how it drafts, there is no luster or silkiness but the fibers aren’t ‘grabby’ either, they don’t grip each other very tightly. Even though it has a long staple length, I have to watch that I don’t draft out too quickly and create thin spots in the yarn. That said, it’s been very easy-going to spin, and I could see how it would make a great rugged sweater or blanket, since I imagine the fabric wouldn’t pill much with wear.


If you like learning about different types of wool, I highly recommend you check out the free Craftsy mini-class “Know Your Wool”, taught by Deborah Robinson (one of the authors of the Sourcebook). I watched it the other night and thought it was a great summary and introduction to some of the key concepts in understanding the differences between types of wool.

You can also find info on the other breeds I’ve already spun up here.

Baby-palooza

Last Saturday the Fiasco and I went to Woolapalooza, a little sheep festival at Drumlin Farm in Lincoln, MA. On the drive back, we visited our good friends who had recently had a sweet baby girl for whom I had been knitting many things. Between the lambs and goat kids and tiny humans, it was a veritable baby-palooza and nearly too much cute for one day. Prepare yourselves.

Favorite part of the sheep shearing was when a 7-year-old boy explained to whomever would listen: “See that pink part?         That’s the penis. Or maybe it’s the lady penis. I’m not sure how that works.” (It was the udder!)

Clean white wool underneath.
Lamb!

Two lambs!

A leicester of some sort?

Don’t know her breed but she sure is cute! (Romney?)

Angora bunny

Three little goat kids.

Brand new baby, the mama was still dealing with the umbilical cord!

Sunshiney snuggles

Candid shot of my Beribboned Hat and Syrinx Shells cowl in the wild!

The color markings on these goats were just lovely.

Babies and mama!

Now for a human baby (Hi, Lyra!) and mama (Hi, Bridgi!)
My, what a lovely hat you have!

Prior to this photo, the Fiasco made a crazy face that both stunned and amused the wee one.

I stole this photo straight from Bridgit’s facebook because the sweater she knit to to go with Lyra’s Easter dress is just too sweet not to share!  

I hope you’ve had your fill of adorable things today. 🙂 You’re welcome.

SS: Romney

It has been ages and ages since I wrote a Spinner’s Study post. The last time I did, I gave a quick rundown on some of the fascinating history of the Merino breed. Here’s the plump little skein I finished:

As you might image, the Merino wool made a lovely, soft, and squishy single. If I had plied this, the resulting yarn would’ve displayed a lot of elasticity and bounce, which is characteristic of the fine crimp pattern in Merino staples. Its elasticity is one reason why Merino wool is so loved for fabrics and for socks in particular. However, the fiber’s fineness works against it for socks, making it prone to pilling and wear, as seen in the pile of socks waiting to be mended. However, for me, the bounce and softness of Merino is worth a few minutes of darning every now and then.

Onto the next breed! We took a brief look at Romney wool when I described the For the Love of Longwools class I took at Rhinebeck. Now, we’ll dig a little deeper.

This handsome devil’s photo came from Wikipedia.

The Romney sheep is a dual-purpose meat and fiber breed that is grouped with the English Longwool Family in the Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook. It was developed from crossing a breed native to the Ronney Marsh coastal plain in southeast England with longwool Leicester bloodlines. This imparted a long staple length and luster to Romney fiber, while still maintaining the breed’s unique adaptations allowing the growth of quality wool in boggy, marshy environments.


According to the FFSB, “Romney fleece is most likely to be voted president of the Wool High School senior class. It can’t do everything, but it’s an all-around good citizen and extremely versatile, with personality and charisma. It’s a classic.” Romney fiber can range in quality and fineness depending on the particular sheep and location (North American and British are somewhat finer than New Zealand Romneys), but in general it ranges from coarse to fairly fine (micron count 29-37) and is usually finer than other longwool breeds (but you still might not want to wear it near sensitive skin).

I am enjoying this bit of Romney I am spinning much better than the first Romney I tried during the longwools class.  This is perhaps due to the preparation (carded roving vs. commercial combed top) but it could just be nicer fiber. This bunch is drafting very smoothly and creating a strong-feeling, even single. The roving I am spinning here is from Alder Brook Romneys in Connecticut. A friend of the Fiasco’s also raises Romneys, shears them herself, and sells handspun yarn from her flock in her Falling Star Fibers Etsy shop. I purchased some fiber from her at a festival that I still have stashed but I’m tempted to skip ahead and just buy some of the lovely finished yarns she has in her shop!

Have you used Romney fiber/yarn? What did you think of it?

For The Love of Longwools

In the spirit of catching up on spinning-related things for the blog, I figured it was finally time to tell you about the class class I took way back when at Rhinebeck called For The Love of Longwools. Longwool sheep, as you may or may not know, are breeds that produce wool with a very long staple length, relatively little crimp/elasticity, and usually a lot of luster/shine. They are basically the opposite of the very common fine wool Merino, which has tons of bounce and softness, a short staple length, and no shine. This means that longwools can and often should be spun into yarns that will look and act differently than those made with Merino wool.

The class was taught by Beth Smith who owns The Spinning Loft in Michigan. Her shop carries all sorts of spinning materials, including raw fleeces if you wish to give washing your own a try (someday). The bulk of the class was mostly just trying out 5 different breeds of longwools. For 3 of them, fiber was provided as washed locks, so we learned to comb them and use a diz to create fluffy top (see Sara’s blog post on A Year At The Wheel for a great photo tutorial on the process). For the other 2, we received commercially processed top to play with. I learned how to Andean ply from a fellow classmate, which allowed me to use my hand to wrap some yarn in such a way that I could make 2-ply samples with no lazy kate, bobbins, or toilet paper rolls involved (that link shows a slightly different process than I learned but is the same idea). It was a great experience to be surrounded by so many spinners with so much love for their craft and it’s definitely something I’ll do again the next time I get to go to a festival. Now, onto the spinning!

English Leicester:

In these photos, the left image has the washed locks in the top left, the combed fiber in the top right, and the 2-ply yarn is in front. The right image shows a closeup of the yarn. These yarns are small samples fresh off the spindle, not washed and set like you’d usually do with finishing. English Leicester was probably my least favorite of the wools we tried. It was the brightest white, which probably means it would dye wonderfully, but it also had the wiriest feel to it, much more hair-like than wool-like. The locks do have a very cool wave to them, though, and it was easy to comb and spin into a shiny yarn.

Coopworth:


Even though Coopworth wool was also more on the hair-like side of things, I liked it better. Perhaps it’s because the locks had a tighter crimp, which made them act a bit woolier during combing and spinning? A sample of Coopworth came with my Golding spindle when I got it, which I proceeded to turn into a thick, wiry yarn, but I think I could do much better with it now that I know more about drafting and the right amount of twist. The finished yarn spun up very easily and has a decent amount of bounce to it. It is also very, very strong– you wouldn’t want to try to break this one by hand.

Blue Faced Leicester:

Of all the longwools we tried, the Blue Faced Leicester felt the softest and wooliest. It even had a bit of a lanolin feel to it in the washed locks, which had the most crimp of them all. I love those little ringlets! Possibly because it was the least foreign to me, I liked the way the BFL spun up the best. The finished yarn is soft and lush-feeling but still has a great shine and when knit up would probably drape nicely. What’s also nice about BFL is that it’s one of the most widely available single-breed yarns on the market besides Merino, so you could try knitting with it fairly easily.

Romney:

For this and the next breed, we received the wool as commercially prepared top, not locks, so we didn’t comb it ourselves. The Romney had a very long staple length with very little crimp at all, the fibers all seemed straight and relaxed. I didn’t really get very strong impressions from this wool, honestly. The resulting yarn is a bit course and does not have a lot of bounce nor does it have a lot of shine, it feels kind of in between on everything. I know a lot of people really like Romney, so this could have had a lot to do with its preparation or with the way I spun it (from the fold) and it might like it better to be worsted spun or carded into roving and then woolen spun. I’ll have to experiment because I now have plenty of Romney to play with in my fiber stash.

Wensleydale:

This Wensleydale is the last of the breeds we tried and I really liked it. It is very different than fine wools, with its long staple length and smooth-to-nonexistent crimp, but it has such a lovely, silk-like hand to it that it ranks right up there with BFL for me. The fibers are very fine and smooth and spin up into an incredibly shiny and silky soft yarn. I would definitely like to spin more and knit with it, I bet it would have a gorgeous drape. Also, the sheep themselves are freakin’ adorable:

From the Wensleydale Sheep official site

 AmIright?? Look at those luscious locks!

Giveaway!!

I hope you enjoyed my whirlwind tour through a few longwool breeds, it was fun for me to document. Since I have some locks and top left over, I’d like to share them with one of you! Leave a comment telling me what your favorite breed of sheep to spin or knit is (or a breed you’d most like to try) and I will draw a random winner to receive a little bundle of fiber of each of the 5 types I talked about next Wednesday. Yay for sharing! 😉