Saturday, 20 December 2014

Raspberry Chocolate BFL

I bought some ready prepared, pre-dyed BlueFaced Leicester tops from Sara's Texture Crafts in shade Raspberry Choc.  I split each one into long strips and spun them separately.  I plied them to make a Fingering Weight yarn, 206g/900m total.  In the future I may have a go at preparing BFL from raw fleece, who knows!

And a glamour shot, which actually shows the true colour.  I have two of these skeins.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Hillcrescent Farm Jacobs Fleece No.6

I really want to finish working through all of the Jacobs fleece that I bought from Hillcrescent Farm back in June 2013 before I start working on some Jacobs fleece that I had from another farm, 19 miles away in Elford, Staffordshire, courtesy of an old friend.  By old friend, I mean she's not old, we're the same age, but I've known her almost half of my life.  This time I selected Fleece No.6.

This was sheared on 26th May 2013, had not been skirted and had a good amount of surface VM.  It was very small and after I skirted it it weighs 790g, photos were taken after skirting had taken place.  I think this is from the sheep 2nd from the left in the photo.

I separated the colours as best as I could into black/brown, and a mixture of the colours.  There wasn't enough white to make it feasible to keep it separate.  I washed and dried the colours separately and was left with 444g of clean fleece, a loss of 346g of dirt and grease, broken down as follows: 312g black/brown and 132g mixed colour.

The Mixed Colours Fleece

I took the 132g of mixed colour fleece and combed it, removing all the short bits and rubbish leaving me with 66g of hand combed nests.  I noticed that some of them were very pale and some very dark so I took these and blended together to make a more evenly coloured yarn.  I lost a further 10g in the process, leaving me with just 56g to spin, a yield of just 42.4%, which I spun into a Fingering Weight yarn of 55g/255m.

The Black Fleece

I combed the 312g of black fleece down to 137g of hand-combed top, a yield of 43.9%.  I plied the singles together to make a Sport Weight 2ply yarn which is 129g/508m.  There was a lot of rubbish in this fleece, see the pile of waste in the first photo!  For those who can add up, I lost the missing 8g during the after spinning washing process when the last of the dirt and lanolin washed out.

So that is all of the fleece used up to make these fabulous skeins of yarn.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Gotland fleece part II

This follows on from my post about the problematical Gotland fleece that I bought earlier this year.

I took my 239g of shorter fibre hand combed nests and spun them into this lovely fine yarn to produce a Fingering Weight yarn of 235g/648m.  You may notice that 4g are missing, this was the last of the dirt that washed out after the combs opened up the locks.

I then went on to make a Sport Weight yarn, 2 skeins: 93g/307m and 101g/324m and its a medium-grey colour.

The last of the hand combed nests were spun into this Sport Weight yarn, 2 skeins: 115g/335m and 116g/342m and this is a dark grey colour.

Considering the fact that I spun the nests up randomly, I appear to have made two different shades of grey yarn from the longest fibres.  This has worked out pretty well I think seeing as there was no deliberate intention of making light and dark grey yarns, its done it all by itself.  Here they are, side by side.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Gotland fleece Part I

I wanted a longwool that wasn't white and I did make enquiries about a Black Wensleydale fleece, which are rare to come by, but it was out of my league financially.  I settled on this Gotland fleece from P J Watts of Kingston Manor Farm, Canterbury, the same lady I bought the Romney fleece from.

When it arrived it weighed 1673g and I was really excited by the high lustre of the grey locks and it was really soft too.  Yes, it had sunburnt tips, a lot of fleece does and these break off during preparation, but what I wasn't expecting was what I discovered at the sheared end of the locks.

So, just what was at the sheared end of the locks?  A nice big scurf and lanolin encrusted "rise".  The "rise" is the name given to the part of the lock that indicates the end of last seasons growth and the start of the new seasons growth and this part of the lock is weak and normally breaks off.  You get this "rise" in every fleece but it is not usually this big and not usually this visually pronounced.  I think the breed of the sheep has a lot to do with it in this case.

I made a start on washing the fleece but was finding it really difficult to pull the individual locks away from the main fleece, this was because of this nasty matted rise as the white strip was pretty much felted.  I asked for advice from other spinners on a forum of what would be the best way to proceed with this problematical fleece and discovered that this particular breed of sheep needs to be sheared around January/February time, due to this breeds individual fleece growth season.  This fleece wasn't sheared until June 2014.  As you can see from these photos, this "rise" accounts for about 1/3 of the lock length and this has to be removed and binned.  The easiest way to proceed was to remove the rise, either by pulling it off if it will, or cutting if off if needs be, before washing the fleece.  I done a mixture of these methods.

After removing the "rise" from the majority of the fleece and washing it, my original 1673g was reduced to 960g.  When it came to the combing process, I started with the small amount of fleece that I had not already removed this rise from.  I loaded my comb lock by lock, as usual, making sure that the "rise" was at the back of the comb as I only want to be combing the good part of the fleece and leaving the rubbish at the back of the comb.  See the photos below of this loading process.

The photos in the top row below show what this same comb-full of locks looks like after one pass through.  The photos on the bottom row show the rise that had broken off during the combing process along with a bit of coarse fibres then what the rubbish looked like once I had removed it from the comb and before it went in the bin.

The photos below show the locks after their second comb through, with the last photo showing the rubbish produced this time.

I always do at least 3 full pass-through's of the combs on every fleece that I prepare.  A full pass-through is combing the locks from one comb to the other until all that is left is the rubbish on the comb that you are combing from, which is removed from that particular comb, swap combs from one hand to the other and go again for the next pass through.

As you can see by the end of the third pass through of the combs, there is not a lot of rubbish and from the last photo you can see that it is mostly the sunburnt tips that have now broken off.

I dizzed this off the combs, stopping about 3" short of the comb and pulling away so that all of the shortest fibres, 3" or less, were left on the comb.  The longest fibres which I had dizzed off were made into a nest and put in one bag and then I returned to the combs and dizzed off the shorter fibres into nests and these went into a different bag.  At the end of the combing process I was left with 239g of the shorter fibres and 461g of the longer fibres.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Hampshire Down X Dorset Horn Part II

Following on from my earlier post, this is what I did with the rest of the fleece.

Type II

Longer, straighter locks and free of any black fibres.

This was so nice and clean and really white that I left it white.  I started out with 615g of this and by the time I had combed it and spun it I made 2 skeins of Double-Knit weight yarn both weighing 134g each, one with 361m and the other with 342m.  That's only a yield of 43.5% but look how nice the yarn is.

Type III

This was the longer, dark section of the fleece, containing a mixture of black short kemp like fibres and longer finer black fibres too.  I split this further still into a piles of the cleanest, whitest of this part of the fleece and piles of the dirtiest (having the most dark fibres), darkest parts of the fleece.  These will make two different yarns.

I firstly tackled the darkest parts of this fleece and started with 155g, ending with a Double-Knit Weight 2ply yarn that was 68g/240m.  A yield of 43.8%.

I dyed this yarn with ColourCraft All in One Dye in shade Ultramarine, and then used the left over dye on the Part I of the fleece, detailed in a previous post.

The lightest parts of this section weighed 315g and by the time I combed it I was left with 135g of combed top, a yield of just 42.8%.  I spun this into a Sport Weight 2ply yarn of 135g/437m and dyed it with ColourCraft All in One Dye in shade Light Brown but I call it Toffee Apple.

That is all of the yarns made from this fleece.  I hope you like them all.

Monday, 21 July 2014


Alpaca belong to the Camelidae family, along with Dromedary Camels, Bactrian Camels, Llamas, Guanaco and Vicuna.  They are large animals with slender necks and long legs and are strictly herbivorous.  They all run in a rather comical way, with both legs on the same side of the body being moved simultaneously causing a swaying motion which is especially noticeable amongst the larger species ridden by humans.  All Camelids have three stomachs, which allow them to digest fibrous plants like grasses and legumes and they all chew cud, burped up small wads of food that they re-chew. They all also fold their legs directly beneath themselves by bending both front and back knees (known as kushing).  All Camelids have upper lips which are split in two, which each part separately mobile and all of them can spit and will do so when annoyed, scared or stressed and what they spit is a combination of saliva and cud.

All Camelids produce fibre which is technically hair because of its structure and can range from very coarse to very soft.  Some are double coated and some are single coated.  Some contain a large amount of guard hairs which are very coarse, which is useful if you're making a rug but not good for next to skin garments.  Luckily Guard hairs can be hand-picked from a fleece, a time consuming job but well worth taking the time to remove if you don't want them.

Alpaca have been bred for fibre for thousands of years in South America and are smaller than Llamas and most Alpacas do not have noticeable guard hairs, although they may have thicker hairs on certain parts of their body.  They come in a wide range of colours including white, black, a range of greys from silvery to charcoal, cream, very light to very dark brown and a range of reddish browns.  They can be one single solid colour or they can be spotted.  There are two breeds of Alpaca; the Suri Alpaca and the Huacaya Alpaca, with the Huacaya being the most common and making up approximately 90% of the Alpaca population.

The Suri Alpaca grow long, lustrous curly locks of hair with no crimp of up to 11 inches per year with no elasticity and can be tricky to spin.

Suri Alpaca in Peru

The Huacaya Alpaca looks fluffier with varying amounts of crimp and grows to 2-6 inches per year and may have a small amount of elasticity depending on the individual fleece and the spun yarn will bloom when washed.

Huacaya Alpaca

Alpaca is heavy compared to sheep's wool and it will felt.  It is also warmer than sheep's wool and has no lanolin, making it hypoallergenic. It is also naturally flame resistant, as is wool.  Fibre can be carded with fine teeth carders or can be combed depending on the length and your preference but it is recommended that you use mini-combs for Suri Alpaca.  Alpaca has very little or no elasticity so blending with wool will make it easier to spin and add elasticity, although pure Alpaca yarn is delightful and is best spun as a finer yarn rather than a thicker one.  You will need to add more twist when spinning pure Alpaca due to it being slipperier than wool but be careful not to over-spin as it will become stiff and wiry.  If you don't get your gauge right when making a garment it can be disastrous.  Too loose and it will stretch and sag, too tight and it will be too stiff.  If you get it just right it will be heavenly.

Hampshire Down X Dorset Horn Part I

Every now and then you come across a fleece that is a cross-breed, in this case Hampshire Down crossed with a Dorset Horn.  The Hampshire Down is quite a dominant breed of sheep in terms of numbers, around the world.  The Dorset Horn, however, is a Conservation Breed.

This one I got for the princely sum of 99p plus postage, which was significantly higher due to weight and bulk.  Yeah, go on, laugh and ask "What's wrong with it?".  I thought that when my bid wasn't challenged only to be surprised when it arrived at how relatively nice it felt for my bargain price, although worried about that yellowish line half-way up the staple.  This was from Ebay and came from Chandlers Ford, Eastleigh, Hampshire and was sheared in June 2012.

It arrived at 2kg and after a quick sort and washing weighed 1.35kg.  I discovered that this fleece had 3 distinct qualities to it and separated the fleece based on these qualities.

Type I

Short curly locks, very much like Shetland, but with a lot of short black kemp like fibres in it.

These are pretty much combing out but those that don't fall out can probably be picked out later.  This part of the fleece weighed 265g and after combing and spinning I made a Double-Knit 2ply yarn of 114g/390m.  This was a yield of 43%.

It turned out that I couldn't pick all the black hairs out and so I wasn't happy with this and decided to dye it.  For some strange reason I picked the Lime Green shade ColourCraft All in One Dye.  I was initially horrified at the colour as I lifted the yarn out of the dye pot but then as the excess water ran out it lightened to quite a nice pastel shade of Lime, which made me quite happy.  That happiness didn't last though.  As I added the skein to some plain warm rinse water, most of the dye went for a swim in the water and I was left with a very sickly yellowish colour.  It couldn't be left in that state but I wasn't sure what colour to over-dye it with.  Whilst I deliberated that, I dyed the next lot of fleece Ultramarine Blue and then decided that I would add this skein to the dye that was left over from that dye pot.  Hey presto, a beautiful colour I think you would agree.

Monday, 30 June 2014

Rooed Shetland Fleece

Shetland Sheep are classed as one of the primitive breed of sheep and despite their genetic make-up having been "improved" on over many hundreds of years, whilst most modern day Shetland Sheep have to be sheared, there are still some genetic strains out there that still have the ability to naturally shed their fleece.  The fleece from these particular strain of Shetland can be naturally harvested from the sheep by a traditional method called "rooing".  Shepherds who know that they have some of these sheep in their flocks will often gently tug on their sheeps fleece around the normal sheep shearing time to see if the fleece is ready to come away naturally at "the rise", which is the name for the point on the locks where one seasons growth ends and the new seasons growth begins and this is a weak spot and will break off during preparation of a sheared fleece.

Once again, this Shetland fleece came from the same farmer in Morval, Cornwall, that all of my Shetland fleece have come from so far.  This is a Grey/White Rooed Shetland Lamb fleece and is absolutely beautiful.

I started out with 678g of fleece and after removing really, really short locks and washing it it weighs 428g, a massive 250g loss before I even get my combs out!

I noticed that some of it felt a little coarser than the main bulk and so I separated those locks out and prepared and spun them separately.  I will refer to parts of this fleece as Grade A (the best) and Grade B (the coarser stuff).

After I combed it, I was left with 52g of Grade B top and 238g of Grade A top, in a range of shades.

From the Grade B, I made a Fingering Weight 2ply yarn, 52g/124m and I called it "Snowy Owl".

From the Grade A, I made a Double-Knit Weight yarn, 2 skeins: 113g/385m and 119g/357m and again I called the colour "Snowy Owl".

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Jacobs Fleece and helping a farmer out

An ex-work colleague of mine has gotten in touch with me to see if I could help her farmer friend out.  The farmer friend is looking for someone to take a whole load of Jacobs fleece off their hands and do what they want with it as they normally just burn it but would rather it put to good use if possible.  They don't have a large enough number of sheep fleece to be able to sell it to the Wool Marketing Board, which I think is 50+ fleece.  Usually small farms will put their fleece together to reach the required minimum amount to be able to sell it to the Wool Marketing Board and divide the monies up from that when it comes in but they are not in a position to do so.

Its a relatively local farm, about 18-20 miles away, in the pretty village of Elford, just outside of Tamworth, Staffordshire.

I had done some asking around of other spinners that I am in touch with via various online forums etc and I had some interest in them and off I went and collected 16 Jacobs fleece, driving home in the hot sunshine with the windows down for some fresh air, phew-wwhhhheeeeee!  They did have a few more fleece but someone else had taken those, thankfully!

Some of the fleece had cotted areas (felted) but with the weather we had over the winter I am not at all surprised by that, its been pretty bad.  The only annoying thing, which was done through trying to be nice/thoughtful but turned out to be a pain in the butt and create a lot of work for me as a spinner, was that they had put straw down during shearing in a bid to keep the fleece clean and free of dirt.  I advised them that spinners would rather deal with dirt, which washes out easily than straw which is a pain to remove as it gets stuck in the fleece.  I sorted all the fleece out, removing as much straw as I could and photographed those that I did not want to keep, obviously I kept the best ones for myself, selecting 4 superb fleece and 1 fleece that was not good for spinning at all which I plan to turn into a rug for the lounge.

11 of the fleece found new homes with spinners up and down and the UK and a couple were posted to spinners in Europe.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Languid - Design SB168 large

This is the last of the Rowan Spray that I have and it is called Languid, a kind of pastel colour with blackish spots and splodges on it.  Quite pretty really but I just never knew what to make with it.  I am still using the same design as well.  I started and finished this on 16th June 2014.

This is a really pretty result from a not-so-sure-of-it yarn.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Steel - Design SB168 large

Onwards and upwards to the next without stopping.  Once again this is Rowan Spray but this time in shade Steel and again it only took me one day to make it, 13th June 2014.

I like this colour and its nice and soft too.

Friday, 13 June 2014

Glade - Design SB168 large

Getting on with using up the thicker yarns in my yarn stash I moved onto the next shade of Rowan Spray which is Glade.  Not the prettiest colour in the box and I have no idea what possibly possessed me to buy such a weird colour of yarn.  Camouflage wedding anyone?

This again only took me a day to make, starting and finishing on 12th June 2014.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Seascape - Design SB168

Ok, so I have come back to working my way through my yarn stash starting with the thickest of the yarns that I have.  I have some Rowan Spray yarn in various shades, which is a slightly felted single ply super bulky yarn of 60% Wool, 40% Acrylic and no longer manufactured.

I have decided to make the larger version of a design that I have already made a few times before, the morocco capelet and the twilight capelet, but this one has a second row of leaves, making it longer.

I cast on 11th June using size 15mm knitting needles, yes they are huge and its like trying to knit with a Mars bar or some similar chocolate bar.

This didn't take long to make at all, its thick yarn knit on thick needles and knits up super fast.

I really like the colour of this one, its a really nice blue.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Hillcrescent Farm Jacobs Fleece No.7

Time to get cracking on with another of the Jacobs fleece from a local farm.  This time I randomly selected Fleece No.7.

This was sheared on 26th May 2013, had not been skirted and had a good amount of surface VM.  After I skirted it it weighs 1.35kg, photos were taken after skirting had taken place.

I separated the colours as best as I could into black/brown, white and a mixture of the colours.  I washed and dried the colours separately, the water did go really really dark brown, and was left with 843g of clean fleece, a loss of 507g of dirt and grease, broken down as follows: 323g white, 263g black/brown and 257g mixed colour.

The White Fleece

I took 148g of white fleece and dyed it with ColourCraft All in One Dye shade Magenta.  After I combed it I was left with 74g of lovely combed top, a yield of only 50%, but it was full of rubbish and VM and what I got out of it was very lovely.

I spun two singles and plied it to make a Light Fingering weight 2ply yarn, 74g/311m.

The other 167g of white fleece was dyed using ColourCraft All in One Dye in shade Cyan and after combing I was left with 81g of lovely combed top. A yield of only 48.5% but again, what I got was very very nice.

When it came down to spinning, I decided to add a bit of sparkle so I got out my Angelina Fibre and spun my first single adding that in as I went along.  The second single I left plain, without the Angelina.  I then plied the two singles together to make a Sport Weight 2ply yarn weighing 82g/240m.

The Mixed Colours Fleece

I then took the 257g of mixed colour fleece and combed it, blending the colours as equally as I could as I went.  This gave me 120g of hand combed top, a yield of just 46.6%, which I spun 2ply into a lovely Sport Weight yarn which I have called Thunder Cloud and it is 120g/380m.

The Black Fleece

I combed the 263g of black fleece which was soon reduced to 133g of hand-combed top, a yield of 50.5%.  I plied the singles together to make a Sport Weight 2ply yarn which is 133g/441m.

So that is all of the fleece used up to make these fabulous skeins of yarn.