Monday, June 19, 2017

Socktacular Experiment, vol 2

Right. So a while back, I purchased a bunch of single-breed fleece "tasters" - 50g each - to spin into socks.

I've done 5 of the 7 by now, and it has been an interesting spinning experience. Here's a summary shot:

[top to bottom: Clun Forest, Romney, Texel, Southdown, Suffolk]

For starters, you can see that the colour "white" is quite different for each breed. The whitest is the Texel, which is really quite blinding. The Romney has a distinct yellow cast and the other three are rather close together - a greyish white, compared to the Texel.

Just to recall: these are all commercially prepped rovings (ie. carded, not even pindrafted) from the same mill. These are all classified as "medium wools", ie. not fine and soft like merino. The mill does not provide a micron count.

Here are my spinning notes so far, in order of my spinning them. They were all spun longdraw, true woolen style.

No.1 : Texel
Man, springy stuff! The fluffiest yarn I have ever spun, and I'm not sure it's suitable for socks. It is very fine, a little nebby, and the result is exceedlingly woolly and lightweight. It's very white and has no lustre at all - chalky white. I'd love to make a sweater out of this, it would be like wearing a cloud!
The yarn is underplied, so will have to go back through again before I knit anything with it. 

[Texel, up close. You can see it has too little ply for sock-use]



No.2 : Suffolk
This is an official downs breed, and is again springy, but not as blindingly white as the Texel. It feels coarser.  The roving was less nebby than the Texel, so an easier spin. 

No.3 : Clun Forest
I busted out the spinning oil on this one, just for fun. The first two didn't really need it, but I wanted to see if using it made any difference. The answer: not really (although I have had situations where a little spinning oil really helped!). This breed is definitely the coarsest so far, and feels almost wiry. I wound up spinning it a little on the heavy side. 

No.4 : Southdown
Very fine fiber. It's finer than the Texel and softer. Also, much nebbier than the others so much more work to spin. I did not enjoy this much, it was a lot of work. And I'm not convinced it'll be good for socks, without nylon...

No. 5 : Romney
OK, this is totally different stuff from the fiber I've spun up (mostly from the UK). It's about the same coarseness as the Clun Forest, and not as springy as the others. It has a very distinct yellow cast to it.

[Romney, close-up]

The last two are a Cotswold and a Dorset, which will be on the wheel shortly. Thereafter, the knitting starts!! Stay tuned.

Monday, June 12, 2017

LMSPA Fair 2017

I attended the Lower Mainland Sheep Producers' Association annual fair last weekend again (I went a couple of years ago, too).  It was fun!

The fair is showcases local fleeces. It has only a few vendors, and those vendors sell basically exclusively fleece and related item - there are no yarn vendors. The main focus of the fair is the fleece auction, where you can bid on bags and bags of local fleeces, all judged. The prices run from $6-$15 per pound ($1.3-$3.3 per 100 g) of raw fleece - but there's a lot of work involved before you have yarn!

It starts with a sheep-shearing demo, and then the demo fleece is judged according to its breed standard. The shearing was fun to watch, the sheep didn't seem to mind the procedure too much. The fleece comes off in one piece, like a mat. Included in the price of shearing: a hoof trim!

[step one: shearing off the stomachy bits - carefully!]

[the last bit is the tail end. The fleece comes off like a mat]

[a hoof trim, and we're done!]


[the fleece on the skirting table]

The fleece is spread (thrown, actually) onto the "skirting table", which is nothing but a coarse screen on a set of sawhorses, which lets most of the really nasty bits fall through. It lets you see the full thing in all its glory, so the judging can be done. The demo judging was very informative - the judge talked us through how she judges "soundness", "evenness", "staple", "handle", and other qualities. I learned a lot. Part of the judging involved washing some of the locks to see how they cleaned up.

After learning how to judge a fleece,  you can walk around the tables and poke through the bags of fleeces, all with scoresheets attached so you can see for yourself how they stack up. 

I was particularly attracted to the primitive coloured fleeces - the primitive breeds (mostly Shetland, Icelandic, and some Gotland) have fleeces that are about 1/2 the size of the standard breeds. They come in at around 3-4 pounds (1.5-2kg) so are a bit more manageable for beginners like myself. Some of them were really beautifully black!

There were some beautiful coloured finewool breeds (some BFL, CVM, and merino crosses) available as well, but at  9 lbs of fleece, these were a bit daunting for me!

I liked being able to feel the downs breeds - there was one bag of Shropshire which felt wonderful, like it would make a lovely, cloud-like sweater.

One of the attractions of this year's show was the cashmere goats. Very cute! There was cashmere fleece on offer, as well as some spun cashmere. Very pricey, though. The interesting thing about these little guys is that they LOVE Himalayan blackberry, that hugely invasive thorny blackberry that's all over the Lower Mainland. And the breeders from Chiliwack offer "targeted grazing"...I'm already thinking of proposing this to our City for the ravine park, which is overrun by blackberry bushes. Maybe we can get a cut of the cashmere crop?

[cashmere goats]

I have recently come into a drum carder, so I think that next year, I will be dipping my toes into fleece processing!

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Not Knitting Socks...

I have been bitten by the cable bug.

I started with a pair of cable socks, but these are a disaster, because I can never get them to fit right. It takes me multiple tries...right now, these are awaiting frogging:

[too-small socks awaiting their frogging]

The yarn is Tosh Sock, which I'm not in love with. The colourway (cove), yes, but the quality of the yarn....no. This particular skein fell into short ends - it had breaks every few meters. Very frustrating to knit with, and hence I'm not in a rush to frog them, either. So they will languish for some time....

Meanwhile, my urge to cable has not diminished. So I've been knitting an Aran sweater for my son's birthday:

[St. Enda sweater for my son]

This is my first Aran, ever! The pattern is one of Alice Starmore's (St. Enda), and is truly spectacular. I made some very minor modifications: managed to carry the small cables on the cuffs into the main body, and modified the neck by making it really long and folding it inwards. 

The beautiful yarn is from a lady in my knitting group, she bought it in Scotland or Ireland decades ago and it had been languishing in her stash. She wanted to give it a good home...it truly is wonderful stuff. Not soft, but a nice crisp yarn with good body.  Heirloom quality that won't pill or sag. The colour is impossible to photograph, it's a dark teal/green with lots of flecks in it. 

I'm now knitting an Aran for myself - my own "design" (ie. just pick a few cable patterns from your nearest stitch dictionary). Again it takes some time to get the width right because even knitting up swatches isn't really good enough...I usually start with the sleeves (in the round) and use them as giant swatches, but even so it took me 3 times to get the back width correct. 

[Misty thinks it's hers]

This yarn is from Beaverslide Dry Goods - their Fisherman's 3 ply - and it is quite soft, with little elasticity, so not as nice to knit with as that green stuff, above. My hands get quite tired from it. But the cat seems to like it. It's spun in Alberta from Montana merinos, so pretty local.

Finally, I have my eye on this beautiful design, which I'm hoping one of my menfolk will desire as much as I. I'm thinking of using Briggs and Little, which is a Canadian yarn I've recently tried for the first time - very springy and woolly.