Browsed by
Author: heirloom51

Another experiment with long wools

Another experiment with long wools

There is an innovative indie-dyer who to supplements my addiction from time to time. She has access to some lovely long wools such as Teeswater and Masham, great blends, and exotics that don’t come my way very often. She is superlative at using colour and just great fun in her experimentation. This past winter I decided to take the plunge and buy some of her less expensive offerings of a mixed bag of long wools. These bags can have any kind of breed. They generally are a little felted or cotted but not impossible to work with for spinning.

Because the locks were slightly felted I decided to use small dog combs as flick carders to open the wool. That was a surprise! A lock that was five inches long ended up 14 or more inches after being carded. The dog combs are very fine and do a good job on the locks if used gently.

The colours in the grab bag were mouth watering and spoke of spring.

Each lock was kept separate and spun individually. The singles were plied using the chain ply method to let the colours remain in blocks.

The bag was primarily long wool, but had a great variety of lengths, so I think it was more a grab bag of breeds.

The residual wool caught in the carders was short and had some neps. This was carded as for wool spinning, some was run through wool combs to see if that would yield any decent results, but the wastage was very high, so I gave up on that as a processing method and went back to using carders.

The wool caught in the dog combs was slightly blended and the colours were muted.
The dog combs pulled out short bits and neps that will add texture to this woollen spin.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I haven’t spun the wool waste yet, but it should be fairly quick to do and easy to finish if I do long draw.  The colours will be more heather than the crisp colours that I’m trying to maintain by carding the individual locks, but they will have a muted heather look and will be attractive in their own way.

Each lock was spun individually into singles, which were then cable plied as a three ply.  This is the only way I know to protect the individuality of the colours.

Singles of different “long wool”

The final result is interesting, but a little bit “all over the place” and frankly a little disappointing. It had no clear purpose, no underlying colour theme, no direction and it shows.  If this is used in weaving I will use a monochrome warp and complimentary weft to help pull it together and make one or two specific colours pop.  Right now, none of the colours really stand out.  The yarn itself is actually surprisingly soft for long wool.  It’s lusterous, silky and smooth.

Three ply cable yarn that is lustrous and surprisingly soft.

I’ll keep trying different kinds of long wool, I enjoy them, but I think I’ll try finding my own fleece supplier if possible and see what I can do with my own cleaning and dyeing. I need to find out what the fleece are like right from the animal.  So the learning curve continues.

So…what do you DO with that stuff??

So…what do you DO with that stuff??

Spinners who participate at demonstrations hear this question all the time. After washing, dyeing, carding/combing then spinning the most delicious yarn in the world, we have to do more? Isn’t this enough? Apparently there is an expectation that all our lovely yarn has to be used for something else. For years that wasn’t my problem; that was left to the devices of much more talented weavers, knitters, felters and other fiber artists. This was when we had fiber festivals and gathers of like minded people who could touch yarn and evaluate the grist for their next project. To my great surprise, I can spin a lot of yarn in a year.

During one of the relaxed periods of lock-down I was able to buy a lovely little loom. It was a Leclerc Mira, 27 inch, four harness, sectional beam. This little button came with all the bells and whistles – warping mill, bobbin rack with bobbins, electric bobbin winder, skein winder, shuttles, extra heddles, reeds, counter, the list keeps going and going. I was truly blessed to find this loom. It did come unassembled without instructions. That is a crucial bit of information. User manuals are easily found on-line with very good information. Kudo’s to Leclerc for providing customers throughout the ages all the information they need to maintain and care for these lovely machines.

This is some of the Cotswold I used for the scarves
This is some of the Cotswold I used for the scarves

Like most of the world we were in lock-down of one sort or another, but at one point both my son’s were allowed to be in my home as long as I wasn’t, so they took the opportunity to come and set up the little darling for me. Well, that was the intention. The reality ended up with an attempt to sort out the messy meccano set called a loom, define the parts, try to read instructions, etc. that ended with one of them saying “nuts to this, I’m going to start supper and clean the bathroom”. When I got home, supper was on the brew, the loo was clean and one son was struggling with a partially assembled machine. We finished it together. Pear is a shape, and it is not a good one when skittering around under a small loom. Skitter may not be an accurate description either, but you get the idea. I’m too old for this sort of activity.

Cotswold is one of my favourite breeds and I had a lovely selection available for my first try after a long break from weaving. Several decades ago my then sister in law coerced me into taking weaving and spinning at the local college.  I loved it, she did not.  Once coming to this area, I was competent enough to be hired as a production weaver for a local artisan. We used sectional beams for warping and I prefer them to using a reel. The only draw-back for a sectional beam is the need to have individual bobbins for each thread. So if you are weaving at 10 threads per inch you will need 10 bobbins with enough yardage for the length and width of your warp. I really needed to crack out my math skills again. Thankfully, all the Cotswold I had spun, had yardage marked on the skeins, so I was confident that I had enough to use. I was going to make scarves for my sons.

I measured and did math and wound bobbins, redid the math; worried that I hadn’t done the math properly, so redid it and finally took the plunge.

bobbins all wound and ready for the sectional beam

Sectional beam getting ready to go

The weave pattern was a very basic twill.  I just wanted to get back to learning how to do a full loom set-up again.  The bonus would be having something useful to show for it at the end of the process. The idea of purchasing fiber to do this also seemed a little weird since my house was getting full of spun yarn. 

Final warp, all ready for weaving

Taking the plunge and using my own hand spun was a significant eye opening experience. The wool I chose was just too rough for the final product of scarves.  My sons are kind and tell me the scarves are warm and snuggly and all sorts of appropriate compliments, but the material feels a bit like kevlar.  

I am now more aware of producing fiber with an end purpose in mind, not necessarily for me, but for other people as well.  If I design the yarn with intent for an end use, I can explain to someone else what it will be good for.  Some hand spun is not as good for weaving as it is for knitting, and some hand spun should never be used for scarves!

From start to finished yarn – that icky fleece

From start to finished yarn – that icky fleece

Generally, when I wash a fleece I skirt it heavily. (The one exception is for suint cleaning, everything must go into that bath.) I am of the opinion in my senior years, that I have less time than money, and sheep will grow more wool next year; on the other hand, I may not be here. This year I was fortunate enough to buy from a friend who is brilliant at spotting excellent fleece and equally brilliant at cleaning them. I trust her implicitly and with reason.

Once the heavy lifting of selecting, skirting, and washing is done the wool is ready for processing. It can be spun from locks, dyed, carded either on the drum or hand carders, combed, or left to be stroked endlessly if it’s a particularly nice specimen.

This year I was going gang busters with dyeing. I had so much lovely wool to play with, so many different types, it was glorious, but every once in a while I’ll spend too much time with a fleece. I was processing lots of lovely locks and grabbed a bag just brimming full of the little lovelies. So much of the wool was amazing, just shimmering with light and reflecting the colours like petals on flowers.

In the bottom of the larger bag was a small sealed bag that I did not check for quality. This was dyed alone and produced a lovely orange/red. The locks are soft and lusterous, compact and have a great texture. The experiment for this dye bath was to treat the final rinse with a hair conditioner.  I could feel that the wool had been stripped and would produce static during processing.  I laid the wool in the sink, rubbed hair conditioner on my hands and patted it all over the wool, pushed this down in the water and watched in shock and awe as sand, debris, vegetable matter fell out of the fleece.  However, it’s full of second cuts, and cotted spots and these also started to separate from the longer locks. I suspect this was a gifted bag. My pride is saying I can salvage this…but what a sorry site, so many second cuts, so much wastage.

The locks looked fine, but these held some disappointing surprises

In a saner moment I would have set it aside, or thrown it out, but ego took over and I needed to prove to myself that I could make something out of this mess. So I started teasing out the waste material, carded the results and did a test spin.

The waste is significant, approximately 20% of the original product, including VM and sand. The fiber is half as long as the other locks from the original dye baths.

This is the wastage from the second cuts, severely cotted wool and VM

When carded, the staple length of the fiber was too short and too lofty to shape into rolags without fighting the fiber, so I left them as small batts and stacked them for woollen spinning. They are holding together extremely well and spin like a dream using long draw.

The test spin is a perfectly gorgeous, fluffy, strong woolen yarn. I couldn’t be more pleased with the final result, I would use this as a weft, or for knitting something that needs a lot of warmth. I’m not sure it could withstand abrasion. I have no idea what the breed is, so wouldn’t know if felting is an option. The staple on these batts is only 1.5 – 2 inches. The crimp is very large, hence the loft. It does shed so that might be a problem down the road.

Lofty woolen, warm results from experiment, small sample.

So, I learned a few things from this. Hair conditioner is great stuff for spinners. There is now a bottle in my tool kit, cheap stuff, but it works. And maybe I should slow down on judging a fleece as not worth the effort. This one really was worth the little bit of extra work. It’s a pleasure to card, so easy to spin and the final result is wonderful. I would have missed that. My friend knew what she was doing keeping this little bit of wool aside for special care.

Pleased to meet you, I love fibre

Pleased to meet you, I love fibre

Thank you Ruth and Ann for the invitation to the group. My name is Bernadette and fibre has been part of my life for a very long time. I started spinning and weaving in my late teens at the University of Regina. Since the pandemic there has been a lot of time available to really enjoy more indepth experiments with fiber.

There must always be purple! It’s my favourite colour and how I start every dye session.

 

 

 

 

 

I searched my stash and found loads of unwashed fleeces from so many different vendors and shepherds. There was mohair and silk, cotton, alpaca, linen, the list is pretty complete. Wool alone has so many breeds. They fascinate me with the variability of colour, texture, and spin characteristics within a breed and even within a single fleece. These past months allowed me or rather forced me to wash, sort, and dye several fleece from my stash. So with hand on heart I made the solemn promise that “I will not buy another fleece until these are all done”. I lied.

This rambouillett comes from Hutterite colonies in Alberta. These are extremely good farmers and the fleece shows it.

So I washed, dried, and dyed as many fleece as possible over the summer, Then as the weather cooled down, the wool has been either left in locks or hand processed into roving from wool combs, hand carders or from the drum carder. I’m starting to experiment with blending wool and other fibre. Over the summer I joined Jan and several other guild members in the Flax Project. Friends and family were worried there would not be enough raw material available for me and gave me fleeces, or sent me information on great resources for interesting materials. It was a gong show to say the least. I will be sharing the final results of the pandemic experience as the year progresses.

Writing and sharing my experiences is very new for me, so I hope over the next eleven months I can show you what my near geekery looks like. Being called a fiber geek no longer bothers me, its who I am. If there is any one thing that specifically interests you please let me know and I’ll do my best to help you.

 

 

%d bloggers like this: