Sunday, December 13, 2009

Adventures in Fleece. Part 2

8 down, 10 to go...... My thoughts on each of the first half (almost) of the Super Fiber Sampler that I started to blog about many months ago.... (which are also being recorded on my stash page on Ravelry).

My first sample was the Polwarth; I loved working with this fleece and super soft yarn was the result. Carded and spun from rolags. Resulting yarn is approx. 11 WPI

The Polwarth

Border Leicester was next. It washed up from golden yellow to white (I actually liked the original colour, but while reflecting on the CAUSE of that colour, I quickly changed my mind). I didn’t like the feel of the fleece even after washing. It seemed very coarse in comparison with the Polwarth, I would even go so far to call it "squeaky and plastic-y" feeling. Combed, but had a lot of waste wool… not sure if that is my fault, the combing’s fault or the sheep’s fault (I, rather highly, suspect its mine and with some further research have discovered that combing does leave a lot of waste). Resultant yarn is approx. 10-11 WPI, a beautiful cream, but coarse… wouldn’t use it for anything. Maybe it could be blended in small amounts with something softer to add some strength and luster??? Although, honestly, I doubt I would buy it again and so, probably won't find out.....

3) Icelandic: I did the stove-top method of washing this fleece and really liked it….. although there was a lot of VM left in the locks, the rest was very clean. Have combed it and did not find any separate layers although my understanding is that it should have two layers. It pretty much combed out as one length and I had much less waste than the Border Leicester. On reflection this is most likely due to the fact that I did a much better job of washing the Icelandic fleece. It feels coarse in comparison to the fine wools, but is softer than the Border Leicester, I would consider it if I needed something with strength, maybe even blending small amounts with something softer for toes and heels of socks??.....

4) CVM: Very soft and greasy even before washing…. I’m definitely preferring the “fine” sheep breeds so far…. I even prefer the smell.. more sheep-y, less poop-y…. I messed up when I was spinning this and plied a section in the wrong direction and then underplied when I realized and corrected my mistake, but I'm still liking it... the colour is particularly nice.

5) Corriedale: Another soft fine wool. Doesn’t feel as greasy as CVM, but I love how soft it is….It feels a bit coarser (coarser in comparison to the other fine wools I've processed so far) now that it's spun and washed, but would still be a nice wool for cardigans. I wouldn't use it for anything next to the skin, but I am slightly sensitive to wool and even find some merino slightly itchy (I wear it anyway! I'm determined!)... I carded and spun this from rolags, but my prep wasn't very good and the resulting yarn is a bit slubbier and less even than I'd like.

Here are the singles of Corriedale, CVM and Icelandic (left to right in photo)

6) Perendale: This is a longwool, but the softest of the three so far (my initial pre-wash impression). Well, crapOla...... I stove-topped the hell out of this wool.... I washed the wool on the stove and then was doing the first rinse (also on the stove)...... I decided to turn off the stove and let the rinse cool and soak for a bit while I ran out...... I came home to the worst FunkE smell Eva! Sort of like a.... rotten boiled eggs served in a manure infested barn, kind of smell..... Apparently, I only THOUGHT I turned off the stove and my wool cooked for a good two hours....... The resulting mess was partially, but not fully, felted and I decided not to bother with it...... Perendale now rests in the garbage......

7) Cormo: This is by FAR my favorite so far. It felt lovely even when dirty and even though I slightly felted it (I think.... I'm not sure if it was felted or just compacted as it combed out quite nicely), I decided to comb it and use it anyway.... and I still love it......

8) Romney: The softest longwool I've done yet. Because I felted the Perendale, I can't remember which is softer, but I'm pretty sure the Romney is... It was one of the easier to process and combed out with very little waste.

The main things I've learned so far:

1) It's OK to be harsh when picking though fleece. Throwing out the matted bits, the really short bits and the combing leftovers is fine.... The sheep police are not going to break down your door and arrest you for throwing perfectly good wool in the garbage, even if you cut off the tips of the locks with scissors.

2) I need an electric spin dryer. Perhaps "need" is the wrong word, but I want one and a salad spinner isn't going to cut it for me.... (I like my gadgets). Drying time needs to be cut down so that I can do my own laundry and use the drying rack for clothing, rather than just fleece. I also need to pick up some Tulle. I found I had to do a second and third cleaning with a pillowcase and my sweater bags were too small making it difficult the lock structure.

UPDATE: I did purchase a spin dryer and LOVE it! It is fantastic for all of my handwashing items.. I haven't used it for fleece yet, but I set the twist in my last 2 of this batch and the resulting yarn was almost dry. A heavy knit sweater dries overnight (with a fan) using this gadget..... I bought mine from The Laundry Alternative. The small countertop fits 3 light knit sweaters (store bought or fingering weight) OR 2 medium knit sweaters (dk to aran weight) OR 1 heavy sweater.

3) Combing/carding is hard on my wrists. I don't think washing/prepping a fleece is something I'll do all the time and it'll take me a while to finish this sampler because of it.

4) Washing/prepping my own fleece has taught me a LOT about wool (and I even understand more about spinning worsted vs. spinning woolen!) and I think this Fibre Sampler is an invaluable tool.

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