Monday, July 10, 2017

All About Sheep!

I signed up to talk at a local PechaKucha event recently. It was fun!

You get 20 slides and 20 seconds per slide to talk about anything you love.

Guess what I talked about?

Monday, July 3, 2017

Blended Fiber for socks

Now that I have some experience with single-breed handspun socks, I'm starting to want to branch out into fiber blends. Since I have no ability to blend fibers myself, I'm always on the lookout for suppliers who can sell me sock-friendly blends. My first forays will be into single-breeds with either nylon or mohair for strength.

So far, I've spun up a 70/30 shetland/mohair blend (from the UK) that has become a pair of socks that I am very happy with. The spun yarn (3 ply) had a nice sheen, but no bounce. The socks were knit at tight gauge. They developed a hole at the toe (my big toenail is a veritable saw) rather quickly, and have been darned, but the rest of the sock is, so far, wearing admirably. Comparable to my Romney socks.

[Shetland/mohair socks]

I have also spun and ruined a pair of 70/30 Finn/nylon socks - these felted very quickly. So no more Finn for me.

I have, laying around, some 70/30 Southdown/nylon as well, that is still waiting to be turned into socks. Yes, yes, I will get around to you!

And, I should mention one of my earliest forays into spinning for socks, a 70/30 superwash BFL/nylon blend that became a pair of socks for my husband, which have lasted 2 years so far with no signs of wear. I'll have to do a post on these so you can have a closer look at them (compare new and 2-year old photos), because so far, these are the strongest handspun socks I've made.

But here are some purchases that I made that I now have regrets about:

[70/30 (non-superwash) BFL/nylon blend]

[70/30 BFL/mohair blend]

I purchased them via the internet based on a description alone, which, it turns out, isn't enough. 

It's hard to see (particularly difficult in the second photo), but these blends are not actually blended enough for use in socks. The fiber is meant for decorative items. When the dyer ordered their raw material (from World of Wool, I suspect), they requested only 1 blending pass, so that there are still very visible "ropes" of nylon (emerald green streaks in the upper photo) or mohair (deep yellow, shiny, wavy locks to the right of my thumb in the lower) in the tops. I am afraid that this is not going to even itself out during spinning, so that the yarn will not have an even distribution of nylon in it. While this might be nice for a shimmery shawl, I'm not convinced it's useful for hard-wearing socks...I'll have to make a shawl or something out of these two!

So, lesson learned: I need to be sure that the blending is thoroughly done, and this is something I need to ask about, if I cannot see the product!

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.