I am part of a spinning group at my LYS. We meet twice a month, and this year we have decided to do a breed and fiber study. So once a month our meetings will focus on a specific wool breed or fiber, and we will all take turns teaching each other about them.
January’s focus was on Blue Faced Leicester. What a luscious fiber! I have only spun BFL once before (as part of my Skywool), and I had forgotten how easy it is to spin! The fiber we were provided with has a staple length of about 6 inches. The wool is wavy, rather than crimpy, and it is a commercial top preparation.
From about 1 1/4 oz I spun 92 yds of singles at my default spinning size of a light fingering/lace weight (Spun S). I like the yarn to be tight and plump when plied, so I spun with quite a bit of twist. In addition to trying a new type of wool. I decided to try a new plying method by cable plying my yarn. So after I spun my singles I plied both ends together, adding more twist than I would for a balanced yarn (Plied Z). I then plied both ends together again to create the cable ply (plied S). This resulted in 23 yards of a thick, almost ropy, Aran weight yarn, and I love it to bits!
Do you have a favourite kind of wool to work with? What about a new technique that you’ve recently learned?
Up until now I have exclusively spun combed top. Commercially prepped Top is easy to find, both dyed and undyed, and it’s easy to spin. And the method of spinning worsted (this has nothing to do with the diameter of the yarn, but rather with how you draft the fibers) gives the spinner a lot of control over how the yarn spins up. I love spinning Top, but I am a curious cat, and I wanted to try spinning woolen, and that meant getting some rolags and some batts and learning a different drafting method.
I bought 4 oz of these glorious rolags from Wildthyme Art on Etsy.
You can see how each end is a deep black that fades through grey to a stark white in the middle. The rolags have sparkly bits and some fun colourful additions throughout. I love the stark contrast of the black, white, but buying sparkles was a bit of a stretch for me.
The first rolag was so hard to spin. Not by any fault of the rolag, but because I was learning to use the short forward draw instead of my normal short backward draw. By the time I got to the second rolag, though, things were going well. I took this spin with me to a St. Distaff’s day celebration at my LYS, and spun almost half of my fiber in one day! Clearly, woolen spinning is speedy!
As I finished spinning my singles I thought long and hard about how I wanted to ply this yarn. I decided on a 2-ply, but I didn’t want stark black and white stripes in whatever I would make out of this yarn. After much thought, I decided to ply a marled yarn, where the black and white were plied together. I pulled the first few yards off the ball and held them in my left hand in a butterfly, then once I got into the grey section, I began plying the yarn on itself.
When the short end that I had held in a butterfly was plied, I added the other end of my ball to continue plying the singles on itself.
I finished plying, looked at my yarn, and thought, “You know, I would like this yarn a whole lot better if it had a lot more twist in the ply. So I ran it through my wheel again to add more twist. I am SO HAPPY I did this! I love how my yarn turned out!
This is definitely a thick and thin yarn, ranging from light fingering to heavy worsted. I would label it as a sport or DK weight. I ended up with 312 yds.
So now I get to decide what do do with it. Weaving? Knitting? I think it could make the most wonderful handbag!
What do you think? What would you use this yarn for?
P.S. The coupon code for my newest pattern is still running. Get the Ribless Hat on Ravelry for 18% off until January 18 with the code HOORAY18
There were a few moments during this spin where I wondered if this crazy yarn would work out. What if all the colours paired up garishly? What if I hated it? I voiced my concerns to my husband and he told me to just knit socks with it. If the yarn is awful no one has to see it but me. It can be an exciting sock secret. Now the yarn is done and I love it! My husband has claimed it – he wants the crazy socks all for himself.
I’ve been following Treadle Handspun Yarns on Instagram for quite a while now. Robin spins the most beautifully even yarns – they are such a pleasure to look at. Every now and again she also works up a bag of Tiddly Bits to sell in her shop. Tiddly Bits are bits and bobs of different coloured rovings all tied up and thrown in a bag together. They always sell quickly, and I’ve been trying to get my hands on a bag for months.
The idea is to reach into the bag and spin the next colour, no matter what it is (or I suppose you could carefully lay them out in colour order if that’s how you prefer it). I started spinning my bag of bits last night and oh, I love it!
So many colours just jumbled up next to each other, all willy nilly! I think when the bits are done I may spin up something a bit more staid to calm everything down and make a 3-ply yarn like I did with my SkyWool: 2 fun plies, one calming. Or maybe I’ll really go crazy and ply with a cone of crochet cotton!
Who knows. I have the Tiddly Bits, and the world is my oyster.
I finished spinning the SkyWool! It started as the bounciest Merino top I’ve ever spun.
I spun it quite finely (spun S or clockwise), hoping for a fingering weight yarn. I wanted to make a 3-ply yarn, but I didn’t want to divide the roving in 3 pieces and risk wasting some of my fiber, so I spun the merino from end to end and then spun some natural coloured BFL to go with it. I plied from both ends of the merino, with the BFL as my 3rd ply (plied Z or counterclockwise). About 2/3 of the way through plying I ran out of BFL (I talked more about this here). Oops.
So I spun some more of the BFL and finished my plying. I wasn’t quite happy with how the yarn looked, though. You can see in the picture above how loose the plying is, and I desperately wanted a yarn as bouncy as the Merino Top was. So I decided to run it though my spinning wheel again to add more twist. I am so glad I did this because now I love how the yarn looks!
Technically the yarn is overplied: it tries to twist on itself when hanging, even after a wash. But I don’t care. I have 290 yds of beautiful blue fingering weight yarn!
I hoped to show you a finished skein of yarn today, but I overestimated the length of my 3rd ply.
Maybe I should start at the beginning.
I bought this Merino Top on a trip to see my family. I love how it looks like the sky. It reminds me of the wallpaper in Toy Story, and thus, of my childhood.
I started spinning it around the same time I started making gnomes. Bigols was so excited about it! I wanted to make a 3-ply yarn, but I didn’t want to divide the roving in 3 pieces and risk wasting some of my precious fiber (This is the trap I always fall into. I need to start realizing that it is just wool and there will always be more). I decided to spin all the blue as one yarn, then spin some undyed BFL separately. I would cake the blue singles and spin both ends together with the BFL to make a 3 ply. This would also stretch the yardage I would get from my “SkyWool.”
On Sunday I finished spinning the blue. Happy day! I immediately started on the BFL and hurt my wrist by spinning too much. Oops.
Over the last few days I’ve worked on the BFL a little bit at a time. Last night I thought that maybe I had enough.
The yarn is plying up quite nicely. I want it to be quite plump, so after I finish plying I may run it through my wheel again to add a little more twist.