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52 Weeks of Wool

52 Weeks of Wool

4/52 Weeks of Wool: Romney

March 4, 2016

It’s been an eventful week around here, with our Maremma pups having some ‘escapades‘ in our surrounding forest (more on that later), along with our beloved Dexter dairy cow Lulu joining them on one such event and coming down with bloat and scours. We weren’t sure she was going to make it, but thankfully she’s pulling through and I’ll be writing a whole post about this (with photos)…there’s a lot more to share.

Although this post mark’s the 4th week of my 52 Weeks of wool project, I’ve been keeping up with the actual spinning each week, just a bit behind on the posts. 🙂

And now I make a novice claim…Romney is the perfect fiber to learn and begin spinning with! Of the 8+ fibers I’ve spun thus far, this has been the easiest to maintain consistency in weight and drafting. Romney is not the softest of fibers, but it’s rusticity lends itself so well to the beginner spinner’s eager will and is forgiving of the minor pauses in cadence that are often unforgiving in other fibers. At least this is my experience and I’ve heard something similar from a couple other spinners since, so if you’re new to spinning or wanting to get started, I suggest Romney wholeheartedly.

The Romney has a nice halo and being that it’s long-wool, it has a nice strength to it, similar to the Cotswold I spun, but it has less luster than the Cotswold and is more rustic-not as soft…a quality that I love personally. I had so much fun spinning and plying this amazing wool and seeing the results of a consistent and very satisfying yarn.

The roving I spun came from Prado de Lana, a fiber farm created by Amanda and Alberto Barcenas along with their two children Sammy and Noelia, in Chester County Pennsylvania. I’ve loved learning a little bit more about their farm and homestead, finding similarities behind the desires of why we both do what we do…’creating awesome business adventures and creating unforgettable memories and learning opportunities with our children’. It’s exciting to see another young family pursuing their passions in organic gardening and fiber farming, and a great example that if something similar is calling to your heart, it is possible…really it is.

The Barcenas’ raise Lincoln Longwool and Romney sheep, with fleeces ranging from white, grey, chocolate brown and taupe. The sheep are due to lamb this month and next, so make sure to follow along on their blog for updates! ell locks, roving and some really scrumptious looking yarn from their flock. They also make and sell wood knitting needles from oak, walnut and birch. Their Romney’s fleece range from white, grey, chocolate brown and taupe. You can read more about this special farm and family at www.pradodelana.com and on Instagram @pradodelana

52 Weeks of Wool

3/52 Weeks of Wool: Shetland

February 18, 2016

Back in SF this week for work and a short jaunt to Stitches West, so I find myself with a bit more time in the evenings to catch up on 52 Weeks of Wool posts. I’ve got 6 different skeins of breed specific handspun yarn, just waiting to be knit and shown off.

I’ve found a new ritual each morning. Pulling our makeshift quilt curtain from the window, stoking the fire and shuffling to my wheel soon after waking up. Sitting down I have to reacquaint myself, it’s not quite become second nature like knitting has and often times Coltrane is at my side, with his foot next to mine on the treadle or his hand on mine as I draft. While his attention lasts just a few moments, it’s precious.

This marks my third week’s wool and very much a joy in the struggle. Squishy, lovely, lofty Shetland.

The previous two week’s I’d worked with fibers that had longer staple lengths and so I was setup for a surprise as I began spinning the short staple Shetland roving. It became apparent right away that I needed to alter specific mechanics of my spinning. When I began, I kept losing the yarn as I drafted, a key indicator to my novice self that I needed to shorten my draw significantly and while I have gotten pretty good at consistent treadling at varying speeds, I realized right away that I needed to slow down in order to keep up with my slower and shorter drafting and keeping the weight consistent. Reading all this is humorous because at the time I was like “why isn’t this working?”. I had intended to spin a fingering weight single, but shifted my goal happily to a worsted or aran (albeit a bit lumpy), chiding myself for being so confident in my beginner skills. Wheel 1, Ashley 0. hah!

So it was a great lesson in ‘reading the wool’ if you will. What exact mechanics I need to adjust to achieve the results I’m looking for. Coincidently, Amanda Soule who sent me this lovely Shetland fiber, sent me two bumps, so I’m saving the second for when my skills are a bit more refined and I’m ready to tackle the fingering weight single again. 🙂

I also plied for my first time and used my wheel instead of a drop spindle how I’d originally planned, because a reader kindly reached out a explained how with just one bobbin…so thank you! My happy plied Cormo from week 2.

amandasoule_shetland_2Over the holidays I received a box full of wooly goodness from Amanda Soule, a spinner herself, fiber farmer and founder of Taproot Magazine. There were two bumps of roving, named Frances and Nutmeg…two from her flock of Shetlands, many named after spices. You had me at Nutmeg. And considering Coltrane’s middle name is ‘Francis’ and if he’d been a girl his first name would have been ‘Frances’, I felt an instant connection to these balls of lofty wool…silly maybe, but you know what I mean. 😉

It’s been fun to watch Amanda’s own spinning and fiber farming journey through Instagram and her blog. It wasn’t until after I had spun her Shetland that I found a resonating post on her blog paralleling lessons in parenting and spinning. I love it when I stumble upon these treasures.

 

 

52 Weeks of Wool

2/52 Weeks of Wool: Cormo

January 27, 2016

In spite of my growing spinning habit (read – can’t stop won’t stop spinning), I’m a bit behind on my 52 Week of Wool posts here on the blog. I’m currently working from SF this week and so I have my evenings to catch up.

This marks my second week’s wool and it’s my most favorite sheep breed of all…Cormo.

cormowool_2
I’m having a lot of fun spinning. Far more than I anticipated I would. Like, ‘let Coltrane stay up two hours past his bedtime so I can spin more’ fun. Try as I might, I often find myself falling asleep when I put Coltrane to bed, and there’s no getting up once that happens. I blame it on Winter. 😉

cormowool

This week was quite a different experience than last. My drafting skills are getting far better, which excites me so much. While I love the rustic lumpy bumpy, being able to spin a consistent weight for longer periods of time is so satisfying. The twist however with this batch of wool is that it came to me as a washed fleece, not roving. I was excited to use my antique hand carders I picked up at a shop in Nampa, Idaho when visiting my friend Liz last year. I grabbed them off the wall in my studio and got to work. Yeah, way different. I’m not entirely sure I was doing it right, or that I should use the carders again being that much wear on them at this age is going to break them down further. It was fun though, despite it turning out far from roving, hah. After carding a couple ounces into sweet fluffy clouds, I got to spinning. Drafting was a bit more challenging due to the nature of how I carded the wool…it was less even, so I had to compensate for that as I drafted and spun…something I was getting the hang of, but resulted in less consistent weights overall.

The result? A soft, billowy and perfectly rustic Cormo handspun. There’s just something about Cormo I can’t quite put into words.

cormowool_3

Considering I’m so new to spinning, it’s probably obvious, but I’ve never plied before. The spinning wheel isn’t really setup to ply currently and I only have one bobbin (need to order more!), but I figured there’s probably another way to ply and I found this great YouTube tutorial on how to ply using a center pull cake wound on a winder, and then plied using a drop spindle, which I have. I plan to ply this yarn when I get back from my trip next week.

I began perusing blanket patterns this past week as well, contemplating what style of blanket I’d like to make from this project. It will be a little challenging as I will need to compensate for the different weights and gauges, but it’s completely doable. I’m thinking a type of mitered square or cross.

clearviewfarm

The Cormo locks came from Clear View Farm in Waterman, Illinois. The farm is owned and operated by Sandra Schrader who started with three sheep in 2005 and now has over 20. Sandra’s focus for the farm is to produce high quality American Cormo wool and breeding stock, as well as Angora bunny fiber and she holds workshops and tours on her beautiful farm. You can find fleeces and washed locks on her website, as well as more information about Clear View Farm.