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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.




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.

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. 😉


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.


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.


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.


1/52 Weeks of Wool: Cotswold

January 13, 2016

This marks my first week of the 52 Week of Wool project, and my first handspun yarn…something I’m pretty dang excited about. You can find some background on this project here.


It was a bit of an interesting start. Being that I’m new to spinning, I’m also new to spinning wheels. I was lent an old Ashford Traditional wheel by a neighbor last Summer and when I started to try and spin on it, it wasn’t going how I had been shown or watched in videos. I fumbled around for a couple nights, ending in frustration and bewilderment. So I consulted YouTube once again and realized there were some vital pieces missing…the tension knob, tension springs and tension string. I found some Ashford maintenance kits online, but realized I could probably just as easily find the parts at our local hardware store. And that I did. So that evening I fashioned the springs and string and a temporary knob out of a pencil…haha. I’ll replace that part once I find the right sized dowel and knob. And now it works like a charm, as far as I can tell. 🙂

As I began to spin words of wisdom from my class at Verb kept coming back to me…”it’s all about the drafting”…”don’t let go of the fiber”…”steady, steady, steady” and so on. What started as fast and VERY lumpy and VERY bumpy, quickly turned into slow and steady and fairly consistent. About halfway through spinning this first batch I got so excited I kept saying out loud to David, “check it out, I’m a spinner! How awesome is this, I’m making yarn!”…about 10 times. He laughed in encouragement from behind his book. As I progressed through the few ounces of wool, I practiced trying different weights, from fingering to what might be considered worsted and such. All the sudden I looked down and all the wool was gone! It went by so fast I hadn’t even realized, the cadence of it all setting me into a sort of wool trance.


Now a word about this week’s wool, Cotswold.

Tamara White of Wing and a Prayer Farm is a fiber farmer in Vermont and also happens to be one of my closest friends and greatest encouragers so it seemed only fitting I kick off this project with some wool near and dear. Anyone who knows Tammy, knows her huge heart for both human and animal and everything in between. The amount of things this woman accomplishes in a day blows my mind and when I wonder how I’m going to get it all done I think of her and know it’s possible. Between a pie baking business, a full-time farm (Sheep, llamas, alpacas, horses, a pony, chickens, turkeys, peacocks, goats, a pig, donkeys, dogs, cats), yarn making, workshops and retreats, this woman is a machine. Her fiber flock consists of Cotswold, Cormo, Shetland, Corriedale, Merino, Mohair and Alpaca. She sent me a bag of her fluffy Cotswold, a wool I had not yet worked with which made it all the more exciting.

Let me preface my description of this fiber with the disclaimer that while I have learned an immense amount about breed specific wools and yarn making these past two years since starting the Woolful blog, I am still very much new to it all and far from an expert. My descriptions are based on my experience and gut reactions.

This Cotswold fiber is incredibly soft, something that I was slightly surprised by considering I don’t often hear about it. The luster while noticeable in the roving, is far more present in the yarn…an incredible sheen. The staple length is about 6″ and the roving I was sent was milled by Michael of Hampton Fiber Mill, also in Vermont and a guest of the podcast along with Tammy. The finished yarn was incredibly strong too. I’m unsure if this is a common trait of handspun yarn considering it’s twist, but I love the sturdiness of it. The end product has a beautiful soft halo and I couldn’t be more pleased with my first adventure in spinning. I can’t wait to knit the blanket square from it.

You can find Cotswold and other fibers at the Wing and a Prayer Farm store.