Woolgathering

It’s time to add some sheep to this “sheep and horses” business. Today I have some awesome handspun yarn to share with you.

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This was a very preciousssss fiber to me until I finally convinced myself to spin it. The colors are absolutely my favorite, and the softness and luster can’t be beat.

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This is the unspun fiber. Absolutely luscious, no? It’s a merino wool / yak / silk blend from the lovely Woolgatherings. It’s a really lovely blend to spin. Merino is the breed of sheep with the finest, softest wool—this is why anything labeled “merino” will cost more than generic “wool”. It’s very soft, of course, and adds a nice degree of bounce to the yarn, since the other fibers have no elasticity/recovery. The yak undercoat, for those who’ve never petted the fiber before, is incredibly soft and adds a lot of warmth. Silk, of course, is always lovely, and adds drape and luster to the finished yarn.

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I spun this using a long-draw drafting method (a fast draw that allows much more air into the yarn than other methods.) Long draw tends to make the yarn fuzzier than a smoothed-down worsted draw, but after plying, the fuzz is pretty minimal on this. I separated the fiber into halves and spun them in the same color order, offset by a bit, so I could have some degree of color unity but also get a nice heather from where the colors in the plies mix. It’s a 2-ply with a fair degree of twist in the plying round. (In spinning, you usually spin each ply with one direction of twist, then ply them together using the opposite direction of twist, so the yarn ends up balanced and not over-energized. I usually like to have a bit more plying than spinning twist, as I find it improves the strength and the overall quality of the yarn.)

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Here you can see the plying twist at work. When the skeins are hung at liberty, they will turn and coil in whatever direction has the strongest twist. “Age” of the twist matters as well; if the singles have sat for a while, their twist will go more dormant. You can see this with the second, green skein—those singles sat for ages before I plied them, and then I added a ton of plying twist.

Ultimately I got about 735 yards from 4 ounces, which is pretty good yardage. I’m planning on incorporating this into a woven wrap somewhere down the line, but it’ll be a while because I still have other things to spin to include—735 is a lot, but not enough for the project I have in mind. And spinning yarn strong enough to weave with can be tricky! But don’t worry, this yarn will be back sometime, and in yet another different form.

Lastly, some of you might be curious about what I use to spin. This is a photo of my current spinning wheel, Leia. She’s a Little Gem model from the excellent spinning wheel makers, Majacraft of New Zealand. Leia is actually a travel wheel, meaning I can fold her up into a padded bag that’s very easy to take places, even on the plane! (Do not try this on a very full flight. Trust me.) I like my wheels to go very fast, and while the Gem isn’t the fastest model of wheel out there, she gets the job done, and she’s very easy to take to knit night.

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I know that spinning is unfamiliar to many people, so if there’s any questions I can answer about any aspect of the craft, I’d love to hear them! Everyone else—until next time!

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