Spinning Tuesdays

Spinning Tuesdays: Merino and Clun Forest

This week’s entries in my spin along with Deb Robson’s lists are Merino and Clun Forest. I know that Merino isn’t next on the spinning list, but I’m waiting for some Southdown (yay!) so I skipped ahead.

Merino has a reputation among spinners. They either  love it or don’t. I will admit to loving it, and also admit that Merino is the Diva of fibers, touchy and can be difficult to work with, but it completely worth it.

Merino: clean and dirty fiber, worsted and woolen spun yarn and swatches

My merino was gooey and sticky, with little to no VM. It took 3 good soaks with Power Scour to get it spinnably clean. Even in it’s prewashed state it was soft and just got softer as I worked.

Cushy, cushy worsted and woolen

I will not lie, it was hard for me to spin. The worsted yarn I combed and spun in a class with Anne Field this past weekend. We learned about spinning to the crimp, and with this Merino that was fine and highly twisted. The woolen yarn I hand carded and spun in a style I like to call lumpy longdraw. I couldn’t get either yarn consistent, but I don’t mind. I know Merino takes patience and practice. It needs both high twist and a light hand. Both of my swatches were buttery soft, but I know the woolen yarn, used in a garment would pill like crazy. I’m willing to spend time working on my Merino skills, I think the fiber and resulting yarn is beautiful.

Commercially prepped Merino top is a much easier spin, but never as soft.

Two fun facts about Merino from The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook:

  1. Most Merinos are white because of the amount of fiber needed to dye for the fashion industry.
  2. Merino fleeces can weigh up to 40 pounds


Next up Clun Forest:

Clun Forest: clean and dirty fiber, woolen and worsted-ish yarn

A springy fiber, easy to spin into an elastic, but soft yarn. The dirty fiber above took only one go round with Power Scour to go from dingy beige to nearly sparkly white. The washed fiber was softer than I expected, somewhere between Corriedale and BFL.

Springy and soft semi worsted and woolen yarn

I hand carded the fiber and spun half woolen and half worsted. I wish I had given the fiber a few more passes with my cards or just used my drum carder, there were a few lumps and bumps in my yarn that were from just sheer laziness in my prep. Both yarns were elastic and soft, I was surprised a little by both. The semi worsted stayed softer than I expected, and would be pretty hard wearing; I’d love to have socks knit from it. The woolen yarn really bloomed and became lofty when I steamed it, just asking to be knit into a cardigan.

Two fun facts about Clun Forest from The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook:

  1. Current North American Clun Forest herds are all descended from a herd brought in North America in the 1970s
  2. The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy lists Clun Forest as a recovering breed.

When I finished working with the Clun Forest I immediately started looking for a Clun Forest fleece. I think I better get better organized about storing and processing fleeces since I doubt this will be the last breed I need more of.

Thanks to Beth Smith of The Spinning Loft for providing the fibers for this week.

*Spread the joy!*

Spinning Tuesdays: Cotswold and Black Welsh Mountain

I’ve decided how to spin Deb Robson’s Must Spin Lists. I’m tackling it in order – one fiber from the Animal Fiber list and one breed from the Rare and Endangered list. Neat and tidy, no?

First up Cotswold:

Cotswold: raw and washed fiber, yarn and knitted swatch

I tend to shy away from longwools because they’re long fibers which means the dreaded (for me) worsted spinning.

Cotswold fiber dirty and clean

I barely washed the fiber in Power Scour and was pleased at how easily it cleaned, and how happy those locks were after a bath, bouncy and shiny. I combed the fiber and yes, spun it worsted.

Cotswold yarn and swatch

I spun it a little thick-ish (14 WPI). It was fairly easy to spin worsted, though I did have to keep reminding myself to keep my hands way far apart. The yarn had both weight and luster. It’s too prickly to wear next to the skin, but would wear like iron – an outer garment, jacket or shawl.

Two fun facts about Cotswold from The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook:

  1. It felts, unusual for a longwool.
  2. The Romans brought this breed to England

Next up Black Welsh Mountain:

Black Welsh Mountain fiber and yarn

These photos will be a little underexposed because this fiber is black, beautiful deep matte black, and that was the only way to get any detail in my photos.

I washed the fiber in fiber wash, since it felt grease free. It actually felt dry, if I had an oil and water spray handy I would have sprayed the fiber. I carded the fiber, made rolags and spun woolen from the end.

Black Welsh Mountain yarn and swatch

This is a dense and spongy fiber. It spun woolen easily and made a lofty yet durable yarn. My yarn is 10 WPI. It is scratchy, not for skin contact. The color is so beautiful I would love to have a blanket made out of it.

Two fun facts about Black Welsh Mountain from The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook:

  1. These sheep don’t gray as they age.
  2. Listed as a Recovering breed by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy

I can already see how this spinning fun is going to gently coax me out of my reluctance to prep my own fibers.

Thanks to Beth Smith of The Spinning Loft for providing the fibers for this week.

What are you spinning?

*Spread the joy!*

Spinning Tuesday: Wow, that’s a lot of fiber to spin

I gathered together most of the fibers I want to spin for my Deb Robson Top Fibers project and well

A whole lot of fiber and my two liferafts, Deb's book and DVD set

that’s a lot of fiber. I was feeling a bit panicky as I lay it all on the floor to shoot a picture, but as a started really touching the fibers, and yes smelling them, I got excited all over again. That’s a big pile of learning.

I got the raw fibers on both lists (just one selection where there were multiples) from The Spinning Loft and the prepped fibers from Spirit Trail Fiberworks. I feel it’s important to spin some of both, fiber that I prep myself always spins just a little smoother for me than commercially prepped fiber.

Thanks to the wonderfully generous folks at Interweave, Storey Publishing and The Spinning Loft we’ll have few prizes as I spin along. Not saying what just yet, but  I will say they are mmmmm,mmm, good.

If you missed the initial Deb Robson Top Fibers lists they are in this post.

I’m thinking about starting a Knittyspin Ravelry group, so we can have a spot to chat about this project and other spinny things. What do you think, would you stop by and chat?


One of Galia's lovely spindles

In our new issue of Knitty I reviewed a spindle by Galia. She dropped me a note yesterday to let me know she has a fresh batch of spindles in her shop, and a discount code on her Facebook page.

Next week you’ll see the first yarns from my Deb Robson Top Fibers project!

*Spread the joy!*

Spinning Tuesday: Inspired by Deborah Robson

I have been inspired by Deborah Robson.

First, I took a Rare Breeds class from her at The Spinning Loft.

Then, I watched her DVD set Handspinning Rare Wools.


38 rare and endangered sheep

Then, I read an advance of her soon to be published book with Carol Ekarius, The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook: More than 200 Fibers, from Animal to Spun Yarn.

Official publication date is June 1, 2011

With every encounter, in person or virtually, I was uplifted and nearly overwhelmed by her expertise and passion for her subject, particularly rare and endangered sheep.

I became inspired, obsessed really, with the idea of spinning a wider variety of fiber. Exposing my spinning and brain to breeds beyond BFL and Merino.

Then I tried not to freak out.

There was so much I didn’t know, where should I start- the book has 200 fibers to spin, the DVD set 38 rare and endangered breeds of sheep? What was I really going to spin? And where would I find the fiber?

So I did what any 21st century fan girl would do – I emailed Deb. I asked the expert how to narrow down the enormous list of fibers to a manageable list. She helped me out. I have lists. I’ll share them in a second.

Then I had to find the fiber. There are two women I know, both owners of spinning shops who feel as strongly about the survival and variety of sheep breeds and animals fibers as Deb. Beth Smith of The Spinning Loft and Jennifer Heverly of Spirit Trail Fiberworks. I contacted them about fiber. For each fiber listed below I am getting raw and prepped fiber too, when it’s available.

I asked Deb to give me a  list, up to ten fibers that every spinner should try to spin. She asked, “just animal fiber or rare breed wools?” I said yes. She graciously sent two lists. Here’s what she sent, and what I’m going to spin over the next 10 weeks:

Deborah Robson’s Must-Spin Lists 2011

Animal fibers that every spinner should know and try:

  1. wool, one of the following: Cotswold, Lincoln, Leicester Longwool
  2. wool, one of the following: Shropshire, Southdown, Oxford
  3. wool, Merino
  4. mohair, adult
  5. mohair, kid
  6. alpaca, huacaya (most is huacaya)
  7. angora rabbit
  8. cashmere
  9. qiviut

Rare and endangered wools

  1. Black Welsh
  2. Clun Forest
  3. Navajo Churro
  4. American Tunis
  5. American Jacob
  6. Southdown
  7. Romeldale/CVM
  8. Cotswold
  9. Lincoln or Leicester Longwool*
  10. Wensleydale or Teeswater*

*These are not totally interchangeable, but giving alternatives means that it’ll be more possible to locate supplies.

I’m ready to spin outside of my comfort zone, and to learn about new fibers. I have my fiber and I have my lists. I have Deb’s book and DVDs to keep me from getting lost.

Who wants to spin along on my fiber adventure?

*Spread the joy!*

Spinning Tuesday: More Marled Swatches

Last week I got my spin on with multi colored fibers plied with naturals, creating a variety of marled yarns. This week I knit them. Come take a peek:

First up Spunky Eclectic colorway Diesel. Here are the yarns:

Diesel with naturals

And the swatches:

Spunky Eclectic Diesel swatches

I love all four of these – each natural brings out something different in the original fiber. I would be happy spinning and knitting a whole sweater out of any one of them. Yum.

Now Fiberstory. The yarns:

Fiber Story skeins

The swatches:

Fiberstory swatches

I feel exactly the opposite about these swatches. None of them do it for me, the yarns didn’t either. I think the brown is ok, but the rest seem to take away from the original colorway.

Last we have Abstract Fibers. The yarns:

Abstract Fibers plied with naturals

The swaches:

Abstract Fiber swatches

I like the two darker swatches here. The lighter swatches are too contrasty for me. I especially like the mid brown (upper right), all of the colors in the original colorway get highlighted, while in the dark brown only the green really shows.

Fun isn’t it?

What’s next? Before I start playing with mixing 2 or more variegated colorways, I want to show you a type of marling I’ve always liked.

Texture. Up until now I haven’t said what types of fibers I’ve been using because I wanted to focus on blending colored fibers with natural colored fibers. But what about the same colorway but different fiber types? I love that type of blending.

Here’s what I’ll be working with from cjkoho Designs:

cjkoho Designs colorway: Henry


cjkoho Designs oranges and gold

Left to right: Merino/tencel, silk, Merino and BFL.

Tune in next week for the fun.


*Spread the joy!*

Spinning Tuesday: More marling with color and naturals

I couldn’t keep my mind and hands off of the marling this week. I doubled the number of naturals tried, I couldn’t help myself. That means this week we have yarn to look at; swatches will come next week.

I spun the other three fibers with four different naturals, instead of just the two I used for Briar Rose. Let’s see what they look like

First up Abstract Fibers. Here it is nestled in the circle of fiber.

Abstract Fiber

That green is fantastic but will it contrast too much?

Abstract Fibers plied with naturals

As plies I used (from left) oatmeal, light/dark brown stripe, middle brown and dark brown. I really love how it looks with the dark brown and light/dark stripe in the skein.

Now to Spunky Eclectic this color is called Diesel

Spunky Eclectic

I don’t want to stop with this color way. I used the same four naturals on the brown side, but I still want to try black gray and white with it. I loved them all.

Diesel with naturals

I predict they will all look great as knitted swatches.

Now Fiber Story.

Fiber Story

I’m not sure I have the right colors of naturals for this one.

Fiber Story skeins

I used the same four naturals as the others: oatmeal, light/dark brown stripe, middle brown and dark brown. To me they are all missing warmth. I wish I had some honey colored alpaca to ply with it.

Next week we’ll see how they look swatched.

For those of you who asked to see the Briar Rose fiber plied and swatched with the dark brown.

Briar Rose and dark brown

I couldn’t resist. I like it very much as yarn, but not as a swatch.




*Spread the joy!*

Spinning Tuesday: Making your fiber go farther by marling on purpose

I’m still thinking about marling, but now I’m marling for a purpose.

More often than not I buy my fiber in 4oz increments, especially when I don’t know what I’ll make with it. Then comes the time when I pull it out to spin a 2-ply with it, and I want more yardage than 4 oz can get me.

What’s a spinner to do? This spinner stretches fiber by marling on purpose.

When I have fiber that has  colors I love, I marl with a natural color, it makes a variation on the colorway.

When I have I fiber whose color combo no longer makes me sing, I marl with a second color or colorway to create a new visually complex colorway. I love playing with both of these techniques, they are full of surprises.

Today I’m playing with making a two ply yarn using a natural color fiber as one ply to make a variegated top or roving go farther yardage-wise.

I pulled a variety fibers I have that: I like the colorway, I wish I had more, and I want to make a two ply yarn out of.

Remember that plying with another color, even a natural will make a variation on the original colorway. If you are in big love with a colorway and don’t want to change it one little bit – this is not the playtime experiment for that fiber.

Why didn't I buy more?

There’s some Briar Rose, Spunky Eclectic, Abstract Fiber and Fiber Story, all I think are gorgeous.

I also pulled undyed fiber in a variety of colors


Pretty, pretty fiber flower


I’m going to start with the Briar Rose fiber. How do I choose which natural would work with it?


Compare and contrast

I compare them visually. What do I think would blend best with the colors in the Briar Rose? I keep in mind that the bigger the contrast between the Briar Rose and the natural I choose makes the type of candy cane marled yarn that I don’t like. I like my marl more blended.

If I’m having trouble choosing, or am just too giddy with possibilities I take a picture and look at the choices in black and white.


This is what Michigan looks like in the winter

For me it’s easier to see what is closer to matching my dyed fiber when I take the color away. For me it’s the middle brown on the right (about 3:00, if the wheel of fiber was a clock), and an oatmeal brown (about 11:00). I’m curious about the striped roving (1:00) but not enough to sample.


Two browns to sample

There is no right or wrong choice, it all about what you like. The possibilities are endless and limited only by how much you are willing to sample.


Mid-brown and oatmeal, can you tell which one I didn't like?

Here are the yarns that came from the middle brown and the oatmeal plied with the Briar Rose. I didn’t like the look of the oatmeal when I was plying, my brain started yelling, ‘barber pole, barber pole”, so I stopped.

But when I knit the lighter sample


yummy oatmeal

I liked it quite a bit.

Here’s the darker which I like too.


This is the yarn equivalent of drinking stout

But when I put them together, there was a clear winner for me.


Which wins for you?

I love the darker version, but I like the lighter swatch so much more than I liked the yarn.

I love how the original colorway is in there, close but not exactly, more like kissing cousins.

This makes me want to try more combinations, especially ones that I’m not quite sure of. I’ll be working with the other brighter colors next, seeing what happens when they are plied with natural colors.

If you’re going to try this at home remember to go with your instinct, try at least two naturals with your variegated fiber, and maybe a third that you are sure won’t work. Just see what happens, you’ll be surprised, I always am and that’s exactly what keeps me playing with fiber.

*Spread the joy!*

Spinning a tale with Rachael

The love started yesterday…if you’re wondering what’s going on today, take a peek!

The lucky winner of yesterday’s “Name the book you’d write”, chosen by Rachael herself, is “Needle Me Knot, Little old ladies using unique methods to kill.” She loved both the title and the premise.  Although it was DIFFICULT to pick, sez she. Winner is Sherry from Idaho. Congrats, Sherry — you’ll be receiving a copy of Rachael’s brand-new book, HOW TO KNIT A HEART BACK HOME!

And now, onto day 2 of the week of Looooooove!

Rachael and the cat of her heart, Digit*

Knitty: Your first novel was full of sheep and fiber and spinning!…but nothing in book two. Will it return?

Rachael: The spinning comes back in the third book, WISHES AND STITCHES (out in October). In fact, we see Eliza spinning, and the fiber she spins becomes integral to the plot (and hides a secret). And hey, I just learned to weave on my darling little Schacht Cricket loom! So there’s nothing saying that weaving won’t play a role somewhere, someday soon…..

K: Do you spin? What wheel(s) do you have?

R: I am passionate about spinning, although I’m only intermediate at it. The more classes I take, the more I realize that I’m a production spinner more than anything else. While the action is soothing, I really love having the finished product (I’m similar in knitting this way, too). I’m fast, and I use the long-draw method. I have two wheels, both Ashfords (my mother was from the town they’re from, Ashburton, New Zealand): a Joy and a Traditional. I’d love a Majacraft someday—I think they’re lovely.

K: What are you spinning right now?

R: Ooooh, I’m spinning a GORGEOUS yellow-brown merino/silk batt from Lisa Souza. I’m addicted to her batts. Now there’s something I can spin without worrying about what I’m going to make from it—I just love spinning her stuff. Such colors! Such softness! (However, now that I think of it, I believe I’m going to spin it up and use it as the weft in a scarf with a dark brown warp. Oh, YUM.)

*One of the most amazing things I’ve ever read was the day that Rachael’s cat Digit, lost for months and thought dead, came home. You must read it.

Today, we’ve got a copy of Rachael’s new book for another lucky KnittyBlog reader!

This time, to win, leave a comment to this post by Tuesday, March 8th, at midnight, eastern time. In your comment, tell us what you’d name the heroine of the novel you’ve always wanted to write. Rachael will pick her favorite and that lucky person will win a copy of HOW TO KNIT A HEART BACK HOME. Good luck, y’all, and stay tuned…we’ve got prizes every day this week with a special big surprise on Friday, and lots more Rachael!

How would you combine these colors?

Jillian sez: There will be more spinning fun next week. I’ll be continuing my investigations into marling. I want to explore how to use natural colors to make a variegated colorway go further and how to blend two colorways to create depth of color. Anything you’d like to see?

*Spread the joy!*

Spinning Tuesday: Knitting Marls & Our Mitten Winner

The winner of the Shelburne Mittens kit is comment number 1125, Lisa S!

Thank you to the lovely folks at Rowan Yarn and Westminster Fibers for donating this prize.


Now for some spinning. As requested, the marled yarns knit into swatches.

First the blue and white:

3 weights of marling -yarn

3 weights of marling - knit


Like the yarn, the fatter the original yarn the marl in the knitted fabric is more pronounced.

In the finest sample it looks like flecks.


How about the blue and green yarn:

3 weights of blue/green marl

3 weights blue/green marl - knit


I wish I had spun larger samples of these, but I do like how the colors blend even more when the yarn is knit. There is striping and pooling, but it’s interesting to me.

Thank you for asking me to knit my samples, I like the marl more as knit fabric than just yarn. Time for more experiments!

*Spread the joy!*

Spinning Tuesday: What I’ve noticed about marling

Barber pole, peppermint stick, marl are all used to describe a type of yarn that has two high-contrast singles plied together. It’s a type of yarn I really don’t care for.

Though I have recently made marled yarns with less contrast that I’ve really liked. I’ve also noticed the weight of the yarn makes a difference in the marling.

So I’ve been experimenting, want to see?

Lovely blue and white Romney

I started with high contrast blue and white Romney, spun and plied to three different weights: bulky, worsted and DK/fingering.

3 weights of marling

Here’s what I see, as the yarn gets thinner and the twists per inch number gets higher, the colors blend more, which I like, even at a high color contrast.

Merino dyed last summer

I tried the same experiment with some fiber I dyed last summer, that was blue, green, yellow and white – much less contrast. I spun and plied it on itself, deliberately getting it to marl.

3 weights of blue/green marl

Still stripey, but even more visually pleasant to me even at the bulky weight, because of how the colors work together.

Both colorways all weights

Here are both color/weight experiments side by side.

Now I am thinking about how to use marling to blend colors, to get certain colors to pop, and to make a deep and rich colored yarn, and about what color combination or characteristics work best at each weight.

I kind of knew this would send me into a thinking and experimenting spiral. I love that about spinning.

*Spread the joy!*