Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Debouillet Raw Fleece arrival

 I’ve probably mentioned at some point in this blog that I’m not a huge fan of spinning merino wool. Don’t get me wrong, I like knitting and weaving with merino yarns, but I’m just not a huge fan of spinning it…probably because when I first started spinning, I attempted to spin merino (I was learning on my own with no guidance) and it was a disaster. I almost quit spinning before I had even started good because of merino. So, yes, I do spin merino, but it’s not my favorite fiber by a long shot.

With the preamble aside, I found some raw Debouillet fleece for a great price on Etsy…and after reading how rare it was to find, I ordered 2 pounds from Marathon Basin Wool Mill (Marathon, TX).

The Debouillet breed is part of the Merino family (hence the rant on merino earlier), originally created by crossing a Delaine Merino with a Rambouillet.

According to the Fleece & Fiber Sourcebook:

Origin: United States (New Mexico)

Fleece weights: 9-18 pounds

Staple lengths: 3″-5″

Fiber diameters: 18-24 microns

Natural colors: White

The raw fleece arrived last week, but I was busy combing some of the washed GCN (Gulf Coast Native) wool, so I put it aside until this week. When I pulled half of the fleece out for washing yesterday, I realized that this wool was going to be lanolin heavy (like all merinos), so I started with hot water instead of doing a few room temp washes before scouring. This is the first raw fleece I’ve washed in my kitchen sink, but knowing all the hot water I would be using, I didn’t see another choice.

I did two initial (super) hot water washes with DAWN and that cleared most of the dirt and lanolin out. I then followed with two warm water rinses until the water was mostly clear. Because I’ll be washing this again when it’s spun and woven, I didn’t want to strip all the lanolin out with the initial washes. The fleece was laid outside to dry in the sun until sundown and I’ll be checking on it later today. When it was mostly dry, I could tell that the fleece was going to be really soft, so I’m looking forward to processing it to spin. It does have A LOT of vm in it, so we’ll see how that goes. I only washed around a pound of the fleece, so hopefully, that’ll make it more manageable.

*If a fleece is heavily soiled, I usually start with tepid water rinses (no soap) to clear out dirt & VM as it saves on hot water use and trips back and forth to the stove since I wash most fleeces outside.

Off the Wheel: Manx Laoghtan (Conservation Breed)

 I put down my raw fleeces for a bit to spin up some Manx Laoghtan top (Hearthside Fibers). I’ve been curious to try this particular wool after hearing great things about it from a few other spinners. And the natural brown color is amazing.

It was easy to spin and reminded me a great deal of Shetland wool, but it was a bit slick, so I had to really pay attention while I was spinning it. I have a tendency to watch TV while I’m spinning, but I had to focus all my attention on the wool with this one. (In the pictures, the spun yarn looked like a muted brown, but it’s actually more of a reddish brown).

78g yielded 139 yds of 2-ply worsted weight yarn. I bought 400g total, so I’ll be spinning up more in the future.

Here’s what the Fleece & Fiber Sourcebook says about this wool:

Origin: Isle of Man

Fleece weights: 3-5.5 pounds

Staple lengths: 2.5″-5″

Fiber diameters: 27-33 microns

Natural colors: Brown

Partial Gulf Coast Native Fleeces arrived!

 Because I didn’t buy any raw fleeces last Spring, I felt the overwhelming urge to make up for it this year. To rein myself in, I decided to only buy fleeces that were from conservation/rare/unusual breeds of sheep.

The first batch of fleeces arrived from Gulf Breeze Alpaca Ranch (Texas) last Saturday. I chose Gulf Coast Native wool because it’s one of the only breed of sheep native to the Southeastern U.S. and it’s also a conservation breed. Gulf Breeze Alpaca Ranch sells raw and washed fleeces in 8 oz. increments, so I bought 8 oz. of washed and 8 oz. of raw fleece.

According the Fleece & Fiber Sourcebook by Deborah Robson & Carol Ekarius:

Gulf Coast Native Facts

Fleece Weight: 4-6 pounds

Staple length: 2.5-4 inches

Fiber diameters: 26-32 microns

Lock characteristics: Single-coated fleece; open, wavy, and/or crimpy fibers; low in grease

Natural colors: Mostly white; some tan, dark brown, black, and multicolors in patches

I spun a small sample “in the grease” straight from the raw fleece and washed/scoured it after it was plied (3-ply, chain-ply method). Then I lightly carded and spun a small sample from the washed fleece using the same spinning method. Because the raw fleece sample yarn is not processed at all, it is very “rustic”, but it turned out great. There was just enough lanolin in the wool to make it comfortable to spin. Of course, I had to wear an apron when I spun it because of the dirt that came out, but that was expected. The washed fleece sample was easy to spin too, but I’ve decided to comb the rest of it instead of carding it before spinning.

On April 17th, I combed/carded 50g and spun a 2-ply in a sport weight (roughly), ending up with 128 yds.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Two Upcoming Classes: Shibori Dyeing & Beginner Drop Spindle


Shibori Dyeing Class
Saturday, April 17th @2pm
Class takes place at EWHD Weaving Studio 
located at 719 Bank Street NE, Unit 14 (upstairs), Decatur, AL 35601

Beginner Drop Spindle Class
Monday, May 3rd @6 pm
Class takes place at EWHD Weaving Studio 
located at 719 Bank Street NE, Unit 14 (upstairs), Decatur, AL 35601

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Off the Wheel: Swaledale Wool Roving

What can I say about spinning Swaledale wool.... Well, mine was FULL of kemp. Not that I didn't expect kemp, but dang. It fell out when I spun both singles, it fell out when I plied, it fell out when I washed/tensioned it, and it fell out when I wove it into a table runner.

My singles kept breaking when I was plying, also, which means I should've put more twist into the singles, but I was afraid if I put too much energy in, they would feel coarser...and this is already a coarse wool, so...

It was mostly pleasant to spin, other than the constant falling of kemp onto my lap (see photo), but it's probably safe to say that I won't be spinning Swaledale again, since I mostly spin yarns that will end up against the skin. It was a good experience, however, and shows just how different one breed can be from another.

With 104g of roving, I yielded around 156 yds of worsted/aran weight 2-ply yarn. 

Thursday, April 8, 2021

First 100g of North Ronaldsay Wool is Spun!

 As I mentioned in my last post, I ordered 300g of North Ronaldsay wool roving from Hearthside Fibers, and since it arrived on Monday, I was anxious to get some spun. This rare, conservation breed of sheep eats mostly seaweed, so I was curious to see how this diet would affect the wool.

Because North Ronaldsay sheep are double coated, you'll notice the dark hairs that are mixed in with the light gray fiber. It does affect the "prickly" factor of the yarn, but not so much that I see it being a problem in a woven scarf.

The fiber spun up like a dream with only a small amount of VM to pick out as I drafted. From what I understand, the fiber is also processed on the island of North Ronaldsay, so it's a small mill with minimal processing compared to larger mills. This fiber is carded rather than combed, so it does required a little more control when spinning if you're going for a lighter weight yarn.

Here is the first 100g grams spun into a 2-ply sport weight/DK yarn (approx. 257 yards).

See a short film about this breed of sheep here.

Hearthside Fiber Haul #1: British & Scandinavian Wool Roving

Monday, April 5, 2021

Spring Spinning...so far

 For the past few weeks, I've been on a spinning kick, mostly because I haven't been in my weaving studio as much because of bad weather here in the Southeastern U.S. (tornadoes, thunderstorms, flooding, etc.). I've had to cancel multiple classes, which is a bummer, but it has given me a chance to start processing fiber from my raw fleeces and spin yarn again.

I started scouring part of a Shetland fleece last week on one of the clear days we had before the storms started up again. I bought this Shetland fleece (and another) from Ballyhoo Farm & Fiber Emporium in May 2019 at the Middle Tennessee Fiber Festival. Both fleeces were washed, but I waited to scour this particular fleece because we were in the middle of a move. Hand picking and carding has begun on this section of fleece, but it's a slow process, so I don't expect to start spinning this fiber for a few more weeks.

In the meantime, I've spun a small art batt (about 24g) that I put together when I visited Claire Cabe of Lucca Dot Yarn in Sewanee, TN several summers ago. Because it yielded so little yarn, I'll probably use it in a scrap yarn woven scarf at some point.

I spun another 100g of the Shetland/Silk hand painted roving from Hearthside Fibers (of the 200g) that I bought during the 2020 Deep South Yarn Hop from Haus of Yarn in Nashville, TN.

I also ordered more fiber last week from Hearthside Fibers so I can start a British & Scandinavian Wool fiber study series at my weaving studio for those who might be interested. My first order arrived on Friday, and I started spinning immediately. I ordered 100g each of Swaledale Top, Black Welsh Mountain Carded Sliver, Icelandic Top, Finnish Humbug Top, Norwegian Top, and 200g of Manx Loaghtan Top. In a separate order (arriving today), I'll have 200g of North Ronaldsay Wool (seaweed eating sheep wool).

So far, I've spun the Finnish humbug (white & brown mixed) top and the Black Welsh Mountain carded sliver. The Finnish top was amazing in the hand, practically drafting itself (and a little slick), while the Black Mountain Welsh (a TRUE black wool) was a little trickier to spin and had a fair amount of VM and kemp to pull out. All in all, I'm happy with the results. Now, I have to decide what to make with each skein that I've spun so far.