Three Bags Full

It was a bit like the nursery rhyme when a white sack arrived from Wingham Wool Work full of wool. After unpacking I had bags of lovely colourful fiber. Wingham were great to deal with, they have a fantastic selection, the prices were good and the shipping to Ireland not to steep.

Right to left we have blue faced leicester in white, pink merino silk blend, emerald Merino, silver grey merino, alpaca in tangerine.

All put together like that the colours clash but I'm not planning on using them together or anything. There's 100g of each apart from the blue faced leicester of which there's 300g. I also got some dye and a simple wooden drop spindle for plying. The blue faced leicester feels like you'd imagine a cloud to feel.

I decided to spin up the silver grey merino first as I loved the colour. I'd heard it said that merino is a bit harder for the beginner but it's working out ok for me. Here's a photo of that beautiful Golding spindle.

Here's my kinda summary of spinning. Sorry to anyone who actually knows about this, actually you should probably head to Wikipedia or google it if you really want to know.

When a sheep is shorn the locks of wool have a certain length called a staple. This depends on the breed of sheep. Things that aren't sheep have a staple length too, linen has a long staple and cotton has a short staple length. The wool is cleaned and washed. It's then combed or carded which aligns all the fibers and cleans it further. The fiber is then drawn out into a long piece. The fiber is now called a top in the UK or roving in the US though there's some confusion about the two terms.

Spinning basically puts twist into the fiber so that it can't fall apart. When you pull the roving you'll find that at about a distance slightly longer than the staple length the fiber begins to pull apart. If you pull gently it will come apart, if you pull it when the distance is shorter than the staple length it won't come apart.
So when spinning the idea is to put twist in while pulling the roving apart to make it thinner. There needs to be enough twist to hold the fiber together. The pulling is called drafting and this determines the thickness of the yarn. You can leave lots of fiber into the twist to get a thick yarn or just some fiber and get a thinner yarn. It gets more complicated than that but that's the basic idea of spinning, it's kinda interesting physics but that's a whole other boring post for another day.

I have decided that spinning is quite an old fashioned thing to do so I've been listening to a lot of rap and new music while spinning. Damn it feels good to be a gangsta spinner...
I have also decided I must have The Knit Kit which looks like a swiss army knife for knitters, the sort of thing MacGyver might have had if he was a knitter. I'm sure he could knit, as a kid I was convinced he could do anything.

5 Responses to "Three Bags Full" (Leave A Comment)

Anonymous says
January 30, 2009 at 8:51 AM

My mate keeps some Teeswater sheep like those in your picture, they have lovely coats. They've taken the top prize at the Great Yorkshire show on a few occasions too.

Boak says
February 1, 2009 at 10:15 AM

So does it work out cheaper to spin your own, or is that not the point?

I was explaining to someone at a party yesterday that knitting was not a cheap hobby...

Bionic Laura says
February 1, 2009 at 12:38 PM

Cool, maybe someday I'll go mad and make wool directly from the sheep.

Is it cheaper to spin your own? That depends. To buy the fiber is cheaper than buying the spun wool. But it does take a long time to spin it especially on a spindle. It's probably a bit faster on a wheel. Also you get less consistent wool than the stuff you can buy, this can be a good or bad thing.

For something like silk or a merino silk blend I'd say yes it's cheaper to spin it. It's kinda like knitting though, it's cheaper to buy the jumper but the process of the making is the thing I enjoy most.

Eddie says
February 3, 2009 at 3:02 PM

Congrats Laura, you've made the longlists for the Blog Awards :-)
They're on the 21st down in Cork, you coming down?

Anonymous says
February 7, 2009 at 12:13 PM

great decription of spinning!!
i must say spinning doesn't work out cheaper--its definitely time-intensive, even on a wheel! although the whole process is somehow more satisfying when you become your own yarn supply chain!!!