Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Trying Out Spinning Longwool

Learning to spin was an adventure, there is so much to learn about spinning. Staple length, the right about of twist, different ways to ply, and on a most basic level, getting your spinning something approximating even. You can get very technical, looking at grist, twists per inch, the angle of your twist... not my thing, I like to spin more by feel and spin for the fun of it.

But even so, once you have mastered the basics, there is still so much to learn, so many different fibres to try. Short wools, long wools, animal fibre, vegetable fibre, synthetic fibre! The list goes on, so many different breeds of sheep, goat, rabbit, camelids, ox and even possum! Some people even spin dog hair. So beyond the basics, there are so many different things to try.

Me, I have been primarily a spinner of the short to medium fibres, usually wool breeds like Shetland, Bluefaced Leicester, Merino, throw in some silk, some trilobal nylon or firestar... that's been my spinning home. But I haven't really ventured into long wools much. I had some locks in some batts I spun a while back that were such a restful, easy spin, and I decided I really must give it a try. So far my favourite dyer of longwools has to be Patricia of Yummy Yarns UK.

She dyes a lot of Wensleydale, but also breeds like Masham, Leicester Longwool locks and Teeswater. There is always a vibrancy to her colours which is taken up by the lustre in these fibres, which when spun are hardy, and leave a slight halo which may not agree with all who have issues with wool that is not super smooth. But given she is a favourite, I tried a braid from her first! This one:

This braid is handpainted Wensleydale / Mulberry silk in a 70/30 blend, and she named this colour Ullswater. Its one of several long wool braids I have in my stash, but it was the first to come out to play.

I have to say, the experience spinning was an interesting one. Her braids draft so beautifully, but a long wool even more so because the staple is so long, its so forgiving. However, it doesn't need a huge amount of twist, unlike somthing like merino that needs a lot to lock it down, so its something you have to get used to. But once you do, it makes for a slow and lazy spin that is thoroughly enjoyable.

One thing to note is that long wool is less voluminous than its short wool counterparts. You can lay a braid of say Wensleydale and a braid of merino side by side of the same weight, and the long wool will look skinny by comparison. This does show in the final spin too. You do get less yarn per weight, its the nature of the beast. But you just need to factor that in for a project you have in mind.

Despite this I chose to chain ply mine into a high twist 3 ply, thinking for socks. Long wools do well for socks as they are hard wearing, and feet are less fussy about the halo than say your neck. I also have small feet and I really don't need 400m for a pair of socks! That said, once plied, my 104g of fibre had yeilded a lovely fingering weight yarn and 289m, enough for socks for me!

Definitely very enjoyable and I love the colours, and will give rather pretty socks I feel.

So if you are thinking about long wools, please do go look up Yummy Yarns UK. Every braid is one of a kind, no repeated colours so you need to grab one you like when you see it. And after having had a minor issue with an order, I can honestly say that the customer service is second to none! Absolutely brilliant. So buy with confidence.

Till next time

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