Tag Archives: handspin

How to Select a Fleece: aa011501

Here are a few things that I look for when choosing a fleece for handspinning.

Clean

The fleece should be fairly clean and free of vegetable matter and other dirt and debris. It is possible to clean and card the debris, but it is a lot of work, so take this into consideration in your purchase and in the price that you pay.

Crimp

Different breeds of sheep have varying amounts of crimp or waviness in the fibre. The amount of crimp affects how the fibre will spin and what type of yarn is spun from it. There are 2 general categories of crimp. Some are noticeably wavy such as the Romney, and other breeds have a more distinctive and closer together crimp, such as the Merino or Cheviot breeds. These are more suitable for spinning for light, fluffy sweater weights.


Photo comparing a Cheviot fleece(Left)

and a Romney(Right)

Washed (Bottom)and Unwashed (Top)samples

Lustre

Different breeds of sheep have varying amounts of lustre or sheen in the wool. The lustre affects how the light is reflected and what the finished product will look like. Some wools are more suitable for blankets, and others are better used for finely spun, and woven fabrics.

Staple Length

If you are a beginner spinner, look for a staple length between 2 – 3 inches. It is more difficult to spin longer staple lengths of 4-5 inches.

Strength

When checking a fleece, check for breaks in the staple. Give a few of the locks a gentle tug. It should not break easily. If you find that the tip breaks, this fleece is probably not suitable for handspinning. The breaks will work their way loose in the finished product and cause pilling.

Washed Sample

Ask to see a washed sample of the fleece. You can easily wash a small sample of the locks, in the kitchen sink. Just add a few drops of dishwashing liquid and wash the sample in warm water. This will remove most of the lanolin and you will be able to get an idea of what the clean fleece will look like. The yellow colour (the lanolin) should wash out. If the washed sample is still very yellow, then it would be best to look for another fleece instead.

More about Handspinning

Handspinning Info
Handspun Yarns

Handspinning Books

The Whole Craft of Spinning: From the Raw Material to the Finished Yarn
Everything you need to know from set-up to finished product in order to create distinctive yarns for use in knitting, weaving, crocheting, needlepoint, embroidery, and macrame.
UK: Whole Craft of Spinning

In Sheep’s Clothing
A comprehensive look at the characteristics of wool of 100 breeds of sheep, this guide gives special attention to fleece characteristics, methods of preparation and spinning, and best end use.
UK: In Sheep’s Clothing

The Knitter’s Book of Wool: The Ultimate Guide to Understanding, Using, and Loving this Most Fabulous Fiber
The vast world of sheep and their wool into the language and context of knitting.
UK: Knitters Book of Wool

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Mawata silk: aa070297

One type of silk that is available is a “mawata” or silk cap. Mawata caps are formed by stretching the silk cocoons over molds. Each cap weighs about 1/2 ounce. About 25 cocoons are stretched on the mold and then sold as a “bell”.
If you purchase a bell, separate the number of caps that you need for a particular project. Silk caps dye very easily, however they must be thoroughly wet before the silk can absorb the dye. Soak the caps in water for several hours.
silk caps
I used a CIBA acid based dye for wool yarn and other protein-based fibers. Gaywool dyes will also work well for this project. After the caps were thoroughly wet, I dotted small amounts of the dry dye substance – magenta and cyan onto some of the caps. With the other caps, I used Worker Red and Polar (yellow). I had two dye baths going with hot water and a bit of vinegar. I placed the caps into the water and let them cook for about 20 minutes. In the dye bath, the colours blended with each other giving wonderful ranges of purples and oranges, respectively.

I rinsed the excess dye out in cold water and then hung the caps up to dry.

Silk is a very strong fiber. If you are not careful with handling, your fingers can be cut quite easily. I use surgical gloves when I am spinning or trying to work the fibers apart.

The cap can be pulled apart and a thin roving can be drafted from it. Pull the cap apart into thin layers. Then pull it slowly apart working a small hole into the centre of the cap and stretch it into a doughnut shape. Place this doughnut onto an umbrella swift (you probably won’t be able to open the umbrella out much).

Then try to find a loose thread on the edge of the cap that you can begin to draft from. The strands of silk fiber will start to unravel. This will take quite a bit of pulling and stretching. Sometimes the strands will be quite thin and sometimes thicker. Try to even out the consistency somewhat. I find that used toilet paper rolls are handy for winding the silk onto.

When the silk is wound into the roving, it can then be spun into silk yarn. The silk roving can be woven into fabric or used as is, but I have found that giving it a slight twist with the spinning wheel makes the fiber easier to handle when it is wound onto the bobbin for weaving.

I used the silk to weave some silk wallets. If you’ve worked with silk caps, tell us about your project at our Discussion Forum.

Silk Wallets

Silk Yarns

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