Tag Archives: fleece

Sheepy Resolutions for the New Year

IMG_5224The start of a new year is always an exciting time! It’s also a great opportunity to evaluate the year before and set new goals for the time ahead. Since 2015 is the Year of the Sheep (according to the Chinese zodiac calendar), we’d like to share some of our own sheepy resolutions for knitting, spinning, weaving, and rug hooking. We hope they inspire you to expand your crafting horizons in 2015!

  • Knitting: Now more than ever, knitters are able to find a variety of breed-specific yarns to explore the wonderful world of sheep. Even if you aren’t a spinner, the range of options has increased exponentially in recent years to move beyond generic “wool” which used to a common sight on a yarn label. Challenge yourself to seek out yarns with new fiber content in 2015: Masham, Blue-Faced Leicester, Targhee, Tunis, Corriedale, and more! To get you started, there are some fantastic resources for sourcing breed-specific yarns on Beth Brown-Reinsel’s informative website here.
  • bookoffleeceSpinning: The world of breed-specific fleece and fiber is well-covered territory here on the Woolery blog, and we know that many of our customers have been using such excellent books as The Fleece & Fiber Sourcebook  and The Spinner’s Book of Fleece as their guide. Now is a great time to take stock of your past spinning projects and make a list of goals you’d like to accomplish in 2015. Perhaps you’d like to explore spinning with more unusual sheep breeds such karakul or dorper; click here and here for more sheepy suggestions from our blog archive. Another goal might be to try your hand at combining a variety of fibers to create unique batts or art yarns; click here for more art yarn inspiration from the Woolery blog archives. If you have a lot of natural colored fiber, playing around with DIY dye techniques might be in your future: click here for a tutorial from our blog archive featuring traditional dyeing techniques; click here for a guest post from our blog archive featuring natural dyeing techniques; and click here  for more specific instructions regarding the dyeing of fleece and prepared spinning fiber using kool-aid dyes from the Knitty archives.
  • Image ©Hello Hydrangea blog

    Image ©Hello Hydrangea blog

    Weaving: Many of our customers delight in weaving projects made with their handspun yarns, many of which are spun with breed-specific fleece or roving. What’s a non-weaving spinner to do? We spied this clever tutorial demonstrating how to incorporate roving and uncarded fleece into a tapestry piece to achieve a stunning effect.

  • Rug Hooking: Though rug hooking is traditionally done with strips of wool fabric or yarn, we have seen some very interesting tutorials and projects featuring spinning fibers recently. Click here for a photo tutorial on the Spruce Ridge Studios blog demonstrating how to use both fleece and roving to add texture to a hooked rug project. Our friends over at Strauch have shared a photo tutorial here on Flickr showing a locker-hooked rug project from start to finish which uses carded fleece. We also have more rug hooking inspiration on this post from our blog archive!
Image © Strauch

Image © Strauch

We look forward to making 2015 the sheepiest, most fibery year yet. Thanks for joining us!

All the best,

Chris, Nancy, and the entire Woolery team

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From Sheep to Shawl

IMG_5289

Shearing a sheep

In our last blog post, we shared some ideas for crafty resolutions in 2014. On today’s post, we have one more to add to your to-do list for 2014: make a project from start to finish as only a die-hard fiber fanatic can….from sheep to shawl! ‘Sheep to Shawl’ is an expression that means you learn everything you need to know to make a shawl from start to finish, from raw fleece to a finished fabric. Of course, you don’t have to make a shawl from your finished handspun. You could just as easily go sheep to shoe or sheep to chapeau!

If you’d like to give this a try in the new year, we’ve created this easy guide to making your sheep to shawl dreams come true in 5 easy steps:

1. Select Your Fleece
We’ve blogged about various breeds of sheep, and there are plenty of fantastic books dedicated to the subject as well. Perhaps you have a favorite breed of sheep to spin with, or would like to experiment with a new-to-you breed for this project.

Most likely, you will need to wash your fleece before you begin preparing it to spin. If you are new to this process, here is a quick tutorial video to walk you through each step: 

2. Prepare Your Fleece
Now it’s time to card or comb your fleece to open up the locks and prepare for easy spinning. The process you select will depend on what type of yarn you’d like to make and what type of fleece you are working with:

carders

Carding processes raw or washed fibers to present them in a spiral fashion. This traps more air and makes a springier Woolen yarn which is more insulating, though it is not as long-wearing as a Worsted yarn. The most common fibers to be carded are cotton or wool, but a variety of fibers can be carded: alpaca, llama, soy fiber, and even dog hair!

combhackles

Combing produces a parallel presentation of fibers for Worsted or Semi-Worsted yarns. These yarns are longer wearing, smoother, and less insulating than woolen yarns. You can use a pair of hand combs or a single hackle; in particular, hackles are used for dehairing fleece and blending dyed prepared fibers.

You can also watch this short tutorial video to learn more about the differences between combing and carding!

3. Get Spinning
Now it’s the moment you’ve been waiting for: time to spin your yarn! As we mentioned above, your method of processing the fleece will play a role in the finished yarn’s outcome, but how you spin it will also play a part. While there is a lot more technical information on this subject which is covered in books, DVDs, and classes, we would like to touch on one subject: long draw vs. short draw methods of spinning. In general, the short draw method gives most spinners more control, whereas the long draw allows spinners to spin more consistently because they have a better view of the process as they work. We encourage you to experiment to see which method you prefer!longdrawspinning

4. To Dye or Not to Dye
You may wish to dye your handspun yarn before knitting or weaving with it (click here for more information on DIY yarn dyeing on this blog), or you may decide that the natural color of the fleece is perfect the way it is!

5. Weave, Knit, or Crochet
Now it’s time to find the perfect project for your handspun creation! Some of our favorite resources include KnittySpin, Weaving Today and Ravelry. We’d love to hear about your projects using handspun yarns over in our Ravelry group!

We look forward to hearing about your sheep to shawl adventures in 2014!

All the best,

Chris, Nancy, and the entire Woolery team

Connect with the Past Part 2 with Deb Robson

debrobsonMay is an exciting time at The Woolery! Not only do we have the annual Kentucky Sheep and Wool Festival to look forward to (May 18-19 in beautiful Lexington, KY), we also have an excellent guest post from fiber expert Deb Robson this month! Deb is coauthor of The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook and will be teaching a two-day workshop at the festival that explores six specific sheep breeds in-depth.

As a follow up to last month’s blog post exploring primitive sheep breeds, today’s post will highlight two more unusual breeds of sheep from The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook.

Karakul
The Karakul breed is very, very old. It’s native to the steppes and deserts of central Asia…This region of the world is one of the cradles of the domestication of livestock, so the Karakul is considered one of the oldest sheep breeds.

When it comes to the wool featured here, we’re talking not about the Central Asian Karakuls but about American Karakuls. This breed was developed from several imports to the United States, starting in 1909 and continuing through the first half of the twentieth century.

KarakulKarakuls are double coated, with a soft, fine shorter inner coat and coarse, sturdy, longer outer coat, although sometimes the distinctions between the two are quite narrow. The coats can be the same color, but in some intriguing fleeces they are differently colored. Colors can also vary along the staple from butt to tip. The wool has a nice luster.

When relatively free of dust and vegetable matter, Karakul lends itself to being spun in what little grease it has. It also washes up beautifully. Karakul is one of the quintessential felting fibers.

WensleydaleWensleydale
Wensleydale may be the only breed that can be traced directly to a single ancestor. In 1839, a ram lamb was born in New Yorkshire to a Mug ewe (an old-type Teeswater ewe that didn’t show much of the New Leicester influence). The offspring had the blue head and ears that show up as a recessive trait in Leicesters from time to time and was named Bluecap by its owner.

Bluecap grew up to be a potent ram and was leased by shepherds through a fairly wide area for a number of years. He was primarily used for breeding Teeswater ewes. His blue-headed trait passed to his progeny, and by the 1870s, these unique sheep (although closely related to the Teeswater) were recognized as a separate breed and called Wensleydale.

fleecefiberWensleydale fleece is long, lustrous and shiny, hanging in distinct, curly ringlets that do not felt well. It has no kemp and the wool is uniform throughout the fleece.

We are very thankful to the folks at Storey Publishing and the authors, Deborah Robson and Carol Ekarious, for granting us permission for this excerpt!

All the best,

Chris, Nancy, and the entire Woolery team

Connect with the Past: Exploring ‘primitive’ sheep breeds

As we delve deeper into the wonderful world of fiber, we’ll discover that there are many breeds of sheep who have quite literally weathered history unchanged by modern breeding programs. Many of these breeds can be traced back hundreds of years – some even a thousand! Iceland, Norway and the UK are just a few countries whose sheepy inhabitants have their own unique history.

The complex fleece of primitive breeds also tells their story. These breeds grow double coats consisting of a soft, insulating undercoat coupled with a hardy outer coat which protects them from the harsh elements which they have endured over centuries. These coats typically come in a variety of natural colors beyond white, most likely to act as camouflage for sheep who had to fend for themselves: many breeds were deposited on remote islands by the Vikings and Spanish explorers as a sort of “insurance plan” in the event of a shipwreck so that the crews wouldn’t starve.

Today we’ll profile three primitive breeds whom you may have encountered at a fiber festival: Icelandic, Jacob, and Shetland. You can find out more about primitive breeds in Deb Robson and Carol Ekarious’ Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook or Clara Parkes’ Knitter’s Book of Wool.

icelandicsheepIcelandic Sheep
This breed’s history can be traced back over 1,000 years, when the Vikings introduced this hardy breed of sheep to Iceland. Their dual coat is unique because it can be spun together in a traditional Lopi-style Icelandic yarn, or separated by hand for a special project. The soft undercoat (called the thel) boasts a micron count of 19-22, a fineness that is similar to Merino; the coarser outer coat (called the tog) has a micron count of 27-30 and often behaves similarly to mohair. This breed comes in a variety of natural colors and is excellent for outerwear and felting projects. 

For more information about this breed, please visit the Icelandic Sheep Breeders of North America website.

jacobsheepJacob Sheep
These sheep were once a popular ‘novelty’ animal, roaming parks and estates in England for many years dating back to the 1700s. Their large horns and spotted black and white coats are quite striking, and unlike other primitive breeds, they do not have a dual fleece. However, each color patch is often unique (both in staple length and micron count) which gives this fleece a broad micron range of 27-35 microns.

For more information about this breed, please visit the Jacob Sheep Breeders Association website.

shetlandShetland Sheep
This breed dates back to the bronze age, most likely deposited on the rocky islands from which they get their name by the Vikings over 1,000 years ago. This breed is available in a variety of natural colors; despite having many colored variants bred out of the line at the height of the Shetland woolen industry, 11 natural colors and 30 markings remain today, though some are rarer than others in the quest for bright white wool. The fleece is a joy to spin with; each fiber can be drawn from the lock with ease.

For more information about this breed, please visit the North American Shetland Sheepbreeders Association website.

All the best,

Chris, Nancy, and the entire Woolery team

Flex Your Spinning Muscle + Spinning Wheel Bag Clearance

Wether you are a bike racing fan or not, The Tour de Fleece is a great way to challenge yourself to tackle something new.  Since 2007, spinners have committed to spin every day during the Tour de France, the world’s premiere cycling event.  You can take the challenge on your own or join a team. This year The Woolery is sponsoring a team on Ravelry.  It’s not too late to join Team Woolery!

Those of you answering the challenge have yet another reason to stay competitive from now til July 22: we’ll be randomly selecting a member of Team Woolery to win a $100 Gift Certificate at the end of the Tour de Fleece!  (For full details on how to be eligible, click here.)

One way that spinners can challenge themselves is to prepare their own fiber. We have two new kits that will make it easy for you to tackle something new!

Each Combing Wool Kit (above right) includes Wool Combs (choose from single or double row) and one pound of fleece to get you started.  Robin Russo’s instructional video Combing Fiber will show you everything you need to know to get started, but we also have a step-by-step photo tutorial here on our website!

The Deluxe Hand Carding Kit (above left) includes one set of 8″ wool carders, two pounds of fleece, the Ashford Book of Carding, plus an easy-to-follow video to get you started.  Below is a video preview of the four different techniques you’ll learn with the included video, How to Card Wool.

Spinning Wheel Bag Clearance Sale!

On-the-go spinners know that a padded bag can not only protect your investment, but make traveling with your wheel a snap.  These top-of-the-line large padded bags are custom-made for The Woolery and come in your choice of five stylish colors.  They’re machine-washable, featuring adjustable and removable cotton webbing straps, 2 carry handles on top, 3 front pockets (one large one zips up) and one large inside pocket.

Click here to shop our clearance blowout happening now for a savings of $60 off the original purchase price! 

Viva la Tour!

Chris, Nancy, and the entire Woolery Team!

Picking, Grinning, and Heavenly Handspinning!

King Edwards, a Border Leicester at Windsor Wool Farm.

We are just back from the Kentucky Sheep and Wool Festival. We brought back big bags of beautiful Border Leister Fleece from Windsor Wool Farm, a fourth generation family farm. These fleeces have lovely long locks that are just begging to be washed up and run through our new pickers.

Pickers look like some sort of medieval torture device, but they will quickly become one of your favorite fiber tools, particularly if you are trying to process an entire fleece.  They open up the locks and make combing or carding a dream!

Spinning Wheel Spotlight: Heavenly Handspun!

Now that you have gathered your fleece; picked and carded it; you are ready to spin! Meet Heavenly Handspun, one of our newest additions to our spinning wheel line up. These budget-friendly wheels work with bobbin lead or Irish tension. The drive band goes over the wheel and bobbin and the take up is controlled by a brake on the flyer.  They have two styles of electric spinners and two types of drive wheels: the clever bicycle wheel and the beautifully engraved wooden wheel.  All of their wheels are light-weight and easy to move around.  Simply put they make spinning heavenly.

Chris, Nancy, and the entire Woolery team!

It’s Fiber Festival Season!

Can’t get to a fiber festival, but looking for some locks? Check out ours!

Spring is here and so are all the lambs, baby bunnies, cuddly kids, and cute crias (that’s a baby camelid!)  We are getting ready for the Kentucky Sheep and Wool Festival .  If you are out and about stop by and say hello. Otto and Joanne Strauch will be back to hang out in the booth,  as will Liz Gipson, author of Weaving Made Easy and fiber festival fan.

If you are like us, you are looking forward  fiber festival season. There is nothing like going to the source.  Before you go, check out the Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook to get and idea of what kind of fleeces you might want to be looking for. Maybe this is the year you decide to do your own sheep to shawl. Once you get that fleece you might wonder, “Now what?”  Start by visiting our website where we have tips for washing fleece in five easy steps.  Our best advise—don’t agitate and don’t shock (dunking fiber in hot then cold or vice versa).

Coopworth comes in lovely natural colors!

If you don’t have a fiber festival nearby and just want to get spinning, make this the year you try spinning something new. For instance,  Coopworth has nice staple length and is a great fiber for weaving woolens.  (We love the roving that we have in stock.)

Did you know that this fiber was named after Ian Coop, who cross bread Border Leicesters and Rommeys in the 1950’s to create a hearty breed with a high yield (lots of fiber and not as much waste).  That is the kind of thing you can learn when you go to the festival and talk to the shepherds.  It makes your spinning so much more interesting!  See you there!

Chris, Nancy, and the entire Woolery Team