Tag Archives: spinning wool

Where the Sheep Are

sheepshearingSpring is here! In the fiber world, we know that means more than just warm temperatures; spring is the time that many sheep are shorn, giving us their beautiful fleece to spin, weave, knit, or crochet. It’s also a great time for fiber artists to branch out and try working with a new-to-them breed of sheep. If you’re wondering how to get started, here is a handy guide to begin your journey in to the wonderful world of sheep:

Fiber Festivals

Your local fiber festival is a great place to start! You might be surprised at how many sheep are raised in your region, and fiber festivals are an excellent way to support small farms and purchase fleece and fiber that you might not encounter anywhere else. You can often find breed-specific yarns in addition to raw fleece or prepared top, many of which can be purchased directly from the producer. We have several upcoming fiber festivals listed here on our website.

borderleicesterSheep Breeder Associations

If you’ve encountered a breed of sheep you’ve never heard of, chances are there is an association dedicated to that particular breed which can be found with a simple web search. For example, if you came across a Border Leicester fleece, the American Border Leicester Association would be a great place to see photos of the sheep, learn about the breed’s history and read up on the characteristics of the fleece. Some association websites have classified sections where members can post sheep or sheep products for sale; you can also check for upcoming events to find out when and where the sheep will be shown!

FleeceandFiberSourcebookBooks

There are many wonderful books dedicated to all things sheep, but one of our favorites is The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook by Deb Robson and Carol Ekarious.  This comprehensive photographic encyclopedia features more than 200 animals and the fibers they produce, covering almost every sheep breed in the world from the longwool breeds of the United Kingdom to the Tasmanian merino, the Navajo churro, the northern European Faroese, and dozens  more. bookofwoolAnother fantastic book is Clara Parkes’ Knitter’s Book of Wool, which focuses on how to best use the yarns created from specific breeds of wool and gives an excellent introduction to many breeds of sheep along the way.

All the best,

Chris, Nancy, and the entire Woolery team

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Matchmaking: Picking the Right Tool for the Right Fiber Prep + How to Wind a Pirn

Cheviot Wool Roving

Woolen and worsted—these terms are thrown about a lot.  To hand spinners they have very specific meanings.  Worsted yarns are made from combed fiber preparation (think combing your hair) while woolen yarns are made from a carded preparation (think brushing your hair). As a spinner we have a lot of control over what kind of yarn we make. The secret is all in the preparation. Whether we buy prepared fiber or do the processing ourselves, knowing a bit about the subject will help become better spinners.

Cheviot Wool Top

Prepared Spinning Fiber

We are frequently asked, “What is the difference between fiber top and roving?” Top is combed and roving is carded.  Top has all the fibers aligned (worsted), while roving presents the fibers in a  jumbled array (woolen). Top produces smooth, strudy yarns while roving produces fuzzy, lofty yarns.  There are degrees of each preparation such as semi-worsted or semi-woolen.

DIY Hand Combs and Carders

From left to right: English, Hackle (at rear) and Viking combs.

Combing removes the short fibers, aids in dehairing, and leaves fibers of uniform length. At The Woolery, we stock three basic types of combs: English, Viking, and Hackles.  English combs are an excellent choice for processing large amounts of longish- stapled wool.   Viking combs are  good choice for processing small batches of fiber including short-stapled breeds. Hackles are beloved by many for color blending.

Carding opens up the fibers, distributes them evenly, leaving them in a disordered arrangement.  There are many styles of handcards. Their teeth vary in size. The closer the teeth are  the better they are for fine fibers and inversely the wider apart the teeth the better they work for medium to corse fibers .

There is also the amazing drumcarder.  It cards large amounts of fiber and is an excellent choice for making custom color blends to create unique handspun yarn.  Speaking of drumcarders, we hope you can join us for Strauch Demo Day on February 25.  Don’t worry if you can’t be here, Otto and Joanne will give us a little virtual demo that we will air later.

This barely scratches the surface on the subtleties of fiber preparation.  Feel free to post your questions here or on on our Facebook and Ravelry pages.

Limited Time Special!

To get you started on your own fiber-prep journey, enter coupon cod FHOLD99 at checkout and receive 1 free holding fixture with any in-stock purchase of mini, regular, or viking combs. (Small print: excludes English and Louet mini-combs.)

Before We Move On

Last month we talked a lot about weaving shuttles.  We received a lot of questions about which shuttle is best for what purpose and in particular how to wind a pirn for the end-delivery shuttle.  Check out our latest videos on You Tube for the answers to your burning shuttle questions!  (And, post any ideas for future videos!)

Wheee!

Chris, Nancy, and the entire Woolery Team