A few weeks ago, I went to visit my friend, Mrs. W., who raises several sheep. She gave my family and a friend the grand tour of her barns, folds, and home. We got to spin together, see her loom, and make plans for helping with the spring shearing and dying. Before we left, Mrs W. let us borrow her Louet spinning wheel and two large boxes of milled wool fiber to spin.
There are three parts to this project, a silver Romney roving, a dark gray blend of Black Welsh Mountain, Border Leicester, Polypay (http://www.ansi.okstate.edu/breeds/sheep/polypay)/Romney, Suffolk, Rambouillet and two or three more breeds, and another lighter Border Leicester wool.
There is so much wool, that I decided I would weigh the box and fiber together. After spinning, I’ll weigh the finished hand-wrapped balls and box again, and track the discard amount.
Speaking of processing, the wool was milled by http://www.stonehedgefibermill.com, who did a fantastic job! There is so little to discard, and that makes spinning so enjoyable. Formerly, I have avoided wool because it has given me an unbearable scratchy, irritated feeling. My forearms feel prickly and turn red when they touch a 3% lambswool sweater. Mrs. W’s wool is different. I can rub a ball of 100% wool on my forearms and neck without the least irritation. We talked it over and speculated that it may be the commercial wool processing chemicals that give me the irritation. Her mill does not use harsh chemicals to process the wool.
The lesser box with the silver Romney wool in it weighed 4 pounds, 8.2 ounces.
Box weight: 1 pound, 8 ounces
Yarn weight: 3 pounds, 0.6 ounces
Total: 4 pounds, 8.6 ounces.
I appeared to have gained four-tenths of an ounce in this process, but after thinking about it, I remembered a tiny ball that I spun on the traditional wheel as a test and included in the general weight. When measured, this ball weighed 0.06 ounces. That brings the waste to a skimpy two-tenths of an ounce!
The fuller box with the dark blend of wool on top and the light Border Leicester wool on the bottom weighed 6 pounds, 0.6 ounces. That will be in the spinning soon.
I began with the silver Romney roving. There were no odors or skin irritants. The fiber was carded very well and arranged into delightfully long slivers that go on and on… We’ve come a long way from dog brush handcards! Smile.
The fiber was firmly packed into the box in circles that came up easily. The top was looser than the bottom, but halfway through the box, I began to plump up the remaining half box and it fluffed into another full box of fiber. This wool has loads of crimp. It was a bit of a challenge to spin wool on the Louet after spinning alpaca with the traditional, because the wheel ratio and treadles are very different. Just when the Louet was feeling comfortable, I began some fine llama on the traditional and rediscovered some of my original quirks with the treadle. Overall, the Louet spinning wheel is wonderfully comfortable to treadle, with a “positive” and “negative” ability to treadle. I can treadle with my heel or toe, and it works just as well. My traditional wheel needs a heavy down motion with the toe to bring the wheel around again to a convenient starting point. The Louet’s close wheel ratio means that the twist goes a lot slower. This was really something to get used to, and at one point, I reversed the bobbin to the smaller whorl. After getting used to that, I reversed the bobbin again to the larger whorl and it was not such a culture shock. It seems harder to spin a thicker yarn after spinning thin alpaca. I really had to focus on the yarn size. The Romney was strong, soft, and ever-so-slightly softened with lanolin, but not sticky or greasy. It has a lovely glow and silver color. It is relatively easy to spin, especially once I dealt with the slipping tension. The tension knob irritating habit of slipping out to the right, reducing the tension gradually. As I needed more tension as the bobbin loaded, that was really inconvenient. A rubber band came to the rescue!
The fiber’s ability to shrink when spun has been a constant amazement to me. A box of fluffy roving decrease in size, but increase in density, retaining the weight, but only a fraction of the original bulk. In the entire box of Romney, I found only 3 or 4 tiny cucumber seed-like cocoons. They were easy to pick out. There were the bare minimum of seconds, tiny amounts of waste/grass, and no sticks or dung. The Romney finished out into 8 hand-wrapped balls. Mrs. W plans to use them to weave and asked me to hand wrap them from the wheel. She plans to set the twist and measure the yardage.
Wool on the bobbin.
Winding into hand-wrapped balls.
There was a minimum amount of waste, due to good preparation.
The wool was firmly packed, but fluffed into a full box when plumped up.
The wool is soft and strong.
This wool has a lovely shine.