For Science!

My impatience scientific curiosity got the better of me yesterday, so I decided to cheat do some preliminary research and experimentation into exactly what sort of yarn I could expect from Liam’s fleece. Even though only about half of the fleece is washed, I carded and spun up one rolag of the clean wool, just to see how it behaved. Liam’s wool is not exactly ideal for hand carding, but since hand cards are all I have I used them anyway.


That handful turned out to be too much for the carders to handle, so I didn’t end up using all of it.

One rolag isn’t really enough to properly utilize a spinning wheel, and my wheel is currently tied up with another project anyway so I decided to use a drop spindle.


The finished rolag, ready to be spun up on my favorite spindle. I rolled the rolag a little too tight, so it was somewhat hard to draft, and I think the 1 ounce spindle was a tad light for this project, but it worked well enough. And it’s my favorite spindle.


My tiny little cop of spun single, ready to be Andean plied into yarn! I realized at this point that I had spun the whole thing backwards. S-spun. Counter-clockwise. Widdershins. Whatever you want to call it, I’d spun it in the opposite direction that a single is usually spun. There are certain superstitions attached to yarn spun the wrong direction, but not being superstitious I decided I didn’t care. It’s just a sample. All that really matters is that you ply the yarn in the opposite direction it was spun, so I plied it clockwise, or Z-plied.


And there’s my itty-bitty (backwards) Liam skein! It’s pretty much impossible to spin a perfectly consistent yarn from a rolag, and I didn’t feel like fighting with it, so I just spun the wool the way it “wanted” to be spun. It came out around 14-16 WPI, which I think would generally be considered a heavy fingering/light sport weight yarn, but might be anything up to a DK weight yarn, depending on what chart you use. I’m calling it sporty fingering.


The sample knitted up on size 3 needles and (sort of) blocked. I found it a bit harder to knit with the yarn twisted in the opposite direction from what I’m used to, but I managed. I think it came out quite pretty, uneven lumpy bits and all!

I may try to get ahold of some combs and do another sample. I think this wool might rather be combed into top for a smooth worsted yarn than carded into rolags for a fuzzy woolen yarn. There are all kinds of books and videos about how to make fiber come out into exactly the yarn you want, but my experience so far is that some fibers really really want to be prepared a certain way, or spun to a certain weight, and given my indifferent skills with both fiber prep and spinning, my results are usually better if I don’t try to fight with it.


13 thoughts on “For Science!

  1. Liam’s wool is very pretty. I agree with you about how the wool “wants” to be spun. I am still very much a spinning neophyte, but last year I spun some Coopworth that insisted on being spun as a lace/heavy fingering – so much lighter than I’d ever spun before (I ended up 3plying it into a heavy sport/light DK weight (yeah, all of those WPI charts do vary a lot!) something I haven’t accomplished since with any other wool. As for the evenness of the singles/plied yarn, I think a bit of variation is a good thing for a yarn that will be used in a seed or moss stitch or similar.

    • I usually aim for fingering weight yarns, since I can’t knit with anything heavier than fingering without aggravating my wrist and elbow. Some fibers won’t cooperate and insist on being bulkier, and some fibers insist on dwindling all the way down to cobweb.
      Moss stitch is wonderful for covering irregularities in handspun!

  2. You are right in that some yarns WANT to be what they WANT to be. Interesting that you said it was different knitting the yarn when spun ‘opposite’ . That is the way some spin when they are crocheting. I have some comments but email me re them….only if you want to!! but nice sample……how long are the locks?

      • OK, might be a little long for hand cards and there are other things you can do, like oil the wool before carding and it will ‘slide’ easier.

      • Some sort of moisturizer might be helpful, it did explode into quite a cloud of frizz when carded. Reminded me of my own hair. 🙂

    • To my fingers it feels perfectly, unbelievably soft, but I’m used to the Soays with their varying degrees of hair coat, so I’m not an unbiased judge. 🙂

  3. Ummmm, yumm, yummm, Liam’s yarn is soft and fuzzy when carded! Love the look and feel of it.

    A spinner for about a year, pretty much all I know is Shetland and alpaca, and I comb the Shetland. Since Dodge (a little Georgetown wether) is dual-coated, the combing leaves whisper-soft long wool that will supported-spindle-spin up finely with ease.

    However, because I spin worsted it loses some of the lovely floaty sense yours has having been carded. Plus, that little halo effect reminds me of Liam himself in a way :}

    It will be interesting to comb and spin the little bit of Lana’s fleece that Laura L. gave me for comparison. Lana is one of Liam’s cousins. Her dark chocolate fleece is exceedingly long and soft with a very fine crimp…it’s heaven.

    Have you tried Barney’s fleece yet? It’s less crimpy so I wonder how it does.

    Very best,


    • I mostly spin with Shetland myself. There’s a large variety of fiber types within the Shetland breed, and sometimes even two different pieces of roving from the same vendor won’t be the same!
      Barney’s fleece isn’t as nice as Liam’s. He has a bad habit of rubbing himself against fences and trees and felting the tips of his locks. It’s siting in a lonely neglected bag in the basement waiting for me to get around to seeing what can be salvaged out of it.
      I separated the outer and under coat out of his first fleece, immediately declared “I am never ever doing that again” and decided to just blend the coats in future fleeces.

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