Sunday, April 29, 2012

Fleece to Fiber Notes, Spinning for Tapestry Part 1

I have joined a fleece to fiber club through the Spinning Loft and the club is currently full but the idea is that we will receive 4 ounces each of two types of raw fleece each month starting in April.  With all the pots I have boiling at the moment I am not exactly sure why I thought this was a good idea but I suspect that is related to one of my favorite books of the past year, the Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook by Deborah Robson and Carol Ekarius.  I have been a spinner for about twenty-five or so years now and love to experiment with different kinds of fibers and it was a natural inclination when I started weaving tapestry to experiment with spinning my own tapestry yarns. Anything I write here though is a result of my own experiments and study and not meant to be complete or definitive in any way.

For this months samples we have received Wensleydale and Romney.  The raw fleece is lovely and even though I have had them since the first of the month I am just getting around to washing them today.  Here is a picture of the raw Romney.

In between 20 minute soaks I am writing this and taking pictures as I go.  Since I am up to my neck in tapestry weaving right now I decided to tie this club work in with my spinning for tapestry weft experiments because it seemed like the best way to get something done.  Both of these samples are from the Long Wool group and should make good tapestry yarn.  The basic idea is to try different fiber prep techniques and types of yarn,as well as different ways to use them like knitting, weaving  or embroidery- make samples and record them in a notebook.  It occurs to me that I could make a tapestry sampler that includes all of the yarn samples from the club as well as some of my own samples.  I know that not all the samples from the club will be optimal for tapestry yarn and some my not be suited at all but in the interest of experimentation and to end up with a complete reference tool I plan to sample all the fleeces from the club in this tapestry.  I will probably put this project on the Big Sister Mirrix loom even though I will have it tied up for many months in this way.  Can you ever have enough looms?  Here is the clean Romney.

Of the two samples this month I have worked with Romney quite a bit.  It is already a favorite of mine for tapestry weft.  I have not had much experience with the Wensleydale so I am hoping to find a new favorite here with some unique characteristics.  I decided to divide the Wensleydale into two different wash bags because there were two fairly distinct types of fiber in the sample.  One is shorter, finer and curlier and the other is longer, coarser and more wavy than curly.  A picture below with the two types separated .

I did two washing soaks of twenty minutes with Unicorn Power Scour and two rinsing soaks of twenty minutes and fifteen minutes.  Finally I did a five minute soak with some of the Unicorn Fiber Rinse added.  The water temperature for all was the hottest my tap would provide.  The Power Scour came with the club shipment and I have not used it before.  It did a good job.  The Fiber Rinse was a sample I had and this seemed like a good time to use it. Here is the Wensleydale after cleaning.

After the wash and rinse I spun them in a salad spinner to get out as much moisture as possible and then laid them out to dry on a screen drying rack.

Once the fleece is dry I plan to try a few different preps like flick carding, and combing and then try some worsted, semi worsted, and woolen spinning styles depending on the fleece.  I will make some plied samples but for the most part I spin a fingering to lace weight singles for tapestry wefts to make blending color and accommodating different sett formats easier.  I will write more about that later.  A list of my favorite fleeces for tapestry yarns at the present time follows, but who knows what I might discover this year.  If you have a favorite not on the list  I would love to hear about it in the comments.

Navaho Churro
Blue Faced Leicester.

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