Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Last year's last spinning (and more swircles)

Bit of a challenge here. I was offered this fleece to spin earlier last year, while it was still on the sheep, for the cost of a small sample of yarn back to the owner. It was unusual, and I'd been interested in spinning the fleece since I'd discovered these two lambs existed.

I was offered a choice of both fleeces when I picked it up in September. Sadly, they'd both been a victim of last year's heavy rain, and were pretty felted. They'd also been shorn just after the rise too. Not the owner/shepherd's fault at all, just weather. I've had a couple of other fleeces last year that have suffered in the same way, from different parts of the country, and different breeds.

This is the fleece raw:
Soft, lovely wool, but felted almost into a blanket in places. It washed up into a creamy white with a few beige-ish streaks.
At which point I had a think about how to prepare. Normally I'd have carded a fleece like this, but with the semi-break at the rise, and the felting at the butt end, there was really no option but to hand comb it on my 2-pitch Viking combs. I also have a bit of a dodgy elbow at the moment (mouse at work, I think), so found it really painful to comb, so I trained Mark!

Actually, he really rather took to it. I demonstrated a couple of times, passed it over, and he sat there combing the chunks I was separating out of the fleece for him. I ended up still pulling it off the combs (he was a little over-enthusiastic and pulled chunks off). 

And this is what it turned into - 63g of a light 3ply yarn, about 135m.

And the breed? Hebridean.

Of course, everyone knows that all Hebrideans are black. You used to get Hebrideans in all sorts of colours, like Shetlands. Manx Loughtan sheep, too, once came in all sorts of colours, not just the moorit they're known for now. In the 19thC both breeds were bred for just one colour and that's what stuck. So rare white sheep do pop up in purebred flocks of Hebrideans, and this was one of them.

It would be interesting to compare to this year's fleece, if the sheep are still around and I can get hold of it. I'm not sure whether the extreme softness is due to the colour or the fact it's a first fleece - probably a bit of both.

This is another photo of the yarn with the last day's project - three Leicester Longwool 'swircles' and the leftover yarn.

I was involved in a project last year that was researching the extant Tudor-period caps in Europe, how they were made, and what wool they were likely made from. It involved me sourcing yarn for and knitting lots (and lots) of these swircles, a 5" diameter dense circle knitted outwards, which were then fulled/brushed/cropped to produce a piece of napped fabric to compare against the surviving caps' lining.

They're hard on the hands. 2.5mm dpns, and the yarn (both the stuff I've bought and more I've spun from specific breeds) is dk-aran weight, to make a solid fabric even before finishing.

The last three from this longwool breed went missing just before they were needed. Naturally, they've turned up just as I was finishing these this afternoon. Drat.


  1. Amazing to see this Freyalyn! Thank you so much for accept the challenge and fingers crossed we will have better weather this year. Having said that, the fleeces won't be the first clip so will suffer due to that, however you never know if another white lamb might appear and give us a beautiful fleece. Can't wait to see this!

  2. enjoyed reading this, totally feeling the frustration(myself) of having to work with a beautiful but felted, broken fleece. Way to persevere!!!!

  3. That yarn is lovely! I would never have guess Hebridean.