Sunday, 11 April 2021

Away wi' the Fairies in the Springtime!

This is one of my most popular colourways at the moment: Away wi' the Fairies. I love it. There are only three basic dye colours in it, but they spread and run into each other and make lots more wonderful brights as the fibre dyes. This was done on Rambouillet, for me. 

One of my favourite ways of spinning a fine wool top is to break it off into staple lengths, wrap them round a thickish stick like a big knitting needle or a nostepinne, and then spin the resulting prep long draw, at speed. I don't call these rolags, as they're much denser than a true rolag and the wool fibres themselves are still in a combed aligned form. But the resulting yarn can be spun to a very high twist, pulls out to a fine yarn, and is much bouncier and more elastic than a true worsted/short draw-spun yarn.


I spent an entire evening making these punis. I split the top down the middle as evenly as possible, and as each staple length was pulled off I carefully wrapped it round a 10mm knitting needle pulled it off and laid it in order in a box. And then did the same for the other half. When these are spun, they should (if the halves were even, if the punis are the same size, if my spinning is consistent) produce two matching singles that will ply together beautifully. 

I then went to bed, latish. I forgot to cover the box. 
(I always tell people, when I'm teaching long draw woollen spinning, that the attraction of your cat to your finished fibre prep is in exact relation to how long it took you to prepare that fibre).

This is not the cat who sat on the fibre (I think. I have four cats). This is Goblin. 

So I ended up making a pile of all the punis and arranging them in one long line by colour. It was fun. There was quite a lot of them. 

I then split the one long colourway into four. So instead of my yarn changing colour as the original dyed top changed colour, I would end up with two singles that went from purple to magenta and then back to purple along its length. I have turned it into a mirrored gradient. 

Each half was laid out in a box, in order, and spun in order. And then plied. 

I did the plying watching a rather fabulous documentary about the Clydesdale horse. 

I was planning to weave this on my rigid heddle, and of course it's not going to go far by itself. I had two bobbins full of a similar yarn (undyed Rambouillet spun the same way), so I would them off and stuffed them in a dyebath of greens.

Of course, because I'd spun these long draw and they were elastic and bouncy, the hot water revealed quite how bouncy and squishy the finished yarn was. (This also applied to the Away wi' the Fairies when I washed it after skeining.) Quite unsuitable for weaving easily. I ran all three skeins back through the wheel, tightening up the plying enormously. The photo below shows the skein in its original state and the two bobbins re-plied. 

And here, after re-plying and a very hot bath. When I'm finishing a yarn, whether as a single (to be used as a single) or a plied yarn, I always dunk in really hot water, too hot to put my hand in for long even in a thick rubber glove. This allows the wool fibres to relax completely and resets the twist. I tend to spin high twist yarn and the first plying balanced that, so you'd think the second plying would lead to overtwisted yarn. But woollen spun yarn will take an enormous amount of twist because of the way the fibres have space around themselves in the yarn, and there is not a trace of overtwist in the finished yarn here. 

So all I need to do now is ball it up, stuff it onto the rigid heddle (cutting off the thing on it that's been there since before Christmas and isn't working) and weave it up! Still thinking about what to use as a weft though. I have a bag of a pale grey fibre blend somewhere that may work well...


  1. Love this colourway. One of my favourites ever. Interesting way to prepare it as well.

  2. The box of punis looks wonderful, like a box of wax crayons. I love that prep method too, it makes spinning remarkably quick and easy and produces lovely yarn.