Spinning yarns

It is addictive, I can’t stop spinning. A friend gave me some Romney tops and I have used this to supplement my hand carded Jacobs and Shetland fibres.

The Romney is a dream to spin, and whether this is all due to the fibre, or a measure of my hand carding I am not sure.

My plyed yarn is coming out at 13wpi. So this should be a DK weight. I will try knitting it on 4 or 4.5mm needles.

A bad photo of my WPI test – I needed 3 hands!

The yarn is quite lively. I will post the knit later on.

Ok. Here is the yarn knitted at tension 10 on a Knitmaster HK160 mid-gauge knitting machine.

The verdict is that the stitch tension is too tight. And of course my plying hasn’t balanced the yarn sufficiently so the knit has a slight bias.

So I then tried EON (every other needle) on the same machine, same large tension.

This definitely brings out the qualities if the yarn , but is a bit loose. If I had my chunky gauge machine open I think that would be ideal for this yarn.

Once the yarn is spun its usual to wind it into a hank so that it is possible to wash the finished yarn.

Reading up on spinning

I have found this book very helpful. It’s pretty technical, but that’s fine with me. Published in 1995 its only got b&w photos, but the information, knowledge and skill if the author shines through.

This will sit beside Abby Franquemont’s Respect the Spindle on my bookshelf.


I want to try to spin some basic fancy yarns have out a jumbo flyer kit for my Ashford Traveller on my Christmas list, (I might be proficient enough by then). Meanwhile I have settled for updating my standard flyer to one with extra whorls so that I can try different ratios. My wheel is one of the older 2 ratio ones. However I need to adjust the MOA as the drive band jumps off the smaller whorl at the moment.

Drum Carder revival

My carding hands are worn out so I dragged out an old Drum Carder I bought ages ago. It was siezed solid with fibre in the bearings, gunk and the drum was still full of nasty old fibres.

Bravely I took it to pieces and cleaned it all up. Loads of WD40, and a broken Allen key later it is spinning smoothly again. Used my soft dog slicker brush to clean the drum out.

It’s in reasonable condition, and I had bought a new belt a while ago in anticipation- which was lucky. That went on easily and there was one problem, it has lost its feeder plate, so I’ve improvised with a very thick card cut to shape which seems to do the job. I’ve got nice batts off already.

Sorting a fleece on a sunny day

A while ago I purchased a Texel X fleece. It is pretty clean in that it’s not got much debris in it, but some parts and the tips are rather muddy and stained.

The first step was to sort it into approximate qualities and then by cleanliness.

Head at top of photo (I think)

So, working as described in Gill Dalby’s excellent ‘Spinning and Dyeing’, I next separated the fibres by softness. This proves difficult because of the sticky points to the staples, but I got better at differentiating as I progressed.

Staples taken from the fleece to aid identification of softer and coarser areas

The shoulder area is usually softest and the fleece gets coarser towards the rump. This seemed to be the case, although the back seemed quite soft as well, but the rump was definitely coarser. I have sewn a collection of Calico sacks over the years for storing fleece and yarns and used several of these to store the newly separated fibres.
Whoever had shared the fleece had put the belly and quite a bit of skirtings rolled up separately inside the fleece, which was helpful.

My extra skirting has given me a bag of coarser and dirtier wool for stuffing that I will wash at a later date.

Labelled sacks of sorted fleece – phew glad that’s over. The flies loved it!

The cleaner parts I’m leaving in oil to spin that way, but I washed the dirtier parts to use in spinning workshops, (where people don’t always like using in-oil fibre) and to card for blending. This was the first time I’ve used the Australian Fibre Scour liquid I recently bought, and it leaves the wool smelling really fresh. To try to get the staining off the tips I pre-soaked the wool in hand warm water, then scoured using the Fibre Scour plus a small dose of Borax substitute in two increasingly hot washes using minimal agitation, squeezing gently and separating the staple ends to ease the dirt out. Then reduced the temperature of the water through several rinses, adding white vinegar to the last one to condition the fibres.

Drying took a day of sunshine and gentle wind in a dual layer mesh for I bought on eBay.

The dried fleece, still a little stained but good to go

Now I have to card the clean wool. My plan is to use some of this to blend with Merino and then add nepps to create tweed yarn. I will be posting more about my progress with this project.

Sadly felted tops become rug yarn

After dyeing some fabric I thought I’d have a go at exhausting the bath with a small amount of Romney tops. Sadly something odd occurred (well doesn’t that often happen when dyeing?) and not only did the wool go a lovely peachy pink (the dye was blue). But horror of horrors, the fibre felted.

I loved the colour, and having worked with woad before I know that the exhausted bath produces pinks, so wasn’t too disappointed. The felting was annoying though. Trying to spin the fibres meant re-carding brittle and difficult to handle fibres, so I decided to split the thick, felted roving top into thinner ones as usual and spin a rug-weight yarn. I am in the early stages of designing a peg-loom rug, so this will be useful.

I deliberately spun a rough and ready single to start with and will probably ply it, but will see how it goes.