Tag: fiber

Spinning Yarn

Spinning Yarn

Taking a Braid for a Spin

Spinning

Spinning yarn is one of those things that so many people find to be amazing. Myself included! Lots of people who are into other fiber arts, such as knitting and crocheting, seem to believe that spinning yarn is beyond the realm of reasonable activities to take up. Spinning is something from the olden days, right? Why would I spend time spinning yarn when I can order thousands of different types of yarn, and get whatever I want already made? 

Well, let me tell you, spinning is a glorious adventure if you’re looking for a new way to enjoy your fiber arts! While there is certainly a learning curve, it isn’t actually “hard” to do. You can find prepared fiber in all kinds of braids or batts, you can purchase different types of fibers and blend your own mix, or you can even take the wool right off a sheep or alpaca and spin it in the grease!

Different put-ups for different spins

My favorite way to spin is from a braid of fiber already prepared for me. Sometimes I purchase a bare braid and dye it myself, and sometimes I get it already dyed by a favorite dyer, such as Kim Russo of Kim Dyes Yarn. When you’re spinning yarn from a braid, you will undo part of the braid and pull off a section, usually splitting the section into two or three narrow strands.

You can find prepared braids in all different types of fibers! My favorite is merino/silk, with pure Polwarth being a close second. I also enjoy alpaca blends (such as alpaca/silk, or alpaca/bamboo.) While I have certainly spun pure Merino before, I don’t enjoy it as much as when it is blended with another fiber, due to Merino’s short staple length. Getting to play with different types of fibers is so much fun!

Braid of Merino

Batts are another fun option for spinning yarn. Batts are made by carding different fibers together into a fluffy blend, kinda like a “cloud” of fiber. You can then take chunks off the batt and spin them however you wish. I’ve had batts before that were alpaca, mulberry silk, mohair locks, Angora, and stellina (sparkle strands) all mixed together to make an absolutely stunning blend of color and texture. While I have more trouble getting a uniform yarn from batts, I do so enjoy the fun of them! They always make for an interesting spin. As do rolags and p-rolags, but perhaps those are a post for another day…

Braid of Merino/Bamboo/Silk

Wheel vs. Spindle

spinning wheel
My sweet little baby wheel <3

Honestly, I kinda feel like the wheel vs. spindle is a whole other post by itself, too, so I’m only going to touch on a couple of things here.

First, a spindle (also called a drop-spindle) is basically a dowel threaded through a center hole in a round weight. Like a pencil through a donut, only tightly anchored. The round weight can be wood, stone, Fimo clay, or just about anything else you can think of. You hook your fiber around a hook in the top of the dowel, and you spin the whole thing either between your fingers or by running it down the side of your leg. When you get a long length of yarn spun, you wind it around the shaft. This is my prefered method of spinning, as spindles are inexpensive and easily portable.

I am not quite familiar enough with spinning wheels to talk much about them. I have a small one that doesn’t work, and intend to get a larger one that does sometime in the future. The reason I haven’t made the plunge yet is because A) they’re expensive (the cheapest being at least a few hundred bucks, and I’ve seen some go for upwards of $5,000) and B) they take up a good bit of space. For years, my spindles have served me well, so I’m in no rush. Eventually it’ll happen, when I have the money to spend and can make room in our small home.

Try it, you'll love it!

current spin
My current spin, dyed by me!

In summary, if you haven’t yet tried to spin your own yarn, you really should give it a go! There are lots of places online where you can find high-quality hand-dyed spinning fibers, as well as handmade spindles. There are books on spinning, videos to get you started, and I’m always just an email away.

Spinning is relaxing (once you get the hang of it) and it really is so much fun to be able to play with all different types and blends of fibers.

If this post inspires you to try your hand at spinning, I’d love to see your pics! Post in the facebook group, or on instagram, and hashtag them RowsAndRosesSpin so I can see what you’ve got going on!

Types of Wool

Types of Wool

Different breeds for different types of wool

I want to tell you something you may not know. You ready? Okay: not all wool is created equal. Did you know that? Think about it… there are so many different kinds of sheep out there. Not just pure breeds, either, but all kinds of crosses, too! From Dorsets to Corriedale, and everything in between, there are so many kinds of sheep that give us wool. This means, of course, that different breeds give us different types of wool. Some is rugged and best suited to outerwear, while others are soft and delicate, and perfect for wearing against your skin. The old wool sweaters you were forced to wear as a child? Yeah, that’s not what I mean when I talk about wool. If you want to know about a few of my favorite types of wool, read on!

(If you are interested in checking out some other blog posts of mine about wool/fiber, you can find them here and here.)

Blue-faced Leicester (BFL)

The Blue-faced Leicester (pronounced “Lester”) has, you guessed it, a blue face! Well, they’re blue all over really, underneath their fleece. 

The BFL is a breed of longwool sheep, with a soft white fleece that is excellent for wearing next to skin. The wool has a sheen to it reminiscent to silk, and is very strong. It is a popular choice for cloth diaper covers, and makes an excellent sweater.

Merino

Merino Collage

Merino sheep can be found all over the world. From Spain to Russia to Australia, and even here in the US.

Merino is considered the creme de la creme of wool, with the softest fibers you can find anywhere among sheep. Merino is the number one wool for wearing against the bare skin, as it has zero itch factor.

 

The short staple length makes merino difficult to spin on it’s own, but certainly not impossible. It felts and dyes exceptionally well, and can be used for garments and accessories. It is hands-down the most popular wool used for baby and child items as it is buttery soft and smooth.

Corriedale

Corriedale sheep originally hail from the Australia/New Zealand region, but have been shown to adapt to all kinds of climates.

They produce a very long stapled wool. The fleece is heavy and hearty, very thick and with moderate bounce and “fluff.”

Corriedale wool is considered next-to-skin soft. It’s great for spinning and felting, as well as dying as it readily soaks up color.

CorriedaleCollage

Dorset

Dorset collage

Dorset sheep are an interesting breed. Apparently Dorsets came about due to the cross-breeding of the Merino with the Horned Sheep of Wales.

Dorsets are, in fact, meat sheep. However, they produce an excellent wool. This short-staple and springy wool, while some find it acceptable for next-to-skin wear, is a strong and thick fiber. This makes Dorset perfect for rugged outerwear.

Peruvian Highland

Peruvian Highland wool is one of my all-time favorite wools! These sheep are an interesting crossbreed of Corriedale and Merino.

The wool sports the strength of Corriedale, offering resilience and bullet-proof wear perfect for outer garments, such as jackets. However, don’t be fooled into thinking this is a rough wool. The Merino shines through in it’s softness, making it a popular wool to be worn next to the skin in cowls, mitts, and sweaters.

Due to the Corriedale, Peruvian Highland wool also has a longer staple fiber length, making it much easier to spin than pure Merino. This wool is really an all-star pick for just about anything!

peruvian highland sheep

Just the tip of the iceburg

Be assured that these are certainly not all, but just a few of the breeds that really speak to me. I have been in love with wool for as long as I’ve been crafting with yarn. Different types of wool are suited to different purposes, but they are all remarkable. From being anti-microbial, to absorbent, to feltable, to insulating, wool is really a miracle fiber and I long to learn more and more as I go. I hope you’ve enjoyed this post and gained a better understanding of different types of wool. If you know of someone who might find value in it, please share ♥

Yarn Selection

Yarn Selection

Part II: Weight

Gorgeous swatch in Lindy Chain, a fingering weight yarn by Knit Picks

Remember our little chat about yarn selection last week where we discussed why certain fibers were good for certain things (like cotton is absorbent and great for kitchen towels, while wool is light and springy and warm so excellent for sweaters,) and how some yarns may not work for certain items based on the fibers from which they’re made? Well there’s another thing we have to take into consideration when dealing with yarn selection, and that’s the yarn weight. Just to be clear, yarn weight doesn’t mean how much a ball of the yarn weighs, but rather the “gauge” of a single strand of the yarn. In other words, thickness. Let’s elaborate a bit. 

Why yarn weight matters

Say we want to make a fluttery springtime shawl. A transition piece for those warm yet breezy late spring days (we don’t have those days here in SC very often: we tend to go from winter to pollen to full-on Hades. But I digress…) We pick out a pattern with an airy feel, like butterfly wings, perfect for mid-April. Now we need to find a yarn. We discover that our local yarn shop, or perhaps our favorite online retailer, offers a drop-dead-gorgeous yarn of merino and silk, which we know will be equal parts bouncy and drapey, in a colorway that just screams BUY ME!! This is it, this is the yarn. We check the yardage to make sure we order enough and now, finally, we are at home with our yarn and ready to start. Guess what? It’s a #6 bulky-weight yarn. Oh…… no. This shawl is going to wear like a carpet.

Or how about this: we want to crochet a rug for our living room. Brown and green to match our decor (assuming you all have decor. I do not, unless “third-hand cast offs” is a decor.) We find a brown yarn with green speckles in the perfect shades. We grab a bunch and head home. Now we’re ready to start hooking. We need to swatch (swatching will be a whole ‘nother post) to figure out which hook will give us the thick and unyielding fabric we want for this rug that’s going to be walked on for years to come. Oh wait, this gorgeous yarn is fingering weight. Oh man, that’s not going to work. It’ll take 10 years to make this rug, and then it’ll be thin like a cotton tshirt. Gotta take the yarn back and try again.

Or how about we just skip all this insanity and disappointment and jump right to the part in our yarn selection where we learn how to pick the right weight of yarn the first time around? Yeah? Awesome.

First, let’s get familiar with some weight terms here, and what they look like.

Getting smart

Weight Number

#0

#1

#2

#3

#4

#5

#6

Weight Name

Lace (think angel hair pasta, or even smaller)

Fingering

Sport

DK (great middle of the road weight)

Worsted

Aran

Bulky (think rug)

L to R: lace, fingering, sport, dk, worsted, aran, bulky

To find the yarn weight on a ball or skein of yarn, just look at the label. It will tell you! Thankfully, most patterns you’ll find already tell you which yarn weight the pattern is written for. However, if you’re writing your own pattern, tweaking a pattern for a lighter or heavier weight yarn, or just trying to make something up from scratch with nothing but a hook, some yarn, and your imagination, then you’ll need to have an idea of what these different weights can do, and what they probably can’t.

It’s usually okay to substitute a yarn within 1 of the original weight. For example, I’ve substituted fingering for sport, and aran for worsted, more times than I can count. The trick is to make a gauge swatch with two or three different hook sizes to either A) meet the correct gauge for the pattern, or B) get the fabric feel and drape that you want and then do the math according to the gauge of the pattern vs. the gauge of your swatch. If this is Greek to you, don’t worry, we’ll cover swatching in another post a little later on. Suffice it to say, substitutions can usually be made as long as they’re not too drastic.

Did you find this post to be informative? Did you enjoy it? Then please like it, tweet it, pin it, leave a comment, and SHARE SHARE SHARE! Every little action helps, and is so super appreciated ♥

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