Tag: wool

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 ♥

Spun In The Grease

Spun In The Grease

Prepping Greasy handspun yarn

handspun

Not too long ago, my dearest friend and fellow yarnie Sarah sent me home with some handspun yarn. Wool, for sure, but what kind is anyone’s guess. She had gotten it from a friend who had gotten it from someone else, and apparently nobody knew what to do with it. Therefore, it was passed on down the line, ending with me. This yarn is lovely, spun by someone who clearly knew what they were doing. There was one little problem… It was spun in the grease.

Now that’s not ALWAYS a problem; plenty of spinners choose to spin in the grease. In fact, I’ve done it once myself (and hated every minute, haha.) I knew when she handed it over and I felt it, that I was going to have to do some serious cleaning up of this yarn before I could use it for anything. So now, since I’m in the middle of my annual psycho-creative period,  you get to follow along with me on a mini-adventure where we learn what it means for a yarn to be spun in the grease, how to clean it up, and why. While we’re at it, we’re also going to measure and reskein this lovely sheepy stuff as it came with no tags and I need to know what we’re working with. 

What does it mean to be spun in the grease?

handspun

As we all know, wool comes from sheep. Sheep produce lanolin, a waxy coating that keeps their wool water resistant. This is why wool diaper covers are usually lanolized: lanolin is added to the diaper cover so that it doesn’t leak.

Sometimes, when a sheep is sheered and the fleece is skirted, it is then  spun without being washed first. This is called “spinning in the grease.” I’ve done it one time and one time only, and I hated every minute! My hands felt like they had had a spa treatment, sure, but the experience was a weird mixture of gooey/creamy/crunchy. Not to mention that raw lanolin has a very strong scent. Not bad, exactly, but STRONG!

Let's get this stuff clean!

This yarn is very heavily greasy, so I knew it was going to take more than a quick wash to get all this lanolin out. I filled my plastic tub with hot water and a big squirt of original Palmolive dish soap. I was only able to comfortably fit two skeins at a time, so everything I did, I had to do again. Let me tell you, this was no easy washing. I had to fill the tub with hot water and dish soap TWICE and then rinse in clear hot water for both sets of skeins. 

After the final rinse, I squeezed out as much water as I could, and then took them out onto the deck and gave them a good twirling to spin out the rest of the water. They were then hung on hangers to dry in the laundry room. The yarn still felt a bit waxy, but at this point I’m thinking they should be clean enough to knit or crochet with. I can always wash the finished product really, really well before blocking, and the wool wash I use on finished objects is amazing. It really gets everything super clean! So this will be good enough for now.

washing handspun

And now we have a problem...

After roughly 48 hours, this gorgeous yarn was dry and ready to be measured and reskeined. I got out the swift, ball winder, and my yardage counter so that I could find out how much yarn I’m working with.

OMG

 

damnit

This yarn is so coarse, so thick, and still so loaded with lanolin (after TWO dish soap washes HOW???) that it BROKE MY FREAKING COUNTER! Okay, so it’s a cheap-ass counter anyway and I’ve been telling myself I need to get another one. But I don’t HAVE another one right now. Ugh.

Feeling somewhat disgusted right now. That’s okay, gonna keep going. I finally got all four skeins wound into balls, and decided to just leave them as is to save myself the hassle of reskeining. Furthermore, I can knit or crochet directly from the center-pull balls so reskeining would actually be hurting me anyway. At this point, I’m finished. And I need a new (and better) yarn meter, so off to make a purchase. Now I get to try to figure out what this yarn wants to be. Mitts, maybe? I’m thinking yes because if worn on the hands, the lanolin in this still-greasy yarn will offer a built-in spa treatment, and who wouldn’t want that?

finished winding

Spread the word!

Did you enjoy this post? Did you learn anything new? Got some questions, or maybe feedback. Let’s hear it! You can always get me through the contact form on the website, or through comments here on the post. If you feel so inclined, I’d be eternally grateful for a facebook share, pin, tweet, or IG of this post. Every little action you takes helps R&R to grow ♥

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