Thursday, March 11, 2010

Adventures in Spinning: Shetland

Its been a while since I've done much spinning what with life's busy-ness at the moment. Also, after reading Anne Field's Spinning Wool - Beyond the Basics, I was feeling a bit daunted at the task. A talented fellow knitter (and spinner) loaned me the book, (thank you!) which is unfortunately out of print. Anne Field really knows her fleece, and its been a real treasure trove of technical information including a really helpful section on how to classify a fleece.

One thing I found very limiting was her viewpoint on how a fleece should be used. This depends on the character of the wool - she recommends a larger yarn with less twists per inch for a larger fibre size with less crimps per inch. This makes complete sense, but just isn't what my hands do naturally.

After reading the book, I spent some time learning to spin at a constant speed to get more even results in terms of twists per inch by counting treadles per inch....and then went back to doing it by feel. Its great to learn the technicalities, but I found it put me off the fun of just doing it. I came to spinning as something that feels instinctive, something with its own rhythm, that I've just gone with the flow of, and somehow the technical side took some of the fun away.

After watching Lambing Live on BBC these last few nights, I felt totally inspired to get back at the wheel. So I got out some Shetland fleece - combed tops in a mixture of colours - white, moorit, grey and chocolate brown/black, with a staple length of 3 - 5" and roughly 16 crimps per inch.
I made some worsted spun 2-ply, - 12 wraps per inch and 8 twists per inch......which knit up nicely on 3.75mm needles...
...and some finer yarn - almost lace weight - 16+ wpi and 13 tpi.There are the two together.It was lovely fibre to spin. (But then again, I seem to think that about every fibre.) (Except cotton - that was hard going.) Shetland wool seems to be the finest yarn from sheep in the U.K, and I've enjoyed knitting with commercially spun Shetland before, but I was a little surprised at the itchiness of my sample. The finer yarn was even more itchy, but possibly had too much twist in it. (My beginner's dodgy spinning...)

Shetland sheep are a small and hardy breed that come from (surprise, surprise) the Shetland Isles, and come in lots of gorgeous colours. You have to love some of the amazing names for the different colourings - smirslet, bersugget, yuglet and latmoget being just some. One of the things Shetland yarn is known best for is lace weight shawls that are so light they fit through a finger ring.

I love the rarer breeds of sheep with their incredibly different characteristics, and beautiful varied fleeces. But for now, its just nice to get out the wheel.

2 comments:

Christine Raab-Heine said...

Lovely. I hope you go on.

And I understand your feelings re the technicality very well!

I tried it once, and it feels really stupid counting whilst spinning. It might be something to do for a while as exercise, and overcome it then, like you did.

Snag Breac said...

Yes, I think I am the same. The counting thing seems to make it into something quite obsessive. And what I enjoyed about it was getting a feel for it rather than being exact. I'd love to see some of your spinning too sometime.