An Adventure in Spinning

In the realm of the fiber arts, I got my start somewhere in the neighborhood of 25years ago as a crocheter with box store acrylics and then later wool/synthetic blends. Then I picked up knitting & started to sample different types of wool and animal fibers. Eventually my love of knitting led me to start spinning — you know, one thing leads to another. I am a relatively knowledgeable & experienced knitter, but nothing… nothing could have prepared me for the onslaught of knowledge that followed my learning to spin. Of course, I had expected that I would be learning about twist & staple length & spinning different weights of yarn in different ways. What I hadn’t realized was simply how many different types fiber there are out there.  And they are all unique. I recognized Merino and Icelandic, Blue Faced Leicester and Teeswater (because a farm nearby happens to raise Teeswater sheep), but there are simply oodles of sheep breeds out there each with their own signature qualities. Whoa.

Aside from initially being completely overwhelmed, as with all things spinning I’m just diving in. After all, the best way to learn about breed specific wools is to spin with breed specific wools. I spin a fair bit from indie dyers — you see Cloudlover Yarn & Fiber and Dyeabolical here a lot — but I also really love a good, natural fiber. Before the dyes, just from the sheep to me. There are a lot of versions of sheep to wheel and I’m very thankful that for those like me who don’t have the space, time, tools, or cash to bring home a fresh from the sheep fleece to clean and card that there are places to get ready-to-spin breed specific fibers. The fine folks at Louet North America are one such source with their Canterbury Prize Wool Group.

The wonderful thing about this wool is that it is selected with the mindset of giving spinners the authentic, unique feel of each breed. Although experienced spinners will appreciate its high quality, this wool is also the perfect way for newer spinners — like me! — to really learn the difference not just between Jacob and Wensleydale, for example, but also to get a taste for sliver (pronounced sly-ver) versus top and so forth. I have been fortunate enough to get my hands on seven (yes, seven! wow!) different varieties from the Canterbury Prize Wool Group and I cannot wait to share the journey of spinning each with you.

breed specific
Top from L to R: Wensleydale Sliver, Jacob Grey Top, Jacob Sliver — Bottom from L to R: Shetland Sliver, Wensleydale Top, Finn Top, Fine White Shetland Top

Over the coming months, I will be sharing each of these spins here on the blog — from the research I do to learn about each breed to the thought process that goes into deciding how to spin it. These are almost all new to me, so it is sure to be a wild and wonderful learning experience for all of us! If you are a spinner, by all means, feel free to join me — I would love to hear your input, too!

Would you like to see a close-up of some this beautiful wool?

Wensleydale close upThis is the lusciously smooth Wensleydale Top. I love the variance in colors and it is so soft.  Seriously, I wish you could reach through your computer and touch it. You probably wouldn’t let it go if you could! And that’s just the thing with breed specific wools and spinning — each wool has such personality. From the first touch, you can see and feel the unique qualities of each breed. Oh, this is going to be a wonderful little adventure we’re going to have. I’ll be starting this journey soon, so stay tuned! And don’t forget — feel free to join me and share your experiences, too!

15 thoughts on “An Adventure in Spinning”

  1. I had dreams of spinning my own yarn. I tried. I couldn’t get the plying bit. What wheel do you use? I would love to try it again.

    1. I use a Lendrum Original DT — if you are interested, you can read about how I choose my wheel here. I haven’t had any formal spinning training (someday I will, I hope!), but I definitely know from experience that it takes time to get these skills to a respectable/acceptable level, let alone perfect them. Definitely keep trying — it’ll come!

      1. I know – it sure looked easier than it is! I had a Kiwi which I sold on Ravelry because honestly it was awful. I want a good wheel and am saving for one. I’m almost ready to start my Hermione’s May Challenge Sock!

      2. There is definitely a steep learning curve in the beginning. I had a couple friends who kind of pointed me in the right direction and then I got some video tutorials and classes to help. Someday I’m going to do a more intensive study with hands-on teachers, but I’m afraid that will be a while. Whenever you get to the point of starting again, if you are interested in some of the resources I used, just let me know & I will send you the info.
        When it comes to wheels — like I said in the post I wrote — I highly recommending finding a shop where you can try out a number of different wheels. I was convinced I was going to get an Ashford, but when I sat down at my Lendrum I just knew it was right for me. Everyone is different & eventually your right wheel finds you. 🙂
        Enjoy Hermione’s Everyday Socks — it’s such a fun knit!

      3. I will need to travel a couple of hours to find a shop with a wheel – but I’m going to do it this time! The only question I have is – when will I knit? HA! Too much fun – and I’m planning on painting my own sock yarn —— just too many fun things you can do with string!

      4. Lol! Time is a factor, for sure! What I’ve found is they are different enough that there is time for both. Spinning happens when I have an afternoon or evening at home when I know I won’t be interrupted a ton. Knitting is what I do when I need to be more mobile and when I know I will have to start and stop more. It works. 🙂 Now dying is one thing I am staying out of – I so don’t have room away from the kiddos for that!

  2. just… WOW!
    i started purchasing some fibre (both already prepared and still in fleece bits) but have not yet come around to actual trying spinning…
    i love the variations in natural wool and those samples just make me want to get through the internet and reach out for them 😉
    I look forward to reading about your experiences and findings – please share with us
    Many thanks!

    1. Aren’t they wonderful?! I am so excited there are such great quality breed specific wools available! I can’t wait to get spinning, but I will say the hardest part is deciding which to spin first!

  3. I know zilch about spinning and have no desire to try it — but I love reading about different wool fibers, so I’ll be sure to follow along with your adventure!

    1. You sound like me in the years leading up to starting spinning. I swore I never would and then my husband pushed for me to try it. And the rest is history! Definitely though, a lot of good info about yarns and breed specific yarns should come from this project!

  4. Oh, boy, I should not read anymore of your spinning posts…makes me want to spin very very badly (I can only use a drop spindle and not well). My daughter is getting three Shetland sheep in late summer. We visited the farm today & “met” them. I’ve told her I cannot take on one more thing, so we are going to have to send the fleeces out (next year) to be processed, spun, etc…….maybe I can just send them to you! 😉

    1. Well, I stink with a drop spindle, but the wheel I’m getting better everyday. Spinning used to be my ‘one more thing I can’t/won’t take on’ — now it’s processing wool. Lol! Funny how that line in the sand moves! Shetland is a really nice type of wool – however you process it it should be great!

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