Taking a different approach …

Well this blog and this project has been dormant an embarrasing length of time. I decided I needed to get going again, and as soon as I did I think I see what is holding me back.

I am just not a technical spinner, and all of his documentation is really holding me back. I just dread it! And seriously, this is my hobby, and it should be fun. I am the boss of my spinning.

So I am just going to spin my stuff and make out my little cards, the end. The only real audience here is me so what difference does it make in the end, after all. And if something is a hideous spin I can just chuck it out (making a note of it).

Just did the Tunis and am on to the Montadale which I just love.

028: Clun Forest

Control Card

Clun Florest


I got this from an Etsy seller called Woolly Wool of the West. I’ve gone back there a few times but she seems to be closed pretty often – I think the Etsy thing is very much a side operation for her. Which is fine of course! Her service was top- notch. The samples I got from her were all really nice, beautifully skirted, well documented too.

Prep & spinning

I first tried to flick and spin straight from the lock, which seems to be my default with these samples these days. I’m just too lazy to do much in the way of prep. However, that didn’t really work out well for this breed. The locks are very dense and I had a hard time drafting. So I made a few rolags, and that went a LOT better. This wool made beautiful airy rolags and spinning from them was quite easy, so I stuck with that. I used a combination of supported and unsupported long draw, depending on how my concentration was holding up. I then two-plied just enough to make my swatch. I have about 3/4 of a bobbin left plus a lot more yet to spin.

Anything interesting

I found that this had a curious property that it didn’t really seem to wan to “take” the twist. I don’t know how else to describe it. I used my smallest pulley and felt as if I was treadling and treadling and it was still under-twisted. The twist must have been going somewhere – but I don’t know where. It was weird really. The two-ply is balanced and doesn’t look over-twisted, but I am telling you I put a lot of twist in there. You can see that if you zoom in on my control card – the angle of twist is pretty high, but the yarn does not feel even slightly over-twisted. It is springy and has a lot of body.

Also, I found this sample just a tad on the coarse / crisp side. I am not sure if I am going to proceed with my plans for socks. First of all, the long draw that I chose has resulted in a thicker than usual singles and I am thinking it is going to be at least DK if three-plied. And second, I just don’t think it is soft enough for socks. Definitely tough and springy enough though. I’ll probably go ahead and ply it with the British Milk sample anyway. Not sure yet. I may just wind it onto storage bobbins for now and decide later.

What the experts say

According to F&FSB, Clun Forest sheep have been around in some form for centuries and were well-adapted to living on the rough grasses in their native home (which according to Wikipedia is in Shropshire). They were improved around the 1860s by cross breeding with Shropshire, Kerry Hill, and Hill Radnor. I really liked all three of those breeds with Shropshire and (especially) Kerry Hill being particular favorites. I can see that heritage in the sample I spun, though my sample is perhaps a bit coarser. It felt very “Welsh” rather than “Down” (though Shropshire is of course a true down breed). Also the dark faces apparently come from the Shropshire sheep; the original Clun sheep had white faces, according to Wikipedia.

Clun Forest today is apparently raised mostly for meat. According to Wikipedia they often have twin lambs, and their milk has very high butterfat content so the lambs grow quickly. The high butterfat also makes them desirable as dairy sheep, though it seems that this usually happens via crossing with dairy sheep such as East Friesian.


“Ram of the Clun Forest breed” by Azuschlag at English Wikipedia: Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons.. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons

My Future Plans with this wool

This was a larger than usual sample so I have a fair amount left over. I think this is going to just go into my big basket of samples – which may end up becoming a freeform crochet project eventually. Or something else if the wind changes. Who knows?

I don’t think I would seek out any more Clun Forest. It is nice enough, but just a little too crisp for most of the kinds of projects I like to make. I wonder if this sample is maybe coarser than usual though. I guess this one is “undecided.” I like some things about it.

027: British Milk Sheep

Control Card

British Milk Sheep


I got this from Magpie Lane Crafts in the UK.

Prep & spinning

I washed it, and flicked the ends a little bit before spinning from the locks. This was all the prep it needed.

Anything interesting

This was an easy spin – almost boring. The fiber is very pleasant to work with – the sample I had was pretty clean with very little VM and no short cuts at all. I had almost no waste from this. There is a nice regular crimp to the wool, and it is soft enough though not like a fine wool. It’s a bit on the crisp side. The length of the locks is in that Goldilocks range – not too short and not too long. Though on the longish side of that range, which I find makes the spinning go faster. It also has a bit of a luster to it.

What the experts say

According to F&FSB, the British Milk Sheep was developed in the 1970s primarily as a dairy breed (and duh, given the name). But also for meat, as this breed is known for twin & even triplet lambs. However, it also has nice fleece. F&FSB says pretty much what I said above. It is nice, softish, longish, with a bit of luster. Robson says it has a slightly irregular crimp, while I would describe mine as regular; that is the only thing I observe slightly differently than she did.

Here is a link to the British Milksheep Society, with pics and more info:


Interestingly, I see nothing at all there about their fleece.

My Future Plans with this wool

I would definitely pick up a fleece if I found a nice one. This seems like one of those perfect, versatile wools that can make almost anything. It is soft enough for socks (though people with super-sensitive feet might not find it so), yet I believe strong enough to hold up to some wear. It would also make a fabulous sweater if one had enough of it.

I have a full bobbin of leftovers and I am thinking of plying it with the two bobbins worth of Clun Forest that I hope to get from my next spin. I have a full 4 oz of the Clun Forest and my examination of the locks suggests that these two wools will play nicely together. I am thinking of socks, which I may handpaint after plying.  Or maybe just kettle dye. Not sure yet. Of course this plan depends on how things turn out with the Clun Forest.

Random spinning things

I finished the last of the “true” down breeds that I intend to do for this study, as well as all of the Welsh breeds and Cheviots (both of which In Sheep’s Clothing classifies as “down type”). The next step is now all of the ones that F&FSB calls “other” but ISC classifies as “down type.” I have a feeling that ISC lumped a lot of things into that category that don’t really belong there (which I concluded after the Welsh breeds for the most part, which were pretty different from the down breeds), but I’ll reserve judgment until I spin my samples.

I have no idea when I will get to them though as I have been a busy spinner lately – just not busy doing the breed study project. First of all, I got myself a drum carder. And as part of that adventure, finally made some headway on my color project. I made this:

This is a 12-color wheel of dyed corriedale. I got one of those huge samplers of “New Zealand Carded Corriedale” from Paradise fibers, or maybe I got it from Mielke’s fiber. In any case I’ve dipped into it for a number of projects, though I really had a specific concept in mind and finally did it.

Essentially I first carded together like colors to make the basic colors on the color wheel. (I think I used all of the pastels for other projects though.) Then I did stuff to them. The first series, above, added a smidge of the split complementary colors into each little sample (about 1/3 oz each) to make a tweedy blend. I also carded samples that are toned with natural grey; with mixed dyed brown; and some are just left in their “pure” hue families. Each little sample can be made in an evening of spinning, a lot like my breed samples.

Why I like making little samples like this is a mystery to me, but honestly – I do enjoy it a lot. Eventually they will be made into a thing, but for now I am in it totally for the process.

Speaking of things, I also realized when I finished the Hampshire Down that my little box of leftover singles from this project was full. So I made a couple of skeins of yarn by simply plying some of my singles together.

I should really try to figure out which two fibers I used. I am pretty sure that one of them was the Beulah Speckle Face but no idea what the other one was. (Eta wrong! These are all cable plies! 2×2. With polled dorset & hampshire plied together, and then polled dorset & hampshire. The third little skein is polled dorset & hampshire only, plied together then back on itself.  And I will never, ever do this again without taking notes … Three hours of detective work to try to sort that mystery out. Ugh!) 

They didn’t really want to ply together, and you can see that in the yarn above. So this is kind of sucky yarn. BUT I am determined that it will nonetheless be a thing when it grows up. I will be making a lot of these mixed-fiber skeins eventually, and will probably dye them and maybe make an afghan out of them.
And the other big experimental small-skein project I have been working on is my Big Art Yarn Project (one of my friends calls it the BAYP). I did this for a couple of months this winter, and have a storage tub filled with little samples now. Here are some of them.There are lots more though.

An example of my favorite series is shown in the second photo. This was a set of boucles that I did using a method I devised myself. Essentially, it goes like this – make four plies (four different colors), all spun S (which is my default spin, backwards from most people I know). Then loosely ply three of them together (z). Then take the remaining single – it is the core – and ply the three-ply on it in the normal boucle method. I.e. ply S, which tightens the core; ply the 3-z-ply on it loosely and push up into loops. The 3 ply more or less unplies as you do that. And finally bind with some more of the core yarn, in the Z direction. What happens then is that the three-ply bumps open up into little loops, and the binder semi-smashes them down so that they make little boucle “bubbles.” The resulting yarn is almost like a chenille more than a boucle. It is very densely “fuzzy” and the loops are very small.

I am sure that I am not the first person to think to try this, but I haven’t seen another example elsewhere. I really like the effect.

I also did cables, crepes, spirals, some of each of these with thick & think yarn; autowraps; more standard boucles, with various fibers (wool, mohair, and alpaca); and some funky stuff like beehives, traps, & coccoons. Basically I went through all of my art yarn books and tried almost everything in there that I thought was within my skill range – though in some cases at the high end of my skill range.  I pretty much suck at the funky constructions but they were fun to make and I will work on these again some time.

I expect this will become some sort of freeform crochet project. It is probably not enough for an afghan – but might be enough for a lap robe, or maybe even a wall hanging. The general concept I am thinking of is a bank of trees in the fall. So I plan to do crocheted arcs of textured yarn representing trees. No fancy stitches because the yarn is going to do all of the work here.

I love to spin so much that I can’t even begin to express it. There is so damn much to learn. The creative possibilities are endless.

026: Hampshire Down

Control Card



I got this from Magpie Lane Crafts on Etsy. This is a UK seller with a lot of different fleece varieties. The proprietor, Janet, is very nice but suffers from ill health and the shop isn’t always open as a result. However, I have had very good service when she is open.

Prep & spinning

I washed this and then carded it in my new Strauch drum carder. I then spun long draw.

Anything interesting

Nothing at all. This was an easy spin, very similar to other down wools I did earlier. I would say that the main distinguishing factor is that the staple length was a bit longer than other breeds / fleeces I have spun, which made it a bit easier.

What the experts say

F&FSB only has a short writeup on Hampshire. I didn’t really gain much other than that yes, this is a down breed and you can use it to make more or less anything. The wikipedia entry says that Hampshire down is mostly descended from Southdowns, but has some degree of Cotswold in its history. This is probably why the fleece length is a bit longer than  other down breeds. My sample is pretty soft, and if I had more of it I would definitely consider socks.

Here is a picture from Wikipedia.

Hampshire down“. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

My Future Plans with this wool

Nothing really, though it is very nice and I would get more if I came across a nice fleece. I love down wools and I like the length of this one.

E01: The first exotic spin – Dog!

Control Card

Dog - Great Pyrenees

Dog – Great Pyrenees


This is the first “exotic” or non-sheep, non-camelid spin of this study. I was not planning on getting to these until after I was done with the sheep & camelids, but whatever. A woman I know professionally but only see a couple of times a year has been talking for a couple years about bringing me a bag of her dog’s fur to spin. This year she brought it to the annual conference where I usually see her. Her dog is now deceased and I wanted to get this bag spun up before it mats / felts. Some of it already is a bit felted, but I am able to work around it.

In any case her dog was a Great Pyrenees female (spayed, I think) named Dumpling.

This is Dumpling. What a lovely dog with melting sweet eyes.


Prep & spinning

This was surprisingly wonderful to spin. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, especially as my friend is not a spinner and sometimes non-spinners have mistaken impressions about the spinnability of various fibers, and I am not terribly familiar with this breed of dog. I had heard that Pyrenees have amazing undercoat for spinning but wasn’t sure if I was going to get a mass of slick dog hair along with the undercoat. There is surely some hair in there, but not a lot … and it doesn’t “catch” readily if I spin long-draw. And it is very easy to pick out if I do grab one. Kind of like kemp, but less so, if that makes sense. The fur is in beautiful condition – as one would expect given that this was a beloved, well-cared-for pet.

I didn’t do anything at all to it. Just spun it. I spun mostly long-draw and very fine, occasionally reverting to a bit of a short forward draft when things were getting dicey.I also gave it a tighter than usual twist for me because it has a reputation for shedding. The little sample I made is shedding a bit, but not a huge amount (the Black Welsh Mountain was a lot, lot worse). I’ll add a little more spin when I do the rest of the bag, and I guess the “proof” will be if I make something wearable and see how that does. It seemed to “want” to be spun fine, and the resulting yarn is just fabulous. People call dog yarn “chiengora” and I can understand why. This is wonderfully soft with a gorgeous halo reminiscent of angora yarn.

Anything interesting

The staple length is surprisingly long – I am not sure what I was expecting, but this is in range with plenty of sheep’s wool that I have spun. I was also surprised by how easily this spun. And how beautiful the yarn is. I am also astonished that it doesn’t really smell like dog. It seems pretty much odorless.(though my dog has expressed interest in the bag …) I have a cocker spaniel myself – a pretty smelly breed, and my dog is no exception – so maybe my nose is just kind of acclimatized to the smell of dog.

What the experts say

Fleece & Fiber Sourcebook has a nice little writeup on dog fur and says this of it:

“The more the fluff feels like down, the more likely you will love it for your finished product, wondering why people spend big bucks on more famous fine stuff.”

F&FSB also says that the downier the fur, the less likely it is to smell like wet dog. Since this was fine, fine, lovely stuff, maybe that explains my perception of odorlessness.

My Future Plans with this wool

As of now I have only spun the little bit used for this swatch. I have the rest of the bag to do, and I want to get it done in the next couple of weeks. I will make something from the yarn – what I make depends on how much yarn I get. I am thinking mitts or a cowl.

After that – I probably will not actively seek out dog fur for spinning, but if somebody asks me to spin some I probably won’t say no. As long as I get to keep half. 😉

023: Badger Faced Welsh Mountain (Torwen)

Control Card

Badger Face Torwen


I got this sample from Magpie Lane Crafts in the UK. I do not think I have mentioned this shop yet, though I have bought a number of samples from them. Jan, the owner, is super nice to deal with and she has OODLES of fleece from a huge variety of breeds. I have had the very best of service from this shop.

Prep & spinning

I washed the fleece and didn’t do much else. I spun a little bit straight from the lock with no prep other than loosening, and also carded some of it. However, this particular fleece was kind of awful. I hasten to add that there was nothing wrong with it. The fleece was sound. However, it brought me to a new realization of why I have softness rated as “Brillo Pad” to “Baby Butt.” I wondered if I would ever find any samples that were down at the low end, as most of the ones I have worked with so far have been reasonable choices for garments. But this one – brillo pad all the way. You could probably scour paint off of concrete with it.

I spun only as much as I needed for the sample, and threw out the rest. I am not going to even make dryer balls from it, because it sheds in the yarn and I kind of think it might shed from a dryer ball, too.

It is almost like an entire different species, not just a different breed, then the Torddu sample. I guess this just goes to show you how much variability there can be within a breed.

Anything interesting

Apart from the outrageous coarseness of the fiber, not much. There was a fair amount of white kemp in it (nothing like the Welsh / South Wales Mountain top though.)

What the experts say

See my post on Badger Faced Welsh (Torddu).

I can’t find a copyright free image of a Torwen but here is a link to an article with a picture of a Torwen ram. It also has some interesting historical info.


My Future Plans with this wool

Avoid ….