Way back in the summer (that I'm beginning to think is never going to actually end :-o) I won a Ravelry prize of some Zwartbles fiber from the awesome Meridian Jacobs group that I encourage everyone to check out because they are all super nice, very encouraging and so inspiring...and they give out great prizes ;-D.
A sample of some Zwartbles roving was especially exciting to me because one of my all time favorite Twitter follows is Zwartbles Ireland and I am now obsessed with Zwartbles sheep and wish we could have them over here. Maybe someday! In the meantime I'll snuggle down under my Zwartbles blanket and enjoy knitting some fingerless mitts from my new Zwartbles yarn :-).
First, we have to spin the yarn. I knew as soon as I opened the package that I was going to enjoy spinning Zwarbles. Anyone who's been around me for any time at all knows I'm a Coarse Wool Girl. Unless I have to (for what bizarre reason?), you are never going to find me spinning Merino. I wouldn't call Zwartbles coarse by any means, but it definitely wasn't "dryer lint". Perfect. Still, I could also tell when I opened the bag that it wasn't completely ready for a fun Sara Spin.
I'm not sure if I'd call it "top" or "roving". It wasn't way over processed and super straight and un-wool-like the way commercially combed top feels to me, but it wasn't loose and airy and all scattered about like fresh roving feels either. All it needed was a little bit of steam. Sort of like how when you go to a lot of trouble to straighten your hair and then walk outside on a humid afternoon ;-).
I divided the roving/top into two equal pieces. I set my tea kettle on and when came to a rolling boil I carefully passed the first piece through the cloud of steam. Right before your eyes you can watch the wool crimp come back to life. See how compressed and straight the chunk on the left looks and how much puffier the chunk on the right?
Before and after.
This also can help if you are having trouble spinning those really pretty, colorful braids of Merino that you just can't resist at fiber festivals, but then don't enjoy as much as you hoped when you get home ;-).
Not only did it puff out, but when the straightened fibers regained their curl and bounce, the roving shortened significantly. It didn't shrink. It just got curly again. I steamed the second piece and thoroughly enjoyed spinning a small skein of yarn that felt very much like the sheep it came from.
I spun the two separate singles one day, but didn't have time to ply them until a day or so later. After sitting tightly wound on the two bobbins for that bit, the singles had what is called "dead" twist, much like if you put your frizzy hair in curlers to tame it down. You need to take that into consideration when you go to ply.
Putting "live" ply twist into "dead" singles could be a whole 'nuther blog post, so I'm not going to say too much about it other than than to point out how the freshly plied yarn from the not freshly spun singles looks like a mess (above), all curled up and unbalanced and twisted back on itself. Guess what you can do to wake up the dead twist in the singles after plying. Yep, steam :-).
I don't overthink sampling for ply twist... If, after steaming, the skein is still unbalanced, I go back and fix it then (run it back through and either add more ply twist or take some out) before I wash the yarn. This skein was right on. While it was in for a soak I pulled out something else I'd been wanting to sample - Murphy.
Murphy has one of our fanciest fleeces. It's a gorgeous color, very soft for a "long wool", just the right amount of sheen, definitely an "ooh ahh" fleece. The straight Cotswolds here get shorn twice a year. As true "long wools" they grow...long wool. If I let them go a full year, it's too long for most carding machines. Murphy is a Cotswold cross, so I gambled that his fleece wouldn't get too long...and lost.
As it started to try to come off the big carding machine, my heart sunk. I watched as our nicest fleece struggled to survive the carding process. Hindsight being what it is, I should have had them stop the machine and pull back out as much as we could. What we ended up with...well...it's not horrible, but Murphy got sheared a second time this year. He'll head into 2017 shearing with only 10 months growth.
So what did we end up with? Well, it's still a lovely color. It still has a nice soft handle with a perfect amount of luster. It is very easy to spin and being long (mostly) it takes very little twist to keep it together. Yarn is just some sort of fiber (wool is best ;-) with some added twist. A softly (less twist) spun yarn feels softer and fluffier and even warmer. Something you might like wrapped around your face on a cold day (that is probably never going to happen around here ever again :-o).
Those lumps and bumps? Well, as I tell beginning spinners, "Those are design elements!" Art yarn I actually like for more than just looking at. Here is the freshly spun ball of single ply yarn. I then took the front and back ends (from the inside of the ball and the outside) and plied them together to make a two ply yarn.
Notice how the freshly spun singles plied into a calm, orderly, well balanced yarn?
Here are both after washing. Washing, especially on a softly spun yarn, lets the yarn "bloom". Can you see the difference in the fluffy skein of Murphy versus the tighter spun Zwartbles? I mentioned Murphy would make a nice scarf or cowl. For something that's going to take some abuse, like mittens or gloves, you would want a yarn with a tighter/stronger twist.
And this is what I've picked. I think these are really pretty and I was maybe a bit swayed by the designer being Irish Girlie Knits. Plus, her blog name We Do Not Have A Knitting Problem is too good to pass up. I'm a bit short on yardage for these, but I am either going to shorten them a bit (they seem longer than I'd want anyway) or else start them with white...so they'd look like a Zwartbles sheep :-D.
And I'm actually reading a paper book this week, too! I finally picked up a copy of Knitlandia by Clara Parkes and it's just as good as you'd expect.
Joining in with Ginny...