Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Black Welsh Mountain wool

Yesterday I visited a farm, just down the road from here.  The farmer introduced me to her beautiful Black Welsh Mountain ram.  He's a gentle fella.

More to the point, I brought home some wool in exchange for some spinning.  It's a lovely fleece, low grease, hardly and dirt or hay.  Interesting is how much variation there is in the wool.  The legs are coarse like a horse, barely soft enough for rug weaving.  The neck and yolk area are soft but a bit matted and the highest concentration of vegi matter.  However, the sides are the softest.  Even the back of the sheep, the part usually most damaged by sun and weather, is lovely to work with.

The fibre is a bit tippy.  This means that if you take a small amount of fibre in your fingers and pull on both ends, that it breaks.  So basically it means that the more I work with the wool before spinning, the higher the risk of breaking the individual fibres and creating noils (lumps) or scratchy wool.  So I decided to keep the processing to a minimum, work with the locks as they come off the sheep and spin it in the grease.

Spinning in the grease, not something I do often, but since this is so clean and soft, I thought why not.  I did it once before, and the final result was really nice.  Very different texture and drape than the same fibre prepared the standard wash then spin approach.

I flick carded the locks, that is I hold firmly with one end, while lightly tapping the other end with the flick carder (pet brush).  Then hold the other end and do the same.  That's all I'm doing before spinning.  I lay out each lock carefully so they don't get into a tangled mess, then when I spin, I pick up one handful and draft the fibre off the end.

At first I thought it was going so slowly, then I realized, no it's actually not slow at all.  About 20 seconds per lock, maybe less when I get in the rhythm.  Instead of spending all that time washing, sorting, picking, carding... yep, this is considerably faster.

When the yarn is spun and plied, I will scour it - wash it in very hot water and soap to get the grease out.  So far it's turning into a very nice yarn, well please.

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