Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Beautiful Bluefaced Leicester

Last October, I taught a workshop in Sault Ste Marie (aka “The Soo”). The workshop was all about wool. We examined and spun wools from several breeds of sheep. It became a bit of a joke in the workshop that I kept saying, “fill-in-the-blank is one of my favorites!” Finn? Oh, Finn is one of my favorites! Coopworth? Coopworth is one of my favorites! Targhee? Targhee is one of my favorites!….

And, yes, Bluefaced Leicester is one of my favorites! Really! And here’s why: BFL has a long staple length, it’s respectably soft and silky, and it’s quite lustrous. One other thing I’ve noticed about BFL is that in its knitted form it seems cool to the touch. Cooler, at least, than other wools. Make no mistake, BFL is wool and is great for keeping you nice and warm, but when I run my hands over sweaters made of BFL, they feel cool. The scientist in me wonders what physical property makes this wool feel cool when other wools do not. Something I’ll just have to investigate.

I’ve been lucky this week to have spent much of my spinning time creating a bulky yarn from some lovely BFL combed tops. These tops were a delight to spin, in large part because they had been beautifully hand dyed by Chris Roosien, owner of Briar Rose Fibers. I see Chris several times a year; we frequent many of the same fiber events. And we often barter services. She provides hand dyed yarns and fibers, and I provide handspun yarns. These yarns that I’ve spun this week will be headed back to Chris for a knitting project she has in mind.

Chris had sent me 4 different colorways: one in the red family, one in the orange family, one in the olive family, and one that reminds me of sea glass. I wish I’d taken pictures of the tops before I spun them, but here’s a picture of the yarns.

I spun the singles (Z) and plied the yarns (S) on my Louet S10 DT wheel. It’s a great wheel for spinning thick yarns. I used the largest whorl size (lowest drive ratio) for spinning the singles. I drafted about 4 inches of fiber per 2 treadles. I used the medium whorl size for plying, drafting about 16 inches per 4 treadles. The resulting yarns measured approximately 8-9 wraps per inch (Stay tuned: the wraps-per-inch measurement is the topic of an upcoming blog entry.) I knitted a small swatch on size 10 needles and got a gauge of 3.5 stitches per inch and 5 rows per inch. While working to get a bulky yarn, I still tried to spin a reasonably soft, squeezeable yarn. I think it worked; the yarns averaged 33 yards per ounce.

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