Since I started spinning in July of last year, I have sampled a variety of fibers, mostly sheep’s wool, alone or blended with silk or Nylon, although I have also spun mohair. To the uninitiated, that might sound like anything but variety.
Pinko Knitter, the unknowing might say, Wool and mohair? Really? You call that variety? And isn’t mohair just itchy, fuzzy wool? But those of you who are knitters, spinners, and/or weavers know what I’m talking about. I have spun Shetland wool, Peruvian wool, Merino, Falkland (which comes from mostly Merino sheep raised on the Falkland Islands), Finn, Polwarth, Bluefaced Leicester (BFL), Wensleydale, Corriedale, and Cormo, a Corriedale-Merino cross. Each wool has its own characteristics; each one spins up a little differently, knits up a little differently, wears a little differently.
I’m somewhat partial to spinning Falkland. It’s very soft and has a fairly long staple, has enough crimp to keep the fibers from drifting apart, but not so much that it isn’t easy to draft. And the finished yarn is cushy and great to knit with. But I have to admit that spinning BFL (“biffle” in spinner talk) is an incredibly wonderful experience. The fiber is soft, silky, and lustrous and practically spins itself. When I spin BFL, I swear all I do is treadle my wheel and the fiber drafts itself. BFL yarn is next-to-the-skin soft and seems to glow from its own internal light. I love spinning BFL.
And that’s why I am so happy that the 2013 Roving of the Month Club from Sunset Fibers is featuring BFL. I just finished spinning and plying the March and April selections; I plied the March and April colorways together to get a gorgeous 2-ply. Because I had a total of 8 ounces of singles, I ended up with 2-4 ounce skeins.
When I took the yarn in the picture above off the niddy noddy, it looked like this.
Notice how curly it is? That’s the energy my wheel put into the yarn. It’s called the twist. As you can see from the picture, there is a lot of twist in the yarn.
The next step in making yarn is setting the twist. For wool yarn, this is done by soaking it in water. I soak my yarn for 20 minutes or so in hot water with a little wool wash or shampoo added. After draining the water and squeezing out the excess, I refill the sink with hot water and let the yarn soak again to remove any detergent residue. This step isn’t necessary if you use a no-rinse wool wash.
After squeezing (not wringing) out the excess water, I lay the skein out on a towel, fold it all up, then walk on it. This removes a lot of the remaining water. Then I usually “thwack” the yarn to full it a little and to remove some more of the twist by beating the hell out of the bathtub with the skein. This step scares my poor kitty every time. LOL Then I hang the skein to dry.
When the highly-energized skein of yarn hits the water, I can actually feel the yarn relax. The water seems to dissipate a lot of the energy in the yarn, so it’s a good thing to have a skein of yarn that wants to twist around itself when it comes off the niddy noddy. If the yarn doesn’t have a lot of twist in it after spinning, plying, and setting, it will be limp and splitty and yucky to knit with.
The goal usually is to get a balanced yarn–one that hangs straight instead of curling to either the left or right. I like my finished yarn to be just slightly over-twisted, so that the skein wants to curl ever so slightly to the left when it is hanging to dry because when I knit, I remove a little bit more of the twist.
Now that the twist has been set, my curly skein now looks like this.
I know it isn’t magic, but it sure seems like it.
By the way, mohair comes from goats, not sheep. It’s a very strong fiber that can be scratchy or soft, depending, and fuzzy or smooth, also depending.