Friday, October 26, 2007

This Week in Wool

I got a new shipment of supplies on Monday morning, so I spent my two child-free days this week applying dye to wool by means of boiling, acidic water. My house stinks of vinegar, but there are many pretty wooly things to look at. In fact, I've decided to take a new approach to decorating:

It's hard to get the wool fully dry outside in this cool, damp season, so after the wool has dripped outside fora couple days, I move it inside. Through the winter, my railings will form a large part of my drying strategy. It alarms my husband, though, when he walks down to the front entry way and is greeted with the hanging wool-tentacles.

My dyepot has mellowed from the somewhat stormy mood it was apparently in on Tuesday; today I managed to produce a bunch of lovely, sagey green, as well as a marvellous batch of purple.


Chris said...

I'm thinking of getting into dyeing and spinning and love merino, so I'm curious as to why you hate to spin it (you mentioned this awhile back). Its fragility? Does it break more easily? I've heard corriedale is easier for a beginner to spin, but I eventually wanted to move on to merino, so I wondered. Does it take dye differently from corriedale as well?

Sorry for all the questions. I just discovered your etsy shop and plan to buy some roving and handspun soon as inspiration. Thanks!

YummyYarn said...

Merino is a beautiful fiber; it's very fine, and it has a really long staple length. These are things to recommend it, and there are certainly spinners who are in love with merino and spin it exclusively.

If you want to do a worsted spin of a fine fiber, maybe something plied, then merino will work great. Its length, fineness, and relatively weak crimp make it wonderful for things like lace-weight yarn, cabled yarn, or even a nice smooth 3 ply. Me, I find that the fineness of the fiber makes it sort of lifeless. I personally prefer a woolen spin, and I prefer to make (and knit with) singles.

Making a thick, soft single (as in single-ply) is a bit like making a souffle. It's not just the ingredients; it's convincing those ingredients to cup a whole lot of air, and then keep doing it. To do that, you need something with a nice robust crimp. For my purposes, Corriedale is the sweet spot between firm crim and a soft hand. I could get a robust, airy single with a harder fiber like Romney or Coopworth, but the resulting fabric would be itchy -- no good.

I also have tried to spin with merino, and I can't seem to do it all that well. I'm sure it takes practice. I have trouble getting a smooth draw, even when I pre-draft the heck out of it; my fibers come out all lumpy. If I loved merino, I'd practice until I had it right, but right now it's not worth it to me to take the time to do that.

I can't answer you about how it takes dye. I have dyed only one batch of merino, so I don't have a sense of its dyepot personality.

Corrie is great for a beginner spinner; blue faced leicester is also hugely popular, and with good reason. It's silky, it has a nice sheen and a long fiber, it has a soft hand but it's not quite as slippery and unwieldy as Merino. It's why I offer rovings almost exclusively in BFL. If you have a hankering to try some corrie, though, I can make some up for you. I always have lots; I usually just keep it for myself without listing it! But I have a supplier who gives me an excellent quality of the stuff, and I'm happy to share if there's a request.

Chris said...

Thanks so much for your extensive help! I just ordered some of your BFL roving, so I'll start there with the spindle I have coming. I'm taking a spinning class in a few weeks, so if I'm hooked (which I anticipate) I'll start investigating wheels. I'll let you know if I want any corriedale.

Thanks again.