Become part of the circle sharing inspiration for spinning and other fibre crafting. It is a warm and reassuring place, sort of like a favourite chair near a cosy fireside, where beginners and experts come and go as they please. It's a place to share what we know, learn from each other and display what we've created -- while supporting and inspiring each other on the wonderful journey associated with handspinning and wool-related crafts.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

The Fleece and Fibre Sourcebook - reviewed by Dawn

 My already well loved copy of the book

My short and sweet review - if you love working with natural fibres, enjoy spinning and related fibre crafts, BUY THIS BOOK!

After reading some preamble about this book on Ravelry I became very tempted to buy it. However, I'm quite frugal when it comes to books and prefer to borrow from libraries or look for second hand first, so to spend money on a new book was a bit of a luxury. But I was so tempted, and it was the sort of book that bookshops don’t keep in stock to go and have a look through so I went ahead and ordered a copy from the Book Depository. What a delightful sight it was when it arrived – a beautiful cloth bound hardback with a small embossed sheep on the front and a beautifully illustrated sleeve cover.

This book is simply awesome if you are interested in fibres and their spinning qualities, etc. I wondered if it would just be a "coffee table" type of book where you look and think “oh that's nice” and put it down again, but, while it is very artistic, it is also a comprehensive “text” book on the study of fibres from animals around the world. This book not only covers numerous breeds of sheep, many of which are British or originated here, and many rare breeds too; but also Alpaca, Llama, Goat, Yak, Angora Rabbit, camels plus others including Wolf. Yes, Wolf!

What a love of these natural fibres the authors must have, evident in this passage
“Natural fibres are part of our culture, our heritage. They have stories.
They have a living, breathing animal (or a growing plant) behind them.
They often have small-scale farmers or indigenous communities
behind them, too – people and cultures whose livelihoods and
Historic identities can be supported by their continuing work with
these fibers.”

This book is the encyclopaedia of fibres, it would grace any fibre lovers bookshelf and is a must have for would be and experienced spinners alike. Before you meet all the animals, grouped together by families, the authors talk about the value of natural fibres against synthetic fibres for crafts and commercially, and of genetic diversity of animals. You then read about the history of fibre and yarn production through the ages, the characteristics of different fibres and their uses and what garments different wools would be ideal for. This book is extensive (maybe not exhaustive) but it could lead you to want to research more by yourself.

Pages on my local breed - Hampshire Down
... and a good excuse to include a recent picture of a 
Hampshire Down Ram recently shorn at the local farm

Moving onto the sections about the animals is a delight. In researching this book the writers have done an amazing job, there are stories about the breeds, where they came from, beautiful photos of the animal and the fibre both raw and washed, details of the fleece weight, staple length, lock characteristics, strength and properties; tips on preparing the fibre, spun samples as singles, plied, and swatches too. It also details how the fibre is best used and how it dyes.
A lovely display of English Longwools

A wonderful resource, informative contents pages, and excellent glossary of terms for spinners and non-spinners to understand, plus a bibliography that is extensive too. Yes, this book is possibly all you need if you love sheep, fibre, spinning and you are not likely to be disappointed.

Reviewed by Dawn  

(also to be published in the Hampshire Guild of Weavers Spinners and Dyers newsletter in the July).
I took this book to the Guild on Saturday and it raised some interest, I am sure a few more sales will be made soon. I've ordered a copy on behalf of my spinning friend and teacher - a great resource for a teacher as she said.

This little fella wanted to be included too -a recently shorn Dorset Horn Ram, 
just look at those horns ... lovely aren't they?

Oh, just one more thing. How often do you see in a fibre book a quote from a rockstar? The lead singer of Led Zeppelin?  Well there is one in this book, Robert Plant owns a sheep farm and the quote in the book is

“I think I could sing and shear a few sheep at the same time.”


Remember to pop back on  July 6th for Woolly Wednesday.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

In Memory of a sheep legend

 I remember reading an article in something when I first joined the Guild about a sheep in New Zealand, a Merino sheep, who had evaded shearing for 6 years until in 2004 he was found in a cave. He went missing from his herd in 1998, the owners presumed he'd died.

He captured the worlds (of spinning anyway) imagination and was finally sheared live on tv which can be seen here (it's a bit long but you can skip through it, worth looking at just to see his size and how they rolled him over to be sheared!). His fleece at that time weighed 27kg! Can you just imagine that! It was sold in auctions and the money went to a kids charity.

Sadly Shrek, as he was named, died a few days ago at the grand old age of 17, a grand age for a sheep (over 90 in human years). RIP Shrek x

Shrek, the 
famous Merino sheep, Rotorua, New Zealand

This travel blog photo's source is TravelPod page: Checking out the Wildlife

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Woolly Wednesday June 2011

Welcome to the June Woolly Wednesday. Shearing time in the UK!

We are hosting Woolly Wednesday on the first Wednesday of every month.

Think of it as a creative gathering, or a virtual guild meeting.  Bring along any fibre-related project, whatever it may be.  If you are starting out in fibre arts, share what you are interested in pursuing.  Let's show each other our projects, share any tips, tutorials, ask questions, seek advice. Add your post to the Linky below and we can visit one another and share, support, encourage, be inspired!.

Please feel free to add the button to your blog's sidebar with a link to Spinspiration, a lovely way for us all to link together. Just copy the image to your desktop and then in your blog design - add a gadget, add picture - upload the picture and then add the url (http://spinwheelspin.blogspot.com/) and the image will link to here.

Join us with the linky below, link to a recent blog post of your woolly adventures in the last month, we look forward to seeing you ...

We'll be back soon with our woolly adventures.

Kelly's Woolly Wednesday - wool-gathering

 I had hoped to write about how I got on with spinning on the charka, but apart from a quick try, I haven't had the opportunity to really spend time using it so more on that next month.

Instead my focus has been wool-gathering.

It has been shearing time on the farms here in the Cotswolds, England.  Really, one of my highlights of the year.  I have been dragging my children about collecting fleeces and watching shearing!
A Romney ram being sheared.
The rare breeds farm has a new flock of white faced Dartmoor's this season so I got a huge fleece to try out.  They are a long wool and the fleece looks really good.
 I am mostly focusing on using Cotswold and Shetland fleeces this year.  Here is a picture of a really lovely shearling Cotswold fleece I am really looking forward to spinning.  See how long and soft and curly it is. The Cotswold wool is also known as the Golden Fleece, and it is truly a joy to spin, so luxurious.
A Cotswold Lion!
 The wool is very strong and produces a knit similar to mohair.  In fact, this area was named after the Cotswold sheep, Cotswold literally meaning sheep hills.  The breed was brought to the area by the Romans so long ago and has a vibrant history in these parts.  The sheep are known as the Cotswold Lions.
Raw Cotswold fleece
Recently, I discovered a craft shop tucked away in a village in our area that sells handspun and a few batts of wool, mostly European sheep breeds.  Each time I pass by, I pop in to see what they have in. 
These are 250g each of Portuguese merino - dark brown; Russian karakul - light brown and Mongol kargul - black.  That little shop has a new regular customer!  Wishing you all another happy spinning, woolgathering month!

Dawn's Woolly Wednesday - Rare Breed Portland

So another month goes by, hope you're all having fun with your fibres.

My spinning became rather suspended when the connector from the treadle to the rod to turn the wheel snapped and I needed to order one, had meant to get a spare in but alas never got around to it. All fixed now so I was able to finish plying another 200g skein of the zwartble. I have a pillowcase full of the remaining fleece carded and still working my way through it.

However, I think I have talked about the zwartble enough so this month I am going to share some other fleece talk, preparation, washing, carding, etc. After all it is late Spring here and the sheep are having (or have had) their woolly coats sheared and all the spinners out there are excitedly picking up something nice.

Actually there is something else woolly related that has happened this month that I could share, but instead I will share that over on my other blog - I have been lucky in the last week to obtain a 2nd hand Drum Carder, something I have hoped for. It's a wonderful handmade model, you can read about that here.

Back to the fleece. I think I mentioned a filthy fleece I had that I wasn't sure would come to anything in a previous post. Here is the tale of that fleece. I believed it was going to be a white fleece, but who could be sure when it looked like this!
 Knowing what fleeces I had picked up from this farmer I deduced that it was indeed a Portland White fleece - a rare breed in the UK, so I was interested to see if I could rescue it (I do have another one in a much better state).
The other Portland fleece, before washing
Now washed and stored

Portland Breed: Rare Breed considered At risk
The fine, creamy fleece is much sought after by handspinners. Lambs are born with a foxy-red coat which changes in the first few months to a creamy white though some red kemp fibres may be found on the britch. The wool is of good quality with a fibre length of 6-9 cm. The Portland sheep is a heathland breed that has been found in its native Dorset area for several hundred year.

I set to washing it in the handbasin so I could work on those tips, and was really pleased when I identified that it was the first shearing - you know when you look at the tips and can see it hasn't been sheared before. Even more pleasing was to see the crimp, gorgeous. I knew that if I could only get it clean it was going to be a good fleece. No Kemp found on it either, just a lot of dirt and vegetable matter (grass, etc).

Ooh lovely and crimpy

Ooh filthy!
... but it is white underneath all that dirt

I'm pleased to share that it came out quite white to get dried (see below), still a bit of vegetable matter (VM) in it, but that would easily pick out or come out during carding.

Drum carded and it looks like this.
On the drum carder
Off the Drum Carder

I'm not sure the photo does it justice, this fleece is a beautiful white and has a lovely lustre and shine to it, it glistens when the light hits it. Here it is in better light, but still not the same as seeing it in the flesh. Much better than the original photograph isn't it?

Portland teased ready to card on the right
and a carded batt on the left

Hopefully by next month I shall have finished the Zwartble and have started spinning this Portland so I can share some pictures of it spun.