Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Spinning Swedish fleece--Varmland

Last month my friend in Sweden sent me a sampling of Swedish fleece to play with. What fun! Messing with fleece that I’d never touched before, processing them and spinning them, all the while thinking what I could do with the yarn. Not all of the samples are finished, but I had wool from three different Varmland sheep. Varmland is one of the old Swedish landrace breeds, a short-tailed, double-coated sheep. Both males and females are horned, either single or double horns. I would venture to say that the wool is medium-to-coarse  grade and would make great hard-wearing outerware, rugs and upholstery material. If the outer coat is removed, the yarn is much softer. I carded all three samples with my handcards because I wanted to spin woolen. I felt that I didn’t have enough wool to do both woolen and worsted techniqes, and combing the fleece would have removed a good deal of the wool leaving me with not enough fiber to spin with a worsted technique.
All three wools, unwashed

We’ll start with the chocolate brown. This was about a 6” staple, stretched, with a lot of undercoat in relation to the longer outer coat. It was a bit difficult to draft, in part because there’s a bit of scruf (dandruff-like particles) near the cut end that seems to cause the wool to hold on and not slip past the adjoining fibers. I also suspect that this is a ram fleece, because it still has ‘that smell’ after washing and drying outdoors. But it’s a soft yarn for it’s grade. I had about 1/10 ounce and managed 8 yards of 2-ply yarn at 8 wpi.
Chocolate, unwashed

Chocolate, washed
Closeup of chocolate skein

The grey fleece had a 7” staple length, stretched, and similar properties to the chocolate brown—lots of undercoat in relation to the outer coat. However, this outer coat was a bit harsher and therefore spun a harsher yarn. Although I have to confess I LOVE the color, as there are very few naturally grey fleeces that I can wear due to the yellowing of the color from the sun. This was an easier spin, had very little VM, and I got 11 yards at 9 wpi from 2/10 ounce. I can see this yarn as a nearly-impervious woven jacket or a rug that’s destined to be an heirloom.
Closeup of grey skein

Grey, unwashed

Grey, washed

The third sample had been carded for me, and I suspect that the longer outer coat had been removed prior to carding. The rolags were wonderfully soft, tight and long—just perfect for woolen spinning. I got a very nice fingering weight yarn out of these rolags and think the yarn would be great for mittens or a seriously warm shawl or light jacket/sweater. I got 20 yards out of 1/10 ounce at 14 wpi.
Fingering, unwashed

Fingering, washed

Closeup of fingering skein

All three of these wools love to stick to themselves with no encouragement whatsoever, and so would work wonderfully for a felting project. Felted rugs with big-needle embroidery? Felted bags with the lock tips left unfelted for fun texture? These would be fun for a felter to play with.

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