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Friday, 22 August 2014

Blending Polwarth and Bond Fleece on Hand Carders

Polwarth was the guest sheep breed at the Weald and Downland Rare and Traditional Breed Show.  I intended to be at the sale of fleece as soon as it started, only I got distracted by all the wool on the hoof.


There were still a couple of bags left at the end of the day, one containing a kilo of Polwarth shearling fleece, incredible long staples and only £14.  Well, madness not to grab it and run. Yes, you guessed, back home I found out why no-one else had bought it. Some is ok, but much of it had half the staple length matted with grease and dirt, which just snapped off after washing.


My washing technique was poor.  I mordanted a clump of cleanish fleece with 10% alum and dyed it with coreopsis, as the plants were at the height of their flowering at the end of July. The butts of the locks were still greasy, coming up fawn, the broken tips that went darkest orange were weak.  More came off as I tugged out separate locks. Hell of a palaver just to get a shoe box full of Polwarth.


I washed a nicer portion of the fleece and dyed it in the afterbath, which resulted in a paler though more even gold.  By then I had completely had it with potching about with dodgy Polwarth, even though I'd only managed about 50g.  My daughter's birthday was coming up and I'd never have the planned scarf finished at this rate.  Then I remembered the coreopsis orange and brown butterfly.
Bond ought to be very similar fibre to Polwarth, the two breeds sharing common ancestors and I still had a huge bump of brownish Bond tops, all commercially cleaned and combed and of a similar staple length. How about spinning a really long colour change in slow gradations 
from palest coreopsis orange through to pure Bond brown? Making rolags on the hand carders, one for each single with changing proportions of the two wools, I ended up spinning three skeins of two ply which I had calculated would be just short of the 320m needed for the pattern Dragonfly Wings.  Easy enough to spin up some more Bond only wool when I ran out.


Being slightly tacky, the Polwarth was easier to spin finely than the slippery clean Bond tops, so the yarn gradually went from light to heavy fingering weight, but hey, who's getting the microscope out?  
Note to self - remember that blending fibres in variable proportions will probably lead to uneven yarn.
When you are knitting a pattern that starts with casting on 3 stitches, the early rows fly past.  I knew I would need much more yarn for the outer edge, but when I was well into the body of the scarf and still on the palest yellow, it was obvious I had miscalculated and spun far too much.  Ah, well, so much for the subtle gradations, stripes it had to be.  I jumped forward to the deeper orange to finish the body, then jumped again twice in the lace border.  


With the help of safety pins marking each 12 stitch repeat, I hardly put a needle wrong. Most enjoyable, lace knitting, til you find you are one stitch out.  This is a beautiful pattern.  After washing and blocking, here is how it looked.  I called this one Fritillary Wings.  Happy Birthday!




8 comments:

  1. Lucky Daughter, that is sooooo beautiful

    Jaki

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    1. Thanks - I'd never have thought it would go with a leather jacket, but the combination really does work :)

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  2. She looks fab in it, and I love the driftwood twigs and shells thingy on the last photo. Did you make it?

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    1. Thanks. I glued a circular mirror on a bigger circle of mdf and used a combination of glue and panel pins to fix driftwood round the edge. To my surprise, even the dried seaweed and two dessicated starfish have managed to stay stuck on and intact, must be three years now.

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  3. Nothing better than leather and lace. I think you made a terrifc shawl from that fleece.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks :) I just downloaded a book of five patterns from BooKnits and reread the pages in The Spinners' Book of Fleece to work out how to wash and spin Polwarth better. I want one for me, now!

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  4. Wonderful colours you have achieved here, and the shawl looks great on your beautiful daughter! I have just started off some sola dye jars with Golden Rod which seems to be a very strong colour after a week and some dried marigold sold as a tea infusion a much more delicate colour.

    Susan

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  5. Thanks. The forecast is warm for September - hope it is right as I want to start some more solar dye jars too and that Golden Rod sounds most encouraging.

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