Friday, 1 August 2014

Longdraw Spinning Black Welsh Mountain X Gotland Sheep Fleece

"Where's Bradley Wiggins, then?"  Elinor Gotland was most disappointed to find that he had not been selected to ride in the Tour de France 2014.  
"I didn't know sheep followed the cycling, Elinor."
"Some do.  Not me. Scrawny bunch, that peloton. Lycra is very unforgiving.  "

I was busy spinning my challenge for this year's Tour de Fleece, not paying much attention to Elinor or who got to wear the maillot jaune, truth be told.
"It's his style I admire.  Team Sky have been fools to themselves.  Win or lose, Sir Bradley is worth watching in any colour jersey." Elinor pottered over.  "What's that brown fleece you've got there?"

"It's half Gotland, half Black Welsh Mountain."
The photo shows a lock of Gotland and a lock of Black Welsh Mountain fleece on either side of the crossbreed locks I was spinning.  Neither parent had soft, fine fibres, but the combination gave a medium crimp, deep colour and good lustre.

At Wonderwool last April, I bought 1.2kg raw locks, intending to spin it up to knit my son a hardwearing jumper. No cutting corners, the whole lot had a proper wash in buckets of hot water with Fairy Liquid to get all the dirt and grease out.  The fibres were 5 - 10cm long, easy to card into rolags and free flowing. The challenge I had set myself for the Ravelry Tour de Fleece 2014 was to learn longdraw spinning to create a really light, warm, woolen yarn.

As I understand it, the prime difference from worsted spinning lies in the drafting.  Mostly, I have used short forward draw, drafting fibre out of a rolag with my left hand before letting the twist from the wheel run into it.  For longdraw, the twist is allowed to pull fibres directly out of the rolag while you move your right hand backwards, letting wool flow out.  

What tended to happen to me was that the twist pulled more, then less fibre out, giving a very uneven thickness to my singles. On the videos, people seem to stretch out the length of yarn smoothly from the rolag, but mine kept breaking so I just tweaked the thicker sections with my left hand to even it up.

Here are ten rolags, which I spun to make each single, as shown on the bobbin. Plying two together made a yarn about double knitting weight, shown on the niddy noddy.

It was interesting to see what everybody else in the team was up to, posting photos on Ravelry and enjoying encouragement and advice as well as admiring some lovely stuff. Even so, I felt a very dull dog, showing yet another skein of brown wool.  I cursed my lack of foresight in choosing a fleece that really did not need dyeing, just at the time when so many fresh dye plants are begging to be used.  

Despite all this, plus some bad days when I just couldn't get the knack of longdraw going, I did like this fleece.  Crisp, but manageable, I would consider it a good choice for trying a new technique.  The skeins have kept a nice lustre, even after washing, snapping to set the twist and slapping on the kitchen counter to full them out.  By the end of the Tour, I had 15 skeins and by my calculations, around 1000m of longdraw yarn, which is 2km of singles.  I knitted up a swatch and put it through the washing machine on a wool cycle.  It came up much softer though somewhat less shiny. Gotland X Black Welsh Mountain was never going to make a fabric for wearing next to your skin.

Just to see how it would come out, I blended some Gotland with Black Welsh Mountain shearling locks and spun it up the same way.

In the sun, Elinor Gotland's worsted arse has a glossy halo. Spun longdraw, the Gotland fibres were even fuzzier than when I spun them with a short forward draw.  Resistant though my firstborn is to any notion of pattern, I might sneak in this skein of combination fleece blend to jazz up his brown crossbreed jumper.


  1. Good grief! Has Elinor's rump really got a halo in the sun? :) Best keep her out of it. Actually, I was thinking she looks a little pale against that yarn.... perhaps that isn't a good idea. The yarn looks really lovely!

    1. "That cheeky mare wants a slap. I glow, it's a fact. On fashion shoots it takes them an age to get the lighting right for me, but the professionals never complain."