Friday, 30 January 2015

Spinning from a Braid of Wensleydale Wool

I saw this dyed Wensleydale braid in a spinner's destash sale and gave in to temptation. Unbraided, then unrolled widthways, the sheet of fibres still showed an open wave of crimp and a lovely lustre.

Wanting to spin a yarn with well defined, long colour changes, I split the width into quarters as accurately as I could, trying to keep the shades of green in in the strips in equal amounts. Having tried spinning from commercial roving before, I knew a more even, fine yarn requires drafting each strip out, but pulling the long stapled fibres into an extended ribbon seemed to homogenise the colour. 

Spinning was a joy, everso much quicker than when I had to flick the locks first and much easier to keep fine and even.  So quick, I only took an evening to spin 50g. What is more, I saw proper colour changes on the bobbins of singles.  I had put more twist into them than when I was spinning Black Wensleydale from the lock, so plying just beyond the balance gave me better yarn than before.

"I think I might show this skein off on Ravelry.  Technically speaking, it has to be my most impressive outcome ever."
From her perch on the dresser, Elinor Gotland thought otherwise.
"Can't see much sign of that long colour change you were on about."  
While I struggled for words, who should appear in the kitchen but himself, all clad in lycra ready for a bike ride.
"Hey Elinor, off to join the Taliban?"
"Coc Oen.  No-one takes fashion advice from a man wearing padded shorts. You look like a toddler off to find the potty, only too late."  
I went off to find my camera.

In my enthusiasm, I had spun the braid rather finer than the Black Wensleydale locks.  Still, the contrasting smooth and lumpy yarns might enhance each other. Anticipating a good drapey hang from such a dense, worsted yarn, I set off knitting a pattern with ribs and lace segments.  I know blocking transforms a piece, but this really didn't turn out as hoped, with no colour changes evident in a surprisingly springy fabric.
Back on Ravelry, using the pattern search, I found Dissent by Lisa Mutch.  Straightforward garter stitch stripes came out much better and once I got to the wedge of solid green, some subtle colour shifts began to show up. This is a very satisfying pattern, the curves knit up logically with minimal stitch counting and no need for markers.
Blocked out, I think the striping effect within the green section adds to the swoop of the thing, though this shawl looks best when being worn.

"Your two yarns do make a striking combination, Beaut." Elinor was watching me primp in front of the mirror.  "You could call the shawl 'Heathcliff and Cathy'." 
I looked at her blankly, then it all fell into place.  Wuthering Heights! Wearing a Black Wensleydale wig has filled that ewe's head with romantic notions of North Yorkshire.  Those lonely walks on the moor have nothing to do with her fitness programme.  

Elinor has gone Bronte.


  1. What a gorgeous colour Fran, and such a beautiful shawl. Elinor looks good in the colour too.


    1. The label on the braid says Grace and Jacob, which I googled and I think this is them but their shop doesn't list roving. I will certainly look out for their dyed braid in future, that variegated green is indeed gorgeous.

  2. Wow, the two yarns are a great combination in that shawl and the changes in the green add another dimension to the pattern. Great choice. Helen

  3. Baaahahaha - love that last photo.

    And that green yarn looks divine.

    1. Do you think she looks more Cathy, or Heathcliff?

  4. Well, I was going to ask if Elinor was going to be called Cathy from now on?
    Great job you made of that Wensleydale though and I love the finished garment,!

  5. Those greens are delightful. And the combination of the greens with the dark stripes is simply wonderful!

  6. Oh my I sure did enjoy this post after seeing a link on the Spinning newsletter this month. Eleanor is so funny lol. The shawl is beautiful too.

    1. Thanks :) I've bought some more Wensleydale locks and have been taught how to comb them, so this is likely to be the start of a longwool learning curve.