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Friday, 12 June 2015

Exmoor Horn X Blue Faced Leicester Wool - Letting the Twist into the Tops

Though the Elgin jumper was designed to suit my sister, as soon as I had tried it on, I began planning to make another one for me. Exmoorino fleece turned out well suited for chunky yarn worn next to the skin, being soft yet robust. Here is one of my drum carded batts shown above some Exmoor Horn X Blue Faced Leicester (BFL) combed tops.


When I saw them for sale on the John Arbon stall at Wonderwool, just after I had come by a 20% off voucher at the Flock Meeting, I calculated that a jumper made from these tops would cost much the same as spinning from raw Exmoorino fleece had done, taking into account the fleece postage, wastage and dye bath casualties.  Only infinitely quicker and easier to get to the spinning stage.  Comparing the two Exmoor Horn Crossbreeds, the BFL was not quite as soft.  Compared with other combed tops I have bought recently, it had heaps more character, vigour and life and still smelled faintly, pleasantly sheepy. Definitely the best of both worlds, giving a tangible feel of real wool with none of the effort of fleece preparation.


Reaching Chapter Five, on my personal pilgrimage from Worsted to Woolen, I aimed high and missed.  Thinking the pale pink would go nicely with some very dark alpaca spun from the fold, I tried to spin some superwash Merino tops dyed with sweet woodruff roots fingering weight, in the semi woolen style of this lesson. 
"That yarn would fall apart if the wind blew."
The potential ill effects of a stiff breeze are a sore subject with my companion, Elinor Gotland, who suspects her recent abrupt plunge out of a hammock was not entirely due to natural forces.  She is suffering from unspecified bruising and I have spent the week waiting on her hoof, foot and finger.   
Not that this has softened her up much.
"You paid for those Craftsy classes, you've worn the computer out watching them, but you still don't do what that Jacey Boggs says.  You are not stealing any more of these Merino tops just to ruin them.  And you should know by now I like my lemons thinly sliced.  It's like teaching a dog to walk, Beaut.  Might as well say nothing."  
Well, if only, I thought to myself as I refreshed her glass.


To get into the woolen zone when spinning, you have to allow the twist from the wheel to run into the wool supply, which means letting go with your fibre drafting hand. It's likely that the pink yarn fell apart because I hadn't the confidence to let enough twist in to secure fine singles.  When I followed Jacey's instructions and dropped to my lowest wheel ratio, I spun a satisfying ball of chunky semi-woolen yarn from the good, grabby fibres of Exmoor Horn X BFL.  Next, I tried this with backward drafting, finding it rather more of a challenge to control the amount of fibre taken up by the twist.  I could see the place where fibre was becoming yarn, but could not necessarily manage to draft from that point.  Much practice was in order, so I settled in to spin enough yarn to knit my own Elgin jumper, adding in locks of fleece dyed with woad to give a slub effect.


Wanting superbulky yarn of variable weight, I made the singles thicker and thinner on purpose.  
Well, some variation was intentional. Adding in the blue locks broke the rhythm, but in the pauses, I tried to keep reassessing what I was doing and not slip into forward drafting. Although they weren't well incorporated into the singles, plying secured the woad bits better and once the yarn was knitted up, they seemed pretty well locked in. Below is a photo of my daughter, modelling the finished Woad Elgin.  Modifications on the original pattern include three quarter length sleeves, still starting with 24 stitches, but increasing on the fifth row after knitting ten rows of ribbed cuff, then after another six rows, with the final increase on the thirteenth row after that, going on straight til the sleeve was the length I wanted. The body also starts with only ten rows of ribbing. Trying a centred decrease for the armpit reductions left no little holes, though this did create small lumps, they don't show up once the jumper is being worn. The semi woolen spun Exmoor Horn X BFL yarn is fullbodied, making a well structured fabric and it turned out quite soft enough for next to the skin wear.  I shall be a return customer for John Arbon tops.  I'm already wondering whether the other kinds they sell have equally good character.

  

11 comments:

  1. Love Love Love!!! I'm so inspired!

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  2. Super jumper, great photo. Surprised Elinor Gotland didn't get in on the act though : )

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    1. She was very well hydrated and having a little sleep, didn't like to disturb her.

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  3. Super jumper, great photo. Surprised Elinor Gotland didn't get in on the act though : )

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  4. Whoops! Looks like you might have just given that jumper away too!! Your daughter looks far too happy with it!

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    1. No chance - I am taking it away with me on spinning camp on Monday. Can't wait, some of the group have pitched their tents altready.

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  5. You're so adventurous on that wheel! I'm still short drafting, trembling at the mere thought of long- , let alone backward drafting. And you don't even have a sheep support team with you. The jumper looks so nice and comfy!!

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    1. It was the people I met through spinning camp who have given me encouragement and confidence to try out all sorts of things. I get nervous about joining in new circles, but I heartily recommend it.

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    2. Ah! Spinning camp sounds great! I'd love to get some 'fiber friends' in real life to learn from. But we don't have anything like that in Denmark. Well, I must arrange something myself, then :)

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    3. It was fab, despite high winds endangering the marquee and any loose fluff. There must be kindred spirits in Denmark, best of luck finding them.

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