Friday, 15 March 2019

Spinning Shetland Wool Tops

My companion watched me stuff all my yarn back into hiding. Few balls were made of really tough, durable fibres and none of them had a long colour change. I knew that really, I'd just been checking. I sighed.
"How is it that I never own exactly the yarn I need?"
"Face it, Beaut, you're addicted to knitting those entrelac bags. No quick fix, if you want to make another one, you'll have to spin some of this wool first." 
Turning to my fleece stash, plenty of the raw wool looked hard wearing enough to become a bag, but I'd failed to get it washed while the sun shone last summer. I did find four bumps of combed Shetland wool tops in natural colours. Being coarser than I'd expected when I bought them online, these had been facing an uncertain future from under the bed.
Shetland sheep grow a wonderful range of coloured fleece and the tops were intended for making cosy thrums, only the hat I made with them turned out really itchy. On closer inspection, the white wool looked and felt considerably finer and softer than the other colours, the dark chocolate being next softest while the faun and grey felt properly hairy. OK for a bag though.

Spinning on a high ratio, I spun short forward draw with high twist, aiming for a dense, smooth yarn. After spinning a 20cm portion of one colour of tops, I tore off a short piece of another and blended it roughly with the first, just by splitting and drafting the two between my hands. The resulting single had the sort of long colour change I so enjoy knitting as entrelac.
It wasn't until I had chain plied the first bobbin that I noticed I'd also spun a long weight change. Watching the Six Nations Rugby on telly, it wasn't the exciting moments of the games that had affected my drafting, so much as the different qualities of the four Shetland tops. The coarser fibres had tended to run more thickly through my fingers and once three plied, that effect had been trebled.
The white sections of the yarn had turned out about double knitting weight, while the faun and grey were nearer aran. Even when paying greater attention while spinning the next bobbin, consciously aiming to draft all the colours equally, this intrinsic tendency of the fibres to do their own thing proved surprisingly hard to correct. After spinning four 50g skeins of irregular weight yarn, I was still fighting the tide.
"I've had it with spinning this Shetland, Elinor. I'm going to start knitting. There's enough yarn here for a small bag in sepia shades. Call it a rustic clutch."
"Which sounds like the last dance at the village hall, only less fun. You've been craving the thrill of entrelac colour play, don't give up now, mordant that yarn and make it fabulous."

I'm not sure how spectacular an uneven, natural coloured, tightly spun Shetland yarn can become, but I'm giving it my best shot. Never say dye.


  1. I'm sure I've danced more than a few 'rustic clutches'...

    1. The only balls I go to these days are centre pull. As the actress said to the bishop ...

  2. Faun wool? from its beard? It does sound exotic : )))

    1. Tumnus has been left with a small moustache :)