Friday 17 October 2014

Spinning a Lamb's Fleece in the Grease from the Fold

This is the fleece of a Corriedale X Gotland lamb.  I have had shearling fleeces before, the first clip from a hogg just over a year old, but never a real lamb's wool. It was an impulse buy from the first stall I stopped at at the Llandovery Wool Fair.  While the soft fine fibres felt lush, it was the colours that seduced me into paying £30 for it.  I know.  Hell of a price for what turned out to be 700g raw fleece.  

I was all of a quiver as I went on round the marquee, immediately regretting having spent practically all the money I had brought. Plenty of other interesting wool I could have chosen in much greater quantity for the same amount. Luckily, himself was prepared to indulge me with tea, cake and comforting comments about other women who would spend that much having their hair done and not think twice.  As it goes, I really do need a haircut for a reunion do tomorrow, ah well, one large gin and I shan't care.

Truly, this was a clean fleece, hardly any dirt even on the tips. As I sorted the locks into different shades, there was only the odd scrap of dried grass to pick out and a handful of matted fibres to discard. The smell was sheepy, but not pungent.  After time consuming salvage operations on my badly washed fibre, what a bonus to be able to work on raw locks.  I even invested in a proper flicker, instead of using the dog brush.

In the Spinners' Book of Fleece, Beth Smith describes two techniques, the classic combing action or just bouncing the flicker on the ends of the locks while you hold the other end firmly.  The latter method opened up the fibres gently, without causing any neps or producing much waste. I read that spinning from the fold means bending a lock over your forefinger and drafting from your finger tip,
but I couldn't seem to keep control, not being able to keep the tips and butts wrapped away from the drafting zone. The staple length of under 7cm may not have helped.  Simply holding the folded lock went much better.  I find spinning wool in the grease most soothing to scaley skin, plus the added drag from the lanolin makes fibres far easier to draft finely and evenly.

I sorted best part of the fleece by colour. All of the locks had some grey and some brown, the bulk of them being in the palest shades.  Though my spinning from the fold did not achieve perfectly even singles, I did manage to spin to the crimp, which was 6 per inch.  By my calculations that meant one treadle on the 10:1 ratio wheel for just over an inch of forward drafting, to put in 9 twists per inch of single.  This was enough to hold the fairly short staple fibres properly secure.  I had also read that overplying a little will give a better balanced yarn after washing and I think that turned out to be true. The yarn had to have a proper hot wash to scour it, each skein gently brought up to 80 degrees Centigrade in a pan of detergent and water, allowed to cool to 50 degrees before having three hot rinses. 
was pleased to have no hassle with felting of the strands, even when I slapped the skeins about to full them.  Such soft, pretty yarn, I was head over heels about the subtlety of the spun colours and what better destiny than a lace scarf from the In Love Collection from Boo?  Starting with these paler locks, I had a lovely time, spinning a shade and knitting a shade.

This pattern is called Promise Me. My version has some errors, but I don't think they will show when I'm wearing it.  This shawl is for me and it's called 'Smitten'.  I fell for that little fleece and have no regrets about the price I paid. Lesley Wickham said when I bought it that I would enjoy spinning it in the grease, from the fold, without hours of preparation and she was absolutely right.  This is a link to her online shop if you would like to try one of the fleeces from Cwmchwerfru Farm for yourself.  I'm told that lamb will be white next year, but hey - I still have 500g left.


  1. A beautiful FO, congratulations! And thank you for an interesting and inspiring post. I've been spinning from the fold quite a bit recently and I want to sit right down at my wheel now and try your alternative 'hold'!

    1. Thanks, Shiela. I haven't tackled short staple fleece before, it was a relief to find a way of spinning this one.

  2. That is gorgeous! The gradient is lovely.

    I love all of your WIP photos and I can't decide who to girl crush on more, the mirror or the shawl :P

    1. Thanks - you make me think that that mirror, or something similar, would be a good way of displaying items, if I ever do manage a small commercial venture. Happy dreams.