Kim's Blog

Archive for Wool

Tweed-like handspun

This technique was developed when spinning my Féth Fíadha shawl. A féth fíadha is a magical veil that blurs the borders between our mortal world and that of the Sidhe. I envisioned a knitted handspun wrap reminiscent of a blanket of fog. 

To this end, I chose to work with Gotland. My first handspun and knitted samples in white Gotland (seen in the photo) rendered a lightweight, crisp fabric with incredible hand and drape. Further, Gotland’s slight halo added to the misty feeling I was attempting to conjure. A good start, but the fabric needed something more. A bit more surface interest. Something that would add to the mood. Thus was born a simple technique I call “frosting”.

Tweed-like frosted skein and ball alongside the plain white handspun.

In a nutshell, to spin this 2-ply yarn, the fibre is divided into two equal lots, one for each single. One singles is spun as is, the other singles is “frosted” with a gossamer layer of attenuated coloured fibre. In the case of this shawl I used a lovely, soft dark Finn. The “frosted” singles is spun by alternating between spinning only the white, then frosting for a bit, and then going back to the plain white. Once the frosted singles is plied with the all-white singles you end up with a handspun yarn with a lovely tweed-like effect. The photos below help to demonstrate the process. 

And yes, this is an amazing technique to use with dyed fibre! And a little bit of frosting goes a long way. For my whole shawl, about 10% of the fibre was dark Finn. Enjoy!

Thin sliver of attenuated dark Finn frosting on top of attenuated white Gotland.
Frosted singles.
Frosted singles to the left. Plain white singles to the right.

Preparing Commercial Sliver and Roving for Spinning

For the most part, except when seduced by an indie dyer’s beautiful braid of coloured spinning fibre, I prepare my spinning fibre from fleece. Every now and again, however, I have a bit of commercial sliver left over from teaching a spinning workshop that I hate to see go to waste, so I spin it up.

About six years ago I asked myself why I did not really enjoy working with commercial sliver. Was it because as a beginner spinner I had cut my teeth on local fleece? After some thought I decided that was not it. What it basically came down to was this, although commercial sliver has a soft and silky hand, it does not respond to my touch the same as fibre I prepare myself. On the other hand, indie dyed braids seem fine. Hmmm…..why would that be? A niggling little voice urged me to investigate further and try soaking commercial sliver before spinning it. Bingo! That was my answer!

After a few experiments, here is the method I use.

  • fill a basin with warm (130-140 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • place the sliver in the water, gently pressing it down into the liquid, without disturbing it too much
  • allow the fibre to soak
  • when the water reaches 110-120 degrees Fahrenheit, gently squeeze out most of the liquid and transfer the fibre to another bath of warm water; the same temperature as the water it has just been removed from
  • then when the second bath is completely cooled, remove the fibre and lay on top of a thick layer of thirsty cotton towels. Do not cover the fibre, simply place it on top
  • leave the fibre undisturbed for a few hours
  • then straighten out the sliver a wee bit and hang until dry

Once convinced of its merit, I began sharing this extra fibre prep step with students. So far everyone agrees, it makes for a more enjoyable spin. Here are some of the pluses of this extra step.

  • the fibre responds more readily to the spinner’s touch
  • you can spin a finer singles more easily
  • with the crimp reactivated from its warm water soak, it is easier to determine how best to spin the fibre
  • spinning oils and, sometimes, more sheepy remnants are removed from the fibre
Water from commercial Gotland fibre. It is sometimes surprising how much gunk is actually in commercially prepared sliver.
Water from commercial Shetland fibre.


Bluefaced Leicester (white) and Shetland (nature dyed, natural fawn and natural brown)

This is the fourth in a series of handspun hand knit shawls. Each shawl was spun using the forward worsted draft.

Énbarr is a white horse, owned by the Celtic sea god. Depending upon the source, her name is said to mean frothing, flowing mane or imagination. If you let imagination take you there, you can see the sea foam tripping over itself as it rolls onto the sand coloured shores.

Shorelines. Constantly shifting and changing. Re-shaped by time, the ebb and flow of the ocean and storms weathered.

Forward Worsted Draft Twist

The next three spinning workshops I teach in Kelowna, Victoria and Maple Ridge explore the Forward Worsted Draft Twist. This draft twist technique is often called the inchworm draft and thought of as a technique for beginners when learning to spin. Many use this technique to spin nice strong yarn for warp and socks. But this technique has much more to offer than strength alone. Subtle adjustments to your spinning technique and your wheel can result in a beautiful lightweight yarn with the most incredible drape.

The three photos below are shawls knit from a forward worsted draft twist yarn. The differences in the hand of each shawl is solely the result of breed choice.

The Sidhe Shawl – Dark Finn
Dearg Corra – South American
Féth Fíadha – Gotland “frosted” with Dark Finn

….this is why I scour!

Water after scouring “clean” yarn.

If I did not scour the yarn, the spinning oils might interfere with how the dye adheres to the yarn. Cheers all!

Question #1 – Why does my fleece still feel tacky after scouring?

Beautifully scoured Bluefaced Leicester Fleece.

One cause of tacky fleece can be poor scouring technique.

What to do if your fleece feels tacky and does not draft well after scouring:

Before a full on re-scouring of the whole fleece, see if it can be salvaged with a bit of oil. Rub a small amount of olive or 100% Neatsfoot oil on your hands and work it into about 10 grams of fleece. Give your hands a wash and then wrap the fibre in a tea towel and allow it to rest for 30 minutes before spinning. If drafting has improved, great! Treat enough fibre for one spinning session with the oil until you have all your fleece spun. Be sure you to wash the oiled handspun in a timely manner (one to two months after spinning.).

If drafting has not improved, then I am afraid a second scouring is required.



Water Temperature: If dealing with a fleece you have not worked with before, conduct a few 10 gram sample scourings. Try 120°F, 140°F, 160°F and 180°F. Choose the water temperature that results in the nicest hand without feeling tacky.

Neutral pH Soap: The soaps I have had the best success with are Blue Dawn Liquid Soap, Castille Soap and Orvus Paste. A fleece that has next to no grease at all gets a Castille Soap scour, fleece with more grease gets Blue Dawn and I use Orvus for very greasy fleeces. Avoid suds by filling your scouring container with water, adding the soap and giving it a gentle stir. Other cleaning agents I have used with good success include Eucolan and Unicorn Power Scour.

How much Soap: I go by feel I am afraid. When the water feels slick when rubbed between my fingers, I know I have added enough soap.

Fleece Transfer: Grease is attracted back to the fibre as the water cools. Once the scouring soap bath reaches 120°F, I transfer the fibre to a 120°F clear rinse. To transfer the fibre I gently squeeze the fleece while it is still under water. Lift it from the bath, while continuing to keep the fibre under light pressure, and place it into the clear rinse bath. If there are still suds in the water, one or two more clear rinses may be required. I leave the fibre in the last bath until the water is completely cool. Once the clear rinse bath has cooled, I gently squeeze the fleece (while it is still under water), remove it from the rinse water and place it upon a few layers of nice, thick cotton towels. I cover the fleece with tea towels and leave it be for 3 hours. After the time is up the cotton towels will have wicked up the excess moisture from the fleece which can then be transferred to a sweater rack to finish drying.

Hope this proves helpful. Cheers, Kim

Question #1

Why does my freshly washed fleece still feel tacky?

More often than not a freshly scoured fleece that feels tacky is the result of:

Polworth Fleece. Scoured and ready to comb.

  • Water being too cool to remove all the grease.
  • Not using enough of a neutral pH soap.
  • The soap you are using is not very effective on grease removal.
  • The fleece has been allowed to cool down in water that still contains some grease.

When scouring remember different fleeces contain different amounts of “grease” and they cannot all be scoured the same way. What works with one breed may not work with another. It is best to sample before embarking on scouring a whole fleece.

I will post some thoughts/answers to the above bulleted points in my next post.

Until then, take good care and happy spinning.

Cheers, Kim

Questions I am Often Asked

As I prepare for workshops over the coming year, I have been thinking about those questions most often asked by students. Hopefully some of their questions and my thoughts/answers will be of interest to you too over the next few posts.

Cheers, Kim

ANWG 2019, Prince George

Confluences Conference : June 11-16, 2019

On-line Registration begins on January 27, 2019 at 9 am PST

The Prince George Fibre Arts Guild is hosting the 2019 ANWG Conference. I have posted the list of the seminars as well as a description of the Distaff workshop I will be leading under my “Upcoming Workshops” tab.

Further information regarding: the Conference Theme, the Event Schedule, Design Challenges, Conference Colours, Instructors’ Bios and last but not least and a full list of the workshops and seminars being offered can be found here.

The Conference is being held in Prince George’s downtown core. So as well as conference activities, shopping, the museum and some great dining can be found close by.

Look forward to seeing you there! Cheers, Kim

Spinning Record Cards

My system for record keeping has morphed over the years to the system described in my September 2 and December 1 posts. Having the luxury of time over the next while, I decided to replace the older Spinning Record Sheet under the Downloads tab with the Spinning Record Card (SRC) I currently use for my own FO’s.

I keep my records in a binder, but the sheet, which displays 2 records per page, could also be cut in half and filed in a box.

I like information that can be picked out at a glance. Here are a few notes to explain how I use these cards.

  • Ratio ____ LMS. My Majacraft wheel has three whorls. Instead of recording the ratio, I highlight which whorl is presently on the wheel. One of my last spins was Gotland for a shawl that will soon be on my needles. I highlighted M and on the adjacent line wrote 4/4. “M” indicates my medium-sized whorl and 4/4 tells me that my drive band was sitting on the fourth groves; both on the medium whorl above and on the drive wheel below.
  • Fibre Prep, Draft Twist, S/Z: A simple stroke of a a highlighter records my information.
  • Folded TPI and WPI: This is where I record the tpi and wpi of the folded sample taken from the bobbin side of the orifice (see December 1st post).
  • Finished TPI and WPI: This is where I record the tpi and wpi of my handspun after it has been finished.
  • Dashed Cyan Circle: Records my spinning project number. My last handspun FO for example is #18-3.
  • I attach plying and finished yarn samples to my SRC (see December 1st post)
  • and last, but not least, I staple my Sample Card (see September 2nd post) to the back of my SRC.

I hope these cards prove as useful to you as they are for me.

Cheers, Kim