• Fleece Experiment

    Posted on 15th November 2015 by Shelley in Spinning Weaving Fibre.
    British Rare Breed Sheep


    Straight To The Wheel Fleece

    My experiment with 19 different fleeces bypassing the carding and combing stages of preparing the fleece for spinning.  I have been lucky enough to have bought from farmers all around the UK and Northern Ireland, the only downside of this post is now my husband knows exactly how many fleece’s I have in his shed…


    Combing sheep fleece
    Example of Staples on Combs


    Because I am limited to how much I can do and for how long (visit my story), I am always looking for the quickest and easiest way of do something.  Two of the jobs I find most boring in preparing a fleece is carding or combing. 





    Hand Painted Drum Carder
    Jumbo ‘Classic Carder’


    I have a lovely hand painted Jumbo Drum carder from “Classic Carders” and Paul even made it so that I could use it both right-handed and left-handed.  It is a really good carder and when I’m in the mood I find I really enjoy it, but it is still a long process. 




    Bluefaced Leicester Mule Fleece
    Example of a Lovely Wavy Staple

    I can hear some of you now “why don’t you just use commercially combed tops” but I find that really boring, lots of them just feel the same anyway and there’s no character in them.  Every single fleece is different and I never tire of looking at and touching raw fleece, all the different colours, staples and grades, their just amazing!  I’m sure one day I might have to revert to tops when I find I can’t handle the size of a fleece anymore, but until that day…..                

    Sorry I’ll get back to the point!  My experiment:

    Ashford Joy Spinning Wheel
    Ashford Joy Spinning Wheel

    So that got me thinking, what would the yarn turn out like if I only teased it out before spinning ?  I have to tease it out before I put it through the carder or combs anyway.  So what if I could miss that step out and go straight to the wheel ?… 

    What would the yarn end up like and would it be usable ?  I’m not talking about “art yarn” either, I wanted to see how smooth it would look when spun, plied and knitted like normal yarn.

    Wool on a bobbin
    Singles’ Yarn on Bobbin






    I then thought “what type of fleece would be best to use for this experiment?” Probably shorter stapled fleece as it would likely blend better when teased, and I don’t think the longer stapled fleeces would be any good (what little did I know)….





    I had another thought (all this thinking is exhausting), that it would be pointless to just use the fleeces I thought might do well, I mean that wouldn’t really be an experiment then would it ? So from my rather large collection of fleeces I looked out all different types, soft, coarse, double coated, some crosses and some that I have dyed already.    


    British rare breed blue taxel
    A Sample of Fibres



    Here is the list of all 19 participants in no particular order:

    Polled Dorset, Whiteface Dartmoor, Corriedale/Manx Loaghtan cross, Blue Texel, Romney, Shetland, Huacuya Alpaca, Portland, Corriedale, Texel(white), Gotland, Bluefaced Leicester/Gotland cross, Bluefaced Leicester/Shetland Hog cross, Herdwick, Dyed Bluefaced Leicester Mule, Dyed Mohair(Adult), Dyed Bluefaced Leicester/Swaldale cross, Texel/Hebridean cross, Suri Alpaca.  


    The plan is to add each result every couple of days as I’m still working my through them.  I will be spinning some on my Ashford Joy spinning wheel and others on my new Electric Eeel wheel.  I have chosen to Navajo ply because it will be easier for me to work straight from a single bobbin, as I will only be spinning short amounts to knit up a sample for each fleece used.

    Here are my results:

    Romney British rare breed





    Romney :  From Angela at www.higherbridgefarm.co.uk or find them on www.facebook.com/Romneysheepandwool


    This silver coloured Romney has a medium length staple from 3.5 – 4ins, and was surprisingly easy to tease into a lovely fibre ball that blends together with itself nicely.          

    Romney fleece Fibre
    Romney Fibre

    It was also pretty easy to spin from the teased fibre and didn’t really feel much on the fingers either.  Occasionally the tip of the staple would stick out or make a small loop, I spun this woollen style and I was actually amazed at how smooth this was spinning up!

    Normally people go on about how your spinning has to be perfect to Navajo ply, as it shows up all the bumps – Well in this case it seemed to hide all the bumps to give a much smoother appearance.  I was truly impressed by how this was turning out.


    Romney Yarn Wool
    Romney Yarn

    I decided I would knit all samples in stocking stitch with and edge of garter stitch to try and keep the sample lying flat. I chose my knitting needle sizes by touch and just had a good look at it before starting.  I used 5mm needles for the Romney and it was smooth on my fingers and easy to knit.  I couldn’t believe how flat and bump-less this smooth sample was knitting up!  I’m sure you will agree just by looking at it.


    Yarn wool knitting
    Romney Knitted Sample
    I think this would actually knit up okay for a sweater or bags and you could bypass the carding stage, as it didn’t seem to hinder me at all so I give it an 8/10 for this experiment.
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