For September’s Tiger Club, I used a new fiber, Fine Grey New England Sliver. This is a different type of preparation than I usually dye, so I thought I would take a bit to write about it.
Commonly available to dyers is a prep called ‘Combed Top’. This is actually a preliminary step to machine spinning yarn. The wool is washed, carded, combed, and gilled. In the process, the fibers are aligned, and often the crimp is steam pressed away so the fibers are smooth and will flow through the spinners more easily and consistently to make a worsted style yarn. This doesn’t necessarily make a great prep for hand spinning, especially if you want to make a woolen yarn. Fortunately, the process of dyeing gives the crimp a chance to reactivate, which makes for a more pleasurable spinning experience.
This wool was handled much more simply. It is wool from New England small sheep farms, was scoured (washed), and then was carded into a prep called Sliver…..basically a long rope of carded fiber with a slight twist to it. It arrived to my studio in tall skinny bags, all coiled up. The wool is all ready for hand-spinning, and I had a lot of fun trying it out, using long draw on both a spindle and a wheel.
Upper left: Superwash BFL Combed Top; Lower right: Fine Grey New England Sliver
However…..there are some issues with this particular sliver. The most noticeable is the VM, or vegetable matter. These were not coated sheep, and were obviously fed a good quantity of hay. Fortunately, this is pretty easy to deal with. You can do a little fluffing of the fiber to get some out, and the rest will either fall out as you spin, or will be easy to pull out. Here’s a bit of the fluffing, shown on the club colorway:
The other issue with this wool is the neps and noils. Personally, I found this to be a fun rustic element to team up with the yarn of the month, which had neps and noils added on purpose. In reality, these were not meant to be in the wool….some are from ‘second cuts’, which are very short lengths of wool that result from going over an area of the sheep more than once. These little bits tend to glom together in the washing stage and makes little balls in the final roving. The noils come from when both ends of a fiber are stretched by the combing process and it breaks, leading to the fiber snapping back and coiling up. This can come from tender tips, perhaps from being in the sun, or from a nutritional change in the sheep in the middle of the wool growing period, or aggressive carding. You can see these extra bits in the picture below.
So, it isn’t the most perfect wool, but honestly I haven’t met one I haven’t liked yet, and I think this has some personality despite its faults. The price point also makes it attractive.
My first sample was on my new Akerworks mini spindle. These are 3D printed, then the BB’s are added after. You can also choose your own shaft length, and you could remove the whorl and either change it, or be more able to tuck the spindle in your purse. It’s a clever design. My only dislike is that the sharp edges of the plastic catch the yarn while you are winding on. I’ll make future cops a bit lower on the shaft in the future.
I made a plying bracelet for this one…..
As you can see, it fluffed up quite a bit, and really showed off the un-even-ness of my spinning. Some of this was me, and some of it was the prep. (Well, ok, it was all me…because I was too lazy to pull out all the slubs….it’s a sample!!)
In the meantime, my pretty new Schacht Flat Iron spinning wheel arrived. I had a lot of fun putting it together (IKEA skills for the win!). Here are some shots…the wood has pretty bird eye freckling all over it.
I went for slightly thicker than my default, and kinda threw the wool at the wheel while doing a long draw. Oh, it was fun! I then chain plied the result, as I wanted to see how this would work as a 3 ply….I want to make a cozy sweater from this wool.
And here it is washed. The chain plying does tend to consolidate your inconsistencies, so for the actual project I will make a true 3 ply yarn. I do love how squishy and stretchy it is, and the wool is nice and soft. I also love the slight variations in color.
I dyed a couple of ounces of the club fiber/colorway for a hat, and I hope to spin that up soon. After that I’ll start the sweater project. I also picked up a faster whorl for the Flat Iron, so these projects should go quickly once I have a chance to start.
If you aren’t in club but would like to try this fiber, I’ll have a number of colors available soon. (And also have a fair amount of undyed, available upon request.) I’m having a Merino sale through Sunday to clear some bin space for these, so hopefully I can list them next week. Thanks for stopping by to read about the Fine Grey New England Sliver!