Thursday, June 20, 2013

How To Go From A Sheep To A Sock...

A "How-To" post of sorts ;)

I love to make socks, I know I've shared that here before (though recently mittens have been my main focus).  To my way of thinking, there's no sock like a real wool sock and so it  starts for me with a sheep and a fleece.  In this case a lovely little black ewe named Isobel who has a very long staple length and a slightly more open crimp to her fleece than most of our Corriedales, long but very silky - just the kind I like for making hard wearing sock yarn!  She comes from the old Verlee line of Corriedale sheep in our flock and I love their wool.  Both Isobel and her sister (who's called "Sister", hehe) had such long fleeces that we sheared them at seven months old.
A head shot of Isobel above and another from this spring
So I have this lamb fleece, black - well, really more of a dark black cherry-cola color - that I'm planning to keep for myself and make my favorite blend for spinning sock yarn of 70% Corriedale wool and 30% alpaca.  I teach a class on spinning for sock yarn and I love showing and sharing how well this blend works for socks, but of course in the end its a matter of personal preference for both the spinner and the sock-wearer!  When I need alpaca fiber, I always go for the best and that comes from the farm of my friend and neighbor Maple at North Star Alpacas.  But this time, a call from a long-distance fiber friend changed the intent for Isobel's fleece!

My friend Susan emailed asking if I had a black or very dark fleece.  She knew it was a long shot because it wasn't shearing time, but it just so happened that we'd shorn those two ewe lambs and I had Isobel's fleece along with another kept back for myself from spring shearing (that was Hilda's fleece, but that's another fiber story - LOL!)  Susan had some alpaca from a farm local to her and she wanted to create a blend for spinning socks.  So even though these were fleeces I'd intended to keep, there's always more for me growing down in the barn and off the samples went to New England for sampling.

Fast forward a short time, a few emails and finally a phone call with a proposal - would I be interested in going together with my (Isobel's) wool and Susan's alpaca and sharing the resulting roving?  Sure I would!!!  So that is how our Friendship Roving came to be and a plan was hatched to do a long-distance spin-a-long and knit-a-long for a new pair of socks.  The alpaca came to Michigan and joined the Corriedale wool for a trip to Zeilingers Mill to be washed and processed.  (A note here ~ quite often when making socks I wash and comb the fleece myself, that really makes a nice fiber to spin.  But for larger quantities like we were doing here, I took advantage of the spring special at Z's and let them do it all!)

I meant for this to be just one long post about sheep to socks, but as usual I'm getting a bit long-winded and also I've been just to busy to sit by the computer for very long, so I'm going to break this up a bit for you...above you see two one-ounce balls of the roving ready for me to do a test-spin and sample for my socks.  I know it looks brown but that's just my camera, its really very dark ;)  In my next post, I'll share a bit more of my method/process for sock spinning.  I hope you'll come back for more!


Steve Finnell said...
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Susan said...

Well, there you are. I am going to wait for your next post, the the next one after that.
Of course, you know that my yarn is all done, but then again, I don't have a farm to run, just a house. Smart move on my part I think :-)
In the meantime I shall sit and spin some of my mystery fleece for a sweater I like in Knitty early fall.
Let me say again Cary, how thankful I am for your friendship and the help and encouragement you've given me as I learn.

Emily said...

If you ever have the time to write out how you work your fleeces before you spin them for socks I would love to know! As you might remember we don't have mills over here and I still don't really know how to correctly process my fleeces ...

I love reading your stories!

Jody said...

I always enjoy pics of your sheep and fleece so post away Cary!!
I have not tried blending those two fibres for socks. I just finished spinning Elizabeth's lovely dark fleece into a 3 ply :-)

Joanne said...

Cary, the roving looks gorgeous! Ready for the next post, whenever you are. :) I like the pillow behind the roving too. Did you make that??