We’re pleased to welcome spinner, author, and instructor Jillian Moreno a guest blogger here on the Louet blog.
Jillian is the author of Yarnitecture: The Knitter’s Guide to Spinning: Building Exactly the Yarn You Want, published by Storey Publishing in 2016. She is also the editor ofKnittyspin and is on the editorial board of Ply Magazine. She frequently contributes to Spin-Off and PLY Magazine and teaches all over North America. Be warned, she is a morning person and frequently breaks into song before 9am. Keep track of all of her crafty and other pursuits starting April at www.jillianmoreno.com. She lives buried in a monumental stash of fiber and books in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
A wonderful thing that happened along with the rise of spinners and dyers is the availability of different breeds commercially prepped, ready to spin. It used to be if you wanted something beyond merino or BFL or the ubiquitous ‘wool’ you had to buy a fleece and process the whole thing yourself. If you wanted less than pounds of this new to you fiber you’d have to find spinner friends to share the fleece with.
I love spinning wool, but I don’t like processing it myself. That left me without a huge amount of options for a long time. Along with individual dyers who are having their own selected fibers made into top and roving there is one company that has a great selection of really interesting breeds to spin, Louet. Yes the same Louet that makes the wonderful wheels and my favorite handcards. I first knew about Louet as a knitter, their Gems merino and Euroflax linen are yarns that I’ve happily knit for years. But it’s only been recently that I’ve discovered the depth of their fiber selection.
Louet has a fantastic range of commercially processed spinning fibers, some you won’t find anywhere else in the US. Many shops, carry their fibers or you can order directly if you like. I’m still learning about different sheep breeds, how they feel and spin and what I might use them for, so I turned to Louet to further my education.
Out of their long list of different fibers and blends, I went straight for their wool breeds. I hunted for things I’ve haven’t spun or haven’t spun a lot. I chose three breeds: Finn top, Swalesdale top and Coopworth roving. I’ve spun a bit of Finn, but have never spun Swalesdale or Coopworth.
I did a quick sample of each, spinning two 2-ply yarns, one with a woolen draft and one with a worsted draft, just to get the feel of each. Boy were they different from each other!
I first spun the Swalesdale. I chose this fiber because I’ve not seen it offered anywhere else. The fiber is a mix of a coarse outer and softer under fiber. There were some stray black hairs and a little kemp. This is not a fiber I could wear as a garment; it was prickly to my hands while I was Andean plying it. Even though it was a mix of longer outer fiber and shorten under fiber it was easy to spin both woolen and worsted without he two coats separating. This fiber would be great for rugs or bags, something that need strength and durability. It would be cool to use it in tapestry or frame weaving because of the unusual surface texture because of the mix of coats.
Finn was next; this is a great middle of the road fiber. I’m not surprised that I’m seeing it more and more from dyers. This is a fiber that could be used in place of Corriedale for basic spins and for new spinners. In fact while it was as easy to spin as Corrie, it was softer than a lot that I’ve spun. I draped my yarn around my neck and only got a slight prickle. Finn is not very crimpy but got lofty when spun woolen. The surface of the spun yarn feels like suede, a matte texture. I am fascinated by this fiber. I want to experiment more with it, it may have the sweet spot for softness and durability for sweaters that I’m looking for. I just need to play with it to see what kind of stitch definition it has knit in stitch patterns.
I left the Coopworth for last because I was the most excited by it. The roving was so well prepared I jumped right in and drafted with a looooong long draw. It was easy to spin and the yarn was springy and softer than I expected and the color, my favorite natural color, somewhere between grey and brown. This fiber showed the most difference between the two type of drafts. I was surprised at how defined the plies were with the worsted draft on roving!
This is another fiber I can’t wear on my neck though it is nowhere near as prickly as the Swaledale. I could wear this Coopworth as a hat or mittens or a sweater. It is a durable fiber and would be fantastic woven into throw pillows. Coopworth might find it’s way onto my loom this year.
These three fibers just scratch the surface of what Louet has, and many are only available through Louet in this country. I’m definitely going back for more.
Want to learn more about how I spin and sample for knitting? Storey Publishing and Louet North America are giving away a copy of my book Yarnitecture: A Knitter’s Guide to Spinning: Building Exactly the Yarn You Want.
To enter, email firstname.lastname@example.org with “Yarnitecture Giveaway” in the subject line and tell us what breeds you want to spin in 2017 in the body of your email. We’ll randomly select a winner to announce on January 11, 2017. Good luck!