Icelandic Wool Yarn
Last year I purchased an Icelandic Lambs Fleece from Caney Branch Farm. I wasn’t sure what I would do with it, but I had to have it. Typically Icelandic wool is reserved for outerwear. It’s a primitive fleece, having two coats; Tog – the outer coat is long and course, and Thel – the undercoat is short, fine and soft. While these two coats can be separated and made into two distinctly different yarns, I think they work better together in one yarn that’s warm, water repellent and strong. Typically you find Icelandic yarn sold as “Lopi” yarn. This yarn has both coats very loosely spun together in a single ply. For it to be labeled as Lopi, it must come from Iceland and go through their facility and meet their standards. I prefer to ply my yarn and source my wool locally.
I read an article in a 2007 issue of Spin Off about working with a primitive fleece called Gutefar. It shares characteristics with Icelandic wool. The author, Judith Mackenzie Mccuin spun a yarn from the Gutefar and knitted a nice pair of mittens. I thought this would be a great project for my fleece. I have my fleece in carded batts. The carder I have is designed for creating art batts for art yarn. Since I wont be spinning an art yarn, I’ll need to straighten this wool out a bit more for a finer yarn. Judith hand carded her fleece into rolags, I thought that would be the best thing for me to do. I’m separating each batt as I go along and carding my batts into rolags. I’m leaving some short pieces in for texture and picking out others. I’m spinning this wool into a fine single. I want to test this yarn and see what will truly work best for my project. I’m spinning up a couple batts so I can make two yarns and test them out.
I first spun a fine single that I made into a 2-ply yarn. I plied it by making a center pull ball and putting the two ends together and plying it back on itself. I spun a second fine single and chain/Navajo plied it into a 3-ply yarn. My project yarn will be plied from separate bobbins, it will look and behave a bit differently from my sample yarn. However this will still give me a fair idea of what I want. I immediately liked the 2-ply yarn better and went about kitting a swatch as soon as it was dry from setting the twist. I knitted a swatch from the 3-ply just to be certain, and I’m glad I did. The 3-ply yarn will make a fabric closer to what’s needed for a good pair of warm and weather resistant mittens. A denser and thicker fabric.
Now I’m hand carding strips of wool from my batts and spinning them relatively fine. When I have three bobbins full I’ll ply them together. I’ll be following the pattern fairly close, with changes only to the number of stitches for the idiosyncrasies of my unique yarn and hand size. I’ll need to spin some yarn to dye black and red as well. Although I may not follow that aspect of the pattern, but I’m fairly sure that I’ll include the ravens. I feel motivated to knit one more swatch when the final yarn is completed to be certain of my gauge.
For fellow spinners – I prepared this fleece as you would to make a woolen style yarn, however, I spun it as a worsted style yarn. The result is somewhere in between, stronger than a woolen and warmer than a worsted, a hybrid.
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