Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Whispering Pines Ivy

 Whispering Pines Ivy

Ivy's fleece

Ivy is a grey katmoget ewe from our breeding program.  She was born in 2016 and is named after the kitchen maid in the television show Downton Abbey.

Her dam is Whispering Pines Pamela, a fawn katmoget.

Whiserping Pines Pamela

Her sire is Whispering Pines Mr. Darcy, a grey katmoget that had his origins with our efforts in AI to help us achieve finer, crimpier fleeces than what were available from the shetlands that were available to us in the US.

Whispering Pines Mr. Darcy

Ivy has a very nice, fine and crimpy fleece, and it is usually one of the larger fleeces from our clip:

Ivy's Fleece

Her micron results from 2020 were as follows:

AFD:  24.3

SD  4.96

CV  20.3

SF 23.5

Here is a picture of her as a lamb:

Ivy as a lamb

Monday, January 25, 2021

Whispering Pines Freyja

 

Whispering Pines Freyja

Freyja is a very flashy spotted ewe from our 2019 crop of lambs, named after Nordic goddesses.  She is registered as black even though most of her fleece is white.  What is making her appear white is that technically she is black with an enormous white spot.  Her fleece will be mostly white, with a few small spots of black and black/white fiber.

Whispering Pines Freyja

Her dam is Blue Sapphire, one of our first fine shetlands born here on the farm.

Whispering Pines Blue Sapphire

Her sire is Rush, who we brought in from another fine fleece shetland breeder, OK Acres.

Rush

We knew when we put these two together that we were going to get very prominent spots, so were not suprised that Freyja and her twin brother had a lot of flash!

Freyja and Twin Ram as lambs

Last year I was able to roo her lamb fleece, which means I was able to pluck her fleece by hand without the use of shears.  This is a trait with the shetland sheep where their fleece encounters a break in the staple which allows them to shed their fleece.  It is also called a rise, and usually happens in the early springtime.

Freyja's Roo'd Fleece

The AFD data on her fleece is AFD 23.4, SD 5.9, COV is 25.1 and spinning fineness is 23.6. 

Her staple length is a very nice 3" unstretched.

Freyja's lock

This fall we bred her to Brienne's 2020 fawn kat ram, who we named Frederick, after Frederick Douglass, keeping with the theme of key players in ratification of the 19th amendment.

Whispering Pines Frederick

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Whispering Pines Harry

 Whispering Pines Harry is a white ram from 2020 lamb crop.  He has a white fleece which is very fine and crimpy.  Here are the ewes we put with Harry for 2021 lambs:

Whispering Pines Harry

Neda:

Whispering Pines Neda

Tovia:

Whispering Pines Tovia

Eir:

 Whispering Pines Eir

Saturday, January 16, 2021

What I learned about Spinning Lace Weight Yarn

 I love learning new spinning techniques from an instructor vs. reading or watching videos.  Don't get me wrong, I use all three methods for learning, but love the opportunity to listen, ask questions and verify understanding with a live person.

I installed a Majacraft Lace kit to my Rose spinning wheel and began using it to spin a finer lace weight yarn.  These are available in my shop to purchase and can be installed on any Majacraft wheel - link to listing



Majacraft lace Kit includes two fat core bobbins, lace flyer, high speed whorl and an allen wrench.

Majacraft Lace Kit 

I created one small skein then decided to reach out to one of my customers who bought a Rose and a lace kit from my shop in order to find out what I could do to get my yarn as fine as possible.  She generously shared her knowledge with me, and I am happy to document in this post some of the kernels of insight that I learned from the talk.

To follow are some of my questions I had and her responses.  I have also embedded the video of my interview with Caroline at the end of this blog post.

What is a lace weight yarn?

Lace weight is any yarn that yields 18 wraps per inch (WPI) on a standard yarn gage.  You measure it by wrapping your yarn around the gage and count the strands that fall within a notch in the gauge which is premeasured so you can calculate how many wraps would fit within one inch.

My Yarn Gage has a groove that is 1/2 inch, so this yarn is 30 WPI:

Yarn Gage

A higher number indicates a finer yarn.  18 WPI is the lowest gage to qualify as lace weight.  Lace weight has other names, some are slang like frog hair, others have more acceptance as descriptions of gage, like "cobweb" for example.  3 fiber strands are the minimum to be called "yarn", and that is really fine!

What are the basic materials needed to make a lace weight yarn?

The most important thing is to use a very fine wool.  The neck wool is typically the finest wool on the body, but if you have wool that microns around 20, with a low standard deviation, you are using a good material for lace weight yarn.  Our soft shetland sheep usually micron in the low 20's, so I think I am in good shape for material requirements for spinning lace.

Wool samples from our soft shetland sheep

What tools are used to make a lace weight yarn?

Majacraft makes a lace kit which has some features that make it easier to create a fine yarn.  First of all the flyer has a very short bar.  This reduces the distance the yarn needs to travel as it's winding on the bobbin which reduces the risk of breakage due to the fine nature of the yarn.

Standard vs lace flyer

 

The bobbins in the lace kit flanges are smaller so they can fit inside the lace flyer.  They also have an enlarged core which reduces the tension of the takeup, again allowing you to apply more twist to the yarn for a stronger, but finer strand.  

Standard vs. Lace Bobbin

The whorl that is supplied with the lace kit takes you to higher ratios which result in a very fast rotation of the flyer, incorporating much more twist than you would get with a standard whorl.  My wheel is a Rose, so I am showing the whorl from my wheel compared to the lace kit fast speed whorl.

Standard vs. high speed whorl

When you spin thicker yarns you have the benefit of many strands in your twist which provides strength to the ply.  This is less the case with lace yarns.  So Majacraft has tailored the parts of the wheel which when combined create the optimal conditions for spinning lace yarns, which are as follows:

  1. Light takeup tension to prevent breakage and allow for more twist before winding on bobbin
  2. Shorter distance between flyer bar and bobbin core
  3. Faster flyer rotation to get more twist into the yarn

What techniques are used to make a lace weight yarn?

When I started out with the lace kit I was using a supported long draw drafting technique.  After talking with Caroline I decided to switch over to short forward draw.  Spinning as a worsted yarn with as few fibers as possible is how you create the finest yarn.

Because you are consciously trying to minimize the number of fibers that go into your yarn, it is a good idea to put a cloth behind your spin so you can easily see how many fibers you are introducing into your twist.

If you are spinning from roving or combed top, you want to isolate some fibers to measure their length so you have an idea of the optimal length of your drafting zone.

Caroline showed me a few very lightweight spindles that she uses for lace spinning which is another way to achieve fine yarn.  She shared the links to those suppliers:

Trillium spindle from Bull Sheep Fibery 

SpindleLady has some very lightweight spindles 

There is a contest for lace spinning called "The Longest Thread Competition".  Can you tell us about it?

The contest is in Tazmania, Australia and takes place every other year.  The next competition is in March 2021, entries from the states should have beenin the mail by the end of October to arrive in time for the entry deadline.  The challenge is to spin the longest 2 ply yarn with 10 grams of fiber (1/3 oz).  The judges measure the length of all the entries in the different classes, and the longest strand wins.  The record for wool is 1,442 yards held by Naoko Tamuro from the 2005 competition.

Bothwell Spin in - Longest Thread Contest

What do you do with lace weight yarn?

Lace weight yarn can be used for knitting shawls, weaving and crocheting lace items.  Caroline talked about how to use lace weight for weaving. 

I am currently in the process of working towards a very fine lace yarn and will share my progress and findings in my next blog post!

 

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Frederick's Breeding Group

 Frederick, a 2020 ram lamb, named after Frederick Douglass, a pioneer in the suffrage movement, had a very nice assortment of ewes in his breeding group.

Frederick:

Whispering Pines Frederick

Susan:

Whispering Pines Susan

Freyja:

Whispering Pines Freyja

Sif:

Whispering Pines Sif

Baxter:

Whispering Pines Baxter

Knightley's Breeding Group

 Knightley got a good sized group of ewes this year - we are looking forward to seeing well conformed fine wooled lambs from this group.

Whispering Pines Knightley

To follow are the ewes we bred with Knightley for 2021 lambs:

Sansa

Whispering Pines Sansa

 Soshi

Soshi

Arya

Whispering Pines Arya

Sarin

Sarin

Frigg

Whispering Pines Frigg

Audie

Whispering Pines Audie

Mrs. Hughes

Whispering Pines Mrs. Hughes

Yuki

Whispering Pines Yuki

Renee

Whispering Pines Renee

Friday, January 8, 2021

Loki's Breeding Group

 Loki is a black polled ram from our 2019 lamb crop.  He is out of WP Elinor and OKA Rush.  He has a very fine and crimpy fleece, with a spinning fineness of 21.1 in his lamb fleece.

Loki

The following ewes were put in with Whispering Pines Loki on 11/28/2020 and were pulled out on 12/19/2020:

Genoa:

Genoa

English Garden

English Garden

Hela:

Ivy:

Ivy

Fanny:

Whispering Pines Fanny

Meera Reed:

Whispering Pines Meera Reed

O'Brien

Whispering Pines O'Brien

Isobel

Whispering Pines Isobel

Cora:

Whispering Pines Cora