3 of 51 Yarns: Longwool Outliers

This post is part of a spin-along through 51 Yarns by Jacey Boggs Faulkner, in the Wool n’ Spinning community. For other posts in this series, check here.

This post is coming a month and a half later than planned. That’s because, while I had a gloriously typical Down wool experience, I kept having intriguingly atypical Longwool experiences. I’ll try not to write a novel about it.

Sample 3.1: Unusual Teeswater

I started with some greyish purple top from a dyer in the UK. She said it’s “Teesdale,” which I hoped was the same as Teeswater.

I spun half of this little braid, just under an ounce. With my hair comb, it measured thusly:

It sort of looks like seven inches, but since I’m not using the proper tools for this test, it’s probably wrong. In practice, I found in my short forward draw that I had to hold my hands very close together. What’s more, I realized the base fiber was grey because it was full of guard hairs, and there was a good bit of kemp as well. Everything I was reading said that Teeswater wool is not like this. It was a very pleasant spin, but was it really a longwool?

I did a little more digging. The dyer directed me to her supplier, who appears still to be selling the exact same top. I contacted them, and they confirmed that Teesdale is just another name for Teeswater.

So what happened? Well, I learned from my spinning friend Becca that the characteristics I read about a breed might just be the ideal; there could well be Teeswater flocks with variations. The fibers could have been cut during processing, or the sheep could be sheared twice a year, meaning shorter fibers. It’s hard to say what happened.

I ended up with a yarn that I really liked. It spun up easily into a light, plump yarn. Even though the staple is short, the crimp acts like a longwool; this yarn is clearly just happy with a low twist and 25 degree angle of ply twist.

It knit up to a nice sweatery fabric at a standard DK gauge. Two thumbs up, would use again.

Rav page with technical details for this sample are here.

But was it really longwool?

It seems now like I was nit-picking, but I really felt as if I wanted a specific longwool yarn that would compare more directly with my fine and medium spins. So I decided to add to the study.

Sample 3.2: Combed Masham

While I was puzzling this out, my mom found my wool combs and mailed them up. I had a little stash of long Masham locks she had given me that I’d been saving for tailspinning, but I figured I could spare a third of them for combing up into a more typical longwool sample. (Bonus: this also means I got to participate in a small way in the Wool n’ Spinning breed study! Boo yah.)

The combing did not go great. Partly because I need to take a combing class or something; combing has never gone well for me. Partly I was stressed and exhausted and picked this for a down time activity, which was just not a good choice. I did some research, watched a few videos, read my books, and lashed on.

Well, it did not go beautifully. It took some experimentation to get the process to work smoothly at all (so much static)! In the end I got .6 oz of beautiful nests, and a little more than that in waste.

Oh, but spinning those nests up was something special! Look at the lustre on that bobbin.

I made the yarn finer to extend this tiny spin. The yarn is naturally much denser than the Fine, Medium, or Down, so I still got a YPP of around 1100 for a heavy fingering/sport weight.

Unfortunately I did something silly at this point. I finished it with a soak and snap, then left it to dry… in a place the baby could reach.

I rescued the skein without much trouble, but her playing with it had the effect on the yarn of a good brushing. So now it has a nice halo, diminishing the lustre I was trying to maximize. But you know, this isn’t for my PhD or something.

It knit up best on US 4s, and reminded me of the longwool yarn I used recently in a sweater. The stitches tend to have a slight wobble that comes from the fibres being unwilling to bend very much, looking for other places to send their straightening energy. You see this more on the bigger section of the swatch, knit up on 5s.

Longwool is so fascinating to me. I want to play with it more to explore its potential. How about putting it in a thicker yarn, where the bend of the stitches makes a closer match to the crimp of the wool? I love it.

Details on his sample here.

Sample 3.3: Carded Masham Waste

My great grandmother was an important person in my life. She was a single mom during the Great Depression, and we always figured that was the reason she never wasted anything. I looked at that pile of combing waste and made a face. My heritage would not permit me to throw it away.

So I carded it up into some rolags. Oh, what a relief it was to card after the frustration of combing! Here was something I knew how to do.

The rolags were a total dumpster fire of neps, so I just embraced that this would be an art yarn. I made it a traditional three ply to keep the trend, with an open-minded long draw. The resulting yarn looked just as much a mess as the rolags, but it knitted up into a fun and inviting fabric.

A bulky yarn knit up on US 9s, this would be a fun kids hat, or it might felt up into a fun fabric. I found both the masham fabrics moderately soft to the touch, though I’m not much of a judge. Just goes to show that there’s a use for anything. Still, I will be working on my combing skills before I attempt combing any more fiber that I care about.

Check out the color difference as well! The combed top turned into a perfect periwinkle blend, while the neps in the carded prep are fabulously tweedy.

Details on this skein here.

I’m glad I stuck with this chapter of the study. I got some eclectic lessons out of the deal, but learned about some more unusual possibilities for longwool. I was driving for a particular textbook yarn, but found some really fun oddballs instead, which I would happily make again. I have had some more classic longwool experiences, so I’m certainly not missing out on anything; it was just a surprise to find out the possible extent of this fiber’s versatility – even in the face of ignorance and mistakes. I’m feeling a little humbled by this spin, I guess. That’s not a bad thing at all.


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