13 of 51 Yarns: More Icelandic In the Grease

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.

I don’t know if I can say I’ve really had a classic “spinning in the grease” experience, but I’ve done a fair bit of greasy spinning. It has always been because of a shoddy attempt at washing, not because of a decision not to wash.

You know, I’m ok with that. It means that for me, spinning in the grease is about making do with what I have and redeeming my mistakes. That doesn’t mean I can’t learn new things from these experiences. (Apart from, you know, how to wash a fleece properly.)

Back in April I spun some very old Icelandic that I had washed poorly and drum carded eight or nine years ago. It was disgusting to spin, but washed and swatched up so beautifully that I really wanted to spin up the rest of the lb or so of batts. Back in May (when I still had access to my wheel), I decided to do my one white batt from this set for my official “in the grease” spin, but changed a few things to make the spin much more fun. It was downright pleasant!

The first thing I did differently was to let the old lanolin warm up in the sun. A few people advised me to do this; I apologize that I don’t remember now who suggested it.

There were also recommendations that I could go ahead and wash the batts, but I decided against that. Somehow washing the yarn seemed easier, and even though my first greasy spin was icky, I liked the feeling of control that the stickiness gave me.

By the end of the previous Icelandic spin, I had developed a method for spinning these batts that I applied to this whole large batt.

I opened the batt, tore off a strip a few inches wide…

… rolled it up lengthwise like a jelly roll…

… then stretched out the jelly roll widthwise into a sausage. At this point the fiber resembled a large rolag, and it was nicely de-compacted.

I spun short forward right off the sausage, trying to match my previous sample card for thickness. I shortened my draft a tiny bit because I thought it could stand a little more twist. By halfway through I was even getting consistent.

I filled up my bulky bobbin, and the resulting enormous skein sat for weeks. It was greasy and yellow and I left it on top of a lampshade. Something always got in the way of washing it. But one night I sucked it up and got it done, and of course wondered why I had put it off.

Since this skein is about the grease, I took before-and-after measurements. You can see them all on the spin’s Ravelry handspun page. The wash took away 12% in weight. My yardage estimate is rough, but it looks like I lost about 5% in yardage. There wasn’t a huge change in WPI, and it looks like there was some loss in TPI. For grist, I gained 9% in YPP. Makes sense: losing more weight than yardage means a lighter yarn per yard. I’m surprised there weren’t bigger differences, but probably there was more grease in the truly raw fleece. I washed it poorly, but I did wash something out of it!

I used the same washing method as before: baths of boiling water from my hot pot plus hot tap water – first two with tons of dawn in them – then four with just water. 20 minutes each, just gently squeezing in between. Then a moderate fulling to tidy it up. Oh my word did it come out beautifully!

After fulling, the yarn feels soft and fluffy to the touch, while still being plenty strong. The YPP is close to my previous skein – 1115 instead of 1153 – and a higher grist makes a little sense since I added twist and was more consistent, with fewer thin spots.

When I was winding the yarn into a skein, I did wind off a mini-skein to keep greasy, so I at least have that for visual comparison.

The difference is more striking when two mini-skeins are put together.

The difference in feel is the most striking. Not for the first time, I wish you could touch them.

I spun this large batt on faith, trusting that after my previous 1 oz spin, this would be a worthwhile sweater spin. But the final test would be in the swatch. Would the fabric look as nice in white as in black, without the dark color to hide the inconsistencies?

It definitely looks a lot more textured in white. This is with the light hitting it from the side; it doesn’t look as bumpy in normal light, but it does have all those bumpies. It’s still a consistent fabric; it just looks a little earthy. It’s softer than you’d expect with all those guard hairs poking out.

The next test: how would it look in fair isle?  I snuck a little more from the previous brown skein to check it out.

It looks pretty good! The black shows through a little bit, but not much, and the fabric isn’t overly thick. The consistency issues I’ve been having with fair isle are still cropping up, but I don’t think that’s the yarn’s fault.

This was pretty exciting. I have a sweater idea for this that is starting to come together.

But I do have to spin the yarn first. And I did not finish it all before I moved. Which means (deep breath) I shipped the rest of the greasy batts, even though I said I wouldn’t. Oh well. I’ve spun nearly 10 oz of the stuff so far, so I think I can say I’m invested. Think I can spin them all by the end of the year? I really hope so.

I’m so glad this SAL pushed me to finally spin these batts!

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