32 of 51 Yarns: Shetland Butt-to-Tip

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.

Wool has butts! I mean, obviously sheep have butts, but that’s not what I’m talking about. Wool, when you cut it off the sheep, sticks together in “locks,” and each lock has has a butt end and a tip end. Like so:

This is way more information than you want, but hey I like to do a thing properly. On each individual fiber of wool, there are small scales. It’s like in shampoo commercials when they zoom in to show you some made up science, but this is real: the scales on wool fibres overlap, going away from the sheep. There’s a theory, in spinning, that if you spin the wool butt-first, it should be smoother. That’s because as you feed the singles onto the bobbin, your fingers are smoothing in the same direction as the scales, whereas if you spin tip-first, you’ll be roughing up those scales.

The next few yarns will be testing that theory.

The locks I am using for this test are the only fleece I have lying around any more: some Shetland from a lamb fleece I traded for some sock yarn a couple of years ago, which my mom kindly cleaned for me. When the farmer was going to shear the lamb, it kept raining, so it was shorn a good couple of weeks later than it should have been; as a result, it seems to have a break low in the fleece, and I had to card off a good chunk of the butt ends, which were all matted together anyway. The very tips would break off too, from being quite bleached. I hoped that this wouldn’t interfere with my test – scales are scales, right? – but I don’t know.

This was my first time flicking and spinning from locks, and it went ok, I think. I definitely had some gobbledygook at the end of each lock. But now that the wool was really clean, it was straightforward and pleasant to spin. I didn’t have much left after carding off all that waste, so I ended up with a very small skein after swatching as well.

This is my “control” skein, if you will. Spun from butt-to-tip, and then plied without rewinding – meaning it was plied from tip-to-butt. That’s the other catch in the whole butt-to-tip theory – you spin your singles onto a bobbin, but if you go to all the trouble of keeping your butts lined up (haha), the singles come back off the bobbin the other direction, so if you don’t rewind them somehow, you rough the scales up while plying. I went ahead and did that this time; adding rewinding to the mix is coming later.

A sample swatch for a simple yarn. Two ply fingering weight.

Full yarn stats here.

Tomorrow I’ll compare this with its opposite: spinning tip-to-butt. Will there be a discernible difference?

2 thoughts on “32 of 51 Yarns: Shetland Butt-to-Tip

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