Preparation

There is an *awful lot* going on chez Yarnscape right now, though sadly nothing that I can really talk about yet.

Some things never change, though – and one of them is that, yet again, the Rampton Spinner’s project is due very shortly, and I’ve barely even started.

Back in January, we were given the opportunity to buy some fibre from one of our members’ personal stash (the inimitable SarahW on Ravelry).  She is an amazing spinner and enabler; and something much, much more than a teacher.  She has a kind of rigorous enthusiasm that I find utterly infectious, and her plan for this year’s was that we should get the chance to create a project from raw fleece.

She brought in baggied-up portions of various fleeces (it must have taken her ages to prepare; I seem to remember her saying that each baggie included fleece from several areas to give a good overview of the whole fleece), and we picked, chose and bought.

I chose a (coloured) Ryeland.  At least, I am pretty sure it’s Ryeland, though the pictures of Ryeland fleece I’ve found look little like what I have.  I did, at least, get the fleece washed earlier this year – possibly before the second meeting in March, though I’m no longer sure.

This is a selection of the fleece staples in my selection (as always, click for bigger):

The colours range from oatmeal, through a reddish beige, all the way through to a warm grey-black.  Unfortunately, all my photographs were taken last night with the iPhone, so there is a choice between yellowish, no-flash photos, or harsh, flash-lit photos.  The tape measure is marked off in centimetres; you can see that there is quite a lot of variation in staple length as well as colour – though possibly not as much as you might first think.

The texture of the locks ranges from the tightly-curled almost-ringlets in the top right:

Through to the tightly crimped, but not actually coiled, locks bottom left (which it appears I did not, in my wisdom, photograph up close).  Those cinnamon-coloured locks are some of the most tightly curled, but you can see the structure more clearly in some others:

You can fit a lot of fibre in to those tight crimps and coils!  So although each lock may only be 3-4cm long, the actual staple length is probably two to three times that.

My initial plan was to make socks as my project.  Most people seem to think that Ryeland is a natural for carding, but it seems to me that there is actually enough staple length there to comb it, and that, if spun worsted, the crimp might give us a lovely, springy, bouncy yarn.  This time, though, I’m going to be a good girl – and sample!

Half an hour’s work on Monday night yielded these little combed nests (about 5g total; I didn’t weigh the waste):

The fibre does indeed comb and diz well, though.  You can see one little nep – just by the number 3 on the tape measure – but other than that, I’ve managed a very smooth, even prep.  I’m using my Majacraft mini-combs, and I think I can speed up the combing process a lot if I just take some time to get myself set up properly, instead of working on the sofa.

I plan to try two kinds of yarn from this combed top: a regular plied yarn (three or four plies; I haven’t decided yet), and a cabled yarn (either 3×2 or 2×2; see prior comment).  I’m considering a cabled yarn for several reasons: the first is that they are just very, very cool.  The second is that they are reputedly very resistant to abrasion, which strikes me as a really good thing in a sock.  The third is that this crimpy fibre may result in a yarn which really wants to puff up when finished (I’m guessing here, you understand).  I’m also guessing that the multiple interlocking strands of a cabled yarn might tame this tendency somewhat.

I also want to try spinning this woollen style, so I carded some, too:

These aren’t exactly your standard rolags; they’re more like woolly punis.  After carding, I used a wooden dowel to help me roll up the fibre and remove it from the cards.  I think that this yarn, spun woollen, will be too fluffy and bouncy for socks, and probably won’t wear well enough either.  But I’m going to give it a try, anyway!

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