Monday, March 17, 2008

Next Spinning Project - Polwarth

By Leigh

Now that I've started knitting with my handspun Shetland, I need to get another project on my spinning wheel. About a year ago my friend Heather from Canada, sent me a lovely Polwarth fleece. (That post, complete with photos of my cats' snoopervision, is right here.) That fleece has remained on my mind through several other spinning projects, but the time has finally come to get it out and spin it.

When Heather first sent me the fleece, she told me that she had gotten it because it was too tender for commercial processing. However, she had still found it to suitable for handspinning, especially as it is a lovely fleece.

The details:
  • Staple length, 4 to 5 inches
  • Staples tender about midway in length
  • Staple shape, rectangular
  • Color is a fairly consistent brown as you see in the photo
  • Tips, some sunbleached
  • Crimp, ranging from 5 to 10 crimps per inch
  • Luster is low
  • Hand is fairly soft
Tenderness is a weakness in the fiber which causes random breakage. If you take a close look at the staple on the left in the above photo, between the 2 & 1/2 and 3 & 1/2 inch tape measure marks, you may be able to see a band of slightly lighter brown. When these banded staples are gripped at either end and firmly snapped, a crackling or popping can be heard rather than the "ping" of a healthy staple. With enough force, the fibers of a tender staple can be broken at the area of tenderness.

I've got about three and a quarter washed pounds of this fleece and have looked it over pretty closely. Interestingly, only part of the fleece appears to be tender; there are some very sound locks in it as well. This puzzles me, because from what I've read about the causes of tenderness (poor nutrition, stress, parasites) it would seem that the entire fleece should be consistently tender, which it doesn't seem to be the case here. Even so, it is long enough to still be spinnable, even with breaking.

The biggest challenge will be in deciding how to process this fleece. It is likely that it will break during carding. Even so, the fiber will still be long enough to spin. A potential problem would be really short bits breaking off, which would later become pills in the yarn and anything I made with it. So I think I will experiment with processing before deciding how to deal with it.

And before I forget, while I was researching tenderness, I came across several useful fleece evaluation resources I'd like to pass along:
Now, I'm off to see what I can do with that fleece.

Posted 17 March 2008 at

Related Posts:
Polwarth - Experimenting With Preparations
Polwarth - Experimenting With Blends
What's On My Wheel? Pol-paca


Tracy said...

Beautiful color. I wonder if you combed it, you would get the strongest fibers in the top and the card the "trash" for some nice fuzzy stuff? Just a thought. It sure is pretty stuff.

Bettina said...

Leigh, when I asked Heather about the fleece she used on the felted polar bear, she sent me a beautiful sample of white polwarth! I will have to hunt about to find a fleece here - I think there is a lady in uk, who offers australian polwarth! the colour (pure white) and crimp are really special! why don't you try combing the weak parts (combing a whole fleece is a lot of work) - might put less stress on the fibres? I sometimes use a dog comb on the fibres and that works quite well for me with longer fleeces....

Cathy said...

Can you tease it as you spin? It's gorgeous!

That seems to be my word this week. :-)

textillian said...

I do love natural brown fleeces.

And thanks for all of the detail you put into these posts. It's always a good read.

Tina T-P said...

Thank you for the links to the fleece assessment sites - they look very interesting and lots of info. Good luck with your fleece! T.

cyndy said...

The locks look very nice!

I wish there was a way to "hear" your post... I need to start listening to fleece, you know, for the ping or the crackling....

Will be interested to see what develops after you experiment, and how you decide to deal with processing it....

bspinner said...

Beautiful fleece. I've neve heard the term "tenderness" in relationship to a fleece but certainly is a good discription in this case.
Good luck and I just love the pictures of your Rascal checking it out. Guess it meets his approval.

skiingweaver said...

Leigh, your blog never fails to interest me. I *love* it! As a matter of fact, I just blogged about it, lol. (Finally linked to your hemming techniques compendium.)

Kathy said...

Ooo...that looks totally yummy! Can't wait to see what it becomes!
(I just came in from giving all my ewes their booster shots. I think I'm in the "Peepul House" now as they all were giving me "the look" as I left.

Sharon said...

I've worked with Polworth before and been pleased with the yarn,though I'm not sure I'd have the patience to work through known breaks. Speaking of "hear," I recently had a dialogue with Sara Lamb who was interview on Syne Mitchell's WeaveCast podcast and she said she was surprised by people commenting on her "nice" voice. She lives local and I know what her voice sounds like, but many of the blogs, including yours, are regional. I can't help but wonder about drawls, twangs and inflections that we miss when we read each other's writings. I, however, speak with the perfect Western drawl twang inflection, indicative of our region.

Sheepish Annie said...

I look forward to this one! That fleece is such a nice, rich color. I can't wait to see how it spins up for you!

Amelia, belle of The Bellwether said...

Great set of links on fleece evaluation! I have one to add (no affiliation, just found it useful...):

Thanks for the wonderful blog! always a delight.

Leigh said...

Amelia, what a great link! Thanks!