Saturday, August 9, 2014

Fiber Review: Cormo/Rambouillet Fleece

I made this post over two years ago, and I have some updates to add to this review. I burned this fleece. Just a little. This was back when I didn't understand what a basic pH could do to wool, and how important it was to not scour the wool 100%. My mistakes means you and I both learn from them, so keep this in mind while you read the following post. If you want to know more about how I wash fleeces now, please check out this video series on YouTube:

In addition to playing around with the undyed fleece, I used this to test some of my test dyes. I attempted to produce a warm brown color, but alas, it produced a burgundy wine color. I'm not sure what I'll do with it, but I might blend it with some other colors and spin something up. I think a highly textured yarn will bring out the qualities this fiber has--what's left of that, anyway. I can tell now that the fiber feels slightly brittle, so the less manipulation I do, the better for the yarn.

Originally posted on March 25, 2012:

Last September, I bought a beautiful cormo/rambouillet fleece from boydandbeescandles on Etsy. They list only a few fleeces at a time, and they seem to get snapped up pretty regularly. They don't have any in stock as of this moment, but I imagine that there will be soon, since shearing is happening shortly! You could probably ask when the fleeces will be ready too. Here's the actual listing I bought. Let me tell you briefly about this fleece. The fleece was properly skirted for tags and other unsightlies, then wrapped neatly into a ball and placed in a appropriately sized box for shipping. When I unpacked it, it was lovely and sheepie and SUPER soft. Instant love. I washed a sample, weighed it, carded it, then spun it. Though the sheep were not coated, there wasn't an inordinately large amount of vm (vegetable matter).

Long story short, I picked and separated and washed the entire 8 pounds of wool, and now I have a ton of carding ahead of me. But what to blend it with? Or should it be blended at all? The primary reason is to talk about the characteristics of the wool itself, and the changes it undergoes when blended with a different fiber. Here's what I started with:

Exhibit A:

The pictures go in order of unblended fleece, 50/50 cormo/alpaca(huacaya), 50/50 cormo/romney, and 80/20 cormo/silk. I tried to do a variety of diameters and plies, while keeping the sampling under control. Really, the sky is the limit on blends, spinning methods, plies, etc.

Exhibit B: The unblended cormo/rambouillet fleece

This is the fleece carded up and spun, just as it is. It turned out to be a mega poofy yarn, with tons of bounce and loft. It's way bouncier than any merino I've spun so far. If you're looking for a fiber that feels lighter than air after it's been spun, then this wool is perfect for you. I can see why people like to make baby items with this stuff. :)

I should have dyed the wool prior to/after spinning so I could have better pictures, but we won't talk about my lack of foresight. This wool can really fool you though. You think you're spinning at 24 WPI, then you ply it on itself to check the twist, and you're looking at an 8 WPI 2-ply--normally, that would end up being a 12 WPI 2-ply. This kind of testing is important if you plan to spin for a project, and not the other way around.

Exhibit C: The 50/50 cormo/alpaca(huacaya) blend

I really like this blend because it makes the cormo feel a bit silkier because of the alpaca, and the alpaca provides a beautiful halo. I also really like this buttery caramel color. It kind of reminds me of peanut brittle. Of the four sample blends I made, this one was the softest and the easiest to spin. I was also able to spin a thinner yarn for each of the categories too. With the blend in these quantities, I feel that you'll be getting the best features of both types of fibers, though you would probably get this result with as little as 20% alpaca (80/20). It's not quite as bouncy as the unblended batt, but it was just as airy.

Exhibit D: The cormo/romney blend

Romney is a beautiful long stapled wool that has great strength and abrasion resistance, but it doesn't say "wear me around your neck." However, I think I may be onto something here! This 50/50 blend of cormo and romney pulls the positive aspects from both fibers just as in the cormo/alpaca blend. Because romney is a coarser fiber than cormo and alpaca, it's effectiveness in the blend was a bit more severe. I noticed that there was much less crimp and loft than in the cormo/alpaca blend, but the cormo did make the romney feel much softer.

If you're interested in making a sweater that's soft and will resist pilling/abrasion, a combo including around 20-30% romney will make that sweater last longer. The same goes for a scarves, mittens, and socks.

Exhibit E: The cormo/tussah silk blend

This is a luxury blend! The silk is so shiny! I didn't have any dyed silk on hand that I could use, but you might still see how shiny it is in the close up sample (versus the unblended sample). I did an 80/20 blend since a little silk goes a long way. Because it's much finer in diameter than the cormo, it didn't take much away from the bounce or loft of the cormo, which I really liked. If you wanted a structural difference in the yarn, you could probably produce a blend of 50/50 cormo/tussah, and the silk will start to straighten out the tight crimp of the cormo. But that's a lot of silk. Also, that much silk would make the yarn heavier.

I tried a 50/50 blend of cormo/bamboo and it was excellent at softening the crimp of the cormo, so I imagine you'd have a similar result with silk. This would make the perfect blend if you wanted your blend to have a little sheen without sacrificing the beautiful bounce in cormo.

Okay, there you have it. A "mini" blog post about my cormo/rambouillet fleece. Be sure to follow me on Twitter and Facebook so you can get the down-low regarding me and SALES! And coupons too. :)